Wednesday, 30 September 2009

review: The Eagle Cookbook

Microsoft, Burger King, MTV, Hewlett Packard, and The Eagle pub aren’t necessarily names you’d expect to hear mentioned in the same breath. And yet they share one thing in common – born out of recessions, they’ve all gone on to huge things. Granted, The Eagle might not have quite the same global reach as Microsoft, but its effect on pub food culture in the UK has been barely less dramatic.

The Eagle first opened its doors in 1991, serving up good food at very reasonable prices, mostly to hungry journos from the Guardian’s offices right nextdoor. If ever there was an exemplary case of ‘location, location’, then this, surely, is it. Where better to put your new business than next to a building full of people whose very job it is to spread the word? And so it proved with The Eagle. Before long, the word was out, and happy punters started packing the place to the rafters.

Clearly, the owners – David Eyre and Mike Belben – were doing something very right. And (even though Eyre has since moved on) still are. Even today, nearly 20 years later, it’s nigh impossible to get a table there at lunchtime if you arrive after 12.30. Happily, for those of us who can’t make the trek to Farringdon, or who aren’t prepared to do battle for a table, there’s a new cookbook. Actually, it’s not quite new – it’s a revamped, expanded version of the original which came out in 2001. Like the pub itself, the book has benefited from an injection of fresh blood and some added inspiration during the intervening years.

So what, exactly, is all the fuss about? Open the pages and you might think, at first glance, that some of the recipes are for dishes that look rather familiar. But that’s just it – they ARE familiar. The Eagle ‘effect’ has been to help make them the standard, the common food currency. So you won’t find cutting edge, sharp-ended recipes here. You’ll get the stuff on which The Eagle’s reputation as ‘the granddaddy of them all’ was founded: plates of hearty, fuss-free, comfort food, big on flavours and great ingredients - the kind of meals alongside which you can just as easily sup on a pint of ale as you can a glass of red.

The real beauty of The Eagle’s food – and of the cookbook’s recipes – is that, down the year, its various chefs have each brought different flavours to the pot. The result is a menu, or list of recipes, full of distinctly Mediterranean riffs. A quick flip through the main sections will give you an idea. ‘Soups’ opens with Portuguese ‘stone’ soup; ‘Meals on Toast’ begins with bruschetta with warm ricotta salad; while ‘Eggs for Dinner’ includes huevos a la Flamenca. Nor does the southern-European feel stop with the more tapa-like parts of the meal, either. For ‘Fish’, you might have grilled squid piri-piri, and for meat, fabada Asturiana (pork and butterbean stew). Not that anyone’s complaining, mind. In fact, this meld of culinary cultures points to the very reason for The Eagle’s success – the London pub acclaimed for revolutionising pub cooking across the country has itself been revolutionised by the changes to the capital’s population mix over recent years. The Eagle’s food succeeds because it reflects this most cosmopolitan of cities and is the food we now demand.

For that reason alone, this is a book that should please a lot of people. But there are plenty of other good reasons, too. None of the recipes is complicated, needs chef-level skills, or requires an overwhelmingly long list of ingredients. The majority are illustrated with fine photographs designed to get your salivary glands working overtime. There are helpful explanations introducing most of the dishes, and some sound advice on ingredient shopping, and on cooking and serving techniques (e.g. for making a risotto, or for grilling meat).

Highlights? Too many to mention. Die-hard Eagle fans will be pleased to see the perennial favourite, the steak sandwich, while other old friends include grilled fennel sausages with lentils and green sauce, lamb shanks with chickpeas, and belly pork stew with peas and saffron. But it’s not all about big, meaty stuff. There are plenty of vegetable soups (e.g. Andalucian garlic soup; cold roast aubergine soup; black mushroom soup; red onion and red wine soup) salads, plenty of pasta and rice, and fish, not to mention some excellent side vegetable dishes (my personal favourites, caponata, and spinach with raisins and pine nuts make an appearance).

Traditional British food isn’t entirely forgotten, either, and it’s good to see the inclusion of some of this nation’s simple pleasures: smoked haddock with horseradish mash and poached egg; mutton chop and potato hotpot (hurrah for mutton!); casseroled beef; pheasant casserole; and celeriac mash.

If you’re a keen cook, it’s quite likely that you’ll have some of these recipes, or at least variations on them, already. But I’d still suggest it’s well worth getting. Not only will you be buying yourself a little piece of gastropub history, but having those 100+ self-styled ‘robust’ recipes bound together in one volume, ready for cooking that comfort-food hit, is frankly just too handy to resist.

So it’s your choice. Prepare yourself for the crowds and the queues, fight for a table, and have a meal and a pint at the Eagle? Yes, I know – all very nice, but.... Or, spend that same £20 on the book, and be able to recreate over a hundred of their very best recipes in the comfort of your own home? If I hadn’t already been sent a copy by the lovely people at Absolute Press, I know exactly which I’d choose.

(With thanks to Absolute Press for the review copy.)

Further details:
The Eagle Cookbook, by David Eyre and The Eagle Chefs
Hardcover, full colour photographs, 192 pages
Published by Absolute Press, 2009
ISBN-10: 1906650055
ISBN-13: 978-1906650056
Price: £20.00
Available now.

Monday, 28 September 2009

a quick review of Polpo, Soho

Why a quick review?

Well, because I seem to have way too many things to do at the moment, and simply not enough time in which to do them all. I also didn’t take any photographs which will, I know, deter some of you from reading on...

Wot not photos? Why didn’t I take any? I think it’s just rude, to be honest. Call me a prude, but I really don’t wish to spoil other diners’ meals. The lighting in Polpo was very low indeed (without the candle on the table, I think I would have failed to read the menu at all - must be getting old), and to take any photos would have meant using my flash. I, for one, would rather not have a flash going off near me every 10 seconds - given the tapas-style dishes at Polpo - while I’m trying to enjoy my dinner with my nearest and dearest.)

So. Polpo. Set just off Oxford Street, and just on the edge of Soho as it is, this is clearly a place with ambition. I dread to think what the rental figures must be like in a location such as this, but I’m sure they’re sufficiently lunar to ensure that every potential new eaterie owner here needs to think long and hard before signing on the dotted line. And they need to have ambition. Lots of it.

Clearly, Russell and Tom (the chef) do. They made several trips to Venice to make sure they recreate the essence of a Venetian bácaro (a kind of Italian equivalent to a Spanish tapas bar) as faithfully as possible. Recipes were tested and tested again. Russell signed up to Twitter to help spread the pre-opening word, which is how I got to hear of it.

The ‘decor’ (or lack thereof) involves a lot of exposed brickwork – but not in an ostentatious way, somehow) – and tiles, wooden floors, mismatched tables and chairs (reclaimed from churches, by the look of them), bare light bulbs complete with glowing filaments, and a faux stucco ceiling. Fun, low-key, warm, and suitably atmospheric. Oh, and it’s pretty intimate. I doubt there’s room for more than 40 covers here, so space is at a premium. We were fortunate enough to bag the one alcove, so bear in mind if you’re not the social sort.

It means the emphasis is on the food and drink, which is just as it should be. The menu is printed on your table mat, so you can easily peruse while you’re sipping your (very good) Campari spritzer and nibbling at the accompanying pizzette.

It’s divided into 6 short sections – cichetti, breads, meat, fish, vegetables/salads, and desserts. Each section offers around half a dozen choices, none costing more than £6 or £7. Cichetti and crostini are, for once, properly priced – all around the £2 mark or less. As Russell says, they’re trying to ‘keep it real’. Good to see. (You can also buy wine by the glass, 50cl or 1l or bottle, the latter starting at £14 to the most expensive at £36 –another welcome move.)

It was hard to choose from such an array of tempting-sounding food, but choose we did, aided and informed by the ever-helpful Russell. He’s conscious that not every dish is as perfect as they would like it to be yet – but then, that’s what preview nights are for.

So, as though we were on Countdown, we ordered 3 from the first section of the menu (please, Carol), then 2 from the third, 2 from the fourth, and 2 from the fifth (thank you, Carol). And 50cl of Cortese.

Onto the verdicts. I can’t ever get terribly excited about crostini, but the fig, prosciutto and mint version here was good – generous with the meat, with a perfect slice of ripe fig and a leaf of mint to complement it all. The salt cod on grilled polenta divided us – I liked it, but The Other Diner didn’t so much, saying it tasted as though it had mayo in with the cod (it didn’t, BTW). I’d add that the combination of textures might not be to everybody’s taste but, like I say, I liked it just fine. The arancini? Ah. Never arrived.

Next up, the meaty goods. The slow roasted duck, with black olives, tomatoes, and green peppercorns was a stunner. The meat was perfectly tender, the sauce lip-smackingly unctuous. The addition of peppercorns to the mix lifted the whole thing just a notch. I could have eaten quite a few plates of the stuff.

The calves’ liver was equally pleasing. Moist, with a near-melting texture, and served with gently caramelised onions, this was another winner. So far, so good, and another plate licked clean.

Our fish choices comprised that Italian standard, fritto misto, with another (less standard), cuttlefish in its ink. Gotta love a place that chooses to serve up a dish that looks like bits of tubing in dense, pitch-black tar. Is anywhere else in London serving it? If not, Polpo is where to come to satisfy your cuttlefish cravings. The fish was cooked just right – tender, but with a bit of bite. The ink was as black as you like, fishy, and rich and slightly piquant. It’s not one for the faint-hearted, but if you like this kind of thing, you’ll love it here.

The veg/salad dishes we ordered were really to accompany the rest rather than to have in their own right, but they’re still worth a mention. The grilled polenta was just as it should be – light but sufficiently firm, with tasty streaks of char. The real showstopper, however, was the fennel, green bean and cobnut salad. The fennel was sliced as thin as you like, carpaccio-style, and tossed in a delicate olive oil with a little lemon juice, with a few of the slenderest green beans you’ll ever see, and a scattering of beautiful, milk-sweet cobnuts.

Desserts (2 from the last section, please, Carol) didn’t disappoint, either. Ciambella with chocolate sauce was extraordinarily good. Subtly lemony, fluffy sponge, surrounded by a more crunchy outer layer (think doughnuts, which is what a ciambella cake traditionally resembles), dribbled with a fine chocolate sauce. Double yum. If you don’t think that lemon goes with chocolate, think again. Our other dessert was a honey and walnut semifreddo, served in a lovely, biscuitty cornet – again, given those all-important Italian touches with a coating of chocolate around the rim of the cone, and also about an inch filling the very bottom of the cone. The semifreddo itself was wholly pleasant, if not outstanding, with the flavours failing to materialise much above that cornet.

Finally, coffees were as good as you get in Italy. Served tiny, in little glasses. Like.

Other pluses? All the waiting staff were generally pretty efficient, polite, and friendly, and all passed that vital litmus-test – when asked about a dish, they were able to describe it properly, and even offer recommendations. Check.

Gripes? Well, not so much gripes as minor glitches. Like I said, the arancini went AWOL. The Cortese could have been quite a bit colder. The service was, at times, just a leetle on the slow side - but only a little, and they were very busy. It certainly didn’t become a watch-watching, finger-drumming issue, or anywhere near.

By the time the night was over – their third preview night – Polpo had been visited by 5 restaurant critics. When they open their doors for real, on 30 September, I think they can expect a good few more, along with several legions of the food-loving public. So go now before it becomes impossible to get a table. I, for one, will be amongst those you’ll have to scrap with for the rights to a seat.

Actually, that wasn’t a quick review at all, was it? Oh well. Better luck next time.

Polpo on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

review: Easy Tasty Italian, by Laura Santtini

There are recipe books, and then there are recipe books which set out to transform our expectations of a ‘recipe book’. Laura Santtini’s new publication drives with a turbo-boosted charge straight through the former category, and parks itself – with a natty handbrake turn – straight into the latter. But then, Ms Santtini is Italian (or half Italian, as she’s keen to explain in the preface). And Italians have, of course, always set the standard when it comes to driving. But is that standard a force for good or bad?

There’s no doubt that, visually, the book is as appealing as a shiny new Ferrari. It goes for the ‘food as porn’ appeal, with a black and gold cover, with a rich spectrum of full, glossy colours splashed across the interior, and lots of lavish photography. But the content, I hear you ask – what about the actual content, nay, the performance? Well, so long as you can suspend any thoughts about what you might expect of a ‘normal’ recipe book, the performance is as beguiling as the flashy exterior.

Even the opening section, which at first glance seems to be broadly conformist, serves up twists on old themes. It’s divided in two: kitchen tools, and basic procedures and preparations. So far, so ho-hum. But look closer, and ‘Tools’ reveals not only kitchen equipment details, but pages on ‘the umami larder’ (complete with full explanation for the uninitiated) and ‘the alchemic larder’(which, in case you’re wondering, should ideally contain edible gold, silver, dried florals, various elixirs, beetroot powder, 100% Venezuelan Black... the list goes on).

Similarly, ‘Basic Procedures and Preparations’ opens with a paragraph headed ‘flavour bombs’. Move over, Heston - Ms Santtini has been busy with the alchemy, too. And I quote:

For years I have been plotting to extract and combine power-packed glutamates with igniting inosinates to build The U (for umami)-BOMB, the ultimate taste explosion and a culinary force to be reckoned with...

(Don’t say you haven’t been warned.)

This sets the tone for all that follows – for most recipes, you have the option of sticking with the ‘basic’ recipe, or of making things distinctly more interesting for your tastebuds by adding a flavour bomb. For example, there are instructions for preparing a ‘basic red wine marinade’ – completely fine and dandy in itself. But if you want to jolly or umami it along, Santtini suggests 7 variations on the theme, including such enticing prospects as ‘orange, anchovy, and cinnamon marinade’ and ‘mocha chilli barbecue marinade’. Whatever else this book is, it’s certainly not your ordinary ‘Easy, Tasty, Italian’ recipe collection.

The slightly fantastical theme permeates the rest of the book. Not for Santtini the more conventional ways of dividing recipe books into sections. You won’t find ‘Starters’ here, any more than you’ll find ‘Desserts’. Instead, you’ll be given a tour of the elements: Air, Water, Fire, Earth, Spirit (and Ether).

‘Air’ turns out to comprise recipes ‘using only truly raw ingredients’, and the key to success here will surely rely on you being able to get your hands on the best, uber-fresh ingredients. Flavour/umami bombs abound. You can have good old ‘basic’, i.e. beef, carpaccio, or you can have any of 4 variations including, for example, salmon and rose carpaccio. You want dips? You can have ricotta. Or, if you want to go fancy, aubergine and lavender.

‘Water’ unsurprisingly features soups. You’ve no doubt come across sweet potato soup. But have you topped it with lemon mascarpone and scorched almonds before? Or thrown a bomb into it of tomato, pepper, orange, and cinnamon paste? Well, have you? If not, now’s your chance. But ‘Water’ also covers pasta (with a useful guide on how to best cook the stuff), an exposé of tomato sauces, ‘the top 10 classic pasta sauces of all time’, risotto, and then 2 poached fish recipes, a recipe for bagna cauda, and a page on meatloaf.

‘Fire’ takes us into the realms of grilling – including techniques, rubs/seasonings, toppings, and bits to have on the side. There are some mind-boggling recipes in this section, and I only wish I’d had the time to try them before writing this review. Consider, for example, ‘Beef Tagliata with Radicchio and Black Chocolate Elixir’ or ‘Martino’s Coppiette Skewers Al Modo Romano with Bitter Orange and Renaissance Stardust’. Failing that, you can always choose from recipes from the ‘Roll, Wrap, and Splash’ pages (rolling the main ingredient in a coating of some sort, wrapping the whole thing with another ingredient, e.g. prosciutto, and then splashing with say, olive oil and grappa). Another part of ‘Fire’ deals with ‘Rub and Roast’ – ideal for that Sunday ‘what-shall-I-do-with-the-roast?’ dilemma. Roast never looked like this when I was a kid – beef fillet with mascarpone and rose horseradish, I ask you? Some children are going to have quite a childhood.

‘Earth’ opens with slow cooking, swiftly followed by the ‘Top 10 Italian Vegetable Dishes’. The latter includes ‘Magic Pink Broccoli, and ‘Sweet Lavender Parsnips’. Clearly I’ve been missing something in my Italian vegetable sampling to date. Then we’re into ‘12 Quick and Easy Desserts’. These really live up to the billing – none will take you more than about 10 minutes to prepare, if that. Perhaps the most enticing is the parmesan ice cream with balsamic strawberries and black pepper – sure to be a hit with the umami-seekers. The ‘Earth’ section ends with suggestions as to how to ‘pimp your plate’. If making your food look dressy isn’t your forte, this short and snappy guide will give you some handy pointers.

‘Spirit and Ether’ opens with a bedazzling photo of ‘Aqua degli Angeli’ – a gorgeous, clear, artisan-type bottle filled with a clear spirit of choice (vodka, grappa, eau-de-vie), jazzed up with a bright red chilli and swirling gold flakes. Also included are ‘Rhubarbcello’, the more classic ‘Sgroppino’, and a ‘botanic’ cocktail comprising vodka, rosemary syrup, and prosecco.

As bewitching as the book is (I defy you not to feel like you’re in middle of a Venetian masked ball while you’re reading it), there are niggles. The font is a tad on the small side, and the division of some pages into columns of recipes means that the recipes themselves aren’t the easiest to read. The categorisation of some of the recipes isn’t always intuitive or user-friendly (although a comprehensive index helps). Oh, and unless I’m mistaken (I stand to be corrected here), I couldn’t find indications as to how many servings each recipe will make.

The final verdict? It certainly fulfils the brief. Easy? Check. Tasty? I confess to not having tried the recipes, but they look as though they’ll deliver, particularly on the all-important umami taste experiences. Italian? Well, yes, albeit in ways you might not always recognise.

Overall, this is a book which will amuse, entertain, educate, enthrall, and possibly frustrate (if you don’t stockpile edible metals, florals, etc , in your larder), depending on the reader. One thing you’ll never be able to accuse it of being, though, is dull. To revisit my initial metaphor, Ms Santtini’s book is what Ferraris are to Fords. It’s bold, beautiful, and daring.

If you like your kitchen a little on the zippy side, then zoom to your nearest bookshop and get yourself a copy now. Even if you’d rather stay in the slow lane, you’d do well to take a look – the basics are given plenty of coverage, and you’ll have some fun along the way, too. You never know, you might even want to use the throttle from time to time. Just don’t let Nonna catch you.

Further information:
Easy Tasty Italian, by Laura Santtini
Published by Quadrille, 2009.
Hardback, full colour photographs, 192 pages.
ISBN-10: 1844007553
ISBN-13: 978-1844007554
Price: £20.00
Available now.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

if you like salads...

...Chop’d, London’s leading gourmet salad bar chain, is bringing its seasonal salads to the West End with the launch of a limited edition Selfridges Salad into Selfridges Food Hall. Until 2 October 2009, the luxury salad packed full of fresh ingredients like smoked salmon, crayfish and caviar is available for £8.50 only at Chop’d Selfridges.

Friday, 18 September 2009

review: Simple Cooking, by Antonio Carluccio

As we approach the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, nothing is as it used to be. The last couple of years have brought with them public panic, uncertainty, and anger as the world’s financial institutions have crumbled in front of our eyes, plunging us all into an economic and social maelstrom of the kind no one has seen before.

No wonder, then, that we seem to be casting around for something to hang our hats on - something cheering and comforting amidst the gloom, and capable of transporting us back to supposedly happier, more innocent times.

Cookbook publishers, like everyone else, have picked up on the zeitgeist. Hardly a week goes by at the moment without a new recipe book appearing with words like ‘simple’ or ‘cheap’ or ‘100 ways with...’, in the title. Yes, we’re going back to basics (haven’t we been there before?), and shunning over-priced restaurants and over-exposed celeb chefs in favour of good, nourishing home-cooked food, preferably conjured up from vegetables we’ve grown in our own veg patch or allotment. Generations brought up on fast food and ready meals are now doing it for themselves. Eating in is the new going out, and thrift is the new handbag spend.

Amidst the crop of current new cookbooks is one by a character who, reassuringly, seems always to have been around. Antonio Carluccio, he of all things fungi and the originator of the popular Carluccio’s caffé chain, is ‘back’ if, indeed, he can ever be considered to have been away.

His latest offering, Simple Cooking (could there be a simpler title?), is a little different from the rest out there. First of all, while it chimes with the times, that’s as much by accident as by design. Anyone who has been to the cafés will know that Carluccio’s ‘signature’ has always been relatively simple food, big on flavour and strong on ingredient sourcing. Here, then, is the book which marries that ethos with suitably appealing print and pictures.

Second, the book represents a genuine wish by Carluccio to distill some of his vast experience and his extensive recipe list into one volume. Thus he calls up long-cherished recipes and fond memories of meals past. And what idyllic recollections they are – of a childhood spent helping his mother to forage and then prepare food for the family, and later student days spent in Vienna, when pretty girls and friends flocked to his kitchen as he developed his cooking skills.

Running through it all is a common theme, Carluccio’s love of sharing – his love of food, his culinary knowledge, and meals with friends and family. And this, in short, is what the book captures so well.

It is not, then, for aspiring chefs who want to slave away in the kitchen for hours on end, in pursuit of perfecting a complex recipe. It is, instead, for those who want simple, tasty, and fuss-free meals which they can share readily with others over a good glass of wine. At the same time, though, there are hints and tips at the end of most recipes so that you can try variations, or make a dish more special, if you so wish. And, in true keeping with the times, suggestions for ways of using leftovers (not that you’ll have any) so as to make another meal are also included. Novices and more experienced cooks alike should therefore be appeased.

The publication quality of the book admirably serves the purpose. The recipes are easy to read, with lots of white space on the page, and are printed in a good size font. Most recipes (though not all) are accompanied by lavish, saliva-inducing photographs. And – a sure sign that the publisher knows what it’s doing – the book is bound so that it can be laid out flat on your worktop.

As for the content, well, it’s all in here. An introduction from the man himself is followed by short but useful sections on how to produce the best flavours (‘Savouring the Flavour’), how to create an Italian store cupboard (‘The Italian Larder’), and which kitchen utensils work well for Italian cooking (‘Tools and Cooking Utensils’). The rest of the book is given over to familiar divisions – Starters and Salads; Soups; Pasta; Gnocchi, Polenta and Rice; Meat; Fish; Vegetables; and Desserts. Each division is given a brief explanation by Carluccio, although ‘Pasta’ merits a full three pages. If you ever wanted to know what pasta shape should go with which sauce, whether you should add oil to the cooking water, or even how to eat your spaghetti Italian-style, this is where you’ll find your answer.

And the recipes? Well, they’re short, sweet, and they WORK (not least because they are so straightforward). Second, if you know the Carluccio caffé chain at all, you’ll find quite a few recipes in here for familiar dishes. My personal favourites include the caponata, spinach balls (invented by Carluccio for a friend, over a quarter of a century ago), the arancini di riso, linguine vongole, and the ever-wonderful tagliatelle con funghi. I could list several more. But there are also a number of arguably more surprising, but still suitably simple and homely entries, too: cabbage and onion pasta, egg broth with chicken dumplings, Florentine-style veal tripe, beef olive stew, Sardinian pasta with lamb sauce, to give but a few examples. Carluccio’s own favourite might surprise you, too, not only for its simplicity, but also for its slightly unusual combination of ingredients – giant spaghetti (bigoli) with onion (not garlic, as you might expect) and anchovy sauce.

But as well as recipes for the more thrift-minded, there are others that allow you to indulge, too – recipes which, for instance, include truffles, scallops, shrimps, saffron, duck, and parma ham amongst their ingredients (but not all at the same time, I hasten to add). ‘Simple’ certainly doesn’t have to mean ‘boring’ or frugal.

There are several options for desserts, too, although as Carluccio explains, they’re not such a big thing for the Italians, who often prefer to finish a meal with some fresh fruit. Hence they don't occupy many pages of this book. Nevertheless, the emphasis is again largely on familiarity, comfort, and trusty old favourites – zabaglione, tiramisu (Carluccio’s special MOF MOF version – Minimum of Fuss, Maximum of Flavour), and ricotta tart all appear here, as do polenta biscuits.

A word about the index. Indices are all too often omitted altogether or scrimped on these days. To do either is false economy - a poor index can render a book instantly frustrating, while a good one can make a book a pleasure to use. Thankfully (and again, a testament to the publisher’s production standards), the index to ‘Simple Cooking’ falls into the latter category. Recipes are listed in their Italian, English, and even ‘inbetween’ versions, so you should always be able to find what you’re after. What you and I might refer to as ‘mushroom pasta’ is therefore indexed variously under ‘mushrooms’ (‘mushroom noodles’), tagliatelle (‘tagliatelle con funghi’), and ‘pasta’ (‘mushroom noodles’ again).

Perhaps best of all, the book really does magic Carluccio into your home. If you’ve ever watched his programmes, or heard him speak, you’ll ‘hear’ him again in these pages. You can hear his passion for food, his enthusiasm for robust flavours, and his keenness to convey the pleasure of cooking and eating, particularly with others. Occasionally, you can even hear his infectious chuckle.

Why should you buy this book, then? As the title says, it’s about the simple delights of cooking. It’s about the love of food and the food of love. It’s a joy to read and a joy to use. Every home should make room for it.

(Thanks to Quadrille Publishing for sending me this book to review. A big thank you, too, to the maestro himself, who very kindly took time out of his busy schedule to talk to me.)

Further information:
Simple Cooking, by Antonio Carluccio
Published by Quadrille, 2009.
Hardback, full colour photographs, 176 pages.
ISBN 978 184400 734 9
Price £20.00
Available to buy now.