I didn't buy this book as a diet book - I was just leafing through it in the bookshop and was attracted to the recipes. The fact that the recipes are designed with calories and health in mind is an added bonus. There is in fact a relatively brief analysis of the diet aspect, with an introduction by a dietitician. All recipes are calorie counted with details as to fats, sugars and salt. The emphasis is on low GI carbohydrates as the core of the diet - no Atkins style restrictions here which is hardly surprising in a Mediterranean eating plan - and portion control. Much is made of the fact that Italians are slimmer than other Europeans and live longer than Brits. Two diet plans are given - one 1500 calorie a day for women, and a 2000 calorie diet for men. The diet advice is pretty basic but in truth most people who are wanting to diet will care more about the results than the theory.
Being an Italian style plan, there is a daily alcohol allowance and the usual Italian ingredients appear - lots of pasta, olive oil in moderation, even Parmesan features. I am writing this review on a glorious spring day, and the recipes scream sunshine to me. To that end, I think this book would be good for those starting a diet in spring or early summer as the recipes fit these seasons particularly well. I have to say, I don't think you would feel that you were on a diet which is probably helpful too!
As I mentioned, I didn't buy the book as a diet book - I was interested in the recipes and it particularly appealed for light summer dishes. For breakfast, recipes include a light banana milk shake, porridge with raspberries & blueberries, baked peaches with berries and honey, baked eggs with ham in tomato & garlic sauce (this for me is better as a light lunch - a tomato & garlic sauce isn't my idea of breakfast). As you would expect in an Italian cook book there are antipasti - grilled marinated peppers, bruschette (including a very nice pea & broad bean version), baked onions and more. For lunch, you can try a light omelette with chives and potatoes (excellent cold too for taking to work or for picnics), roasted tomatoes & soft cheese rolled in parma ham, prawn & bean salad, pasta salad, tuna & anchovy cakes (both fish being canned so a good store cupboard dish). There are lots of soups and salads - for example, a nice rocket & butternut squash soup, onion & pancetta soup, courgette ribbons with cannellini beans (which is stunning to look at), French bean salad with mozzarella & garlic.
As you would expect, there is a good range of pasta dishes for example, linguine with garlic, prawns & spinach. You will also find pizzas & risotto, baked gnocchi. There are some lovely fish dishes too - a beautiful salmon & vegetable tartare, salmon fillets in tomato, garlic & thyme sauce, cod fillet with red pesto plus sardines, mackerel, whole sea bass. Meat-based meals include stuffed crepes with minced pork & parmesan, pork loin with white wine & sage pesto, chicken breasts with parmesan, tomatoes & mozzarella (so diet!), sirloin steak with gorgonzola & pink peppercorn sauce, beef & wild mushroom stew (although I think this needs to be cooked for longer than the time stated in the recipe).
There are even desserts and what is called 'the naughty corner'. Desserts include grilled vanilla peaches with butterscotch sauce, hot chocolate cups with pears and amaretto, strawberry filo tarts with basil crème fraiche, whilst the 'naughties' include lasagne (skimmed milk for the sauce to keep the calories down), cheesecake, chocolate mousse & tiramisu!
The recipes are generally very easy to prepare and use commonplace ingredients. It has to be said that many of the recipes are not really easy to reduce for just one person so if you are dieting I think you'll have to co-opt the family, but given the range of recipes I doubt this would be too much of a problem. It would also be fair to say that the diet plan lunches are probably too inconvenient for many working people. Low-calorie/low fat ingredients have been used but for those not worried about this aspect you could substitute e.g. semi-skimmed milk for skimmed milk, which in my view provides a better taste in lasagne for example.
A well written book which although listed as a diet book it is as much an introduction to the Italian way of life (at least the eating bit) There are a collection of good tasty Italian recipes, each recipe gives the calorie count for a portion size and also a breakdown of the quantity of fat, saturates, sugars and salt in each portion. The principle in this book is based on two diet plans one for women (1500 calories) and one for men (2000 calories)These plans are broken down into the number of calories per meal (Breakfast 250 calories, Lunch 450 calories, Dinner 600 calories plus an allowance of 200 calories for alcohol and milk; Woman's plan). A complete menu is given for one week with full instructions as to how to make each meal, it is suggested that this plan is used for 2 weeks and after that the reader should create similar plans using the other recipes in the book. It does emphasise that the Italians eat smallish portions and do not usually snack between meals. Each recipe has a preamble telling something about the reason for the choice and often hints for example there is a hint never to cook with buffalo mozzarella but use cow's mozzarella as the buffalo one make the dish very watery by releasing too much milk but should be used uncooked in salads etc.
All of the recipes are fully explained with none of the chef type terms that could confuse a novice cook.
The only criticism is that the recipes are for 2, 4, 6 or even 8 people it would have been better if this had been consistent.
on 18 January 2010
Although this book is a 'diet Book', it actually is a really nice recipe book, with the added nutritional information available. There are equal amounts of vegetarian and meat/fish recipes, using everyday ingredients. I think this will be one for regular daily use, after the compliments i recieved after making the risotto frutti mari. Enjoy this great value and inspiring book.