60 Second Review: Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci

Taste by Stanley Tucci

Taste: My Life Through Food is a food-centric memoir with recipes.

The author is Stanley Tucci, the much loved American actor, writer, film producer and director, most noted for his performances in The Devil Wears Prada and The Hunger Games. However, foodies will know him best for the films Big Night and Julie and Julia and his excellent food and travel TV series Searching for Italy. He is the author of two cookbooks, The Tucci Table and The Tucci Cookbook.  

You should buy Taste: My Life Through Food first and foremost if you are a fan of Tucci. The handful of recipes are for very familiar Italian dishes such as pasta alla Norma or are so simple, like a tomato salad or lamb chops, as to hardly warrant a recipe at all. Perhaps I’m missing the point.

However, you do get the recipe for Timpano, the spectacular centrepiece dish featured in Big Night that Tucci describes as ‘a baked drum of pastry-like dough filled with pasta, ragu, salami, various cheeses, hard boiled eggs, and meatballs’. There’s also some of Tucci’s favourite cocktails (including his now notorious shaken not stirred negroni), his wife’s recipe for roast potatoes and American BBQ chef Adam Perry Lang’s chimichurri sauce among other things.

But Tucci is an engaging writer and you will have fun discovering his childhood in upstate New York (as well as a year in Florence), his time working as a nineteen year old bar man in Alfredo’s restaurant in Manhattan and anecdotes from his life in the movie business.

Cuisine: Italian
Suitable for: For beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci
£20, Fig Tree

This book has been shortlisted for the Andre Simon Food Award. Read more here.

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Spring lamb ragu with anchovies and pea shoots by Colu Henry

SpringLambRagu_p143a_ColuCooks
I originally made this dish for an intimate Buona Pasqua dinner. Intimate meaning for myself and Chad. Usually for Easter, we get together with Jenn, Steve, and their daughter Brynn and grill some cut of lamb over open fire, but that particular year was very different due to sheltering in place. Determined not to let it dampen my spirits, I made Chad drive all over town in hunt of forsythia to cut down, to bring some spring into the house and make our dinner feel celebratory—crankily (him) and sadly (me), we came home empty handed. Moments later and completely unprompted, Jenn texted to ask if we’d like some forsythia from her yard and I couldn’t believe my luck. Her husband Steve arrived on our porch an hour later, arms full of branches. I quickly put them in water in a big vase on the dining room table and Chad and I sat down to a late-afternoon spring supper of thick egg noodles tossed with lamb, the season’s first pea shoots, and lots of butter and herbs. Celebrate we did.

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large leek, trimmed, rinsed of grit, then thinly sliced (about 1½ cups/125 g) or 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 oil-packed anchovies
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 pound (455 g) ground lamb
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup (120 ml) white wine
1½ to 2 cups (360 to 480 ml) chicken stock
12 ounces (340 g) pappardelle or tagliatelle
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces (85 g) pea shoots, arugula, or other baby greens
2 teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 large lemon), plus lemon juice for finishing
½ cup (25 g) loosely packed fresh herbs, such as flatleaf parsley leaves, mint leaves, and snipped chives
Freshly grated pecorino, for serving

SERVES 4
TIME 35 minutes

METHOD
Heat the olive oil in a deep-sided 12-inch (30.5 cm) skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leek and cook until soft and translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt. Stir in the garlic, anchovies, rosemary, and tomato paste and cook until the anchovies have melted and the tomato paste has toasted slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the lamb and cook, pressing the meat firmly into the bottom of the pan until it begins to crisp up and stirring until it is browned through, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the white wine and cook until it is reduced by half, 3 minutes or so. Pour in 1½ cups (360 ml) of the chicken stock and allow the sauce to simmer, stirring occasionally, while you make the pasta. If it looks like it’s drying out, stir in the remaining ½ cup (60 ml) stock.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions, just shy of al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve 1 cup (240 ml) of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the skillet with the lamb along with the butter and pea shoots. Toss together, adding in a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta cooking water if needed, until the pasta is glossy with sauce, the pea shoots have wilted, and the butter has melted. Add half the herbs, the lemon zest, and a good squeeze of lemon juice and toss again. Plate in bowls and top with the remaining herbs.

Serve with some grated cheese.

Cook more from this book
Swordfish with Burst Tomatoes, Peppers, and Za’atar and Preserved Lemon by Colu Henry
Smoky and Spicy Shrimp with Anchovy Butter and Fregola by Colu Henry

Buy this book
Colu Cooks by Colu Henry
£25, Abrams Books

Read the review
Coming soon

Let’s Eat Italy by François-Régis Gaudry and Friends

Lets Eat Italy
What’s the USP? A deep dive on Italian food culture in an ‘oversized, obsessively complete, visual feast of a book’. And the marketing folk at publisher Artisan really do mean over-sized. This is the sort of coffee table book that might be better suited to artful placement on a picnic bench. Never mind doorstop tomes, this book is the size of an actual door. You get the idea: woe betide anyone looking to fit this onto an Ikea bookshelf.

Who wrote it? Credited to ‘François-Régis Gaudry and friends’, this is a collaborative effort from the team behind 2018’s similarly massive Let’s Eat France. A popular restaurant critic across the Channel, Gaudry has compiled a team that includes well over seventy contributors, including pieces by regulars from his radio show On va deguster.

Is it good bedtime reading? In so many ways, Let’s Eat Italy is perfect bedtime reading – each section offers a stand-alone deep dive into a single facet of Italian cooking. They are beautifully designed, as indebted to a Wes Andersonian sense of style as they are Italy’s own innate relationship with design. It makes for a book that one can pore over, page by page, or simply dip into as they like.

There are in-depth looks at different ingredients, from a ‘Spotlight on Capers’ to sumptuous photographic spreads on artichokes, Italian citrus fruits, tomatoes and more. Perhaps you are more interested in exploring the terroir of the nation’s cuisine, exploring the impact Venice’s lagoon has on its food. There are, of course, plenty of recipes too – regional specialties uncovered and offered up for home cooks to discover on their own turf.

All told, it’s rare to open Let’s Eat Italy and not find yourself at least briefly enamoured by its contents. Amongst the three hundred or so topics there are remarkably few duds – an occasional look at Italian food in American pop culture sheds no new light, but elsewhere even those sections without any immediate obvious use (charts of native cattle breeds) or beautiful enough to distract the reader for a moment.

The only real problem, then, is the sheer size of it, which simultaneously renders it readable only on a large table, or propped up on one’s knees whilst sitting on the sofa. But equally with the design so lovingly attended to, it’d be a crime to print it any smaller than it already is.

How good is it as a cookbook? Oh, absolutely useless. The recipes are tempting, sure – but who has room on their counter for a cookbook the size of a tabloid newspaper? I have enough difficulty sourcing real estate for the toaster. Recipes also tend to form only a small percentage of the page they are on, with the vibrant photography and elaborate histories of each dish taking priority to Gaudry and his pals. Better, then, to explore the dishes that tempt you most and then seek them out elsewhere – a decent Italian cookbook like Anna Del Conte’s Gastronomy of Italy or, more recently, Rachel Roddy’s A to Z of Pasta will cover most of the bases here.

Should I buy it? Let’s Eat Italy is surplus to almost any cook’s actual needs – but then, that’s also true of all the best cookbooks. This is a luxury, to be treasured and perhaps even revered a little. The sort of book that sits in a home like an alternative religious text – an illustrated Bible of Italian food culture that will have as many devotees as it does naysayers. But here’s the kicker: the real Bible doesn’t have a three page illustrated spread dedicated to salumi.

Cuisine: Italian
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks, and hungry folk who have no intention of cooking but do fancy lusting over authentic local specialties.
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars

Buy this book
Let’s Eat Italy!: Everything You Want to Know About Your Favorite Cuisine
£45, Artisan Division of Workman Publishing

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas

An A-Z of Pasta by Rachel Roddy

An A-Z of Pasta Rachel Roddy
What’s the USP? A very satisfying premise indeed, and more or less what it says on the box: An A-Z of Pasta takes readers through the pasta world via an alphabetical exploration of pasta shapes.

Not all pasta shapes, though – depending on who you speak to, there are anywhere between 350 and 600 varieties out there, and that’s a bit much even those of us who can shovel away pasta like our bodies have mistaken gluten for oxygen. So instead we have an A-Z of (50 shapes of) Pasta, and that’ll do for now.

Who wrote it? Rachel Roddy, who is fast making her name as one of the finer food writers out there. Roddy moved to Rome in 2005 and has been writing about her experiences with food ever since – from blogs to Guardian columns to cookbooks. Five Quarters, her first book, won a couple of awards. She could well be on track for some more with this, her third.

Is it good bedtime reading? Here’s the thing: An A-Z of Pasta is more or less the perfect cookbook. I’m going to get that out of the way now so that we can just sit back and enjoy the rest of this review without anybody stressing about anything. It’s a bloody brilliant book filled with bloody brilliant recipes and it makes for such good bedtime reading I’m half tempted to put up a food-writing shelf in my bedroom specifically for those times when I’m sleepy and I want to think about tomorrow’s dinner. Besides Niki Segnit’s The Flavour Thesaurus and perhaps Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat I cannot think of a cookbook that reads more satisfyingly than this.

Roddy’s smartest trick here has been fitting a narrative around the pasta shapes she describes. Whilst the alphabetised form of the book allows for readers to readily dip in and out, to find the recipes they want for the shapes they desire, the reward for those who start at the beginning and work their way through all the way from A-Z is a full and rich understanding not just of the making and cooking of pasta, but also the fascinating culture that surrounds it.

We are introduced in turn to the six categories of pasta shapes, from the tiny pastine that are cooked and served in broth, to the strascinati that are formed by being dragged along a surface. Pastas we have already visited are called upon to help explain those we are yet to discover, and history unfurls and repeats itself in different forms and different regions and, most importantly, different delicious dishes.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? One of the best things about pasta is that it is an incredibly simple dish to create – or better still on a Wednesday night, to buy in. Roddy is very aware of this, and it’s to her credit that a book filled with such love that her reverence never gets in the way of simplicity. There is no judgement to be found for those who prefer to buy dried pasta over making their own – no silly gate-keeping over what is and is not allowed in the world of pasta. Break your spaghetti in half if you find it easier, goddammit.

The recipes themselves echo this simplicity. Measurements and instructions are clear, with timings a little more forgiving to take into account the varying needs of different pasta types.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Even post-Brexit Italian food is European food is British food, and the overwhelming majority of ingredients are easily sourced from your local supermarket or even the cornershop over the road in many cases. Occasionally a more traditional Italian ingredient will pop up – guanciale makes a few appearances – but Roddy offers simple and accessible alternatives in these cases.

How often will I cook from the book? How often do you eat pasta? For me the answer to both these questions looks to be set for the foreseeable future as ‘two to three times a week’. We love pasta in the UK. As one of the quickest and most satisfying midweek dinner options we let it fill our diets, and I can’t be the only person who looks at his meal plans for the week and thinks ‘right, maybe not quite so much pasta, though’.

The biggest problem with pasta, in fact, is that it’s so easy to turn into a meal that we tend to fall into repetitive patterns, or allow ourselves to be satisfied with a jar of Dolmio dumped over some penne and a few cut up sausages. Which is silly, really, because so many fantastic and flavoursome dishes can be knocked together in more or less as much time as it takes for the pasta to boil.

An A-Z of Pasta is the perfect solution to this. There are quick and delicious dishes to suit every season here, from the cosy alfabeto Chicken Broth that will see us through the long winter ahead to Fresh Capelli d’Angelo with Prawns and Lemon that’ll take less than five minutes to cook and offer a bright burst of flavour on a summer’s day.

Killer recipes: All of it. Damn near every single thing. I cooked the Bucatini all’Amatriciana for my visiting parents and I think they finally believe that I, their married 33 year-old son, will be able to survive in the world. There’s a Fregula with clams or arselle that looks so good I’m convinced you could make a living by starting a restaurant and serving nothing else. The Tagliolini with chanterelles and datterini tomatoes would guarantee a marriage proposal on a second date, and the Pappardelle with duck is enough to have you call the wedding off just so you never have to share your food again.

It’s impossible to narrow down the best dishes here, simply because there is so much variety, and so much temptation that your favourites might vary from day to day, and mood to mood. Today the ultimate comfort food that is roast chicken served atop orzo that has been cooked in its juices, tomorrow the lightness of farfalle served with smoked salmon and mascarpone.

Should I buy it? It’s very rare that a cookbook offers such universally loveable dishes that it can, without hesitation, be suggested to one and all. And… well, this isn’t an exception. Look, if you have problems with gluten, An A-Z of Pasta is not going to be a big priority for you. But for everyone else, this book is a solution to a thousand different questions. What can I have for dinner if I want to be eating in twenty minutes time? What can I serve guests at my dinner party that looks and tastes impressive, but won’t cause me to have a nervous breakdown whilst I prepare it? What can I ask for this Christmas whilst simultaneously gifting to every single family member I’ve ever seen consume even a single strand of spaghetti? Here you go. Your answer is here.

Cuisine: Italian
Suitable for: Beginner and confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars

Buy this book
An A-Z of Pasta: Stories, Shapes, Sauces, Recipes
£25, Fig Tree

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas

This book has been shortlisted for the Andre Simon Food Award. Read more here.

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Gelupo Gelato by Jacob Kenedy

Gelupo Gelato Jacob Kenedy

What’s the USP? This little square book offers up a wide selection of recipes for various ice creams and associated forms – ‘a frosty masterclass in the simple art of gelato’, or so the publishers claim.

Who wrote it? Jacob Kenedy, who is perhaps best known for his restaurant Bocca di Lupo, a favourite of London food critics since 2008. He has since opened the neighbouring Gelupo, a gelateria of similar renown. Here, then, is the recipe book for the latter venture – a small but dense volume that runs the gamut from classic favourites (fior de latte, pistachio, hazelnut) to less expected flavours (rice, for instance, or the elderflower, cucumber and gin granita).

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s no denying that Kenedy squeezes plenty of extra reading into the book, starting with an extended introduction to gelato. That said, the information in this section can be a little confusing; Kenedy claims that gelato is simply the Italian word for ice cream and that there is no difference between the two – only to admit in the very next sentence that ‘there is something a bit special about Italian gelati’. This isn’t all that useful if you’re trying to get your head around the differences – which most writers do not struggle to identify (fat content is a major factor).

Elsewhere the book offers more useful insights, though – the importance of scraping the bowl in a game where ingredient ratios can make such a big difference, the best way to store gelato (pre-freezing your containers to aid that transition to the freezer). Each recipe has an introduction too – many draw on the cultural significance of the flavours, whilst others simply espouse the virtues of a particular combo.

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? Yes. Many of the recipes rely on the use of stabilisers like locust bean gum powder and glucose syrup. Thankfully, Kenedy is happy to offer more supermarket-ready alternatives, like arrowroot and light runny honey. That said, his willingness to compromise for home cooks is not limited – both the hazelnut and pistachio recipes specifically require pastes that need to be sourced online. This is a shame when these two flavours are so iconic in the gelato world – perhaps Kenedy is keen to maintain authenticity here, but I’m much keener on the idea of actually being able to make the damn ice cream.

What’s the faff factor? Ice cream is never a simple task, regardless of what cookbooks try to tell you. Even the smoothest of processes for a churned ice cream will involve creating a custard base, giving it time to cure in the fridge, and then wrestling with your maker of choice. Kenedy spells out each step fairly clearly here, but he can be a little vague in his instructions – perhaps the result of not knowing precisely which equipment the reader is using.

How often will I cook from the book? How often does anyone actually use their ice cream maker? I bought one earlier this summer and quickly went on something of an ice cream making bender – I still have the remnants of malted milk, strawberry, peach and cherry and chocolate ventures in my freezer right now. But once that initial burst fades – maybe once a month? At a push? If you live with someone who you’re trying to justify the purchase to?

What will I love? Hands down the stand out feature of the book is its absolutely gorgeous contents page. No dull list here: instead, each flavour in the book is represented by a minimalistic coloured circle laid out in an 8×10 grid. It’s an impactful start to the book that would look just as good framed on the living room wall of some beautiful couple who are absolutely not the type to consume ice cream ever.

What won’t I love? For all the variety and exciting flavours, there are a few more familiar options that have been left out. Strawberry ice cream is off the table – instead you’ll have to opt for a strawberry granita, wild strawberry sherbet, or strawberry & pink peppercorn. All told, though, the book’s problem isn’t the lack of choice (Kenedy has filled it with a ridiculous selection to suit every taste), but the lack of precision and attention to detail.

Killer recipes: Lemon & Rosemary, Whisky & Vanilla, Pear & Blackberry Crumble, Roast Plum Sorbet

Should I buy it? If the flavours tempt you, and you already have a very solid grasp of the art of ice cream making, then Gelupo Gelato has some great ideas. For most people, though, this title shouldn’t be the top of the list when learning to create ice cream at home – there are more useful books like Dana Cree’s Hello, My Name is Ice Cream that are better suited for that.

Cuisine: Italian
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/Professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Three stars

Buy this book
Gelupo Gelato: A delectable palette of ice cream recipes
£14.99, Bloomsbury Publishing

Review written by Stephen Rötzsch Thomas a Nottingham-based writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @srotzschthomas

Sicilian Lemon Cream by Ben Tish

1419_AbsolutePress_Ben_Tish_Sicilia_2020-09-14_Peter_Moffat
Unlike similar puddings that use flours for thickening, this very simple posset-style pudding really showcases the zingy, fragrant flavour of the lemons. The mix of cream and mascarpone is not only rich and indulgent, but fresh too. Unwaxed lemons will give the best flavour. I like to make this in the early winter months when Sicilian and Amalfi lemons are bursting into season.

Mulberries aren’t as common in the UK as they are in Europe but if you can find them, perhaps in a Middle Eastern supermarket or a specialist fruiterer, they are utterly delicious. They resemble an elongated blackberry with denser flesh and a singular sweet-sour aromatic flavour. Blackberries will make a very good alternative.

Serves 4

For the lemon cream
2 large unwaxed lemons with unsprayed leaves
150g caster sugar
150ml double cream
300g mascarpone

For the berries
250g mulberries or blackberries
150ml good red wine
60g golden caster sugar
1 tablespoon honey

Zest the lemons and squeeze the juice; you need 80ml juice. Put the lemon zest and 80ml juice in a saucepan with the sugar. Heat over a medium-low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved completely. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

In a separate pan, heat the cream and mascarpone over a medium-low heat, bringing just to a simmer – do not let it boil (otherwise it may separate). Remove from the heat, add the lemon mixture and whisk. Cool slightly, then strain through a fine sieve into bowls. Cool completely, then leave in the fridge for at least 8 hours or until firm and chilled.

While the lemon cream is chilling, prepare the stewed berries. Place the fruit in a saucepan, just cover with water and add the wine, sugar and honey. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes or until the fruits are very tender but still holding their shape. Use a slotted spoon to remove the fruits from the liquid to cool. Boil the remaining liquid until syrupy. Let this cool, then pour over the berries. Chill.

To serve, spoon some of the berries on to each cream. Delicious with biscotti.

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Pasta alla Norma by Ben Tish
Aeolian-style Summer Salad by Ben Tish

Read the review
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Buy the book
Sicilia: A love letter to the food of Sicily
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Aeolian-style Summer Salad by Ben Tish

4_Aeolianstyle_Summer_Salad
This dish is all about the tomatoes. It’s hard to perfectly replicate a delicious, fresh salad from Sicily’s Aeolian islands when in the UK, yet we produce many delicious varieties of tomatoes that will stand up well in comparison. I’d use a plum vine or a Bull’s Heart tomato – ensure they are ripe, but not over ripe.  I like to use a sweet-sour grape must (saba) for the dressing, which is smoother and fruitier than a vinegar, but an aged balsamic will also do nicely.

Serves 4

10 medium-sized, medium-ripe, sweet red tomatoes (vine-ripened are best), sliced into rounds
2 tablespoons plump capers
2 handfuls of pitted green olives
2 tropea onions or small red onions, finely sliced
6 anchovies in oil, chopped
1 tablespoon oregano leaves
10 basil leaves, torn

For the vinaigrette
2 tablespoons saba (grape must) or balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together the grape must and extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste.

To assemble the salad, carefully arrange the tomato slices on a serving plate and sprinkle over the capers, olives, onions, anchovies and herbs. Season well, then drizzle over the vinaigrette.

Leave the salad for 5 minutes, so all the flavours come together, before serving.

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Pasta alla Norma by Ben Tish
Sicilian Lemon Cream by Ben Tish

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Coming soon

Buy the book
Sicilia: A love letter to the food of Sicily
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Pasta alla Norma by Ben Tish

1419_AbsolutePress_Ben_Tish_Sicilia_2020-09-14_Peter_Moffat
Pasta alla Norma has become the unofficial signature dish of Sicily. Originally created in the city of Catania around the same time as Vincenzo Bellini’s romantic opera ‘Norma’, it is said that the pasta was created as a homage to the composer and to the opera. Another story tells of a talented home cook who served her creation to a group of gourmands and was duly christened at the table via the classic Sicilian compliment of Chista e na vera Norma (‘this is a real Norma’). Whatever the truth, the dish became an instant classic and its fame spread around the world.

Serves 4

2 firm aubergines, trimmed and cut into 2cm dice
150ml extra virgin olive oil
½ onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
a good handful of basil leaves
800g quality canned chopped tomatoes or passata
400g dried rigatoni
200g ricotta salata cheese, grated
sea salt

Put the diced aubergines in a colander in the sink and sprinkle with salt. Leave to drain for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to its highest temperature, around 250°C/230°C fan/Gas Mark 10.

Rinse the aubergine in cold water and pat dry with a kitchen towel, then toss in a bowl with half the oil. Spread out on a baking tray, place in the oven and cook for 15–20 minutes or until caramelised, turning occasionally to make sure the pieces don’t dry out.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Sauté for a couple of minutes, then add half the basil and the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Turn down the heat and cook gently for 23–30 minutes or until thickened (the exact time will depend on your canned tomato brand).

When the sauce is almost ready, cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water according to the packet instructions to al dente. Add the aubergine to the sauce. Drain the pasta (reserving a little of the cooking water) and toss in the sauce. If the sauce seems too thick, add some cooking water to loosen.

Divide among the plates and sprinkle with the ricotta and remaining basil leaves, roughly torn over the top. It’s best to allow this to cool slightly before eating.

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Aeolian-style Summer Salad by Ben Tish
Sicilian Lemon Cream by Ben Tish

Read the review
Coming soon

Buy the book
Sicilia: A love letter to the food of Sicily
£26, Bloomsbury Absolute

Roasted Italian sausages with borlotti beans and ’nduja sauce by Theo Randall

20200313_TheoRandall_W1_BorlottiBeansSausages_035
Dried borlotti beans from the protected area of Lamon, in the Veneto, are the finest dried borlottis available. You don’t have to use these specifically, of course, but if you are lucky enough to come across a packet, you are in for a treat. Combined with lovely, flavoursome sausage and the spiciness of ’nduja, they are heavenly. Make sure you have a good bottle of Chianti, or other super-Tuscan red wine to drink alongside – it’s essential.

Serves 2
250g (9oz) dried borlotti beans, soaked overnight in plenty of cold water
2 garlic cloves, 1 whole, 1 finely sliced
1 plum tomato
2–3 sage leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
4 Italian sausages
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
100ml (3½fl oz) red wine
400g (14oz) tomato passata
75g (2½oz) skinned ’nduja
2 tbsp mascarpone
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g (7oz) purple-sprouting, calabrese or longstem broccoli, cooked and seasoned with olive oil and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to serve

Drain the soaked beans and rinse under cold, running water for a couple of minutes. Place the rinsed beans in a large saucepan and pour in cold water so that the water comes 10cm (4in) above the level of the beans. Add the whole clove of garlic, along with the plum tomato and sage leaves. Place over a high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook gently for 40 minutes, skimming off the foam from time to time, until the beans are soft enough to crush to a mash with your thumb.

Drain the beans, reserving the cooking water. Remove the tomato, sage and garlic and place them in a bowl. Using a hand-held stick blender and a little of the bean cooking water, blend to a smooth paste. Add the paste back to the beans and check the seasoning. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan/315°F/Gas Mark 2–3.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in an ovenproof frying pan on a medium heat. When hot, add the sausages and cook for 5 minutes, turning frequently, until brown all over. Remove them from the pan
and set aside, leaving the sausage fat and olive oil in the pan.

Add the celery, sliced garlic, onion and carrots to the pan and cook gently for 5 minutes, until the onion has softened. Add the red wine and cook for a further 2 minutes until the liquid has reduced by half. Add the passata, cook gently for a couple of minutes, then add the ’nduja and stir well. Place the sausages on top of the passata mixture and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, until the sausages are cooked through. Remove from the oven, dollop over the mascarpone and check the seasoning.

Warm the cooked borlotti beans and stir through the remaining olive oil. Place on the table for everyone to help themselves, with some steaming hot purple sprouting broccoli served alongside.

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The Italian Deli Cookbook: 100 Glorious Recipes Celebrating the Best of Italian Ingredients
£26, Quadrille Publishing

Twice-baked squash and fontina soufflé by Theo Randall

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Known in Italy as sformato di zucca, this dish was one of the first I mastered, more than 30 years ago, when I was an apprentice at Chez Max in Surbiton, just outside London, where the chef-owner Max Magarian became a huge influence on my approach to cooking. I must have made thousands of these delicious soufflés (the only difference in this one is the cheese choice) and I can still remember how excited I was when Max told me I had made them perfectly.  If you’re lucky to get hold of a black winter truffle, it will bring out the best in the soufflé. You will need ten moulds and ten gratin dishes to make this (just reduce the quantities if making fewer).

Makes 10
500g (1lb 2oz) butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2cm (¾in) cubes
olive oil, for roasting
300g (10½oz) fresh spinach
90g (3¼oz) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
90g (3¼oz) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for flouring
1 litre (35fl oz) whole milk, hot
300g (10½oz) fontina, grated
10 organic egg yolks
12 organic egg whites
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To finish
200g (7oz) fontina, grated
100g (3½oz) Parmesan, finely grated
500ml (17fl oz) double (heavy) cream
shavings of black truffle (optional), to serve

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Butter and flour ten 180ml (6½fl oz) metal or ceramic moulds. Place the squash in a roasting tin, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Cover the tin with foil and bake for 40 minutes, or until soft. Remove the foil and continue baking for a further 15 minutes, so the squash dries out. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then put through a mouli (or use a potato masher) until you have a fine purée. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Boil the spinach for 2 minutes, until the stalks are tender. Drain in a colander and push out any residual liquid with the back of a spoon. When the spinach has cooled, squeeze it with your hands until just damp. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes, then add the hot milk. Stir with a whisk until there are no lumps and you have a smooth white sauce. Add the squash purée, along with the fontina and season with salt and pepper. Take off the heat and stir in the egg yolks.

Preheat the oven again to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Transfer the mixture to a clean, large bowl. Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then gently fold them into the butternut squash mixture. Pour the mixture equally into the prepared moulds, filling all the way to the tops. Place the moulds into a roasting tin, then pour boiling water into the tin so that it comes half way up the sides of the moulds. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until the soufflé rises and goes a light golden colour. Remove the tin from the oven (but leave the oven on), then remove the moulds from the tin and leave to cool.

To finish, grease 10 small gratin dishes. Divide the cooked spinach between each dish in an even layer. Remove the soufflés from the moulds and place one in each dish on top of the spinach. Sprinkle over the grated fontina and Parmesan then gently pour some cream over each soufflé. Season each dish with salt and pepper and bake them all for 10 minutes, until puffed up and golden brown. Finish with shavings of fresh black truffle.

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The Italian Deli Cookbook: 100 Glorious Recipes Celebrating the Best of Italian Ingredients
£26, Quadrille Publishing