I have chosen to be a cookbook and restaurant reviewer because I have a passion for food. Am I the best cook in the world? No. Do I write with the poetry and romance of The Bard? Almost. Am I an authority on ethnic Italian food? No. So why do I think that I can have a good shot at reviewing Zilli Light? Because I have been reviewing with a friend from Italy.
It’s been reassuring to cook cookbook food with someone who has cooked that style of food professionally. Like every Italian, it seems, she sets very exacting culinary standards, and she has proclaimed this book to be one of the best outside Italy. I’m in no position to make that proclamation myself, but I will say that it’s an interesting book for any English-speaking cook outside Italy.
Aldo Zilli is a man frequently seen on British TV, where he has presented his food in a witty and accessible manner. This current book, Zilli Light, has a focus on healthy Italian-biased fare with suggestions on how adopting a different eating strategy could help you to eat less. Have five small meals each day rather than the usual three more substantial ones.
This hasn’t the feel of a “cooking for health” book. The recipes present dishes that are family-friendly so you’ll not be accused of child cruelty and the husband won’t be telling his mates that he is off for a burger ‘cos the wife’s on a diet. This is crowd-pleasing food and good for you when, to quote the ads, used in conjunction with exercise.
Lamb stuffed with Couscous and Pinenuts is the recipe my Italian friend chose for us to cook together. It isn’t traditionally Italian. Aldo found this on a Greek island. He encourages you to change the recipe to suit your own taste but his original takes some beating. It’s a simple dish to make with the most complicated element being the tying with string after stuffing. The finished result of our efforts was tender flavourful meat which was served with just a couple of fresh vegetables and additional stuffing.
A classic Italian dish and a favourite of mine is Fettuccine Vongole. This clam and pasta recipe is usually made with wine but Aldo leaves that out preferring to rely on the freshness of ingredients for flavour. A clean-tasting dish and ready in minutes. Clams are not expensive these days but they still somehow seem luxurious.
My favourite recipe from this collection is Baked Honey and Ricotta Cheesecake. Yes, OK, so it’s a treat and you wouldn’t want to eat this every day (oh, yes you would) but it’s a cheesecake with character. The addition of chopped candied fruit is a departure from the more usual New York Cheesecake and adds rather a festive note.
Zilli Light isn’t your stereotypical health-food book. There is nothing over-worthy. No self-sacrifice but no tears either. It’s about eating good food in a responsible manner. It’s about portion control and common sense. You might not eat only from this book but it’s well worth reading and the advice is good. A great book for those with gaining a healthy lifestyle as a New Year’s resolution.
Cookbook review: Zilli Light
Author: Aldo Zilli
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018