This is much more than a cookbook: it is a treasure-house of inspirational recipes and evocative photographs. A book to covet, to linger over, to cook from and to keep.
Tessa Kiros has developed such an appealing format for her cookbooks: the binding, the covers, the beautiful quality of the paper and photography. But this, I think, is her most beautiful book yet.
She dedicates it "to all of the wonderful matriarchs I have been lucky enough to meet" and she prefaces each chapter with "sapiente parole", a few wise words. Some may find this a little twee but some of the words are wise indeed.
Photography throughout is truly breathtaking. All the recipe shots are mouth-watering, the atmosphere and setting shots sublime. Then there are also black and white and faded colour snap-shots of young women who were to become the matriarchs who have had such a strong influence on Tessa. The overall effect is utterly charming.
Just one caveat and that is the type. True, it is clearer than her Greek cookbook Food From Many Greek Kitchens
and at least it's grey on white which is an improvement but it's too small and spindly to be really legible. Tessa, please sort out the typography issues in your cookbooks for all your readers' sakes!
I thought with all the photography that the book might be a little light on actual recipes but the reverse is true. There are plenty of irresistible Italian dishes many of which I hadn't come across before. A pantry section includes flavoured oils, salts and perfumed sugars as well as preserves and - of course! - limoncello. A section on breads and a wonderful recipe for sweet pizza. There are tempting snacks and vegetable dishes such as her salt and balsamic vinegar sautéed potatoes. An amazing pasta section includes such unusual offerings as a non-meat spag bol (she makes it with a lentil ragu), another non-meat spaghetti with aglio, olio, peperoncino and avocado and - at last! - a solution to left-over pasta in the shape of her torta di spaghetti.
Amongst the fish main courses, her persico with lemon, capers and green olive mash was amazing (though I made it with cod rather than perch). Chicken and lamb are well represented and there are many other main course dishes that I am looking forward to trying.
And as for the desserts, my goodness! These are temptation beyond endurance. There's Filomena's wow of an Apple Cake, Nonna's Dolce di Marie and Granny Joy's Marmalade Cake - who could resist?
It would be fair to say that this is a very `female' book - right down to the pink velvet bookmark. I cannot imagine there would be a woman anywhere who wouldn't be delighted to receive this as a gift (I am going to get another copy for my daughter-in-law who is a keen cook and a big fan of Tessa Kiros.) But if needs must, bestow it as a gift to yourself!