Limoncello And Linen Water

Review: Limoncello And Linen Water

Tessa Kiros

(Murdoch Books)

There’s little doubt that Tessa Kiros’s growing collection of cookbooks would sell well here even without her South African connection. Daughter of a Finnish mother and a Greek-Cypriot father, her family moved to South Africa when she was four, and then she left to explore the world, its cultures and cuisines, when she was 18. She is a prolific writer, and one who captures the spirit and soul of the places she focuses on, offering readers far more than just a collection of recipes.

Her new title celebrates Italian heritage, a natural choice now that she lives in Tuscany with husband Giovanni and their two daughters.

It is also a tribute to women and matriarchs – in Tessa’s case her mother-in-law in particular – and their contributions, both culinary and cultural. The book is sub-titled A Trousseau of Italian Recipes, and Kiros clearly admires her mother-in-law’s energy, is inspired by her earthy wisdom, enjoys her stock of stories and ways of growing and using herbs, flowers, hand-made linen and making the most of every season.

The collection opens with recipes for lavender or linen water and jasmine garlands (one of the ingredients is patience!) for the linen cupboard, then moves to the pantry where items like trendy limoncello, basil liqueur, herbed oils and vinegars and perfumed salts are stored. There are also recipes for more conventional preserves such marmalade, quince jelly, stuffed chillis and plum and cognac mostarda.

Photographs of focaccia with strawberries, Emily’s brown bread, pizza Martherita and buns spiked with rosemary and seedless raisins are enough to make bakers head for the kitchen, while others will identify with the substantial snacks that make up the antipasti chapter: grilled cuttlefish and zucchini, omelette with blossoms, crostini with anchovy, tomato and mascarpone and herbed bruschetta with tomato and mozzarella.

Pastas comprise appetising spaghetti, ravioli and risottos, and the chicken dishes that follow are as appealing. Lamb, beef and pork are given the Italian treatment with recipes from both southern and northern provinces. Seafood includes unusual combinations like chickpeas with prawns, while one uncommon recipe, Fish in a Bottle, involves placing white fish fillets in a preserving jar with herbs, seasoning and olive oil, which is sealed and simmered in a water bath.

Sweet temptations take the form of biscuits, cakes and fruit-filled tarts, plus a recipe for peaches poached in lemon verbena syrup served with vanilla-flavoured mascarpone cream – perfect summer fare.

Galleries of old family photographs divide the chapters, along with still-life scenes of beautiful antique crockery, scent bottles, kitchenware, rustic table settings and flowers – roses, lavender, fresh, dried, or embroidered on linen. As nostalgic as granny’s photo album, but with updated recipes, this is a hardback sure to be well used and enjoyed. - Weekend Argus