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When it comes to cooking for my family, I feel that I am very much stuck in a rut - I probably have about twelve trusted dishes that I alternate between and after asking around among my friends, I do not think that this is uncommon! Much of my menu is Italian as it is quick and easy to prepare and cook and generally speaking, I have to deliver meals quickly to satisfy my starving brood after long days at work and school! Because we eat so much Italian, I do not find the cuisine especially inspiring so when I received Lawrence Dellaglios My Italian Family Cookbook as a gift, I wasn't all that enthused but I was more than happy to give it a go.
Lawrence Dellaglios essentially grew up in England but his love of Italian cuisine has come directly from his father and Grandparents, the two page long introduction takes you through why Dellaglio is so passionate about food, ingredients and cooking and why he believes that it should be a family occasion where everyone comes together and why cooking is an essential skill to learn at an early stage. He set out with his father to create a range of sauces and this is when they met the Sacla family so the two have come together to produce a range of sauces and also this book which is full of old family recipes and ideas and I have to say that after reading the introduction, I was inspired.
The recipes in this cookbook are divided into five sections - light bites, quick weekday suppers, weekend food for friends, special occasions and sensational desserts. I do not think that it is sub sectioned particularly well and it is not immediately clear which section you would want to head for in my opinion, I think I prefer the more traditional lay out of a cookbook - starters, mains and desserts. At the top of each recipe, the name is written in both Italian and English and there is also a short paragraph about the dish (I could have done without this most of the time).
The recipes in this book are extremely easy to follow without exception: You are given a prep time and a cooking time, most of which are pretty accurate in my experience. It also tells you how many it will serve and lists the ingredients. One thing that I really like about these recipes is that none of the ingredients are out of the ordinary and all are easily accessible and useful - there is nothing worse than scouring around for an ingredient only to use a fraction of it and the rest goes bad at the back of the cupboard, you do not get this at all with these recipes. There is not a massive list of ingredients for any of the recipes and the vast majority use several portions of fresh veg. The method is printed alongside the ingredients, and again, it is not longwinded or drawn out - just a couple of paragraphs to take you through the process. I have cooked about five things from this book and I have always been able to follow the methods with ease - this is probably the main beauty of Italian food, it is just simple home cooking made from fresh tasty ingredients. You also do not need a huge list of utensils to cook from this book, I would imagine that every household has everything required in a basic utensil collection. An index at the back is listed by names of dishes and also ingredients which I do like because I think it makes recipes a lot more accessible.
There is nothing challenging to a home cook about any of the recipes, and to be honest I am still underwhelmed by Italian cuisine and this book has not done anything to change that - I don't really need to be told how to grill or roast Mediterranean vegetables, roast a chicken or how to make a tomato salad, it is generally pretty obvious. The recipe that takes the prize for the most ridiculous has got to be ice cream with espresso - Ingredients: a tub of vanilla ice cream, 200ml hot espresso coffee - I think you can guess the method! My inspiration from this book has quickly waned, it is not one that I will be referring back to over and over again as it is just too dull and there is nothing out of the ordinary.
This book is absolutely jam packed with pictures that I would say take up over two thirds of the book - they are not only of the finished meal, but also of Lawrence cooking with his family (mostly his young son) but also of individual ingredients. Most of the photos are unnecessary in my opinion and I would just rather see a picture of every dish finished - many of the recipes do not have this but whole pages are taken up by his family eating and cooking and even old family snap shots, I do not feel that I need to see this as it is just extra padding, but I suppose the thinking behind it is to emphasise the point of the family getting involved with meals.
In conclusion my opinion is split completely about this book. It does contain some very tasty recipes that are easy to prepare but it is all so predictable, and on the other hand I think that this whole book is just a showcase for Lawrence Dellaglio , his family and in particular Sacla sauces and I would have to question whether this book would have got to print if it were not for his rugby connections and consequential fame. It is an attractive book with muted colours and interesting fonts but if it actually came down to the bare bones, this book could easily have been half of the length.
If you are a first time cook this might be of some interest to you but there are probably better books out there as an introduction to cookery, but for anyone who has the slightest amount of experience in the kitchen, this book really is teaching you how to suck eggs (pardon the pun!). It currently has an RRP of £18.99 but is discounted on Amazon so a new copy would set you back £12.53 (Jan 2012) ISBN 9780857205629 but I really wouldn't bother.
Also published on Ciao under my username chilcott1