I’m currently back in Edinburgh, writing a book. I remember the old food shops in Edinburgh. Jamieson’s fruit shop in Princes St. You could park outside. Jamieson was a rather dour man, who would deal with his customers crisply. Until he saw my mother, when his eyes would light up accompanied by frantically obsequious hand rubbing and offering her fruits like a nabob paying respect. I dont know if he thought she was a duchess, he certainly treated her so.
My father’s favourite was Young & Saunders where he’d buy tins of consommé and Charbonnel & Walker powdered truffles, long before they were known outside the Burlington Arcade. Young & Saunders was like something out of Harry Potter. Countless little men in brown overall jackets with dockets and pens in their top pockets. You’d arrive with a list and they’d scurry around the place, dashing up ladders and through the back, wrapping everything in brown paper and string, from wafer thin ox tongue to candied angelica. There was one of those amazingly enigmatic vacuum cash pipes, where bills would be sent to the accounts department, perched over looking the rest of the shop, where presumably countless bills were totted up and added to the accounts of the great and good.
But by far my favourite was Valvona & Crolla. My love of food and cooking was germinated in my visits here. In those days it consisted only of what is now the front of the shop. It seemed skyscraper tall stuffed full of exotic , colourful and pungent goods; all sorts of amazing things that looked and smelled tantalising to a small boy. I was fascinated by the tottering ladders up which the staff would climb to fetch something. But my most favourite moment was as the bill was being settled and Carlo Contini would pinch my cheeks and give me a delicious butter toffee sweet. I savoured those sweets and can still remember the taste today. I think they were Polish.
Now it’s in the capable hands of the wonderful writer, Mary Contini and her husband. And I still go, but I’m not so much in awe. What I can’t resist however, is their own Fonteluna sausage. It’s a semi cured sausage they have made flavoured with chili and fennel which makes an attention-seeking but easy supper dish. Here goes. For this dish you need a bit of fresh tomato. I have little regard for tasteless Dutch tomatoes and cant afford those imported from Italy. And I really resent the British laziness of serving them unseeded and with skin. The best tip I have learned to create a quick and clean tomato base is this. Cut the tomatoes horizontally and squeeze out the pips. Then grate the flesh into the pan. Chuck the leftover skin.
Now gently heat some olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Throw in some roughly chopped garlic and red chilli with handful of pine nuts. Lightly fry and add a sliced Fonteluna sausage. Cook until it curls a little then add the tomato and a big handful of chopped flat leaf parsley. Can be served with anything but my favourite is orrecchiete. Smother in parmesan. Serve with rocket and watercress salad and a bottle of Nero d’Avola