First published in 1950 with recipes taken from the length and breadth of Italy, The Silver Spoon has become the de facto bible of Italian cooking. Since the first English language publication by Phaidon in 2005, it has spawned a series of related books published under the authorship of The Silver Spoon Kitchen. The latest of addition to The Silver Spoon stable is Recipes from an Italian Butcher, and it’s not just a book of 150 (mostly meat) recipes.
The Italian approach to meat, and food in general, permeates the book making it more than just a bog standard book of recipes. Italian cooking is all about hearty dishes for the family made with the best possible ingredients that can be afforded; a result of its peasant roots. The issue of meat quality is there through the book, woven into the sage advice and information it imparts in the introduction and at the start of each section of the book.
The cause of eating higher quality meat and doing so less often is one that we should all get behind, it’s healthier for us, better for the environment and better for the livestock, which in turn produces better tasting meat. Thinking about meat in this way is fundamental in Italy. Meat was expensive and so eaten less often. When it was it was of good quality to make it worth the expense. It would also often be more than was needed for the single meal, thus providing left overs for other meals. This is reflected in the style and cooking methods of the books recipes.
Each section is dedicated to the recipes of a particular meat group, not only is there the usual pork, beef and lamb, but there’s a game section that includes rabbit, hare and wild boar, veal pleasingly gets its own section, and poultry includes the likes of guinea fowl. Each of these sections opens with a piece on the meat in question, it’s use in Italian cooking, how its reared and what to look for when buying, UK and US equivalents and how best to cook certain cuts; the book focuses mainly on roasting, stewing and braising. The diagrams at the start of each section showing the Italian, American and British cuts and their uses, are particularly interesting, especially if you have travelled and wondered what certain cuts that you haven’t come across before are. It all nicely carries on the idea of this being a guide by a butcher.
Clearly not a book for vegetarians, recipes include classics like, Veal Stew, Rabbit with Speck and Lard, Roman Spring Lamb and Milanese osso bucco. They are easy to follow for the home cook and often very simple, relying, as Italian cuisine often does, on the ingredients rather than processes.
The concise glossary and kitchen utensils sections are clear, informative and instructive making the book accessible to all levels of cooks, and a perfect first cookbook for many a son or daughter off to fend and cook for themselves for the first time. The inclusion of a well-developed ‘Sides’ section (Italian’s tend to serve accompanying vegetables as side dishes or even after the meat) is a great addition, again helping to make the book more than your ordinary meat cookbook. It also ensure those using the book to feed friends or family can do so without worry as to what to serve it with.
More than just meat, Recipes from an Italian Butcher is one of those cookbooks that do more than what it says on the label. Succinct, clear, helpful, it’s packed with great recipes. If you were allowed to have just one cookbook on meat, Recipes from an Italian Butcher would be in the running to be that one.
Recipes from an Italian Butcher
From The Silver Spoon Kitchen
Published by Phaidon Press