Book Review – Italian Kitchen

10 August 2012 by
Book Review – Italian Kitchen

Italian Kitchen By Anna Del Conte
Square Peg, £20
ISBN 978-022 4095 365

Anna Del Conte is the best writer on Italian food there is, according to Nigella Lawson. Coming from a woman who has herself sold about three million cookbooks worldwide, this is high praise indeed but Del Conte is undoubtedly a worthy recipient.

Her latest publication, Italian Kitchen, is a collection of recipes from four of her previous titles from 1993: Antipasti, Pasta, Risotto and I Dolci. Revitalising work from the best part of 20 years ago could, from anyone else, seem like a cheap way to produce a new book, but that's not the feeling you get from Italian Kitchen.

For a start, the recipes are, for the first time, accompanied by photography. The dishes, beautifully shot by Jason Lowe, already sound appetising but the sight of roasted bell peppers, skin charred and shiny, induces salivation in a way that printed words never could.

Perhaps the main appeal of Italian Kitchen is the marriage of a comprehensive collection of more than 100 recipes with an easygoing and un-scary style. It's clear that Del Conte wants you to not only have a crack at producing her food but also to make it well.

Each chapter features an opening introduction to whet your appetite and offers some technical advice on achieving the best results, from from-scratch pasta to unctuous risotto.

This book would be particularly useful in bringing to the pub or contract catering kitchen a level of authenticity to its Italian food offer that can often be quite lacking. A Del Conte lasagne, made from scratch, will pack a punch in terms of flavour, while satisfying a criterion to make a high margin product to feed the masses.

As a self-confessed pudding fan, I fell in love with the chapter on desserts. Despite the popularity of Italy's savoury dishes, which have migrated across the world with ease, its sweet courses are much less well known.

So for fans of tiramisu - or mascarpone pudding as it is known in this book - will doubtless find there is plenty of pleasure to be had from pastiera Napoletana (Neapolitan tart - a popular whole wheat and ricotta treat in Naples at Easter) and baci di dama (lady's kisses - a biscuit speciality of Tortona, a town in southern Piedmont).

Both such dishes can be easily produced ahead of time to serve for dessert or as an accompaniment for coffee.

If you like this, you'll love these:
Classic Italian Recipes Anna Del Conte
Nigellissima: Instant Italian Inspiration Nigella Lawson
Two Greedy Italians Eat Italy
Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo

By Janie Manzoori-Stamford

E-mail your comments to Janie Manzoori-Stamford here.

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