Green Pizz’ from Big Momma Cucina Popolare

121 Green Pizz.jpg

Rapini (broccoli rabe) cream, finocchiona, mozzarella and pecorino pizza

Per 1 pizza

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Resting time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredienti

2 bunches rapini (broccoli rabe) or Tenderstem broccoli (broccolini)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
1/2 quantity (250 g/9 oz) Pizza Dough (see below)
5 thin slices of finocchiona or salami
90 g/3 and ¼ oz fior di latte (or mozzarella di bufala), roughly cut
70 g/2 and ½ oz (3/4 cup) grated pecorino, plus a few shavings to garnish
Salt

Come fare

Chop half the rapini (broccoli rabe) stalks (stems) and remove the leaves. Cook the rapini for 2 minutes in a large pan of salted boiling water. Drain, then immerse them in a large container of ice water to stop further cooking. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Make the rapini cream. In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over a high heat. Chop the remaining rapini stalks and fry with the anchovies for 15 minutes over a medium heat. Process everything in a food processor until you have a smooth cream.

Preheat the oven to 250°C/480°F/Gas Mark 9. Cover a baking sheet with baking (parchment) paper. On a floured work surface, roll out the pizza dough into a circle about 30 cm/12 inches in diameter and about 2 cm/ 3/4 inch thick.

Place the pizza base (crust) on the baking paper. Cover it with the rapini cream and drizzle over the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bake for 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and add the chopped rapini, finocchiona slices and mozzarella. Bake for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the grated and shaved pecorino. Don’t wait, serve and enjoy immediately!

Cool to know
Finocchiona is a type of traditional Italian salami from Tuscany. Its name comes from ‘finocchio’ – meaning ‘fennel’ in Italian – which, along with pepper, gives this salami its distinctive flavour.

Neapolitan Pizza Dough
A tip from Giuseppe Cutraro

Per 2 pizze

Preparation time: 25 minutes
Rising time: 8 hours

5 g/1/8 oz (13/4 teaspoons) fresh yeast or 1 teaspoon fast-action dried (active dry) yeast
300 g/11 oz (2½ cups) soft (pastry) flour, such as Italian type ’00’
1 generous tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons fine salt

Come fare

Dissolve the yeast in 200 ml/7 fl oz (scant 1 cup) of lukewarm water. Sift the flour and add half to the water. Work by hand for 10 minutes, without leaving any lumps, gently mixing the liquid with the flour and kneading the resulting dough well. Incorporate the remaining flour,olive oil and salt.

Continue to knead by hand for 15 minutes until the dough is very smooth and comes off the work surface very easily.

Put into a bowl, cover with a wet cloth and leave to rise for 2 hours in a warm room (about 24°C/75°F).

Dust a rimmed baking sheet. Divide the dough into two and put the dough balls onto the baking sheet. Cover with a cloth or lid without touching the dough and leave to rise in a warm room for 6 hours. The pizza dough can be stored in the refrigerator for 3–4 days.

How to stretch pizza dough

Neapolitan pizza-making is an art form (now recognized as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO). Giuseppe Cutraro, our chief pizzaiolo, ‘made in Napoli’, explains how to stretch the dough. Professional tips below…

You begin by dusting your work surface (preferably marble to keep the temperature at about 20°C/70°F) with flour.

Put the dough on the work surface and start by stretching it with your hands to form a circle about 30 cm/12 inches in diameter. And here’s where things get a little tough: twirling the pizza with your hands. Unlike what you might think, you don’t toss the dough high into the air, even though it looks like a really cool thing to do. This can even be done on the work surface: make the dough into a circle by rotating it, or by repeatedly lifting it with the left hand while holding it with the right. These actions allow the dough to be stretched uniformly.

Then lay the dough on the work surface and start pushing it from the centre towards the edges with your finger, which pushes the air to the edges and creates a raised lip that is light and puffed when cooked. We pizzaioli call it a cornicione (‘cornice’). It’s the hallmark of genuine Neapolitan pizza – generous edges, about 2 cm/¾ inch, which puff up at 430°C/800°F in the wood-fired pizza oven.

Giuseppe started learning the trade at the age of 15, at the historic Starita a Materdei pizzeria in Naples. We will probably never equal his pizza-making skills, but we can at least pretend.

Cook more from this book 
La Gran Carbonara
The Incredible Lemon Pie

Read the review 

Buy this book
Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes
Phaidon, £27.95

La Gran Carbonara from Big Momma Cucina Popolare

191 La Gran Carbonara.jpg

Spaghetti carbonara

Per 4 amici

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
30 minutes or less, 5 ingredients or less

Ingredienti

3 whole eggs and 6 egg yolks
90 g/3 oz (1 cup) grated pecorino cheese
90 g/3 oz (1 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon pepper
400 g/14 oz spaghetti
8 slices of guanciale (cured pork cheek/jowl), finely sliced

Come fare

In a bowl, mix the whole eggs and egg yolks with the pecorino, Parmesan and pepper. Set aside.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti according to the package directions, then drain, reserving the cooking water.

In the meantime, add the guanciale slices to a dry frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat and sear for 5 minutes, or until crispy. Add 1 tablespoon of the pasta cooking water, followed by the spaghetti.

Remove the pan from the heat. Add the egg mixture and mix briskly. The eggs should not cook too much and the consistency of the sauce should be creamy.

Transfer to a large serving dish and serve immediately.

Cool to know
You heard right: real Italian carbonara sauce is made without cream. Our chef Filippo La Gattuta makes a spectacle of serving it straight out of a big pecorino wheel at our London trattoria Gloria.

Cook more from this book
Green Pizz’
The Incredible Lemon Pie

Read the review 

Buy this book 
Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes
Phaidon, £27.95

Big Momma Cucina Popolare by Big Momma

Big Momma Cucina Popolare

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.

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

Buy this book
Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes
Phaidon, £27.95

Cook from this book
La Gran Carbonara
Green Pizz’
The Incredible Lemon Pie

The Twelve Cookbooks of Christmas

There’s no better Christmas present to give a true foodie than a new cookbook. Here’s my selection of a dozen of the best new releases from the last few months that will please the gourmet in your life, whether they are serious hobbyist cooks, professional chefs or just in need of some fresh inspiration for midweek meals.

Big Mamma Cucina Popolare

Big Momma Cucina Popolare

What the publishers say:  The hotly anticipated cookbook from the group behind London’s Gloria and Circolo Popolare restaurants.  Italian restaurant group Big Mamma burst onto the London food scene earlier this year with the opening of Gloria, the 70’s Capri-style trattoria in the heart of Shoreditch. This little corner of Italy hosted an explosive menu, mixing old Italian classics with ingredients sourced direct from small producers in Italy, plus a few fun twists from Head Chef Filippo La Gattuta. In June, in the wake of the success of their first opening in London, French owners Victor Lugger and Tigrane Seydoux opened Circolo Popolare – a sunny Sicily style trattoria in Fitzrovia, with immediate show-stopping dishes, from giant Pizzas al metro to XXL desserts.

Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes features 130 best recipes from the Big Mamma team. Some delicious, easy-to-prepare, imaginative twists from true classics such as La Gran Carbonara and Tiramisu, to some of the most creative Italian recipes today, including Pizza Nera Con Cozze and Sfoglia Lasagna. The book includes much-loved dishes from Gloria and Circolo Popolare, and some amazing Pizza Yolo, Lob’star Pasta, Ravioli Di Ricotta, Daft Punch and Eat Me Baba One More Time.

Full review coming soon

Buy this book
Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes
Phaidon, £27.95 (phaidon.com)

Cook from this book: coming soon

Marcus Everyday by Marcus Wareing

Marcus Everyday

Marcus Wareing has made his name as one of London’s best-known fine-dining chefs and as a stern taskmaster on Masterchef: The Professionals. But in his new book (the sixth he has co-authored with Chantelle Nicholson, Group Operations Director for Marcus Wareing Restaurants), he presents a kinder, gentler Marcus; the family man at home in his East Sussex hideaway Melfort House, gardening and cooking with his kids and grinning for the camera in his casual blue denim shirt. It’s the sort of aspiration lifestyle stuff you’d associate with the likes of Bill Granger or Donna Hay, but Wareing pulls it off. The recipes are very much ‘home cookery’ as Wareing likes to call it; approachable, achievable and not a hint of Michelin-starred hubris. Recipes that may well become regular standbys include hassleback potatoes with red wine and pork ragu; haddock with lentils, basil and mascarpone and beef and garden herb meatballs with roasted tomato sauce.

Read the full review 

Cuisine: International  
Suitable for:
For beginners/confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating:
Four stars

Buy this book
Marcus Everyday: Easy Family Food for Every Kind of Day
Harper Collins Publishers, £20

Rick Steins Secret France

Secret France Rick Stein

Restaurateur and seafood expert Rick Stein takes a meandering journey through rural France from Normandy in the north to Provence in the south. In addition to the usual suspects like snails in garlic butter,  omelette aux fines herbes, croque monsieur and steak frites, Stein has gone off the beaten track and unearthed pounti, a ham and chard terrine from the Auvergne; wild boar stew with pinot noir from Alsace, and boles de picolat, meatballs flavoured with cinnamon and piment d’Espelette from Prades in the Pyrenees. Fans of Rick Stein will not be disappointed. If you are new to the food of France this is a great introduction, and if you are a Francophile, you will enjoy revisiting old favourites and discovering new dishes to add to your repertoire.

Read the full review

Cuisine: French  
Suitable for: 
Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Five stars

Buy this book
Rick Stein’s Secret France
BBC Books, £26

Black Axe Mangal by Lee Tiernan

Black Axe

Lee Tiernan runs the cult north London restaurant Black Axe Mangal and this is his first book. His pizza oven is emblazoned with the faces of the rock group Kiss and the flavours of dishes like pig’s tails with pickled chicory; braised hare, chocolate and pig’s blood with mash; oxtail, bone marrow and anchovy and the signature squid ink flatbread with smoked cod’s roe are turned up to 11.

The liberal seasoning of salty language and peppering of softcore glamour shots may be off-putting to some, but the step by step instructions on the key skills of grilling, smoking and baking that help define Tiernan’s food, along with the story behind his success, provide an insight into one of the UK’s most exciting and original chefs and make Black Axe Mangal an essential purchase.

Read the full review

Cuisine: Modern British
Suitable for: Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Five stars

Buy this book
Black Axe Mangal
Phaidon, £24.95

Cook from this book
Vietnamese Scrambled Eggs With Sesame Bread
Pressed Octopus And Szechuan Vinaigrette
Crispy Fuckin’ Rabbit

The Quality Chop House

Quality chop house

Recipes and stories from a landmark London restaurant that’s been trading in one form or other since 1869. You get a very real sense of what the Quality Chop House is all about. If you are already a regular, it will make you want to go back immediately and if you’ve never been you’ll be desperate for a table. Keen cooks willing to invest time and some money to create restaurant-quality dishes like mince on dripping toast; pastrami cured salmon; corn and marmite butter; truffled potato croquettes, and the signature confit potatoes at home will absolutely devour this book.

Read the full review

Cuisine: British 
Suitable for: 
Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Five stars

Buy this book
The Quality Chop House: Modern Recipes and Stories from a London Classic
£30, Hardie Grant
(Head to the restaurant’s website for a signed copy wrapped in their own branded  butcher’s paper)

Cook from this book
Confit potatoes 

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook by Annie Gray

Downton Cookbook

The acclaimed historian, cook and broadcaster Annie Gray takes the fictional Downtown Abbey as a jumping-off point to chart the history of British country house cooking in a series of short articles and recipes including Palestine soup; cabbage as they served it in Budapest; mutton with caper sauce; the queen of trifles; beef stew with dumplings; treacle tart; rice pudding. Downtown fans will love it, but it’s such a sumptuously produced book with lovely food photography by John Kernick that it will appeal to anyone with an interest in British food and its history.

Read the full review

Cuisine: British 
Suitable for: 
Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Four stars

Buy this book
The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook
White Lion Publishing, £25

Signature Dishes That Matter by Christine Muhlke et al

Sig dishes

A collection of 240 restaurant dishes that spans six centuries from the first-ever gelato created in 1686 by Procopio Cutò at Le Procope in Paris to Tomos Parry’s whole turbot, first-served at his London restaurant Brat in 2018. It is a fascinating read and an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of world cuisine. It’s perfect for bedtime reading and could provide inspiration for a spectacular retro-themed dinner party.

Read the full review

Cuisine: International 
Suitable for: 
Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Four stars

Buy this book
Signature Dishes That Matter
Phaidon, £35

Dishoom by Shamil Thakrar, Kavi Thakrar and Naved Nasir 

Dishoom

The cookbook of the eight-strong Dishoom all-day dining Indian restaurant group inspired by the Persian-style Irani cafes of Mumbai.  There’s recipes for mid-morning snacks like keema puffs, lunch dishes including aloo sabzi (vegetable curry served with bedmi puri bread), afternoon refreshments such as salted laksi, ‘sunset snacks’  pau bhaji, a spicy vegetable mash served with toasted Bombay bread buns and dinner dishes such as soft shell crab masala, lamb biryani and spicy lamb chops. Besides the delicious recipes, the book looks beautiful, is a great read and gives you more than enough detail about Mumbai to plan a truly sybaritic holiday there.

Read the full review

Cuisine: Indian
Suitable for: 
Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Four stars

Buy this book
Dishoom: The first ever cookbook from the much-loved Indian restaurant: From Bombay with Love
Bloomsbury Publishing, £26.

The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver

St John

The long-awaited follow up to 2007’s Beyond Nose to Tail from one of the UK’s most distinguished and influential chefs Fergus Henderson and his business partner Trevor Gulliver. The publication coincides with the 25th anniversary of the opening of St John restaurant near Smithfield market in London, world-famous for dishes such as roast bone marrow with parsley salad that celebrate offal. Adding The Book of St John will bring something distinctive to your cookbook collection and might well expand your culinary horizons with dishes such as crispy lamb’s brains; pig’s tongues, butter beans and green sauce; chicken, bacon and trotter pie and Eccles cake and Lancashire cheese.

Read the full review

Cuisine: British 
Suitable for: 
Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Four stars

Buy this book
The Book of St John: Over 100 Brand New Recipes from London’s Iconic Restaurant

Cook from this book
Welsh Rarebit 
Grilled lamb hearts, peas and mint
Salted caramel and chocolate tart 

The Food of Sichuan by Fuchsia Dunlop

The Food of Sichuan

The Food of Sichuan is a revised and updated edition of Sichuan Cookery, originally published in 2001. It’s an authoritative and comprehensive investigation of the styles, techniques and ingredients of a lesser-known regional Chinese cuisine with over 100 recipes, 50 of them new to the revised edition including bowl steamed belly pork with preserved vegetables; fragrant and crispy duck, and pot-sticker dumplings with chicken stock. The quality of the writing, the depth and breadth of the research and the sheer reassuring heft of the thing tell you this is the only book on Sichuan cooking you’ll ever need.

Read the full review

Cuisine: Chinese
Suitable for: 
Confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Five stars

Buy this book
The Food of Sichuan
£30, Bloomsbury

Cook House by Anna Hedworth

Cook House Anna Hedworth

If you’ve ever dreamed about making a career in food, self-taught chef and restaurateur Anna Hedworth’s story of how she opened a restaurant in a shopping container in Newcastle upon Tyne will provide you with the information and inspiration to take the leap. If you want to try out techniques like cooking over open-fire and preserving and fermenting for the first time, this book will be of particular interest. But even if you just want to add a few more delicious go-to recipes to your repertoire such as red pepper, paprika and rosemary soup with sourdough croutons; chicken, courgette and pea salad with aioli and sourdough crumb or dark chocolate and almond cake, Cook House is well worth adding to your collection.

Read the full review 

Cuisine: British
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Four stars

Buy this book
Cook House
£25, Head of Zeus

The Shore by Bruce Rennie

The Shore

A collection of highly inventive and original seafood dishes from one of the best seafood restaurants in the country, The Shore in Penzance. Chef Bruce Rennie worked with Michelin starred Edinburgh-based chef Martin Wishart as well as Gary Rhodes and Rick Stein before opening The Shore in 2015. An extended introductory chapter covers Rennie’s own story, his relationship with the land and Cornwall and running the restaurant. Recipes are arranged into six, eight-course tasting menus which reflect Rennie’s love of Japanese and Indian flavours in dishes such as mackerel, sashimi style, sesame, beetroot and wasabi sorbet and cod with dal, cauliflower, lime pickle, onion bhaji and coriander.

Read my foreword to the book

Cuisine: Seafood
Suitable for: Dedicated home cooks/professional chefs

Buy this book
The Shore
£25, A Way with Media

The Crunchy Part of the Lasagne by Massimo Bottura

165 crunchy lasagne

Osteria Francescana Italy 1995

1 yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 g extra-virgin olive oil
2 dried bay laves
1 sprig rosemary
100g bone marrow
50g pancetta steccata, chopped
100g sausagemeat
200g veal tail
100g veal tongue
100g beef cheek
100g cherry tomato confit
80g white wine
1.5g capon stock
5g sea salt
1g black pepper

Pasta dough

100g spinach
100g Swiss chard
500g ‘00’ flour
8 egg yolks
1 egg
salt

Béchamel foam

30g butter
30g flour
500g milk, at room temperature
120g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated sea salt

Tomato terrine

4 ripe tomatoes
1g sugar
1g sea salt
0.5g freshly ground black pepper
3g extra virgin olive oil
2g agar agar

Parmigiano crackers

15g soft butter
90g 30-month Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
5g cornflour (cornstarch)

Ragù

Make a classic soffritto by cooking the onion, carrot and celery very gently in
a pan with the olive oil. Transfer to a stainless steel bowl and stir in the bay and rosemary. Blanch the bone marrow in salted boiling water and drain it on paper towels to absorb any excess liquid. Sweat the pancetta in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Add the sausagemeat and cook until browned. Remove any excess fat, then add the remaining meats, keeping them in large pieces, and cherry tomato confit. Brown them, add the wine and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and add the soffritto. Put the mixture in a sous-vide bag along with a little of the stock, and seal. Cook for 24 hours at 63°C (145°F). Open the bag and separate the liquid and solids. Place the liquid in a pan and reduce it by half over low heat. Chop the meat with a sharp knife. Put it in a large saucepan and add the liquid.

Pasta

Cook the spinach and chard in boiling water, then chill it immediately in iced water. Drain it well, dry it and pound it thoroughly.

Sift the flour on to a board and make a well in the centre. Add the egg yolks, egg and the spinach mixture gradually to the well, mixing until the dough comes together in a ball. Knead for 15 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Cover it with a clean dish cloth and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough to a thickness of 1 mm (1⁄16 inch). Cut it into 5-cm (2-inch) triangles. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water (10 g salt per litre), drain it and dry it well. Stack the pasta, cover it carefully and let stand in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F). Bake for 15 minutes, until the pasta is perfectly gratinated. Let stand in a warm place for 5 minutes before serving.

Béchamel foam

Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour and salt. Cook, stirring, until it forms a smooth paste, then add the milk. Stir very well and when it starts to thicken, add the Parmigiano and keep stirring. Cook for 5 more minutes. While still warm, process it in a thermal mixer at maximum speed, then strain it, put it into a siphon and chill it. Once cold, charge with 2 charges and shake it well.

Tomato terrine

Blend the tomatoes thoroughly and strain them, adding the sugar, salt, pepper and oil. Put the liquid into a small pan with the agar agar and bring to a boil, stirring, until it has melted completely. Pour the mixture into a 10 x 15-cm (4 x 6-inch) rectangular tray and let cool. Once cold, cut it into 1 x 15-cm (1⁄2 x 6-inch) strips.

Parmigiano crackers

Knead the butter, Parmigiano and cornflour (cornstarch) together briefly. Roll it out to a thickness of 2 mm (1⁄8 inch) and cut it into 5-cm (2-inch) triangles, like the pasta. Bake at 200°C (400°F) for 2 minutes, or less if necessary, until lightly browned.

To serve

Place a straight line of tomato terrine along the plate. Place four spoonfuls of the ragù alongside it, topped with spoonfuls of the béchamel foam. Rest 2 Parmigiano crackers and 2 crispy pasta pieces alternately in front of them.

Cook more from this book
Sticky toffee pudding  
Stuffed Pig’s Trotters with Morels

Read the review

Buy the book
Signature Dishes That Matter
Phaidon, £35

Pasta, Pane, Vino by Matt Goulding

pasta-pane-vino-1

What’s the USP? Not a cookbook but rather a culinary travelogue through the regional cuisines of Italy.

Who’s the author? Matt Goulding is co-founder of Roads and Kingdoms a travel, food and politics website. Goulding is also the author of Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain’s Food Culture and Rice, Noodle, Fish: Deep Travels Through Japan’s Food Culture. Goulding’s correspondence with the late Anthony Bourdain about Italy and Goulding’s plans for the book form the foreword. 

What does it look like? At 16.5cm by 19.8 cm, Pasta, Pane, Vino is a cute, squat volume. Clocking in at 352 pages, it’s also a weighty tome, packed with 200 colour photographs portraying the chefs, farmers, fishermen and other figures behind Italy’s culinary traditions, as well as the food, landscapes and cityscapes of Rome, Puglia, Bologna, Sicily, Naples, Sardinia , Piedmont and Lake Como.

Is it good bedtime reading? This is definitely one to keep on the bedside table, to send you off dreaming of carbonara in Rome, pizza in Naples and spaghetti alla marinara in Sardinia.

Killer quote: ‘In the end, it’s not a book about grandmas and their sacred family recipes (though they have a few delicious cameos); it’s a book about a wave of cooks, farmers, bakers, shepherds, young and old, trying to negotiate the weight of the past with the possibilities of the future’.

What will I love? Goulding is a writer from the top drawer. He not only knows how to construct a sentence and turn a memorable phrase (for example, the opening line of the book – ‘Long after the sun has set behind the Palatine Hill, after the sands of the Colosseum have been swallowed by shadows, after the tint of the Tiber has morphed from acqua minerale to Spritz to dark vermouth, you come upon a quiet piazza on a meandering cobblestone street…’), he’s also really done his research. Unless you know Italy extremely well, you will discover things about the country’s culinary scene you didn’t know before, from a hidden gem of a trattoria in Rome to the best time to visit Ballaro market in Palermo and much, much more.

What won’t I like? It’s difficult to find fault. In addition to the main body text of the chapters, the book is peppered with double page spreads such as ‘Anatomy of a dish’ (explanations of items like bistecca al la Fiorentina and caffe that are particularly significant to regional Italian cuisine), and ‘Postcards’ (an overview of destinations like Matera in southern Italy and Ragusa in Sicily not otherwise covered in the book)  which add variety and value and help break up the main text. You could argue that the only thing missing are some authentic recipes from each of the eight destinations covered, but that’s nitpicking.

Should I buy it? Do you like food? Do you like travel? Do you need everything spelled out to you?

Cuisine: Italian 
Suitable for:
Culinary tourists 
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Five stars

Buy this book
Pasta, Pane, Vino: Deep Travels Through Italy’s Food Culture (Roads & Kingdoms Presents)

Jamie Cooks Italy by Jamie Oliver

Jamie Cooks Italy jacket (1)

What’s the USP? According to the author’s introduction, it’s ‘your go-to Italian book, a manual of deliciousness’. According to recent reports in the press, it’s part of a carefully planned strategy to help shore up the ailing Jamie’s Italian restaurant chain. Jon Knight, chief executive of the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group was quoted as saying that, “We lost touch with Jamie, there was a growing disconnect between what Jamie was doing on TV and in his books – people weren’t experiencing that in the restaurants”. So, what better way to realign Jamie’s Italian the restaurant with Jamie the chef than a TV series and cookbook tie-in all about Italy?

Who’s the author? You might have heard of Jamie Oliver. He’s the chef that was recently accused of cultural appropriation for selling ‘Punchy Jerk Rice’ in supermarkets (even though there’s no such thing as jerk rice) and caused outrage with his attempts to curb junk food advertising and extend the sugar tax with accusations of taking food out of poor people’s mouths and hypocrisy, given that his Jamie’s Diner restaurant in Gatwick Airport serves burgers and shakes. He’s also one of the most famous chefs in the world who helped revolutionise food on TV with his debut series The Naked Chef in the 90’s and has a long track record of philanthropy. So, take your pick.

What does it look like? Bold, bright and colourful, there’s nothing subtle about this book. Long-time collaborator David Loftus’s photos seem supersaturated with Sicilian (and many other Italian regions) sun and even the recipe titles are printed in a vibrant sunshine yellow.

Is it great bedtime reading? Not really. A brief introduction and the pen pictures of the various Nonna’s that Oliver has tapped up for recipes on his travels around Italy are brief, superficial and not particularly well written.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients?
As ever, a Jamie Oliver recipe is all about accessibility so you’ll have no problem finding pretty much everything you need, bar the odd grouper or rabbit with its offal intact, at the supermarket

What’s the faff factor?
The preparation times given for the wide range of recipes in the book start at 15 minutes to knock up golden breaded tuna with Aeolian spaghetti with lemon, capers, pecorino, chilli and herbs to five hours plus marinating overnight for ‘wildest boar ragu’ so the ‘faff factor’ really depends on whether you feel life’s too short to stuff your own agnolotti.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes?
If you’re expecting Jamie to be all gor-blimey-guv’ner-bish-bosh-bash-glug-of-oil-matey you’ll be disappointed; even half a bunch of flat leaf parsley is given an indicative weight (15g if you’re interested).

How often will I cook from the book?
This is a something-for-every-occasion sort of book which you may easily find yourself reaching for mid-week for a simple supper or for a weekend of pasta making and baking.

Killer recipes? Semolina teardrop dumplings from the Aosta Valley in Northwest Italy (a sort of spätzle, traditional to the Walsers community in Italy that has Swiss and German roots); baked risotto pie with sweet spicy squash and oozy cheeses; panissa rice with smoked pancetta, cured meats, borlotti beans, tomatoes and red wine, and many others

What will I love? There is no question that Italy is Oliver’s greatest inspiration (watch the Jamie’s Italy or Jamie Cooks Italy TV series and you can see pure joy in his face) and thanks to that TV budget, he and his team have been able to research the recipes first hand, so this is no hastily thrown-together cash in.

What won’t I like? Oliver has a very distinctive food writing voice, one that bursts with enthusiasm and which never leaves a hyperbolic statement unturned; you’ll either love it or it will grate. If you don’t appreciate the flavour of rosemary being described as ‘genius deep savouriness’ then you might want to turn to more level-headed writers like Anna Del Conte or Elizabeth David for your Italian fix.

Should I buy it? Does the world need another Jamie Oliver cookbook, especially another Jamie Oliver cookbook on Italian food, especially given that he published the excellent Jamie’s Italy back in 2005? In fact, there is very little, if any crossover between the two books, quite a feat given that together they run to more than 700 pages. Oliver divides opinion, but if you are a fan, and I am, then this is a welcome 21st addition to the chef’s ever-growing canon.

Cuisine: Italian
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 Stars

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Jamie Cooks Italy
£26, Michael Joseph

Green pasta bits by Jack Stein

Green Bits Pasta - 0781

This is a dish from my girlfriend, Lucy, who is from a Sicilian family. Lucy usually makes this on a Monday, when we have a ton of green vegetables left over from the Sunday roast. You can use virtually any green vegetable. Be sure to leave the Parmesan rind in the pasta to give it a lovely depth of flavour. If I have been busy at work and really want something comforting and healthy to eat, this is it.

Once when I was working at The Seafood Restaurant, an Italian woman was invited into the kitchen. While I was showing her around, she told me that the best way to cook pasta was her way. So here it is. Cook the pasta as usual, then, when it’s ready, drain it through a colander, being careful to collect the water in a pan. Add butter to the hot pasta, stir it through and pour the water back through the pasta again. This is the way I have cooked pasta ever since!

SERVES 4

3 tablespoons olive oil plus more if needed
1 onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon chilli flakes
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
100g grated Parmesan cheese and Parmesan rind
500g dried rigatoni or penne
400g mixed green vegetables, such as fresh tenderstem broccoli, asparagus and spinach, and frozen peas (used here)
1 tablespoon butter plus an extra knob for the pasta
juice of ½ lemon
salt and pepper

Fill a pan of water for the pasta. Salt generously and bring to the boil.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the onion and chilli flakes and a pinch of salt, and cook slowly until soft but not coloured (about 5–10 minutes). Add the garlic and the Parmesan rind. Leave on the lowest possible heat while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Meanwhile add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 1 minute less than the packet instructions suggest.

Prepare the vegetables. Slice the broccoli stems and asparagus spears into 2cm pieces, keeping the heads intact. Add them to the pan containing the onion mixture, and turn up the heat, stirring so that they are covered with oil. Add 1 tablespoon butter and a pinch of salt. Cook for 5 minutes until they are softened but still have a bite.

Wash the frozen peas under warm water to defrost them; drain off the water and add the peas to the broccoli and asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Cut the spinach into strips and add to the pan; let it wilt down and add another pinch of salt. There should be enough oil to coat all the vegetables; if necessary, add a little more.

When the pasta is ready, drain it into a colander set over a large pan. Put the pasta back into the pan and stir through a knob of butter. Pour the collected water back into the pan to coat the pasta and drain over the large pan again.

Remove the Parmesan rind. Pour in the vegetable sauce and stir to make sure it is all combined. Add the lemon juice and a handful of Parmesan and stir these through, along with a final tablespoon or two of the pasta cooking water.

Plate up the pasta and vegetables and top with more Parmesan, black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Pineapple tart tatin

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Buy this book
Jack Stein’s World on a Plate: Local produce, world flavours, exciting food
£26, Absolute Press

Extract taken from Jack Stein’s World on a Plate by Jack Stein (Absolute Press, £26)
Photography © Paul Winch-Furness

Bread is Gold by Massimo Bottura

Bread is Gold

What is it?
Italy’s greatest gift to modern gastronomy, the three Michelin-starred, Modena-based chef Massimo Bottura of the former number one restaurant in the world Osteria Francescana follows up his 2014 book Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef with a compendium of recipes from his charitable ‘soup kitchen’ project Refettoria Ambrosiano that he created for Expo 2015 in Milan set in Teatro Greco, an abandoned and restored 1930’s theatre. The project continues to run as a community kitchen for homeless shelters using waste food from supermarkets.

What’s the USP?
All the dishes in the book were created by Bottura and dozens of other high profile chefs from around the world from ‘waste’ food from the Expo including wilted veg, bruised or over-ripe fruit and meat, fish poultry and diary close to their expiration date that would otherwise have been thrown away.

Who are these mysterious ‘friends’ who share the author credit?
Massimo is a well-connected guy and counts the likes of Alain Ducasse, Rene Redzepi, Daniel Humm and Ferran and Albert Adria among his many mates (more than 45 chefs have contributed to the book).

If Refettoria Ambrosiano is a soup kitchen, am I getting 400-odd pages of soup recipes?
Not quite. There are a dozen or so soups and broths including Redzepi’s Burnt Lime soup and Fish Soup with Bread Gnocchi by Antonia Klugmann from L’Argine a Vencó restaurant in Italy, but the 150 recipes cover the usual starters, mains and desserts. Given the nature of the project (a chef jetted in for a day and improvised a meal for a hundred people using whatever ingredients were to hand) some repetition of ideas and ingredients is inevitable. So there’s nine meatballs recipes, two for meatloaf and dozens involving stale bread; no surprise given the book’s title.

About that title, bread isn’t gold is it? Otherwise that loaf of sliced white going mouldy in my cupboard would be worth a fortune.
It’s the name of a Bottura signature dish created in memory of his late mother and based on the chef’s childhood memory of eating zuppa di latte or milk soup for breakfast which he made by grating leftover bread into a bowl of warm milk with sugar and a splash of coffee. The recipe, included in the book, is made from layers of salted caramel ice cream, caramel bread croutons and bread and sugar cream topped with a bread crisp sprinkled with edible gold dust.

Why should I buy the book?
Food waste in professional kitchens continues to be a big talking point and Bottura is leading the discussion. The book provides lots of inspiration for how to use produce that might otherwise end up in the bin which means you’re not only doing the world some good, but it could well help you cut your food costs. As well as the recipes, it’s also a great read with a one-page introduction to each chef, explaining how they prepared their meals and telling the story of the project.

What won’t I like?
At £29.95, you might expect hard-covers and glossy pages. What you actually get is soft covers and what appears to be recycled, matt paper which means the images are not as pin sharp as you might like. However, it’s all in keeping with the ‘make do’ ethos of Bottura’s Food For Soul charity that Refettoria Ambrosiano is a part of and to which all royalties from the book will be donated to, so stop complaining!

Cuisine: International
Suitable for: Confident home cooks and chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 stars

Buy this book
£29.95, Phaidon
Bread Is Gold

Lasagne with sausage meatballs by Nadine Levy Redzepi

Lasagne with Sausage Meatballs

When it was our oldest daughter’s turn to have her school playgroup over for dinner, I asked her what she wanted me to make and she requested lasagne. I’ve never been a huge fan of lasagne, which is usually a bit bland and stuffed with too much melted cheese for my taste, so I challenged myself to create a version that was full of flavour and a bit surprising. I added a lot of garlic and little balls of sausage in addition to the minced beef, and layered it with a lightly cheesy béchamel sauce, and it really took it to the next level for me. This requires a bit of work, but it serves a big crowd.

Serves 9-12

MEAT SAUCE
Extra-virgin olive oil 90 ml (3 fl oz)
Onions 2
Garlic cloves 8
Minced beef 800 g (1. lb)
Whole peeled tomatoes in juice 3 400g (14 oz) tins
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

BECHAMEL
Salted butter 110 g (4 oz)
Plain flour 70 g (2. oz)
Whole milk 950 ml (1. pints)
Fine sea salt
Sweet Italian pork sausage 450 g (1 lb)
Pre-cooked pasta sheets 450 g (1 lb)
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 225 g (8 oz), freshly grated

1. Make the meat sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large casserole dish over medium-high heat. Chop the onions, adding them to the pan as you go. Do not stir until the onions are beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they turn a deep golden brown, about 3 minutes more. Crush the garlic cloves with the flat side of your knife and discard the papery skins. Coarsely chop the garlic and stir it into the pan.

2. Push the onion mixture to one side of the pan and add 2 more tablespoons of the oil. Crumble the minced beef into the pan, avoiding the onions. Let the meat cook for 2 minutes to lightly brown on the bottom. Using a wooden spatula, break up the meat and stir it into the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices and stir to combine, crushing the tomatoes with the spatula.

3. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until it has thickened slightly, about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the remaining oil. Season to taste. Stirring in a bit of extra oil will help emulsify the sauce and give it more body.

4. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C Fan).

5. Make the béchamel: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Gradually whisk in the flour to make a thick, paste-like roux. Let it bubble for about a minute but don’t let it brown. Raise the heat to medium. Gradually whisk in the milk. Simmer over medium-low heat, whisking often and making sure the bottom doesn’t scorch, until it is lightly thickened and smooth, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt.

6. Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Squeeze the sausage meat out of the casings, forming it into small balls. Add them to the pan and cook until they are lightly browned and their fat has rendered. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage balls to the sauce and combine gently.

7. Spread about 240 ml (8½ fl oz) of the meat sauce in a 23 x 33-cm (9 x 13-inch) baking dish. Top with a layer of lasagne sheets. Cover with about a quarter of the remaining meat sauce, a quarter of the béchamel, and sprinke with 60 g (2 oz) of the Parmigiano. Repeat to make 3 more layers. (You may have lasagne sheets left over.) Sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano.

8. Bake the lasagne until it is bubbling and browned, about 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for at least 20 minutes before serving. Don’t cut into the lasagne too soon or it will fall apart when you serve it. Even 20 minutes isn’t too long a resting period, and it will still be hot.

Extracted from Downtime by Nadine Levy Redzepi
(Ebury Press, £27)
Photography by Ditte Isager

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Roasted ratatouille with orzo
Danish apple dessert

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Buy this book
Downtime: Deliciousness at Home
£26 Ebury