'THE DELI ITALIAN COOKBOOK' by Theo Randall
''You can never have enough cookbooks'', I recall. This suddenly made me feel better when The Deli Italian Cookbook arrived fresh from the publishers last month, as I struggled to find space among the bookshelves of hardbacks and paperbacks stuffed with recipes, ingredients and chef's stories.
'100 Glorious Recipes Celebrating The Best Of Italian Ingredients' is the boast adorning the rather plain front cover of Theo Randall's book. But once inside, the recipes and photos of glorious Italian food, are far from plain. The author has collected together an exciting and innovative range of dishes, which are unlike many featured in the popular Italian cookbooks you find in every bookshop. Having waited to write this book for years, Randall has taken his inspiration from the goodies he has picked up on summer holidays, his mother's cooking and the seasonal fruit and vegetables in his kitchen garden. He wrote this book during the first 2020 lockdown in the UK, when we were all at home wondering what to cook with the limited availability of supplies. Luckily, Randall's kitchen cupboards are always well stocked with, what he describes as, 'those little extras that make all the difference to a dish'. What exactly are they? The trusted olive oil, pasta. passata and olives and those deli and food shop items he picks up at random. These ingredients make up the inviting recipes for Randall's cooking.
As one might guess by the title, this charming book is a tribute to the Italian deli. The authentic ingredients of Italia have become the basis for many home dishes today and the ethos of this book is built on 'simple food made using exceptional ingredients'. Randall stays true to the cooking and eating philosophies of Italy, bringing a little bit of that country into your home.
250 pages of recipes and accompanying photographs, the author provides his own introduction to each dish with its origins, amusing anecdotes or words of warning. The cookbook is divided into convenient sections by basic ingredients - eggs, cheese, tinned fish, pasta, rice, flour, coffee etc. Dishes range from the very simple - Buffalo mozzarella, black fig and herb salad, to the more complex - Seared salmon trout with Baresane olives and Datterini tomatoes. In between, there is a wide selection of straightforward cuisine using Italian sausage, rice, fish, vegetables and pulses. I love the look of Tomato and yellow courgette risotto, the Cannelloni with sausage ragu and tomato sauce and the Goat's curd and rocket pizza. However, while I can admire the luscious photos of beautiful Italian food all day long, the real test is how these dishes taste?
To this end, I've already tried just a few of the hundred wonderful recipes pouring out of this cookbook and I have been amazed. Take the Balsamic-roasted Desiree potatoes with pancetta and red onions, for example (above). Accompanying a beautifully roasted joint of lamb, and cooked in unsalted butter and olive oil, this colourful dish looked and tasted so sweet - the potatoes crisp on the outside and soft and succulent on the inside and the onions singing with their associated matchsticks of ham. I could have eaten a plateful of these delicious vegetables. A beautiful addition to a lamb meal.
Another day and another recipe to taste - Gnocchi in creamy porcini and tomato sauce (below). On this occasion, cooked as a starter to a family meal. The grandchildren loved it and the adults were soon stealing from their kids plates, such was the success of this dish. The home-made gnocchi delightfully sucked up the fresh creamy tomato sauce, littered with the tender chestnut mushrooms and finely sliced garlic. Either grated Parmesan or curling shavings only added to the mouth-watering taste, and needless to say, every plate was licked clean!
If, like me, you love Italian food, then this most recent cookbook on the subject is a revelation which has to be shared with family and friends. Innovative and creative recipes presented in a simple and a straightforward way, Theo Randall has provided a 'new-take' on using traditional Italian ingredients. With a guide to some of the world's best Italian delis and ample ideas for getting the best from their transformative ingredients, Theo's The Italian Deli Cookbook brings a piece of Italy into your kitchen. This is a book not to be missed - you can never have enough cookbooks, like this one!
Theo Randall was Head Chef at the River Cafe for 15 years, where he worked alongside Jamie Oliver. He left there in 2006 to launch his first restaurant, Theo Randall at InterContinental in London's Mayfair, which now has two more locations in Hong Kong and Bangkok. He has appeared on Saturday Kitchen, MasterChef and Sunday Brunch and has written two previous cookbooks, 'Pasta' and 'My Simple Italian'.
'The Deli Italian Cookbook' by Theo Randall. Published by Hardy Grant Quadrille (2021). ISBN 978 1 78713 596 3
Price: £26.00 UK /$35 US (available at Amazon Books at £17.99 UK, including free delivery)