Here is a recipe book review for Freefrom all’Italiana. A review written by a keen baker and cook that owns no recipe books. None. At the dawn of the eBook I leaped at the opportunity to divest myself of all physical books. Movie DVDs and Music CDs were also given away and removed. I have a huge ebook library but no recipe books. I migrated to online recipes and googling a vague idea for things I would like to make, or just ingredients, and going with whatever I found. If this suits you too, then you should absolutely play around with the IBM Chef Watson. Give Chef Watson some ingredients and it will give you a recipe using the power of AI that will one day replace us all.
Baking as Science, Cooking as Art
Despite my lack of recipe books I do enjoy baking and cooking. I think of the former as mostly science. Follow a proven recipe faithfully by replicating the ingredients, preparation and baking specifications and you should produce the desired outcome. Go off plan and you are running an entirely new experiment. Good luck!
By contrast cooking allows for far more art, intuition and instinct. Begin with some basics but feel free to ad lib and improvise. Taste what you are making and then change the ingredients in-flight. Make substitutions. Still, what helps creativity and leads to successful dishes? Familiarity with tastes and flavours. Understanding how preparation and cooking techniques impact on flavour and texture. Having a repertoire of basics that can be incorporated into recipes. Knowledge of proven dishes from experimentation can begin.
I also know that even home cooks that are confident and experienced with conventional cooking are often stuck at how to cater well for one or more allergies. Then there are many people that do not have the confidence or ability to prepare more than a handful of dishes. UK Supermarkets are world leaders in the range and quality of ready prepared foods! Just zap them and turn on the TV in time to watch Great British Bake Off!
Freefrom all’Italiana is co-authored by Anna del Conte and Michelle Berriedale-Johnson. Anna has been writing about Italian food for over 50 years, now age 91, and is both prolific and renowned. Michelle is the godmother of all that is free from in the UK and amongst many other things the founder of our Free From Food Awards. What kind of masterpiece could these two champions produce together?
Freefrom all’Italiana Experience
Italian Food is easy to love and I love it. London offers plenty of authentic Italian cuisine, gluten free, at places such as Cotto Italian, Ricardo’s and until recently closed, the Amico Bio restaurants.
There are also plenty of less authentic but still very welcome Italian themed restaurants. For examples, Pizza Express, Zizzi and Ask Italian. These are also Coeliac UK certified and have strong gluten free menus along with some very welcome vegan options. Yet despite this I found myself delighted with discovering new and unfamiliar Italian dishes thanks to Freefrom all’Italiana. Things I will now specifically look out for within menus. Things I will make for myself and friends.
I committed myself to trying out new things by offering to cook for visiting friends and having them pick out the recipe with no input from me. This proved to be a great way for me to discover new flavours and techniques. I might otherwise have picked things similar to my existing favourites or those that used techniques with which I was already familiar.
Although almost all the ingredients within were familiar to me I now have several new favourite dishes, including. I also have new beloved sauces, broccoli and fennel, which I shall add as a base for lots of things. Pesto might even get to take a vacation for a while. Maybe. Pesto, don’t go too far.
Oh yes, one last thing. I already loved anchovies. I now adore anchovies.
Freefrom all’Italiana Recipes Overview
Two examples of the simple to prepare, clearly explained recipes can be viewed here.
The 30 recipes within Freefrom all-Italiana include Pasta, Rice and Polenta based dishes plus Soups. All are gluten-free and 25 of the 30 are either milk / dairy free or provide a dairy free modification. I count roughly 15 dishes that could be fully vegan.
Vegan cheese, or ‘Dave’ as we now call it in the UK, is never employed. I believe this is because Anna and Michelle have carefully designed great tasting recipes that remain great whilst being naturally free from. They do not use the easy (or lazy?) option of prescribing direct swaps, such as vegan cheese for dairy cheese, that might not actually produce great results.
However I would be intrigued to try the result of vegan substitutes in some of the recipes. For example the marvelous MozzaRisella vegan cheese. I would also like to try out using Miso Paste instead of Anchovies. These substitutions sometimes do work well.
The pasta recipes mostly use legume pastas and I used the fantastic Really Healthy Pasta range within mine. Certified vegan, organic, gluten-free and far more nutritious than a starch based pasta.
Freefrom all’Italiana Favourites
A Bean Spaghetti with Mussel Sauce was the biggest hit, beloved and cherished and fantastically flavoursome even though I took the simple approach of using frozen mussels. The recipe still led to sweet and tender morsels of deliciousness.
An Egg and Cheese Pasta bake served with a rocket, cucumber and cherry tomato side salad probably took second place. This was one of the least free from recipes given inclusion of egg and cheese.
Bean Pasta with Broccoli Sauce is the dish that has persuaded me to make up batches of Broccoli Sauce. This sauce did include Anchovies and I am keen to try it out with Miso for a Vegan alternative.
Thanks to a Rice & Courgette Torta I *discovered* the gentle but oh so distinct flavour notes of saffron, a key ingredient. I also learned that saffron is, literally, more valuable than gold!
Is Freefrom all’Italiana a recipe book for you?
Do you seek simple to follow, elegantly written instructions? If so Freefrom all’Italiana will satisfy. I was never once in doubt about what to do or how. Because of this I would certainly recommend the book for beginner cooks of all kinds, but who else? My thinking is that this would be ideally suited for several folks, including.
- Italian food lovers who are gluten or dairy free or both and who want to discover new or rediscover favourites
- Italian food lovers who are NOT gluten or dairy free! Every dish I served to my non free-from friends was highly rated and did not rely upon being free from to impress
- More confident cooks who want to prepare delicious dishes for gluten and dairy free guests or family and if this describes you, thank you for the effort!
- Gluten and dairy free people wishing to expand beyond their staples and discover new flavours and textures
My one minor mock “complaint” is that when I skipped past all the wholesome whole food veggie rich meals to get to the desserts I found . . . . no deserts! Yes, this book covers *only* wholesome main course type dishes. I know that the authors Michelle and Anna would like to continue the series including a Desserts book. The success of Freefrom all’Italiana might well influence whether we benefit from more. I will suggest they pitch it on Indiegogo or Kickstarter and back it if they do. Teach me Tiramisu. Preach to me Panna Cotta. Devise a vivacious vegan cheesecake!
Until then, buy Freefrom all’Italiana via Amazon.