The freshest taste: Trailblazing young chef Florence Knight's summer recipes

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Knight is the protégé of Mark's 'rival' restaurateur Russell Norman.

I've known and worked with Russell Norman for several years and we both left the Caprice Holdings ship at much the same time to set up on our own. It seems like we have both been racing against each other to find new pockets of London and interesting buildings, and I would like to think that we have stayed in close proximity to each other, which can only be healthy for business.

But enough about Russell and let's move on to the inspiring young talent, Florence Knight, who is also the subject of this week's column. She is the 26-year-old head chef of Polpetto, Russell's soon-to-be-relocated Venetian restaurant that nestled above the French House in London's Soho for nearly two years. After studying at the London College of Fashion, she changed direction to train at Leith's Cookery School before working with legendary baker Richard Bertinet.

Her love of simplicity has inspired her menus at Polpetto and her forthcoming, debut cookery book is to be published by Saltyard Books. Some of Florence's recipes also appear in Russell's new book, Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook (of Sorts), published by Bloomsbury. Here, Florence and Russell introduce us to some of their favourite dishes.

Warm octopus salad

Serves 4

Russell: Octopuses aren't something your fishmonger will necessarily have as a matter of course. You might have to ask him in advance so that he can order one for you. You need a small beast for this recipe, probably about the size of a grapefruit, and you need to soften him up. You do this simply by freezing and then thawing the octopus. This breaks down the toughness in the cellular structure of the flesh. Or buy one already frozen.

1 medium octopus
1 fennel bulb, cut in half
1 onion, cut in half
2 celery stalks, cut roughly
A handful of roughly chopped parsley stalks
3 medium waxy potatoes, peeled
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1tsp chilli flakes
A handful of chopped parsley
Flaky sea salt
Ground black pepper
4tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1tbsp lemon juice

In a very large pan, boil the octopus in unseasoned water on a medium heat with the fennel, onion, parsley stalks and celery until tender enough to push a fork easily through the flesh. This should take no more than one hour. Remove from the cooking water and allow it to cool.

Cut the cooked, cooled octopus into bite-sized pieces, discarding the eyes, beak and the mush inside the head. Once the pieces are cut, you can rinse in clean water.

Cut the peeled potatoes into bite-sized pieces and boil. Be careful not to overcook – they should not disintegrate.

In a large mixing bowl, gently combine the octopus and potatoes with the garlic, parsley and chilli flakes. Dress with salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice.

Transfer to a large serving plate and cover with clingfilm. You can then set it aside in your fridge and when you are ready to serve, put it in a microwave on full for 30 seconds so that the potatoes and octopus gain a little warmth.

Broad bean, mint and ricotta bruschetta

Serves 2

Russell: This is one of the most popular dishes on the summer menu at Polpo. The colours are such strong indicators of the flavours that are to follow but, despite the assertiveness of the ingredients, it is still a subtle and delicate combination. This dish is a joy to prepare. Ricotta is readily available from Italian specialists and even in good supermarkets now. And I don't know about you, but podding and skinning broad beans is one of my favourite kitchen pastimes.

2 thick slices of sourdough or soda bread
A good handful of podded broad beans
3tbsp fresh ricotta
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ clove of garlic
The zest of one lemon and a little juice
10 mint leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper

Place the broad beans into boiling water for 5 minutes, remove and plunge into cold water. Then drain and skin them. Put them in a small bowl and dress them in the olive oil, the zest, a little lemon juice, most of the mint, salt and pepper. Toast or grill the slices of bread so that they are crunchy on the outside but still have a bit of give when squeezed. Rub one side of each slice with the cut side of the garlic. The clove will melt into the bread's hot surface. Spread the fresh ricotta, with salt and pepper added to taste, on to the hot and prepared bread. Top with the broadf beans and garnish with the remaining chopped mint.

Raw razor clams, white currants and fennel

Serves 4 as a starter

Florence: This dish reminds me of my first research trip to Venice. Russell took me to a restaurant called Alle Testiere, where we had the tiniest local razor clams simply prepared in olive oil, white wine and garlic.

I've always loved this neglected bi-valve; in this version, the accompaniment of fennel and mint gives this dish a delicate, feminine quality.

8 large razor clams, alive and cleaned
1 punnet of white currants
1 head of fennel
3 sprigs of mint
The juice of 1 lemon
A pinch of salt
1½tbsp olive oil
½ a red chilli, halved, seeded, roughly chopped

Run the clams under cold running water and gently prise the shells open with a butter knife to reveal the live clam. Remove and discard the gritty sinew at each end of the clam and the black sac in the middle. Rinse again under cold water and slice each clam at an angle.

Remove the outer layer and root of the fennel and thinly slice the bulb with a mandolin or knife. Tear the mint leaves and pick a few white currants off the stem.

Mix together the clam, fennel, chilli, mint and white currants and dress with the lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Be gentle so nothing gets crushed; scatter over your plates.

News
Disruption at Waterloo after a person was hit by a train
newsCancellations and disrupted service after person hit by train
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The almost deserted Liverpool Echo Arena on Monday
tvCan X Factor last in the face of plummeting numbers auditioning
News
Kirsty Bertarelli is launching a singing career with an album of songs detailing her observations of “real life”
news
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

    £15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reception Manager

    £18750 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Hotel in Chadderton is a popular ch...

    Guru Careers: Marketing and Communications Manager

    £Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing and Co...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence