Author: Maeve O’Meara & Guy Grossi
Hardie Grant Books RRP $39.95
Review: Monique Mulligan

I’ve heard good things about SBS series Italian Food Safari but always seem to miss it on TV (might be because I’m not a TV watcher). I made sure I watched it this week, and salivated as the hosts watched artisan bread being made and foraged for wild mushrooms in pine forests. I also salivated a little when a copy of the book based on the series arrived on my doorstep. This is set to be a well-used cookbook.

The book was released in hardback a couple of years ago so it’s been around for a while. No matter … the food is classic, timeless (and tasty). The series (and book) celebrates the incredible breadth and hard work of the Italians who came and settled in Australia and have kept their food traditions intact. It’s not just a cookbook, though it does contain plenty of recipes from chefs, food producers and series co-host chef Guy Grossi; instead, this book offers a taste of Italian culture, traditions and family life, with pictures, commentary and anecdotes broadening the book’s scope. I love this from the introduction:

To be born into the Italian realm is to be part of a lifetime feast – an existence punctuated by the best produce of the season prepared with love and passion. This is a world away from the nuclear family and the lone cook labouring away in the kitchen – it’s warm, welcoming and loud.

Sometimes I wonder if you have to be born into, or marry into this lifestyle, or whether you can create it. It’s an idealistic thought, I know, for no matter how hard I try, I’m that lone cook and while my kitchen is warm and welcoming (and usually smells pretty good), I don’t have that culture and tradition backing me up and encouraging my closest ones to join me in there. Although, once the food is cooked, they appear pretty quickly. I’m growing my Roma tomatoes and basil, making wood-fired pizzas, and while I like to imitate Italian, I cannot be Italian. I might want food to be at the centre of my life, but that doesn’t mean the kids feel that way.

So, this book is for me and nurtures my love of food and passion for good ingredients. Reading this, I particularly loved the stories of the tomato sauce traditions, the preserving workshops, thriving home gardens, bread baking and foraging for wild ingredients. Some of it looks like hard work (I’ll probably never have a tomato sauce day) and I’m not sure I have the time to preserve olives or go foraging, but I’ve got plenty of fresh ideas. I would have liked to see a basic bread recipe in the book, though – the ones included are artisan breads that won’t quite tempt my family’s palate (although I think they look fantastic).

Here are some of the recipes I’m planning to test out (I’ve already tried the roasted capsicum recipe and it was the best I’ve used):

  • Minestrone
  • Fresh pasta – I keep saying I’m going to make it and I’m going to do it … I’ll have to roll it out myself though because my pasta machine is broken
  • Pasta e fagioli (Pasta and beans)
  • Caprese salad (having this tonight with a risotto dish – click on picture for recipe)
  • Cotolette (Italian schnitzels)
  • Saltimbocca
  • Osso Buco
  • Crostoli (click on picture for recipe)
  • Cannoli … I’m going to buy ready-made shells from an Italian supermarket and see how I go.
Caprese salad

If, like me, you live to eat and not to live, consider adding this delightful cookbook to your shelf. It’s not only good-looking, but bound to result in good home cooking.

Available from good bookstores and Hardie Grant Books. This copy was courtesy of Hardie Grant Books.




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