I was in the norcineria in the Campo de Fiori in Rome, one mild January afternoon. To call it a shop for cured meat is an understatement. It is an emporium, a gallery, a hymn to cured meat. It is a wonder and worth a trip to Rome just to shop there. The assistant, who spoke no English, was very happy for me, who speaks no Italian, to try each of the wonderful things he was selling. He indicated that I should raise my head like a baby bird as he draped a paper-thin slice of lardo over my tongue. My body heat melted the fat quickly and it bathed my mouth with its richness. I was sold on lardo.
It is the fat from a pig’s back, most often cured with salt but sometimes smoked. In Italy it is often laid on hot toast to melt and eaten just so. It is also heated in pans and used as a cooking fat. This is how I’ve been using it, at the beginning of cooking, or laying a few slices over a chicken before it goes into the oven. I pushed a sliver between each of the sections of a Hasselback potato last night before I cooked it and was, to say the least, pleased with the result. It adds a satisfying savoury layer to things and improves the blandest cut of pork, even the loin and I don’t think my kitchen will be without it again.
The new farmers’ market in Primrose Hill has only been open a couple of months and it’s already an important part of my food shopping. There’s wonderful poultry at Fosse Meadows and brilliant charcuterie at Canon and Canon. There’s a great-looking Spanish stall that I haven’t even started on yet and a score or more others where I’m happy to empty my wallet to fill my cupboards, many familiar from Borough Market. Oh, there’s much to impoverish me, including Italianate Ltd, where I’ve started buying salt-cured lardo and finocchiona. Their prosciutto is rather fine, too. I need to remind myself that I can’t have everything, but I’m loosing that battle.
Antica Norcineria, Piazza di Campo de’ Fiori, 00186 Rome, Italy
Primrose Hill Farmers’ Market, St Paul’s School, Elsworthy Road, NW3 3DS