A gentle introduction to Italian cooking, Catherine’s Italian Kitchen is the companion book to Catherine Fulvio’s well-received television series, which was nominated for a World Food Media Award earlier this year. Fulvio, who runs the well regarded Ballyknocken Cookery School at her family home in Wicklow, is married to Sicilian native Claudio. With this connection and her teaching experience, she is well placed to translate Italian recipes to an Irish audience.
While Catherine’s Italian Kitchen covers all of Italy, the most interesting recipes in the book are those from Sicily, dishes like Arancini di Riso, little balls of rice stuffed with meat, Pistachio and Asparagus Penne (with a sprinkle of the “poor man’s Parmesan” or dried breadcrumbs) and an elaborate sponge-ricotta-candied fruit concoction called Cassata. Arab influences on Sicilian cooking – like the addition of pine nuts and raisins to dishes like Pasta with Sardines and Wild Fennel or Panelle, a chickpea fritter eaten as a snack – feature throughout the book. Other Arab imports – aubergines, lemons and the oranges that Sicily is associated with – all make frequent appearances in dishes like Spaghetti with Aubergine Balls, Lemon and Pine Nut Biscotti or Roasted Pumpkin with Shallots and Orange.
A bread, pizza and calzone chapter includes tempting Sicilian breads such as Stromboli (Mozarella and Pancetta Filled Bread) and Sfincione (Sicilian Pizza Bread), alongside recipes for focaccia, breadsticks and pizza. Meat highlights include a Lemon Chicken with Fennel and Lemon Risotto Stuffing, Pork Belly with Lemon, Honey and Thyme and a braised beef dish, sprinkled with a lively mix of chopped garlic, lemon and chilli before serving.
The focus is on simple dishes using seasonal ingredients and nothing is too complicated. Fulvio may not be reinventing the Italian wheel but Catherine’s Italian Kitchen is the book to encourage people into the kitchen and try out recipes that are a few steps removed from old reliables like bolognese and lasagna.
Watch out for Fulvio’s new series, Catherine’s Roman Holiday, starting this Friday, 3 September, on RTÉ One at 8.30pm.
Must Try: the cheese and tomato Aubergine Parmigiana, an easy Oven-Baked Fennel Sausage and Tomato Risotto
Catherine’s Italian Kitchen by Catherine Fulvio is published by Gill and Macmillian.