I have been baking and cooking up a storm over the past couple of weeks ... the reason? I was hugely complemented to have been sent a review copy of Catherine Fulvio's Catherine's Italian Kitchen (me! a review copy! still pinching myself!), and I could not wait to get my teeth into it (so sorry about the pun, couldn't resist!!).
I don't want to sound gushing, but I really like this book. It is filled with "this is going to the top of my must cook list" recipes, by the end of my first reading there was a myriad of "post-it" flags fluttering from every corner! There are the old reliables - Tomato Sauce, Focaccia, Spaghetti Carbonara etc (really excellent versions) and many recipes that are completely new to me - Trapanese Pesto, Pizza Makers' Wives' Steak, Yoghurt Panna Cotta etc. etc. etc!
The book is well produced, lovely pictures - most of which are actually of the food! (with some really atmospheric ones taken in Italy). The fact that Catherine runs a cookery school shows in the fact that the recipes are clear and (in my experience) fool-proof. Most importantly the recipes are exciting and make you want to get into the kitchen - I can't think of a higher recommendation for a cook book!
Here are a few of the dishes I've tried:
Spaghetti Neapolitan Style (puttanesca), an oldie but goodie - a tasty (and easy) version. My son #2 loved this dish and is planning an attempt at it very soon.
The Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Lemon Dressing.
I used a half leg - there were originally only three of us for dinner, but I ended up bringing the marinaded meat with us to a friends beach house and it stretched to six - all of whom loved it. An excellent dinner party choice as it is so easy to carve (and is delicious!)
Garlic and Sage Roast Potatoes.
Catherine offers alternative suggestions with most of her recipes (some of which could constitute a whole new recipe!) and I used Charlotte potatoes instead of the more obvious floury ones - yumm!
Potato and Parmesan Gratin
I have to say that I think most cookery books ignore the humble vegetable section - not so here, plenty of options. This went down really well when I served it to a couple of friends in need of cheering up (the end of the school holidays looming!!)
Pork with Orange Marsala Sauce
I served the Gratin with this pork dish - which is probably my favourite recipe so far. The sauce was full of flavours which complemented each other to perfection.
Potato and Tomato Bake
Probably the most controversial of the dishes I cooked, my son thought it wasn't nearly as good as the Parmesan gratin, but I though it was fantastic. It certainly is a wonderful option if you are watching your fat intake - low fat and full of flavour, works for me every time!!
This is a basil, almond and tomato pesto which tastes great and worked wonderfully on Lemon Sole. The pesto bubbled beautifully on the fish when it came out of the oven giving it a tasty (though not overpowering) crust. Here is a link to Catherine making a much better version, although I have to say that I thought my arm would fall off grinding the nuts with the pestle and mortar, and think I'll go for the blender next time I make it!
Another winner - there are loads more from this section that I can't wait to try!
Mozzarella and Pancetta Filled Bread
I actually filled mine with some of the Trapanese Pesto, and despite the fact that I still haven't mastered using yeast (wouldn't it be wonderful if I were given a bread baking course voucher for Christmas!!) it still tasted good!!
Please forgive the awful picture ... my only excuse is greed, couldn't wait to dig in!!!!
Here is a far more beautiful version and the recipe.
Apple Cake with Olive Oil
Perfect for this time of year, a delicious way to use up all those wind falls!!!! Excellent taste and texture.
Lemon and Pine Nut Biscotti
This was my first time making Biscotti and I felt that Catherine held my hand through the whole process!! These were part of J's birthday gift, she seemed really delighted with them!!! I did hold a few back (!) and they are fantastic, I'll be making these again soon :-}
Well that's it! I loved this book (can you tell!!!) and recommend it wholeheartedly.