Big Mamma. Cucina Popolare
by Nick Harman - Saturday December 7, 2019 1:12 pm
A satisfyingly big book, this collection of ‘contemporary Italian recipes’ contains over 130 tasty dishes from the very successful Italian restaurant group.
These guys and gals are seriously hip, make no mistake about that. No giant pepper mills in sight in their restaurants, just classic recipes tweaked and, as the kids say, ‘kicked up a notch’ or ‘taken to the next level’. The photos in the book feature more beards and tattoos than a travelling carnival.
And, as is the modern way, you get a preface - a mission statement that mentions ‘good vibes’ and, of course, ‘passion’. Sigh. I blame Jamie for all this.
Still, we are not here to analyse the authors but to cook, so what of the recipes?
Well there are 130 of them, as mentioned, and each is laid out one to a spread.
I really hate it when recipes require you to turn over, the pages soon get thickly layered in whatever you’re cooking and you go a bit mad flicking back and forth in moments of crisis,
Because we are in 2019 each recipe has a useful set of symbols to tell you if the dish is dairy free, gluten free, vegan or vegetarian.
Further symbols tell whether it is one-pot, 30 minutes or less, or 5 ingredients or less.These are all good things to help you narrow down your options early.
The book chapters are divided in the traditional way - antipasti, insalate, pizze, primi patti, secondi patti and dolci.Added to these are chapters on brunch and drinks and the index is thorough. All good stuff.
There are also helpful pages on how to make things like perfect vegetable stock, cooking the perfect steak and creating the best tomato sauce
Browsing through it’s easy to find something you really want to eat in every category. From unfussed with classics such as Vitello Tonnato, that peculiar dish that shouldn’t work but does work wonderfully, and pasta with anchovy cream and broccoli, here rather toe-curlingly called Snoop Dogg Pasta.
Caveat lector. The actual recipe instructions need to be treated with a bit of caution. The writers I suspect are the chefs, and not being professional recipe writers they occasionally jump a stage or forget to tell you what to do with something they mentioned earlier.
Nothing too bad, you can usually work it out, but a read through first will save a lot of tears later.
Tuck into Burratelli (Tortellini with burrata and tomatoes), Pizza Yolo (Fig, walnut and mozzarella pizza) and Lob’star Pasta (Linguine with lobster).
What about a Gran Carbonara and Tiramisu, Pizza Nera Con Cozze and Sfoglia Lasagna?
The book includes much-loved dishes from the restaurants Gloria and Circolo Popolare such as Pizza Yolo, Lob’star Pasta, Ravioli Di Ricotta, Daft Punch and Eat Me Baba One More Time.
Yes, some of the recipe names make you want to shout abuse, they’re trying too hard, but the food is just what today’s Instagram eaters want to photograph and possibly might even try to eat before it goes cold.
Italian food has lost out a bit recently, despite being one of the best cuisines in the world it just didn’t suit the modern foodie aesthetic - not ethnic, not unusual, not really designed for sharing plates.
This book reminds us all why we should never forget Italian food. It’s generosity of flavours, its reverence for the finest local ingredients and its rowdy, all around the table shouting vibe (sorry) are still some of the best things you can sit down to.
So, if you can’t get to Shoreditch or Fitzrovia, do it at home with the help of this book and big mamma's tips.
Why not try some of the recipes? Big Mamma has generously shared a few with us.
Big Mamma Cucina Popolare: Contemporary Italian Recipes is published by Phaidon, £27.95