20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
But correct the polenta recipe before you start,
This review is from: The Food Of Italy (Paperback)
Last year I had a frozen shoulder preventing me going to music school in the summer. Instead I enrolled in a summer school in Italy, that offered four parallel tracks: Italian cookery, Italian language, water colour painting, and hedonism. The concept for the cooks was that we would be instructed hands on in the kitchens of the four best restaurants at San Piero in Bagno, an unspoilt provincial backwater in Emilia-Romagna. The long suffering chefs, practicing a mixture of riot control and accident prevention, coached us to produce authentic meals to feed the linguists and artists, and confound the hedonists. On return, browner and fatter, I invested in Claudia Roden's book, thinking it would fill out the theoretical underpinning that the cookery school had omitted.
The book admirably filled this need. Ms. Roden systematically visits each region of Italy, and provides a geographical and social background for the produce and recipes for each region. Therefore you understand why one region cooks rice, another flavours the food with truffles, why our Emilia-Romagna kitchens instructed us in pasta, pasta and pasta - and your mouth waters as you read. The recipes are approachable in that the majority only require a manageable number of ingredients, and most ingredients would be available anywhere, or a substitute is suggested. It is often the combination that makes the recipe uniquely Italian - see e.g. broccoli on page 265 - rather than the inclusion of a particular item whose absence might prevent you making the dish. There are no illustrative photos, but in fact the writing is so lively, you can easily imagine the finished effect. There are small line drawings to decorate the pages.
My warning in the title comes from polenta on page 125. Here the salting for a serving for 4, employing 300 g of polenta (I used yellow maize flour from the Turkish grocer), is suggested as one TABLESPOONFUL. This produced a mix so astonishingly salty, it ended on the compost heap (where the Iberian slugs seem to be eating it with no adverse effect). I can assure you that one goodly teaspoonful is plenty so annotate the recipe NOW. Then following Ms. Roden's recipe slavishly, I produced delicious polenta, toasted crispy brown on top, creamy and tender inside. Absolutely foolproof.
So: buy the book, enjoy reading about Italy and planning your cooking. Go through the recipes carefully, keep your critical faculties awake and taste as you go along.
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Initial post: 22 Sep 2014 17:30:22 BDT
The summer school sounds great NG Heywood - can you share a link or the organisers name?
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