on 31 October 2011
Having just received my new copy of the 2011 edition of The Silver Spoon, i felt compelled to write a review. Especially after reading some of the many negative reviews about the book.
I am an advanced home cook, my knowledge in cooking is solely theoretical. Going through the book over the last few days i can categorically say that one must possess a higher than average grasp of the techniques in the kitchen to be able to follow the recipes through with great results.
If however you don't cook very often or lack mediocre knowledge in cooking/baking techniques then i would recommend you dont buy this book.
The ingredients and methodology for the recipes are vague and sometimes lacking even in amounts, This is not a typo but i believe that the book is aimed at accomplished home cooks that don't need every little instruction spelling out for them.
If one was to follow the recipes exactly then this would sure end in disaster for a occasional cook so be prepared! However, if you are in the know, then the book and its contents are superb. it is truly an authentic italian gem!
I have been using this book for a few years now - it has become a dependable friend in the kitchen. The book is enormous, comprising 1263 pages. It is divided into various chapters covering the basics of Italian cooking, and other chapters covering the key groups of foods. It ends with a range of menus provided by well-known Italian chefs. It has two indexes at the back: one for recipes, and one for ingredients.
This book is not for the feint-hearted beginner, in my view. I say this because it assumes some reasonable cooking skills. It presents recipes plainly, almost entirely without pictures, and certainly without hand-holding niceties. The instructions are often quite minimal, comprising a list of ingredients, and a paragraph of instructions. Having said this, the dishes themselves are usually fairly simple to prepare. It is not a glossy coffee table book - it is what it is, and it simply gets on with it. I like that about it.
I have learned a lot from this book. Its chapter on hot and cold sauces has provided me with some handy ways to whistle up many fantastic sauces in next to no time. The recipes are highly adaptable, so if you want to invent something, you can use many of the recipes as a starting point. For example, many of them require a whole chicken, but you can adapt this for chicken pieces, and modify the cooking process from oven to hob accordingly.
This is a very traditional Italian book, originally made for Italians. It therefore occasionally includes some startling ingredients, such as offal, brain, trotters, and so on. But don't let that deter you. These are easily avoided if that's not what you want to serve up!
I have made several hundred of the dishes in this book, and there are still a huge number to do. So far, I have not had a disaster with any of them. They are all very authentic Italian dishes that are fun to make (though sometimes tricky) and taste wonderful at the end.
I have had so many great meals and dinner parties from this book, I would not hesitate in recommending it. Put it this way - if the kitchen were on fire, this is the book I would try to save.
on 21 August 2012
It's thicker than any cook book I have, with probably three or four times as many recipes, yet in three years I haven't found one recipe that doesn't work. Extraordinary, virtually every dish is delightful. We have at least 50 other cook books but this is the one to get if you don't have it.
on 20 March 2012
I love Italian food. Simple, and with a focus on the best presentation of fresh ingredients. Of course, not being Italian and not having been immersed in an Italian grandmother's cooking throughout my childhood, I'm sure that my main experiences of Italian food is one degree removed from the real thing.
For those who, like me, do want to experience the real thing comes The Silver Spoon, a comprehensive cookbook of regional Italian food. The blub claims that this is Italy's best selling cookery book (although, at 1504 pages, I'm not sure a word as simple as "book" covers this. "Tome", perhaps, or is that a little pretentious?), and I can easily believe it. Over the 60 years that this book has been published in Italy, it has evolved into the definitive source, containing over 2,000 recipes and around 450,000 words. It is weighty too, at 3.2kg, it is the second heaviest cook book I own, the weighty crown won by Larousse Gastronomique at 3.4kg!
The book is broken down mainly into the constituent parts of a meal, with colour coded chapters on: antipasti, first course, eggs and frittata, vegetables, fish, meat, poultry, game, cheese, desserts and finally a chapter on menus for festive occasions and one on menus by special chefs. Within each chapter, the recipes are arranged by the main ingredient; so, for example, all cauliflower recipes are together. The recipes are generally short, avoiding over complication; most of the recipes are unaccompanied by photos. This is a book stuffed full of text, designed to live in the kitchen and be used. It's not one for the coffee table.
Talking of cauliflower, we tried the cauliflower with ham; where boiled cauliflower is then roasted with ham, parmesan, boiled eggs and fried breadcrumbs. It sounds unconventional, but was actually delicious, with the flavours blending well together, offset by the crunch of the breadcrumbs. And this shows the big advantage of a book like this: it's so comprehensive that no matter what you have in the fridge, there will be some new recipe to try.
Some of them are surprising to me, and show that, if nothing else, traditions can change. I'm not sure you would have found recipes for chutneys, burgers and tagiatelle with yabbies, butter and sesame seeds when the book was first published in 1950. And I'm not quite sure how keen I am on any of the eleven recipes for brains.
However, this book does deserve to fight for a place on the cookbook shelf, as a definitive source for Italian recipes.