Italian favourites to master

The Silver Spoon Classic, Phaidon, RRP $85.
The Silver Spoon Classic, Phaidon, RRP $85.
While Italy may be in shutdown due to Covid-19, there is no reason we cannot enjoy its cuisine here in New Zealand.

Considered the Edmonds Cookery Book for Italians, The Silver Spoon has been the go-to cookbook for the best of Italian cuisine since 1950.

The original book contained hundreds of recipes and tips on how to organise the kitchen, set the table and choose the best ingredients to buy.

A further 10 editions of the book have been sold and each updated edition has included new ingredients and techniques.

It has been translated into 10 languages and has sold more than 2 million copies.

The English version was first published by Phaidon in 2005 and it was updated again in 2011.

This latest version, The Silver Spoon Classic, includes the most famous and classic Italian dishes as well as new photographs showing the way Italians present their cuisine.

The recipes also include background information on the dishes’ origins, helpful tips and possible variations.

Like the original, it offers sections on the art of organisation, setting your table, equipment and a handy glossary of terms.


Fruits of the forest bavarois

A bavarois, or Bavarian cream, is a simple dessert usually made with seasonal fruit added to a base of cream. It has the consistency of a custard and the freshness of a summer dessert. You can use any berries you like in this recipe and substitute the wild strawberries with additional berries if you cannot source wild fruit. Pay particular attention to the preparation of the custard; keeping the heat low and stirring continuously will prevent it splitting.

Serves 8

Prep time 45 minutes

Chill time 6-8 hours

1¾ cups (150g) wild strawberries
3½ cups (500g) blackberries
4 Tbsp white wine
4½ cups (650g) strawberries
2 Tbsp lemon juice, strained
2 gelatin sheets
4 egg yolks
¾ cup (150g) superfine caster sugar
1 cup (250ml) milk
generous 2 cups (500ml) heavy (double) cream

To decorate
frozen mixed berries (raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries)
1 lemon balm sprig (optional)
whipped cream (optional)

Rinse the wild strawberries and blackberries in the white wine and pat dry with paper towels. Put the strawberries and wild strawberries into a blender and process to a puree, then transfer to a large bowl.

Put the blackberries into a blender and process to a puree, then pass these through a fine nylon strainer (sieve) into the same bowl as the strawberries. Stir in the lemon juice.

Place the gelatin in a small bowl of warm water to soften. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and fluffy and then fold the milk into the mixture a little at a time.

Pour the mixture into a pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not allow the mixture to boil.

Remove from the heat and pour the resulting custard into a heatproof bowl and leave to cool, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming on the surface.

To decorate
Add the fruit purees to the custard and set the bowl over a pan of warm water to heat gently.

Drain the gelatin, squeezing out any excess liquid, and add to the custard, stirring until the sheets have completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool.

In another bowl or an electric mixer, whip the cream to stiff peaks.

As soon as the custard has cooled, gently fold the whipped cream into it with a metal spoon.

Pour into individual serving glasses or a single mould and chill in the refrigerator for 6 hours, until set.

To serve, decorate with fruit, lemon balm leaves, and whipped cream, if desired.

Pasta salad

A pasta salad is the ideal dish for a picnic or to take to the beach as it can be prepared in advance and easily transported in food containers. Popular throughout Italy, a pasta salad can combine any ingredients that you prefer — you don’t have to follow the suggestion given here. Add your favourite vegetables, cheese, meat or fish to create a simple and refreshing salad. You can use any short pasta, such as maccheroncini or farfalle.

Serves 4

Prep time 45 minutes

300g dried maccheroncini pasta, or other short pasta
2 yellow capsicums
scant 1 cup (100g) shelled peas
200g tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 bunch cicorino rosso (radicchio) or other bitter salad leaves, shredded
1 scallion (spring onion), chopped
1 basil sprig, shredded
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp anchovy paste
½ cup (120ml) white wine

Heat the oven to 230degC. Cook the pasta in a large pan of salted, boiling water for 8-10 minutes, or according to the package directions, until al dente.

Drain, rinse under cold running water, and drain again.

Put the capsicums on a baking sheet and roast, turning occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, until blistered and charred. Remove from the oven, put them into a plastic bag, and seal the top. When they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins, discard the seeds, and dice the flesh.

Cook the peas in salted boiling water for 10 minutes, then drain and let cool. Put the capsicum, peas, tomatoes, cicorino, scallion and basil into a salad bowl and add the pasta.

Combine the mayonnaise, anchovy paste and wine in a bowl. Pour the sauce over the pasta salad, toss, and serve.

Milanese risotto

One of the most iconic dishes from the Lombardy region, the traditional recipe for Milanese risotto includes bone marrow, which is considered a vital ingredient to give the dish its flavour and richness.

For a simpler and lighter version, the risotto can be made without the bone marrow. In Italy, Milanese risotto is eaten as a first course, followed by a main. Otherwise, it is traditional to serve it with osso buco (braised veal) for a complete, comforting winter meal.

Serves 4

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 55 minutes

about 1½ litres meat stock
20g beef bone marrow
6 Tbsp (80g) butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups (350g) risotto rice
½ cup (120ml) white wine (optional)
½ tsp saffron threads
1 cup (80g) freshly grated parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring the stock to a boil. Adjust the heat under the stock pan to keep it at a boil. This is important when making risotto; stock that is too cold will set the starch in the rice and make the risotto gluey.

In another pan, heat the beef bone marrow with 4 tablespoons (60g) of the butter. Add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until translucent.

Stir in the rice and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes, until the grains are coated in butter and the edges of the rice become translucent.

If using it, add the wine and cook, stirring, until evaporated.

Add a ladleful of the hot stock and cook, stirring, until it has been absorbed. Continue adding the boiling stock, a ladleful at a time, and stirring until each addition has been absorbed. The stock in the risotto pan must be bubbling during the cooking process.

The addition of the stock, while stirring, will take 15-20 minutes. It is important to keep stirring because this emulsifies the starch from the rice with the stock, giving the risotto a creamy texture.

In the meantime, boil some water. Place the saffron in a small heatproof bowl and add 2 tablespoons of boiling water to make ‘‘saffron tea’’. Let stand.

Test the rice every now and then to check if it is done. When done, it will be tender but still al dente (firm to the bite). Before adding the final ladleful of stock to the rice, stir in the saffron liquid. When the rice is tender, season with salt and pepper to taste — bearing in mind that the parmesan cheese is salty — then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining butter and the parmesan.

Cover and let stand for 5 minutes, then serve.

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