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Fiori Di Zucca: Recipes and Memories from My Family's Kitchen Table

cookbook review Fiori Di Zucca This is a family cookbook and the recipes, like the author, are truly international. Yes, Valentina Harris is Italian from a globe-trotting family, although she speaks English without a trace of an accent thanks to her English father and BBC radio. Forget the voice and notice the animated gestures and one will be in no doubt that this lady is a passionate Latina. Read my interview here.

Fiori Di Zucca: Recipes and Memories from My Family's Kitchen Table has a marvellous collection of recipes but this is equally a family history, and it’s no ordinary family. Her grandfather, Count Carlo Sforza, who became an Italian Ambassador, was posted to Turkey, China, Corfu, Italy and France. He resigned in 1922 in order to return to Italy to fight rising fascism. He and his family were eventually forced to flee his homeland. The family only returned to Italy after the end of World War 2 and that is where Valentina's mother met her soon-to-be husband. The scandal over their marriage resulted in her mother and father being banished to Tuscany, where Valentina spent most of her childhood.

Valentina Harris has penned a book that tells of horror, hardship, love, life and memories. If I have a complaint, it is that the story finishes too soon. This must surely be the first of several volumes. OK, so it’s not the literary equivalent of The Perils of Pauline where each instalment left our heroine dangling over Niagara Falls. As we know, Valentina became a success and remains so but any lover of a great tale will want the next instalment of Valentina's autobiography.

But this is a cookbook as well as a saga, and it would still be a worthwhile buy if it had remained ungarnished by worldwide adventure. The recipes are eclectic and simple to prepare. Fried courgette flowers give the book its title ‘Fiori Di Zucca’ and deserves a place in this volume not only because they are delicious and moreish but because Valentina was taught to make them by Beppino who worked for Valentina's family and loved her since they first met when she was just a few days old.

Torta di Riso is a sweet rice cake. It uses economic ingredients but the result is more than the sum of its rather ordinary parts. It’s culinary alchemy. This Torta is sweet and made comforting and addictive by the liberal use of brandy. It’s a winner and you will already likely have all the ingredients in your larder.

Baked rice-stuffed tomatoes are delicious hot although I prefer to serve them at room temperature and preferably while sitting in the garden on a hot summer evening. Even if the weather doesn’t cooperate we can still enjoy these hot as a starter or part of a main meal. Use large ripe tomatoes and serve them directly from the tightly-packed roasting dish.

Fiori Di Zucca: Recipes and Memories from My Family's Kitchen Table is a remarkable book. It’s a heart-warming, sad, humorous and charming story of courageous and very human characters. It’s a delightful cookbook covering several continents. It’s a book written with Valentina Harris’ usual flair and enthusiasm. It’s a book with which to snuggle. It’s a book with which to cook.

Fiori Di Zucca: Recipes and Memories from My Family's Kitchen Table
Author: Valentina Harris
Published by: Duncan Baird
Price: £19.54
ISBN-10: 1848990855
ISBN-13: 978-1848990852


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