Cook book review – Easy tasty Italian – Laura Santtini

Another great Italian cook book! I know I have only just reviewed Antonio Carluccio’s simple cooking but what can I say I love cook books and I love Italian food. However this cook book is completely different to Antonio Carluccio’s so there is room on my bookshelf and in my kitchen for both! This book is completely different to any cook book (Italian or otherwise) I have browsed through before. Its very unique in style and a little bit quirky too. This book claims that after reading this book your cooking will never be the same again! Quite a big statement perhaps but I suspect it maybe true. I’ve read my fair share of Italian cook books but I can definitely say I have learnt a thing or two already from this book (which has only been in my possession a couple of days). It’s much more than a collection of recipes, this book aims to teach you how to create flavour bombs that make even simple food sensational.

The secret – umami. This is the fifth taste, discovered by the Japanese in 1908 but only recently accepted by Western scientists. Umami means deliciousness and refers to intensely savoury tastes. Laura has christened umami in the Italian kitchen ‘u-mamma!’. Classic umami flavours in the Italian larder include tomatoes, Parmesan, white truffles and balsamic vinegar to name just a few. Reading this chapter on umami helped me understand why dishes as simple as Antonio Carluccio’s cart driver spaghetti can taste so delicious (porcini mushrooms are another Italian umami flavour) and why the soffritto base (onions, carrot and celery) are such a key component of Italian cooking.

As well as the umami larder, there are details of the typical Italian larder (a comprehensive list of typical ingredients like beans and pulses, pastas, cheeses and seasonings) and of the alchemic larder. This alchemic larder suggests adding edible metals, dried flowers, nuts and seeds and many other ingredients designed to add magic to dishes.

The next chapter has basic recipes and procedures to prepare flavour bombs, “using ingredients as a writer uses words and an artist uses paints”. These include flavoured mayonnaise’s, pestos, flavoured butters and pastes as well as marinades. There are serving suggestions for each flavour enhancer. For example she suggests adding chilli, chocolate, wine paste to rich stews, marinading red meat in red u-mamma! marinade, serving sweet and sour carrots with honey & thyme as a side dish or stirring a spoonful of basic basil pesto in to minestrone soup.

The second section of the book contains the main recipes which are divided in to 4 sections Air ‘I am raw’, Water ‘I was cooked’, Fire ‘I was burned’ and Earth ‘I am tasty’. Each chapter describes different techniques used in Italian cooking and has a selection of recipes with suggestions for variations and which taste bombs can be added.

Air uses only raw ingredients. So this chapter covers antipasti, carpaccio, ceviche & tartare and dips. Recipes include wild mushroom trifolata, crab salad with pomegranate and mint, tuna and orange carpaccio and aubergine and lavender dip.

Water covers the techniques of boiling, absorption and reduction (risottos), poaching and bagno-maria (gentle cooking in water that is merely hot). There are recipes for sweet potato soup which can be enhanced in several ways including the addition of the flavour bomb of tomato, pepper, orange and cinnamon paste. Pasta is of course included with notes on cooking pasta, making pasta sauces and recipes for the top 10 classic pasta sauces of all time. Risotto is also included, teaching the basic method and lots of tasty ways to transform the basic recipe. Other recipes include sea bass santini and umamma! meatloaf.
Fire covers grilling, frying and hob stews with a step by step guide to good grilling, suggestions for rubs and seasoning and recipes including a delicious looking lamb chops with u-mamma! grapes and no-fuss roasted sea bream.

Earth is all about creating delicious food through slow cooking including tender and moist looking rib of beef al barolo and leg-over lamb. There are also recipes for the top 10 Italian vegetable dishes and 12 quick and easy desserts.

This book is bursting with delicious looking and sounding recipes but more than I believe that Laura Santtini is right when she says it can transform your life in the kitchen. I already feel inspired to not only try some of the recipes in the book but also to try out the pastes and butters etc in dishes I already cook to give them the u-mamma! deliciousness they deserve.

Its not out in the shops until the 2nd October but I would recommend to anyone who enjoys cooking Italian food even if you thought you had all the Italian cookbooks you needed.

Thank you to Quadrille publishing for sending me this great book to review and tell you all about.

Further information:
Easy tasty Italian – Laura Santtini
Published by Quadrille publishing 2nd October 2009
Hardback, full colour photography, 192 pages
ISBN 978 184400 755 4
£20

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