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Beaneaters & Bread Soup: Portraits and Recipes from Tuscany

Lori De Mori, Quadrille, £20

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'Beaneaters', or 'mangiafagioli' as the Italians would have it, is how Tuscans are referred to by other Italians. Although Tuscany is now a wealthy region and Tuscan food the envy of many a 'rustic' London restaurant, it was historically an impoverished region. Tuscan cooks, making a virtue out of necessity, created a flavoursome cuisine out of not much. Beans and bread, as the book's title suggests, were important mainstays.

De Mori, a student of Italian literature, has an evident respect for and deep knowledge of Tuscan food and food culture. The book is a collection of evocatively written portraits of artisanal Tuscan food producers, including a coffee roaster, a shepherd and cheesemaker, a tripe vendor and a Lardo di Colonnata producer, among others.

Each portrait is followed by several of each producer's own recipes. These are an eclectic bunch, including classics such as ribollita (the classic 'reboiled' bean and cabbage soup), pappa al pomodoro (a thick soup made from ripe tomatoes and stale bread) and zuppa di ceci (chickpea soup), plus producers' personal favourites, such as a terracotta-maker's peppery beef stew. The recipes reflect the simplicity and essential frugality of true Tuscan cooking.

De Mori also happens to be married to Jason Lowe, one of Britain's most celebrated food photographers and the photographer for this book. The pictures, it almost goes without saying, are stunning. They're also refreshingly unpretentious, helping to give the book its insight into Tuscan food and life away from the 'Chiantishire' cliches.

Susan Low

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