I always think a good gauge of how truly authentic a foreign cookery book is can be discerned by the reaction of one of it’s fellow nationals.
“Ooo! Carnival sweets,” exclaimed my Italian sister-in-law as she leafed through my copy of Venice: Recipes Lost and Found. The ‘sweets’ she was referring to are actually frittelle, doughnuts filled with an almond cream ubiquitous in Venice around Mardi Gras (“‘Feed me these on a daily basis and I will be yours forever’” muses Katie Caldesi in her intro to the recipe). My sister-in-law knows and loves the food from her homeland so if she is impressed by an Italian cookbook then it must be good and authentic.
What is the essence of the book?
Unlike generic Italian cookbooks Venice focuses on the cuisine of one of the world’s most romantic cities. What makes this book particularly interesting is that it takes it’s inspiration from the past as well as the present revealing some surprising influences along the way.
About the authors
Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi have been teaching students how to cook Italian food at their cookery school, La Cucina Caldesi, in London for more than 15 years. Having met them both it’s obvious they are very passionate about food and cooking. I imagine their cooking courses are bucket loads of fun. They also run Caffe Caldesi in London and Caldesi in Compagna in Bray.
Who will like it?
Anyone who wants to find out more about Italian regional cooking particularly if you also have an interest in culinary history.
Who won’t like it?
If you’re looking for a basic entry level how to make pizza and pasta book then this isn’t for you.
What do I like about the book?
Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I’m a sucker for anything to do with food history. For me the recipes were refreshingly new (albeit old – if that makes sense!). I had no idea about the influence the spice trade had on Venetian cooking until I read this book. It’s extremely well written – Katie has an excellent way with words which live up to the enticing pictures and recipes they support. I also like the fact that there are some delicious vegetarian recipes in here such as Fantastic Cheese, Spinach & Leek Pie (yes, it really is!).
What do I dislike about the book?
Personally, I love it as it ticks all of my boxes in terms of its historical and recipe content. Although there are some straightforward recipes in the book I still think it would appeal to the more adventurous cook rather than the novice. That said, even if you never attempted to make any of the recipes (which would be a shame) it’s a beautiful book to read.
Would I cook from it?
I’d be mad not to! The Chicken with Ginger, Dates and Saffron is divine and tastes more like a dish you would expect to find on the Indian sub continent (it’s also featured in the March issue of Sussex Style magazine). So far the recipes I’ve tried have been easy to follow (although perhaps quite lengthy to make) and delicious to eat.
Where can you buy it?
Venice: Recipes Lost & Found is available from Amazon priced £19.99 (RRP £25)
You can see the recipe for Venetian Pear Tart from this book here.