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Book Review: Cicchetti

By LINDY WILDSMITH  and VALENTINA HARRIS

ISBN 9781909342262 | 256 Pages  | Hardback  |  Published by Jacqui Small www.jacquismallpub.com
Review by Florence Sandeman, Editor Recipes4us

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Move over Tapas there's a new kid in town. Well, new to this cook at least, as I'd never heard of Cicchetti until I came across this book. As a long time collector of cookery books, it isn't very often that I find a book about something entirely new to me, but this is one of those rare cases, with practically every page tickling my fancy in one way or another. Even recipes which may not ordinarily be up my street, managed to hold some sort of interest for me. I must say this is one of the most enjoyable cookbooks I have had the pleasure of reading in recent times.

 

So, what are Cicchetti ?

 

I've given the biggest clue already but to clarify further, they are  the Venetian version of Tapas i.e. little snacks, small portions or finger foods which are traditionally served with drinks as an aperitif or several together on a platter for lunch. And they are specifically Venetian.

 

At the time of writing this review, George Clooney had just got married and I found myself being uncharacteristically jealous of another woman, i.e. his wife,  not because she was marrying him (as nice as he is) but because she was in Venice and could sample Cicchetti first hand, made by the experts. Be that as it may, I am convinced the wealth of information in this book will enable cooks of all abilities to recreate these delights. 

 

Cicchetti come in all manner of shapes and forms, can use just about every imaginable ingredient and range from very simple - just 4 ingredients such as Le uova di quaglia e accuiughe crostini fritti translated  to the much more simple Quail Egg Crostini, which can be whipped up in minutes to dishes such as Le Capesante Gratinate (Scallop gratin)  which require more preparation and/or cooking. With over 50 Venetian recipes, I can guarantee there is something for everyone no matter what your preferences . . . . but that's not all . . . not by a long way.

 

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In a little more detail:  The book starts with an interesting and well written introduction which explains about Cicchetto (singular) and also covers some basics in their preparation such as common bases used (e.g. crostini) and other traditional practices. Then come the recipes which are divided into  5 chapters:  Seafood; Eggs, Cheese & Cured meat; Vegetables; Meat and Aperitivi (drinks). Many of the recipes have a full colour photograph plus a small introduction.  Still more . . . . .

In addition to the 50+ cicchetti recipes  there are also shorter chapters covering cicchetti equivalents from 17 other regions in Italy including Tuscany, Liguria, Basilicata and Lombardy. Life is too short for me to count how many recipes there are in all, but safe to say there are LOADS many of which can easily be adapted to be served as a light main course.  Alternatively, making just 3 or 4 would be great for an informal night in with (or without) friends/family.  Each of these chapters has a short but comprehensive introduction about the region including its topography,  local specialities and customs, all interspersed with evocative editorial and photographs relating to the areas and local foods.

This is not just a recipe book. It has been beautifully orchestrated with a lot of thought and knowledge having gone into the various components which have been brought together to create a triumphant gastronomic symphony: a mixture of food, cooking, history, geography and art and a feast for both the eye and the mind. If someone had bought me this book as a gift, I would probably have loved them forever.

I am very glad to have finished this review because it makes me too hungry just thinking about Cicchetti. Highly recommended.

To order Cicchetti at the discounted price of 16.00 including p&p*, telephone 01903 828503 and quote offer code JS228. Or send a cheque made payable to: Littlehampton Book Services Mail Order Department, Littlehampton Book Services, PO Box 4264, Worthing, West Sussex BN13 3TG. Please quote the offer code JS228 and include your name and address details. *UK ONLY - Please add 2.50 if ordering from overseas.

About the Authors

LINDY WILDSMITH is an experienced food writer. Her interest in food and travel has led her to write several books about  Italian food, as well as the highly acclaimed Cured. Lindy speaks fluent Italian, runs Italian cookery courses and has an in-depth knowledge of Italy and its gastronomy. Her recipes are designed for people who enjoy cooking, eating and good company. Lindy writes a blog, grown-upfood.blogspot.com, and you can follow her on twitter @lindywildsmith.

VALENTINA HARRIS has enjoyed a long career writing and teaching about authentic Mediterranean dishes. She has carved herself a career as a self-styled ambassadress and expert on Mediterranean gastronomy and diet, and has written over 30 books on Italian food, where she shares her food philosophy of using local, seasonal produce to make dishes with maximum care and minimum fuss. She now lives in London and teaches at several cooking schools when not writing and offering her services as a consultant and private caterer.

 

 

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