‘Peasant cooking’ isn’t as bad as it sounds, in fact deliciously making do with what you’ve got is perfect for the cash-strapped times we live in.
Tomato shortages, cucumbers on ration, lettuces unavailable. It seems we’re getting a wake up call about fresh produce, the message being that it can’t be taken for granted.
Of course, it’s only comparatively recently that we’ve become used to ‘on demand’ produce, both out of season and exotic. Back in the day though, home cooks were mindful of price, seasonality and avoiding waste.
Tuscans were often disparagingly referred to by other Italian regions as the ‘bean eaters’ because they couldn’t afford meat and so beans, fresh and dried, were their major source of protein.
Author Giulia Scarpaleggi is Tuscan born and bred and here she offers 100 recipes that celebrate the old ways of making do with what’s available and affordable. Beans and lentils of course, but also the cheaper cuts of meat and the less fancy fish. Rice, pasta, leftovers and foraged greens all go into her cookpot for delicious results.
No fresh spinach? Nettle and Ricotta Gnudi will be fine for tea, and don’t give that stale bread to the birds, well perhaps a little bit, instead make Tuscan Pappa al pomodoro, when tomatoes are in season in your garden, of course.
You can also take your stale bread, and day-old mozzarella, and do as they did in 19th Century Naples. Sandwich the cheese in the bread, dredge it in beaten egg then deep fry it. It’s a classic street snack, but it also makes a meal with salad.
Polenta, the other great staple of Italy, is more popular than pasta in Italy’s Alpine Regions and a great warmer. Mixed with butter and cheese scraps it becomes Polenta Concia, cheap and filling and a great big hug on a cold day. Leftover polenta reheats well and can also be fried or baked. Elderflower fritters look amazing, and we all have elderflowers somewhere near us,
Umbrian Lentil Stew, cheese, egg balls stewed in tomato sauce, and a mussel potato and rice gratin are all dishes that would get five star reviews if served in Shoreditch, but are oh so easy to knock up at home for a lot less.
Every recipe is a winner on taste, ease and budget and just the kind of cooking we need right now.
Available on Amazon hardback £30 Kindle £11.99
Publisher : Artisan Division of Workman Publishing
ISBN-10 : 1648290566