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I love cookbooks.

Recently when “tidying up” our bookshelf my husband suggested I get rid of some cookbooks!! Sacrilege! Seriously. I think over the years I’ve only ever parted with one cookbook.

When I get a new one I love to read it several times, absorbing the recipes and pictures (must have photos!). Then by some magic, recipes tend to pop out at me to match what I’m interested in making. I also try to make something I’ve never made before, or a dish with ingredients I’ve never used, or which has different flavour combinations.

I was sent a copy of Laura Cassai’s ‘My Italian Kitchen’. Remember Laura from MasterChef Australia? She was runner-up in 2014. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Laura and eating her food at a cooking demonstration at Adelaide’s Central Market. Watching her cook and create was such a pleasure.

My_Italian_KitchenLaura’s mastery of food and its importance to her family and life comes across in her book. I really enjoy cookbooks that have a narrative running through them. A story behind a recipe adds a nice flavour.

I chose ‘Pesto pasta with roasted tomato, pine nuts and bocconcini’. I really love the flavour combinations and especially the pesto and bocconcini. It’s a relatively simple dish to make but the flavours pack a punch. The roasted tomatoes all soft and caramelised; the crunchy toasted pine nuts; the soft bocconcini and the fresh, tangy pesto, when freshly made wafts through the house. This dish has become a household favourite and is now a regular on the menu.

Laura_01Laura says ‘Mum’s osso bucco’ is a little different, as it isn’t made with a rich tomato sauce as most are. And that is the reason I chose this recipe to try. I love the flavour combination of anchovies, capers, lemon, sage, rosemary and flat leaf parsley. Once cooked this meat just fell apart and when served went well with the soft creamy polenta.

Laura_02And I couldn’t go past the desserts!

‘Zia Dora’s famous tiramisu’ has been in Laura’s family since her mother was given it on her honeymoon. It’s a beautifully light tiramisu and best eaten the next day after the flavours have developed!

Laura_03And finally, ‘profiteroles with orange cinnamon ricotta’. Laura says instead of using custard she likes to use ricotta with orange and cinnamon, a traditional Sicilian combination. I know some people have problems making choux pastry but I don’t seem to and really enjoy making these. I really wanted to try these flavour combinations as I usually make them with custard. I did find however the quantity of orange zest in the recipe was a little too much for my liking, but I adjusted mine accordingly as I tasted the mixture as I made it.

Laura_04Laura Cassai’s first cookbook is a delight and she cooks what she knows – from the family recipe book! There are so many more recipes to try and I look forward to sharing them with my family.

* With thanks to Hardie Grant publishers for a copy of the book.