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Mangia! Mangia! Gatherings

When the title of a book has exclamation marks, and the words are Italian, and you know they mean 'Eat! Eat!', you know that it's going to be an exuberant, rollicking read. And that the recipes will be hearty, homespun and amazing.

Of course this is all about the thing that Italian cooks do best: cook in quantities most of us only dream about, for their extended families and masses of friends seated at long tables, outdoors under vines. Meals that take a day (and many willing hands) to prepare, and half a day and most of the evening to consume. Days that make up the fabric of a lifetime. Recipes for happy memories.

Sisters Teresa Oates and Angela Villella (authors of the best-selling Mangia! Mangia!) wanted to further celebrate the Calabrian food of their parents with a book of accogliasi foods. These are the dishes that crowd the tables at family weddings, christenings, wakes, and seasonal events.

They wanted, also, to share with everyone the reason why nonnas begin their Christmas cooking in November, and how a simple gift of brodo (soup) is welcomed by a grieving family.

This collection of 110 authentic recipes is unique. There are Easter dishes – a salt cod or octopus salad, Easter lamb, stuffed veal or mushrooms; Christmas specials - fig pastries, aniseed pastries, roast suckling pig, gelati.........too much to even begin to mention. Throughout the book there are notes, anecdotes, family pictures and recollections. By the end you feel as if you know this auntie or that uncle, and can't wait to begin a new pasta dish, or try your hand at Giovanna and Antonio's corn bread or Zia (Aunt) Grazia's baked cheesecake.

Simon Griffiths' photographs just add to the effect, and his step-by-step images will give you confidence to try a new dish.

I am pretty certain that the sisters' latest offering will bring a smile to your face. It's that kind of book: brimming with energy and Italian to the core. Chock-full of love of family – and life!

Mangia! Mangia! Gatherings, by Teresa Oates and Angela Villella, published by Penguin Group, 2014, hardcover, rrp $39.99.

- reviewed by Sally Hammond





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