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Pizza Pilgrims Recipes from the backstreets of Italy
on 16 March 2014
I was intrigued by this book, especially about the story of these two young guys who decided to quit their job and travel along the Italian peninsula in search of traditional recipes. The story is good, the pictures are good but unfortunately the love for this book ends here. A seasoned cook, with a good solid background, would have no problem in identifying the many faults hidden among the pages of this book. First, it very obvious that these two guys are clueless about cooking techniques and food hygiene. Page 17 of the book describes how to make mayonnaise for the fritto misto, suggesting, and here I quote exactly what is written in the book, "This mayonnaise will keep in an airtight container for a good couple of weeks". Fresh home made mayonnaise, after it is made, should go straightaway in the fridge and consumed the same day. They should have given this advice, and the other advice is that people should use pasteurized eggs to limit the risk of salmonella (alternatively, they should have warned people about the problem, when using normal eggs bought in the supermarket). If you want to run the risk of seriously harming young kids or elderly people, than follow this book's suggestion; it is entirely up to you (I really wonder why the editor didn't check this hygiene issue, before publishing the book). Page 34 of the book gives an interesting recipe for salsa verde, suggesting the use of basil. This is not a traditional Italian recipe; there's no such thing as basil in salsa verde. The fresh pasta recipe at page 52 is a joke; the page shows the ingredients and briefly describes how to make the pasta dough, but nothing is said about how to make the pasta by using a rolling pin or the classic Imperia (or similar models) pasta machine. In the fresh pasta recipe you can also read, and here I quote exactly what is written in the book, " It's important not to over-knead your dough as you can damage the proteins that give the pasta that all important 'al dente' texture".....well, I am sorry to say that, again, these guys are clueless about cooking techniques. Cooking pasta al dente have nothing to do with breaking the proteins; kneading by hand doesn't do any harm to the pasta dough (the over mixing can be a problem only in bread making when using a stand mixer, because it could over oxidize the dough...but I don't want to enter into such details here). The pizza chapter in the book is mediocre, the recipe for the basic pizza dough shown at page 80 is goodish; it's based on fermenting the dough for 24 hours. The next day you will have "old dough" (the French call it pâte fermentée and the Italian call it pasta di riporto); 24 hours at 19-22C could work in the winter but with hot weather it is better to retard the fermentation at approx. 10-15C. Using a pan to cook pizza it’s a novelty introduced time ago by the great British chef Heston Blumenthal, in his book "In search of perfection" and in that book there's an excellent chapter about pizza. Coming back to the Pizza Pilgrims book, page 136 shows the recipe for Caciucco (a very famous Tuscan fish stew) but unfortunately the authors got it completely wrong, suggesting to add octopus (as alternative to squid) in the last 5 minutes. They should have said "moscardini" (baby octopus) and you sauté them at the start. I could go on and on but the main point here is if you are thinking this is a very good book, then re-think, because some of the recipes are tweaked to suit who-knows taste and some recipes should not be mentioned in the book at all, like the Pissaladière in page 111. Definitely a book I won’t keep in the shelf.