What’s the USP? The surprisingly ‘serious’ cookbook from the bat shit crazy French-owned Big Momma Group of Italian restaurants that operates a total of 10 venues in France and the UK with Gloria and Circolo Popolare in Shoreditch and Fitzrovia respectively. In her review for the Times, Marina O’Loughlin said about Gloria that ‘the interior is over-upholstered, overdecorated, over the top, a shrieking hen-party antithesis to contemporary style. Food arrives in lurid ceramics’. She loved it.
What does it look like? O’Loughlin’s description holds true for the book, from the red cartoon cockerels strutting across the cover to the big brash food styling featuring the aforementioned ‘lurid ceramics’, heaped with colourful food, shot against clashing floral backgrounds and with ridiculous punning titles like ‘Egg Sheeran’ and ‘Eat Me Baba One More Time’.
Is it good bedtime reading? Only if you like reading recipes at bedtime. Besides, the garish visuals will give you nightmares.
Will I have trouble finding ingredients? A few bits and pieces like cuttlefish, whole octopus and guanciale may take a bit of effort, but you should have no problems for 90 per cent of the dishes with the remainder requiring a decent fishmonger or deli.
What’s the faff factor? The Big Momma Groupo might be young, dumb and full of rum (there are eight recipes in the book that call for the spirit) but this is restaurant food so you’ll need to be prepared on occasion to put your back into cooking some of the dishes, making and stuffing your own pasta and pizza dough and preparing ingredients like confit tomatoes.
Killer recipes? Zuppa di pomodoro; pizz’n’roll (rolled pizza with fontina cheese); melanzane in carrozza (aubergine fritters with provolone cheese and tomato confit); carpaccio Sorrentino (beef carpaccio with courgettes and almonds); pasta e ceci con gamberi (pasta with chickpeas and prawns); big lasagna; the incredible lemon pie.
What will I love? This is an exuberant and fun book, but it’s also packed with tips from the Big Mamma Group chefs on things like how to make pizza dough and pasta, how to make the perfect risotto and how to choose truffles and fresh fish.
What won’t I like? This is an in-yer-face book and you are either going to love the blousy visual style or hate it. Same goes for those groan-inducing dad-joke dish titles like Poulpilove, Elton Mess, Purple Rice and Dipsy Winky.
Should I buy it? If by some miracle you haven’t really cooked Italian food at home, this is a colourful, vibrant way to get started. It would also make the perfect present for someone who is a fan of the restaurants.
Suitable for: For beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy this book
Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes