Modern Italian Food – Stefano de Pieri
A Book Review by Franz Scheurer
Stefano de Pieri’s latest book, Modern Italian Food, is testament to his obsession for classic Italian fare. Simple flavours, the freshest ingredients, simply presented, preferably eaten at the table with friends. It is a monument to the passion of the man. Despite his background in politics, Stefano can never be accused of not having an opinion nor does he pussyfoot around voicing it. His love for the river, his sense of belonging and community spirit combined with his strength and no bullshit approach, is how he single-handedly dragged Mildura and the Murray region onto the world stage.
The book is divided into 10 sections, Salt, Olive Oil, Wheat, Polenta & Rice, Vegetables, Fish, Poultry & Meat, Italian Cheese, Italian Wine and Preserves. Each section contains a number of fabulous, achievable recipes but the wisdom is in the introductions and methods. Nothing is as infectious as passion and the book is loaded with it. This is why I disagree with Stefano when he states “Modern Italian Food is a book of recipes for the home cook. To my mind, there is very little of interest here to chefs, although some general directions are perhaps of some use to young industry people whose idea of Italian food has not yet been bastardised.” On the contrary: it should be compulsory reading for young and old chefs alike. A lot of time is spent in restaurants of making food more complicated and not enough time is spent contemplating the force of simple flavours. I reckon the majority of chefs I know would find this the food they want to eat.
Italian food, as illustrated in this book, “relies on good olive oil, the judicious use of salt, fantastic cheese, fresh, golden chicken stock, home-made foods such as pasta, gnocchi and bread, the smart use of lesser cuts of meat and equally smart use of less glamorous fish and a love of texture over presentation”. His thorough explanations of each of these pillars of Italian fare are educational and a thoroughly enjoyable read. Immersing yourself in this book, tasting the food in your mind, looking at the glorious photography by Earl Carter is like taking a holiday.
I thoroughly recommend this book to the home cook, the apprentice, the accomplished chef and the couch-cook.
Modern Italian Food
Stefano de Pieri
Published by Hardie Grant Books
ISBN 1 74066 171 0.