Monday, 4 April 2011

Audrey Gordon's Tuscan Summer - Review, Interview, Recipe and Giveaway

My cheesy gnocchi
Now for something completely different!!! It is true to say that this cookbook is different to any I already own.

Gnocchi in the making
Audrey Gordon's Tuscan Summer with Audrey and Philip Gordon published by Hardie Grant Books 2011 in the UK. It's a cookbook, it has recipes, it's a coffee table book with some breath taking photography of Italy, but... it has been written with a real comedy slant - see the herb on Audrey's teeth on the cover! Some of the funny parts are a little biting to say the least, but others are really funny, on more than one occasion I laughed out loud. There are comedic parts all the way through the book - Audrey is one formidable woman! She puts me in mind of some of the Masterchef and Food Network Challenge judges. You know the kind I mean - they can move the contestants to tears of misery or joy depending on their comments.

The recipes are seasonal Summer recipes, the book is a Summer in Italy memoir with recipes woven through it. I am what I am though, and I wouldn't have reviewed it if the recipes weren't any good, but the two I tried were very good. The recipes are all accompanied by a colour picture. Chapters are *Maggio / May*, Giugno / June*. Lugio / July* and *Agosto / August*. Layout is clean, but embellished to give a little bit of Italian flair. It's colourful, vibrant, beautiful pictures of Italy and many of Audrey herself too.

Here is a short interview I did with Audrey (thank you!):

KJ: What made you choose Tuscany for your destination? Audrey: I’ve always loved Italy. It’s the home of great artists like Michelangelo and Mussolini, as well as some of the world’s finest cooks. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of Giacomo Brunetti? I spent several months under him when I was an apprentice chef. What that man can do with a fava bean is simply extraordinary.

KJ: Did you have fun cooking and writing the book? Audrey: I actually never cook and write simultaneously, ever since spilling beef ragout onto my laptop computer’s keyboard. But it was a joy working on new recipes. Every one of them has been fully tested of course, mostly on nursing home residents (so it’s hard to get clear feed-back) and I look forward to my readers trying them out themselves.

KJ: What are your favourite sweet and savoury dishes from the book? Audrey: My favourite sweet dish actually came from my grandmother. It’s a cherry-chocolate cake and I re-printed the recipe from one of her cooking diaries that she kept during the war. Obviously I had to replace the powdered egg and get rid of a few of the more stridently anti-Germanic sentiments scrawled in the margin, but it’s otherwise completely authentic. As for my favourite savoury dish, I think it would my Super-Super-Super Slow Roasted Pork. It’s worth every one of the 73 days it takes to cook.

KJ: Your book has a real fun slant to it, what made you choose to do that? Audrey: I think we sometimes take food and cooking a little too seriously. Has the perfect tomato and basil salad ever changed the course of history? Quite possibly yes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it too.

Thanks to Hardie Grant Books for my review copy and also for an extra copy to give away to one of my readers. To enter leave a comment on this post by Tuesday 12th April 2011 11.59p.m. Name out of the hat, winner to be announced with my next post.

Pumpkin Risotto

The recipes I chose to try were Gnocchi di Ricotta con Pomodoro or Ricotta Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce and Risotto alla Zucca or Pumpkin Risotto. The risotto was lovely, some of the squash melted into the sauce, the bacon and broccoli florets added extra layers of flavour. The ricotta gnocchi was really good too, my first home-made gnocchi, and totally different from shop bought - much better in my opinion. I really enjoyed making these little cheesy dumplings, it may have been my first gnocchi but it won't be my last, it was oddly therapeutic, a fabulous stress buster. Some other recipes I have marked to try are Eunice's Chocolate and Raspberry Cake, Cherry Pie and Roast Vegetable Salad.

I have been given permission to share a recipe on my blog, so here is the gorgeous gnocchi so you can try too if you like.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce

My recipe notes: Hope Audrey won't be too cross with me but I used Parmesan instead of Pecorino cheese, as I couldn't get any when I went shopping. I also didn't puree the sauce as we like chunks. Here is the recipe as per the book:


From Audrey Gordon's Tuscan Summer, Printed here with permission by Hardie Grant Books - thank you.

Some people say that they find gnocchi a little ‘stodgy’. They have obviously never eaten the homemade variety and should, therefore, refrain from commenting on things they quite clearly know nothing about. These gnocchi are as soft and pillowy as a freshly made bed.

250 g ricotta

250 g pecorino romano, freshly grated

1 egg

pinch of nutmeg

salt 1 cup plain flour, plus extra for dusting

extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 × 400 g cans Italian tomatoes, juices retained

1 bunch basil, leaves picked

pinch of sugar

freshly ground black pepper

freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, to serve

1. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, pecorino, egg, nutmeg, a pinch of salt and half the flour. Mix to create a dough then add the rest ofthe flour.

2. Roll out the mixture onto a lightly floured surface and shape into six tubes. Cut each tube into about 20 pieces, then press the tines of your fork into each piece to create the ‘ribbing’ effect typical of gnocchi.

3. To make the tomato sauce, heat a splash of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and garlic until lightly cooked.

4. Add the tomatoes and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes

5. Pass the mixture through a food mill to remove the tomato seeds, then add the basil leaves and sugar. Season as necessary.

6. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook the gnocchi in batches. Remove each one as it rises to the surface, usually after about 2 minutes.

7. When all the gnocchi are cooked, top with the tomato sauce and serve with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Next up: The Skinny French Kitchen by Harry Eastwood


Birthday Party Ideas said...

Great interview and great recipe too!

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LF said...

Loved her comment about the WWII recipe! Ricotta gnocci is tasty and definitely easier to make than potato gnocci, in my opinion, although a little more fattening :)

- LovingFood

At Anna's kitchen table said...

Fascinating KJ! Well done! x

Mika said...

I LOVE cookbooks and this sounds like a great one! I want to make gnocci so bad ...Thanks for the interview!

Ino said...

This sounds like my kind of book, I love italian food!

Norm said...

It sounds like a great book - I like a chef with a sense of humour!

Elena said...

Interesting book! Ricotta Gnocchi look so yummy!!! I would love to read the book and try the recipes.

Linda Kish said...

Sounds great. Count me in please.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Maria♥ said...

Everything looks so yummy, I love Italian food!


Cynthia said...

I thoroughly enjoyed that interview.

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Susan said...

Oh so yum! I haven't made gnocchi in such a long time, and never with ricotta. I agree that well-crafted homemade makes all the difference.
Thanks for the inspiration, Kelly-Jane. Time to get the fingers full of flour. : )

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theis chesse gnocchi tastes so good but I prefer the original potato gnocchi due it's creamy texture.