Rome: Fresh sage is abundantly available in Italy and is easy to grow in pots at home, even on the smallest of balconies or windowsills.
The distinct taste and aroma of the silvery, velvet-leaved herb adds an earthy, musky hint to many Italian recipes such as saltimbocca alla romana (veal escalopes topped with prosciutto and sage) and fresh ravioli prepared with burro e salvia (tossed in sage-infused butter).
However, sage is rarely the star of the show, rather it is used as a component with which to build flavour together with other herbs or to complement pasta or meat.
Yet anyone who tastes these deep-fried battered leaves will confirm that sage deserves its chance to take centre stage.
Less common than the other fried snacks found in Italy, it is nevertheless the perfect bite to accompany a glass of prosecco at aperitivo hour; a kind of herby, Italian tempura.
The recipe is simple, a basic batter of flour combined with cold or sparkling water, a pinch of salt and a pan of hot vegetable oil.
Use the biggest sage leaves that you can find, dip in the batter to coat, then fry until golden and crisp. Be sure to devour them immediately while crunchy and aromatic.
Salvia Fritta (makes 15-20)
80g 00 flour
120ml cold or sparkling water
Pinch of salt
500ml vegetable oil, for frying
Approx 15-20 large fresh sage leaves
Put the flour in a bowl with a generous pinch of salt. Gradually add the fridge-cold or sparkling water, whisking as you go, until you achieve a thick, smooth batter.
Heat a saucepan of vegetable oil until it reaches about 170°C (you can test if the oil is ready by dropping in a little of the batter, it should bubble and start to fry immediately).
Coat the sage leaves one at a time and carefully drop into the hot oil. You will need to fry them in batches so do not overcrowd the pan.
Cook each leaf for about 3-4 minutes until the exterior is pale gold. Remove and place on kitchen paper to remove the excess oil before eating while hot.