One of this year's parcels under the Christmas tree was a slim volume by an italian food writer by the name of Allan Bay. The book is called 'Cuochi si diventa 2' (which loosely translates as 'Cooks are made, not born'), and is pretty good. The man himself has an interesting history - having spent much of his adult life selling machinery to manufacture light bulbs, in his mid-forties he decided to become a food journalist, rapidly gained a foothold in a number of reputable italian publications, and before he knew it, had been appointed as Professor of cooking at the University of Pavia. Which is presumably a lot more fun than spending one's days pondering the vicissitudes of light-bulb-making machines.
His style is irreverent and enthusiastic, and he has a curiosity about food which leads to a number of worthwhile culinary departures, all of which are based on a solid foundation of traditional recipes and techniques. The book is mostly a list of actual dishes, but is interspersed, generally amusingly, with sections of 'rants' (I approve...he calls these items 'Political incorrectness') and 'raves', which are his personal culinary weaknesses... He also has a series of one-pagers which he calls ' Si fa, ma non si dice', which means ' It's done, but not talked about' - which are commercial ingredients which come in bottles and tins and which most self-respecting cook would never admit to having on their pantry shelves...but, of course, we all do. Things like stock cubes, and Worcester sauce, and Colmans Mustard. Allan Bay's list includes things like Campbells tinned soup, and Nestlé sweetened condensed milk. I thoroughly approve - although, I'm immediately reminded of the disapproval at Belforte that met my admission last Christmas that the rosemary sauce I'd just served for fettucine included a teaspoon of chicken stock powder (Knorr); sometimes, it's better just to lie!
Tart of Celeriac, Gruyère & Pancetta.
Salsiccie with garlic-roast tomatoes.
Lemon Curd ice-cream.