When the lovely people at Gill & Macmillan sent me a copy of Catherine Fulvio’s first cookbook Catherine’s Italian Kitchen I was delighted and immediately flicked through the pages eagerly picking out recipes to try. The first thing I noticed is that the book has a very fresh and light feel to it, both visually thanks to the vibrant photography and physically – it’s a paperback and good size for the kitchen.
Catherine grew up in Ballyknocken House, Co Wicklow, which she now runs in addition to the very successful Cookery School and this experience together with the Italian influence from her Sicilian husband Claudio, makes for an informative and easy to read guide to basic Italian cooking. Catherine’s first cookery book follows on from her very successful RTE TV series, Catherine’s Italian Kitchen’, which aired last year, and a new series, Catherine’s Roman Holiday, will air on RTE this September.
As I do with most new cookbooks I set aside some time where I could look through in more depth and mark the recipes that will be first on the list to try – before I knew it I had several tabs running through the book. The recipes are easy to read and there is nothing too complex or off-putting for anyone to try. Whilst this book isn’t a heavy tome it is quite comprehensive – with a note on ingredients, a conversion chart and an impressive selection of recipes covering a wide array of dishes from Antipasti and Starters, through Pizzas and Calzones, Soups and Pastas and Risotto, on to Fish and Poultry and Meat finishing up with Desserts, Baking and Drinks. This book covers everything from simple but tasty bites like bruschetta and roast stuffed peppers to easy midweek suppers such as the delicious looking Aubergine Parmigiana (a definite on my list of dishes to try), right through to an impressive Roasted Pork Belly with Lemon, Honey and Thyme, which looks perfect for a slow-paced weekend meal for family or friends, and then of course on to the beautiful Italian desserts such as Catherine’s take on an Italian classic – a divine Raspberry Tiramisu. It seems that Catherine’s recipes favour simplicity and there is definitely something here for everyone.
One thing that immediately struck me, perhaps because I live in a fairly rural location, is that most of the recipes require ingredients that are easily obtained and won’t require an additional trek to a specialist store, you will most likely find what you need for the majority of these dishes in your local supermarket – an important factor for many busy people with not so much time on their hands and those of us with limited access to specialist ingredients.
The first recipe I have tried from the book is the Tuscan Bean Soup, which apart from celery, contained ingredients that I already had in the cupboard or fridge. This is a robust, deep flavoured and nourishing soup that makes you feel good just to look at it. The use of pancetta and parmesan gives a wonderfully savoury depth to the soup and the addition of beans (I used Cannellini) and macaroni transforms this to a most satisfying, hearty lunch or if served with some rustic bread would make a wonderfully simple supper.
A lovely book for simple, everyday Italian cooking Catherine’s Italian Kitchen is available now priced at €19.99 and if you buy direct from the publishers Gill & Macmillan you can avail of a very generous 20% discount.