Jamie (Italian Issue, June 2016)

Okay, so what’s inside the June Jamie?

First up – I’m biased because I love this book – it’s great to see a recipe feature on the outstanding Florentine, by Emiko Davies (‘Alla Fiorentina’).

If you haven’t bought Florentine yet, there’s an excellent selection here from its recipes (including my favourite so far, the Braciole Rifatte), and some of the evocative black & white street photography that characterises this wonderful book. Florentine is so good that I’m almost considering buying another copy – one for the kitchen, and one to keep pristine and perfectly orange. It’s typical of Jamie magazine to feature a book like this – top stuff.

I also really like Paul Dring’s article ‘Under the Volcano’ about Catania in Sicily. The food & travel sections are usually the first things I read in Jamie, and this one is particularly good. I love the fullness of Dring’s writing, and the vivid sense of life and bustle he describes at the fish market, as well as his almost viscous celebration of its glistening produce:

“There were youths passing between stalls with armfuls of parsley. There were spatola, or scabbard fish, coiled into hoops like shiny silver belts; sepia (cuttlefish) submerged in inky pools with only their bulbous eyes breaking the surface …”

I love, too, the photography that accompanies the article, by Matt Munro, not just for the tour de force two-page vista of Catania that opens the piece, but in particular, the utterly brilliant picture of fishmongers Carmelo and Gaetano Morano and their big tuna. Wider than the two men side-by-side, with their flat caps and blue aprons, the great silver fish’s wide eye seems almost alive, caught in a kind of frozen anxiety. It really is a special portrait – it captures the glee of produce, cooking & eating, as well as the rawness and truth of it all, beneath the gorgeous, flashing skin.

As always, I like the wine feature. Jamie is usually a good source of tips for wine if you’re on a budget, or your nearest wine shop is so far away you’re almost permanently lost in the supermarket. There’s a great-sounding £20+ Barolo at Sainsbury’s for which you’d need to hide the receipt & not eat for a day, but also far more affordable bottles. I hope the recommendation for the 2013 Notte Rossa Primitivo di Manduria from M&S doesn’t result in a run on the stuff, because next time I’m up in the city, I’m getting this “sun-kissed, full throated” vino for sure.

There’s also a really enjoyable feature on gelato – it’s been so warm in Scotland lately you can almost start thinking ice treats again – particularly because there’s a good write up on Crolla’s in Glasgow. “Flavours such as Scottish tablet and Irn-Bru might not be a hit with traditionalists, but don’t let them put you off – it’s delectable.”

I like too Heather Taylor’s piece on Tuscan saffron, and the superb ‘All-Occasion Classics’ by Jodene Jones, which is a really exciting collection of pasta dishes, photographed beautifully.  In ‘Perfect Pesce’ Andy Harrison furthers the Sicilian input with a group of completely delicious looking fish dishes – especially the Sweet & Sour Tuna which makes a pretty compelling argument for the cooker it really has to be said. It’s pretty high order stuff. Maybe with one or two of those earlier wine selections …

Elsewhere, the man himself does courgettes, and Gennaro Contaldo shares recipes from the Jamie’s Italian menu. In ‘Ground Finale’ by Georgina Hayden there’s a pretty incredible toybox of coffee-laced desserts. Most of these I’d probably struggle to get right, but if you’re a good hand with the sweet stuff and the old baking there is an astonishingly super-looking Tiramisu Celebration Cake. The recipe says that it serves 16 but, really, no one would be mad enough to make this fantastic thing and then share it with so many people!

Last word though to the article about Catania, which is writing that just sits around with you, and is this month’s highlight. This time, in the produce market …

” … where buckets of wild fennel and trays of wild strawberries bathed the breeze with their evocative bouquets … There were peppers, contorted into writhing misshapes … wooden boards were propped up on milk crates and bore heaps of tarocco, Sicily’s famous blood oranges …”

La dolce vita in cucina, indeed.