Yet another stunning book from Tessa Kiros. I have already loved recipes from Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes
and Twelve: A Tuscan Cook Book
which occupy the space closest to hand on my cookbook shelf. I pre-ordered this as soon as I saw it and I've not been disappointed.
It arrived on Friday and over the weekend I've already tried the marinated sea bass, carpaccio beef and pumpkin gnocchi, all of which were delicious. None of these are my usual style of cooking, but her recipes are simple and straightforward, and with so few ingredients they just beg you to try them. Every recipe of hers I've ever tried seems to produce the most authentic dishes full of amazingly intense flavours that whisk you off to their country of origin.
Given the region from which these recipes are drawn, fish and seafood are unsurprisingly the stars of the menu and although dedicated carnivores may be left wanting, fish lovers will love the range of simple fish and seafood recipes. Even those like myself for whom fish is not instinctively their first choice, may find themselves unusually tempted by things they have never tried before. I can't remember the last time I had fresh sardines, but roasted as they were here, they were simple and fabulous (and even more simple if you get the fishmonger to fillet them for you). However; this is most definitely not just a fish book. All round there's plenty to try no matter what your tastes, including the carnivores amongst us, and there are some especially delicious antipasti, risottos and vegetable sides.
The book introduces you to eating Venetian style beginning with a section on Cicchetti (small bites), followed by Antipasto and Primo (starters), Secondi (mains), Contorni (sides) and Dolci (sweet things). Each section begins with a short narrative on the experience of eating in Venice so that by the time you have read, prepared and indulged you may well imagine you can hear the waters of the Veneto lapping at the kitchen door.
Although I buy books for their recipe content rather than their looks this one is undeniably beautiful and would double as a coffee table book any day. Edged in gold, with black velvet page markers and full of inspiring photos of Venice it makes you want to dive right in (notwithstanding the pollution). A few of the descriptions and ingredients are written in Italian and not being an Italian speaker I did have to Google some words, however it all just seems to add to the Italian flavour of a truly beautiful and inspiring book, and almost all were straightforward ingredients I was able to source locally once I knew what I was looking for (ruccola/rocket; peperoncino/crushed dried chilli peppers - thank heavens for Google).
I agree with the other reviewer that a few of the fish recipes call for less straightforward ingredients such as eel, squid or octopus but surely that's no great surprise when buying a book on Venetian cooking? That said, I live in a small market town in mid-Wales and our even our landlocked Fishmonger (if not the local Morrisons) can source any of these on request. The vast majority of recipes use everyday ingredients which keen cooks will have in their store cupboard, although I did have to go to Waitrose in the next town for squid ink spaghetti for a pasta dish. For the recipes mentioned I only had to buy the single main ingredient fresh, the rest was already in the cupboard or fridge.
I'm a sucker for cookery books and have over a hundred at home however I'm very lazy at writing reviews even for my favourites and have never yet written one; this book is so good I couldn't deny it a write-up. This is less a family meals book than Apples for Jam: Recipes for Life
but rather an experience of eating out in Venice. If you're looking for simple cooking which produces grown-up, great flavours and love her two books mentioned above, or My Favourite Ingredients
and A Year in my Kitchen
by Skye Gyngell you'll love this; and if Skye's recipes entice you but seem a little complex for a week-night supper after work then you'll love the simplicity of these which can be knocked up in no time at all.