BILL’S ITALIAN FOOD
Author: Bill Granger
Harper Collins RRP $49.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
Italian food … just the thought makes me drool. I’m longing for the day I can eat my way around Italy (I’d call it gastro-tourism but it’s the opposite of what I’d want to convey), but in the meantime, I’m learning as much as I can about the food from different regions. My family loves it! Last week I made limoncello and it’s now steeping in a dark cupboard … the last batch was fantastic so when I was deciding what to do with my last few lemons, it was a no-brainer. Limoncello!
As you can probably guess, it was also a no-brainer when asked if I wanted to review Bill’s Italian Food by Bill Granger. I already have Easy, and I liked his cooking ethos, so I guessed (correctly) that this would translate well to Italian food and my own way of cooking. The intro to Bill’s Italian says it all: ‘Italians do seem to have made some great lifestyle choices … Sitting down to eat well with family and friends takes high priority, yet no stress accompanies that expectation and there’s a refreshing lack of artifice about what is put on the table.’ Once I read this, I was sold. People do some amazing things with food these days, but really, want I want to serve my loved ones is good, tasty food made from fresh, seasonal produce and lots of love. A quick glance through this photos in this book shows that Granger has the same idea.
‘There is something about the joyfully uncompromising Italian lifestyle, the stubborn refusal to hurry (over lunch, or to catch the autobus), and the sacrosanct importance of sitting down to dine with family that I always resolve to bring home to my kitchen.’
Bill’s Italian Food is chock-full of uncomplicated but drool-inducing recipes that in his words, ‘lift any meal from basic to bellissimo’. His inspiration comes from the diversity of Italian regional food to make the most of fresh seasonal produce. As I looked through the book, I noted a long list of must-try recipes – some, like soffritto (a mix of diced onion, celery and carrot) and basic focaccia dough will form the basis of other meals, while others are complete dishes, such as asparagus and poached egg salad, and stuffed capsicums with sausages and torn bread. The recipes embody Granger’s love of casual cooking – there’s no deconstruction, foams or gels in here; they also impart a spirit of generosity, sharing and togetherness. I can’t wait to try some of these recipes out (there’s one at the bottom of the post for you to try).
Here are a few recipes I’m itching to try:
- Tomato and Mozzarella Gnocchi Bake – described as a crowd pleaser and I’m pretty sure this will be a winner with the Fab Four and Blue Eyes
- Italian Sausage and Chips – this one’s for the boys
- Braised Pork Meatballs – this one’s for Miss Attitude
- Spinach and Marscapone Tart – for me.
You get the idea, right? Aside from the recipes, most of which sound and look fantastic to me, I love the layout of the book. The layout complements the simplicity of the recipes as well as the love of family – Granger’s lovely family features heavily, interspersed among tastefully-styled dishes. Most of the recipes feature easily obtainable ingredients and Granger often adds a tip or ingredient substitution where needed. For those who are time-poor but love cooking hearty, flavoursome Italian-inspired meals, this book is well worth investing in.
Available from good bookstores and Harper Collins Australia. My copy was courtesy of the publisher, who has kindly offered me one copy of this gorgeous cookbook to give away (AU residents only, due to postage costs). Lick your lips if you want one … you know you do. To go in the draw, simply comment about the best Italian dish you’ve ever eaten and where you ate it. The competition will close midnight on August 25 and a winner will be drawn at random.
Lastly, here’s a recipe from Bill’s Italian Food, reprinted with the publisher’s permission:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 snapper fillets (about 150g each), skin on
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained
- 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Season the snapper with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook, skin side down, for 2–3 minutes, until the skin is crisp and golden. Turn over and cook for a further minute then remove to a platter and keep warm.
Return the pan to the heat, turn up the temperature and heat the remaining oil. Tip in the capers, garlic and lemon slices and sizzle until the capers burst open and look crisp. Spoon over the snapper and serve with green bean and little gem salad.