Finally! A cookbook which opens flat, so that you can use it for the purpose for which it was meant - cooking! To be fair, there are a few around now with a special binding which allows this, and it is certainly a Great Step Forward.
Having got that off my mind, this is what I also like about Barry McDonald's book: it is personal, with plenty of family and restaurant photographs which invite you to adopt the Cafe Sopra and Fratelli Fresh world view - albeit a rather skewed one that puts Italy at the centre. McDonald makes no apology for this, but also qualifies it. 'There is a certain freedom,' he says, 'in running an Italian restaurant a long way from Italy.' He explains it this way: 'We respect Italian traditions, but not when it gets in the way of something better.'
So there are recipes such as perfect arancini with taleggio, braised beef cheeks with soft polenta, torta della Nonna and tiramisu, of course. But you will also find some which launched from a traditional recipe and have taken wings, often in the restaurants, such as shaved baby cabbage with aged balsamic, smoked trout fish cakes with soft-boiled egg, grilled king prawns with roast tomato and basil butter, or pistachio panna cotta with cranberry jelly.
With a lifetime of experience and hugely successful restaurants which feed 15-20,000 diners a week, Barry McDonald is the ideal spokesperson to represent his family and his team of chefs and staff - and indeed Italian cuisine.
Unpretentious and helpful, this book serves it up as the subtitle promises - How to eat Italian!
Or as he amends: Mangia! mangia! (Eat! Eat!)
Alla Fratelli, How to Eat Italian, by Barry McDonald, published by Murdoch Books, 2015, rrpA49.99, hardcover. ISBN: 978 1743 364703.
- reviewed by Sally Hammond
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