Leaves from our Tuscan Kitchen by Janet Ross – review

This is already a classic and a much-sought-after volume by them in the know. It is indeed utterly charming, not only visually but in content. It is a cookbook but also a family history.

Leaves from our Tuscan Kitchen Janet Ross This collection of recipes was first published in 1899 but they couldn’t be further removed from Mrs. Beeton. Janet Ross (1842-1927) collected the recipes of Giuseppe Volpi who was her cook for over 30 years. Michael Waterfield, Janet’s great-great nephew adapted her original, but now more than thirty years later he has revised and updated that edition.

Leaves from our Tuscan Kitchen was the forerunner of modern recipe books. It was the first to present vegetables as serious food rather than just as the frilly bits around the meat. Janet Ross also considers vegetables that were not common in British greengrocers at the turn of the century, and so Leaves from a Tuscan Kitchen can truly be said to be a book before its time.

It isn’t a big volume stuffed with gorgeous pictures but it has a gloriously simple, clear layout, easy to follow recipes and it’s a book to read and enjoy. The list of ingredients and method are incorporated into a journey through the recipe, in a way that is both descriptive and clear.

If you buy seasonal vegetables then you will appreciate Janet Ross’ enthusiasm for fresh produce. Each vegetable has its own chapter, with additional chapters devoted to mixed vegetables, mixed salads, rice, pasta and soups as well as white truffles, which might not be on your regular shopping list for the local Tescburyrose supermarket.

The recipes seem so fresh and modern that it’s hard to believe that they are more than a century old. We have access to lovely vegetables and a greater variety than our great-grandmothers would have dreamt of. Fried Fennel with Tomatoes and Garlic with a Crisp Topping is one of my favourites from this book but there are so many that are simple, quick and surprising. Giuseppe Volpi had colourful and healthy produce to hand and he evidently made good use of it.

Rose Gray of the River Cafe said of this book, “When I moved to Tuscany in the early eighties and started to cook with vegetables from my garden, wild leaves and locally grown produce, Leaves from Our Tuscan Kitchen was my inspiration.”  Read it and you’ll find the same inspiration.

Leaves from our Tuscan Kitchen
Authors: Janet Ross and Michael Waterfield
Published by Grub Street
Price: £12.99
ISBN 1-904943-62-4


Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018