One might be
puzzled why an Australian, by way of New Zealand, named Barry
McDonald could be qualified to write a cookbook on how to eat
Italian. The answer to that query is simple: McDonald
identifies as Italian and is proud of his faux Italian heritage. He
loves the food, the wine, thinks "coffee is oxygen, the tomato is a
gift from heaven and wine makes life bearable … family is
everything" which is a very Italian way of approaching life. It's
like the old saying, "There are two types of people in the world,
the Italians, and the people who want to be Italians."
McDonald, with his brother Jamie, started as a produce
wholesaler at the massive market at Sydney's Flemington providing
their products to the best chefs in the city. Spending time
visiting the great Italian delis at that market place is where he
learned to appreciate the Italian culture. Later when they expanded
their business they named it Fratelli Fresh (Fresh Brothers).
Shortly after that expansion, a café was opened, Café Sopra. Café
Sopra set everything in motion and now there are three Fratelli
Fresh stores, five Café Sopras and a Café Nice. The Fratelli way is
simple food with high quality ingredients and this philosophy is
reflected clearly in his cookbook, Alla Fratelli.
Alla Fratelli has the feel of a homey, yet definitely cool,
Italian cookbook. Chock full of photographs of the food and people
behind Fratelli Fresh, the book grabs your attention. McDonald's
chef, Terry Durack, helped him to pull together the recipes for
this title and as all good Italians do, they start with Aperitivi
followed naturally by Antipasti. Arancini with Taleggio, Caponata
with Pine Nuts, and Zucchini Flowers with Five Italian Cheese whet
our appetites. In natural progression, Zuppa follows - Roast
Tomato, Fennel and Chickpea Soup and Parsnip Soup with Gorgonzola
are a few examples. Grilled King Prawns with Roast Tomato &
Basil Butter (I'm so using that basil butter) and Salted Cod with
Mussels are covered in Il Primo. The remaining chapters include:
the Pasta chapter which includes a recipe for fresh pasta (and many
delicious pasta dishes), Risotto, Il Secondo, Contorni (sides),
Pizza, Formaggi, Insalata E Verdura, Dolce e Gelati, Conserve Del
Padre (jams) and ending with a chapter on Basics.
There are so many
recipes I plan on making that will impress my family but I narrowed
it down to the Tiramisu and Lasagna Al Forno for this review.
I've made Bolognese and Béchamel before so I understood the time
commitment. The result was worth the effort. My main experience
with Lasagna Al Forno was that it took 16 hours to make according
to Sophia on an episode of The Golden Girls. Have no fear,
McDonald's version takes about two to three hours total and was
delicious. The author's instructions are clear and easy to follow.
I did have to search for instructions for tomato passata which was
easy to substitute with tomato puree as tomatoes from my garden
here in Colorado are still green.
The Tiramisu was made for a dessert when we had
friends over and it was a show stealer. I loved the addition of rum
- I have made tiramisu a few times and was the first time I have
seen rum added to the mix - it was scrumptious and disappeared.
Very soon I am going to make the Cassata with Candied Orange for
a special occasion because that photograph is etched forever in my
memory. I truly wish there were enough meals and time to make the
recipes from all the books I have grown to love. I've come to love
testing recipes for these reviews and do find myself cooking and
baking more from new cookbooks instead of resorting to old
Alla Fratelli has recipes for classics with a touch of the
Fratelli way sprinkled in with unique and interesting recipes that
will intrigue even the advanced Italian cook. It's a keeper.
Photos for test recipes by Jenny
Hartin. Jenny is an enthusiastic home cook who lives in Colorado,
owns the website The Cookbook Junkies and runs the Facebook
group also called The Cookbook Junkies. The Facebook group
is a closed group of 30,000 cookbook fans - new members are
TIRAMISU SERVES 6
It's a classic for a reason. Coffee, booze and mascarpone
combine to make one of Italy's most famous desserts.
100 g (31/2 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
150 ml (5 fl oz) freshly made espresso coffee
11/2 tbsp dark rum
240 ml (8 fl oz) sweet Marsala
3 eggs, separated
750 g (1 lb 10 oz) mascarpone
150 g (51/2 oz) savoiardi biscuits or sliced, stale
20 g (3/4 oz) dark (70%) chocolate, finely grated
To make the coffee soaking mixture, stir 30 g (1 oz) of the
sugar into the hot espresso until dissolved, then stir in the rum
and 185 ml (6 fl oz) of the Marsala. Set aside to cool.
Use electric beaters to whisk together the egg yolks and the
remaining sugar. Add the remaining Marsala, then whisk in the
mascarpone until smooth, taking care not to over-beat it. Use
electric beaters to whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then
gently fold into the mascarpone mixture.
To assemble, spread a quarter of the mascarpone mixture over the
base of an 11 cm x 23 cm (41⁄4 in x 9 in), 9 cm/31⁄2 in deep
plastic, glass or stainless-steel dish or container. Dip the
savoiardi biscuits one at a time into the coffee mixture, allowing
them to soak up some liquid, then layer six of them over the cream.
Repeat this layering twice more with the mascarpone mixture and
soaked biscuits, then finish with the remaining quarter of
mascarpone mixture over the top. Refrigerate for 4 hours or
Scatter the chocolate over the top and serve.
Alla Fratelli by Terry Durack and Barry McDonald
(Murdoch Books). Photography by Rob Palmer.