31 March 2012

"Two Greedy Italians eat Italy" ~ a Review


When I was up country (as we say in these parts) I had lunch at Carluccio’s; the menu was tempting, the food very good and I was really enticed by the deli selling all sorts of fascinating stuff.  I didn’t have long to linger, however, as I was with my agent (ahem!) and about to meet up with publishers to discuss the possibility of publishing the book I am writing. 

ASIDE ~ if you would like to think positive thoughts for me in this regard please feel free; there’s still time as I haven’t heard anything yet!

Coincidentally, on my return to Cornwall, among the various delights waiting me was another lovely  book from Quadrille (I thank you); “Two Greedy Italians eat Italy” by Gennaro Contaldo and no other than Antonio Carluccio ~ the very chap who developed the above mentioned Carluccio’s caffè business together with his ex-wife Priscilla Carluccio. 


The book is divided into three main sections dealing with food from the mountains (the Alps including the glacial lakes), from the coast and from the rivers and plains giving a little about the geography of each area as it relates to food and lifestyle. 

 “Comfort Food from the Mountains” deals with warming, rib sticking food.  The first recipe is for Beef & Wine Soup which is good beef broth enhanced with wine, cream and Parmesan and served over buttery fried bread.   This is just the sort of food for someone keen on using up leftovers, as I am, and so is the second recipe in the book for Bread Dumplings in Beef Broth.  As it happens I am making beef stock as I type (see recipe at the end of this post) so will try these recipes soon.  

This section also includes several game recipes, polenta, pizza, chestnuts, potatoes, sausages and cabbage, that sort of thing.  Towards the end Carluccio gives a recipe for Mascapone All’ Amaretto.  As luck would have it there was were a few Amaretti in the cupboard and a little mascarpone in the fridge so it seemed only right that I try it for breakfast.  Sadly I had no Amaretto so I had to compromise with a little brandy but it was still delicious!


“Fresh Flavours from the Coast”, of course, gives many fish and seafood dishes plus some desserts and ices and a particularly enticing recipe for Focaccia di Formaggio.

The third section “The Larder of the River and Plains” concerned the the agricultural area where not only fruit and vegetables are grown but also rice for risotto and wheat for pasta. 

Each of the guys contributes recipes, which are clear and straightforward, and also the occasional note on ingredients.  I have never been to Italy (what a slacker!) but this strikes me as real or realistic Italian food, not restaurant dishes beyond the call of day to day cooking and I am tempted by a great deal of it.  I am also tempted to visit Italy.

If the photos are to be believed Carluccio and Contaldo seem to have had fun compiling this volume and they they remind me a little  of “Last of the Summer Wine” ~ two old friends still playing with life and enjoying themselves together.  


ANOTHER ASIDE ~ does anyone have any idea what’s in Compo’s matchbox?

“Two Greedy Italians eat Italy” by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo is a follow up to their first book “Two Greedy Italians” which accompanied the BBC series of the same name (get the DVD here).  It is to be published by Quadrille Publishing Ltd on the 12th April this year and can be ordered from Amazon here. 

Boneless Beef Stock

If you are prone, as I am, to being left with lots of beef scraps after trimming steaks or preparing meat for casseroles then store every little bit in the freezer till there are enough to make an effort worthwhile – 500g at least. 

~   Defrost all the beef scraps if they are frozen – fat and sinew and gore are all fine for this.
~   Cut a whole onion into quarters, no need to peel it!
~   Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large pan and add the onion and all the beef bits.
~   Cook uncovered over high heat, stirring occasionally, till the beef is well browned and the onions may even have started to char.
~   Pour over enough water to cover generously, bring to a boil, cover, turn down the heat and simmer for ages till you have a rich brown stock.
~   Strain the stock into a clean pan discarding the solids.
~   Add a seriously good glug of red wine (half a bottle even!) and boil till the liquid had reduced by 75% or so.
~   Cool, pour into an airtight container, cover and chill.

This keeps very well in the fridge; as it cools the fat rises to the top and solidifies thus sealing the dish.  It can also be frozen and I suggest freezing in ice cubes as it is strong and you may only need a little at a time.  This not at all classic stock has served me very well; I like to add a spoonful to sautéed mushrooms, to steak pans when deglazing, to creamy sauces, and to anything that could do with a beefy boost, such as my ever popular Peppered Steak Salad.  
  

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