The heel of Italy’s boot, Puglia is household to some of the country’s most flavoursome — and frugal — dishes. Francesco Mazzei, chef-patron of three London dining places, which includes Sartoria, explains how he fell in adore with the area and its ‘cucina povera’

What do you admire most about the food items of Puglia?
Its wide range. As with much of the Mezzogiorno (the Italian south), Puglia is recognised for some astonishing dishes produced working with pretty number of elements, this sort of as eggless pasta. It’s a basic cucina povera (‘poor food’) lifestyle, but it is 2nd to none in Italy. And it is amazingly balanced: the diet program is 70% veg, 20% fish and about 10% meat.

How did you come to be intrigued in the region’s cuisine?
I was born in Calabria, but did my Navy services in Puglia. They immediately noticed my expertise ended up in the kitchen and designed me a pastry chef. I travelled all about, shopping for food items in all the most effective places. Back then, for as small as 2,000 lire (around £2), I acquired two baggage of the freshest seafood — sea urchin, octopus, San Giacomo scallops. I fell in enjoy with lampascioni (white ‘onions’ that are truly a style of hyacinth bulb), cicoria (bitter greens from the dandelion family members) and cime di rapa (‘turnip tops’, a green also recognized as rapini), but it was the road foodstuff that truly impressed me. Puglia is not widely linked with polenta, for illustration, but one particular of my favorite items was purchasing a Peroni and consuming scagliozzi (fried squares of polenta) from street stands in Bari.

What are the most distinctive matters about Pugliese food items lifestyle?
You nevertheless see individuals fishing for octopus, then bashing them on the rocks to tenderise the flesh. In the Bari spot, octopus is eaten uncooked. Nowhere else in Italy has crudo (raw seafood) like this, sold avenue-aspect: there are clams, mussels and sea urchins, based on the season. Then there’s friselle (toasted bread snacks) they are generally used in a dish named l’acquasale, which is related to a Tuscan panzanella (bread salad), but produced with just tomatoes, peppery Puglian extra virgin olive oil and, generally, ice. When the ice melts, you’re remaining with bread soaked in chilled tomato juice — the ideal point on a boiling warm working day in August.

What are your favourite Pugliese substances to get the job done with?
I’m a significant enthusiast of grano arso, Puglia’s burnt grain flour. I just built the most amazing sourdough and southern-type pasta (cavatelli and orecchiette) with it. Then there is fior di latte, which we phone ‘the genuine mozzarella’, designed from cow’s milk. That in a salad with rocket and walnut is just astounding. Occasionally I include a minimal mosto cotto (minimized grape should — like balsamic vinegar, but with incredibly minor acidity). Mosto cotto is also applied in desserts like cartellate (fried pasta tartlettes with figs).

What are your favourite dishes from Puglia?
Macco di fave with cicoria — dried broad bean puree with cicoria (blanched and sautéed with garlic and chilli), topped with Puglian added virgin olive oil and served with focaccia Barese or little taralli (bread sticks, generally flavoured with fennel seeds). This is the foodstuff of historic people today. There is not a much better-imagined-out, extra dynamic, healthy dish in the entire world — it is packed with protein. I’m wholly in appreciate with it. But occasionally my favourite dish is as easy as spaghetti with tomato and basil. The two are vegan, but so tasty. Choose Sicilian caponata: you really do not believe ‘vegan’, you feel ‘this is a person of the most flavour-packed items I have ever eaten’ — and it is the exact with the finest Pugliese dishes.