Italian cookbooks

Discover the diversity of Italian cuisine with Time Out's guide to the best cookbooks

My Cousin Rosa: Rosa Mitchell's Sicilian Kitchen

Rosa Mitchell, Murdoch Books, £25

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This new book by cook and food writer Rosa Mitchell emanates Sicilian warmth. She was born in Catania, in eastern Sicily, migrated to Australia in 1962 and now runs the Journal Café in Melbourne.

The book chronicles the recipes and food traditions that Mitchell and her extended Sicilian-Australian family and friends cook in their adopted home – recipes that keep Sicily alive on the plate. ‘Simple and tasty’ is how Mitchell describes Sicilian food, and the recipes are indeed simple to follow.

Many of them are based on seasonal vegetables such as artichoke, cardoon, aubergine and fennel. There are deceptively straightforward recipes for classic Sicilian dishes such as tonno agro dolce (sweet and sour tuna) and the summery mixed vegetable dish caponata.

Particularly interesting are the farmhouse-style recipes for the likes of home-made ricotta and pork and fennel salami – the sorts of dishes that every rural Sicilian family would rely on, but which few city-dwellers have the time or skills to make.

Pasta dishes, including bucatini with sardines flavoured with typically Sicilian ingredients such as saffron, pine nuts and currants, or the inventive ‘something from nothing’ dish of spaghetti with breadcrumbs and spring onions, are a high point too.

Sicilians love sweets, so Sicilian classics such as cannoli, pastry tubes filled with sweetened ricotta, are not to be missed.

Because the book is written for an Australian readership, some of the advice about sourcing and the seasonality of some ingredients makes little sense to British audiences. Terminology may need translation too (chard, for example, is called silverbeet in Australia), but these are minor quibbles about what is a beautifully produced collection of recipes and stories.

Susan Low, Time Out London Issue 2031: July 23-29 2009

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