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The River Café Classic Italian Cook Book – Book review

01 October 2009

The River Café Classic Italian Cook Book
Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers
Michael Joseph £30
ISBN 978-0-7181-5349-6

Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers are co-owners of the River Café on the banks of the Thames in west London. But then you already know that. You've probably got one or two of their recipe books on your shelf, in common with the millions of other disciples of their culinary philosophy of simplicity, seasonality and high-quality ingredient sourcing. And you're probably aware that their kitchen alumni include Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Theo Randall and Arthur Potts Dawson.

Their latest release, the River Café Classic Italian Cook Book, offers up 200 fresh recipes that capture the learning and inspiration they have gleaned from countless trips to their culinary muse, Italy.

Though the book's introduction doesn't mention it, 2008 was a tough year for Gray and Rogers. In April of last year, a fire gutted the River Café and led to a six-month closure. The blaze meant that the restaurant remained closed for its 21st birthday. It's clear to see how compiling this celebration of food must have served as a kind of therapy during a difficult period for them both.

Featured recipes come with excess baggage: descriptions of the regions they stem from; thumbnails of the artisan suppliers or producers who offered them up; stories of how Gray and Rogers happened upon them, perhaps. All corners of Italy are covered.

Soups throw together borlotti and sardine; bread, tomato and porcini; and cabbage and fontina cheese from the northern mountains. Breads range from Sardinian flatbread to Ligurian focaccia with cheese, and from grissini to chickpea farinata with rosemary.

Stand-out main-course dishes include squid with red wine, chard and grapes; stewed cuttlefish with grilled polenta; guinea fowl roasted in a pot with juniper and grappa; roasted boned whole piglet; and pheasant with prosciutto, wine and white truffles.

A comprehensive selection of sorbets, ice-creams and cakes follows, before a useful low-down of classic Italian sauces and stocks rounds the book off.

So sensual are the food shots that you'll swear you have the smell of sage, garlic and rosemary in your nostrils, as you turn through its pages.

"So sensual are the food shots that you'll swear you have the smell of sage, garlic and rosemary in your nostrils, as you turn through its pages"

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