Cook Book Review - Two Kitchens by Rachel Roddy
The CIBARE team is talking Pizza’s this month, so in keeping with the Italian flavour and perfectly timed release, I chose to review Rachel Roddy’s latest cook book, Two Kitchens. For those of you who aren’t familiar with her work, Rachel, an English food writer, lives in Rome with her Sicilian partner Vincenzo and their little boy. Vincenzo’s family home in Sicily is Gela and its through his rich heritage, Rachel has drawn inspiration for this book.
The book isn’t split into the obvious chapters of; Starters, Meat, Fish, Deserts, instead its split into ingredients; Vegetables and Herbs, Fruits and Nuts, Meat, Fish and Dairy, Storecupboard. The opening chapter begins with tomatoes and their importance in Italian cooking. This includes sage advice on how to sun dry them (check the weather forecast!), although I don’t have the sun drenched roofs of Gela, my little oven in north London will suffice.
Antipasti: Baked tomatoes with anchovies, garlic and breadcrumbs. There’s no photo attached to this recipe, but as I read the intro I can see why. I’m encouraged to make my own decision on how long the tomatoes should be cooked-if you want it to be more like a sauce, then cook it for longer. As this was a starter, I wanted it to maintain its structure for ease of serving so left the dish to cook for 25-30 min.
Being the host, I wanted to cook food that left me time to spend with everyone and the Chicken with citrus and olives did just that. Marinaded overnight, all I needed to do on the day was pop it in the oven whilst we enjoyed the starters. There are no suggestions as to what this can be served with so I chose the Tagliatelle with lemon and Parmesan. The Chicken is infused in citrus flavours but doesn’t overpower it, and the meat stays soft and tender. But it’s the pasta that impresses us the most, every strand evenly coated in the lemon and parmesan emulsion, I’d happily devour a bowl of this on its own.
It felt right to round the meal off with something light, Peaches poached with rosé and honey. Its so visually pretty in its simplicity and although quite sweet, felt refreshing and tasted deceptively mature - pour that syrup in a wine glass and you have the finest mulled wine ever tasted! I served this with a little piece of sticky, sweet Nut brittle partly because I wanted to see how easy it was to make and partly because I fancied some with coffee later.
To be honest, at first glance this book intimidated me a bit, I know that sounds a bit weird but there’s something more personal about it, more intimate. The photographs feel like snap shots of real life Sicily and Rome and its not sugar coated to look perfect. The food doesn’t have the perfect lit studio, fresh linen and retro kitchenalia appearance and maybe this is because Rachel comes across as a writer first and a cook second. So before throwing myself into the recipe pages, it felt particularly important to understand her appreciation of Italian cooking and culture. A certain sentence stops me in my tracks, as this definitely resonated with me “…recipes live in stories; small everyday ones and much bigger ones”. Throughout the book Rachel involves you in an experience and invites you to smell the fresh tomatoes and pick the grapes that taste almost drunken. It’s true, most people do have a story to share when it comes to a much loved recipe and this is what Rachel has very poetically achieved. Its inspired me to become more involved in understanding the value of good quality ingredients and to appreciate the beauty of simple flavours, Bravo!