BOOK REVIEW: Seven dishes from Two Greedy Italians by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo

Have you all been watching Two Greedy Italians on the BBC? Brilliant isn't it? Not just relying on the whimsical, lemon grove, rose-tinted view of Italian food culture, TGI also represents modern Italy. Although to be honest where I'm from in the country, it is still very food and family centric and women that can't cook are still frowned upon! But great to see Antonio and Gennaro celebrate and enjoy not only the food, but the real meaning of it within the culture there today. I particularly liked the residential drug rehabilitation centre set up to put youngsters back on track by teaching them skills such as cheese and wine making - trust the Italians to treat addictions with food creation! But it seems to be a really beneficial focus for these young people and you can see their genuine passion for their new found vocations.

Anyway, I was lucky to be sent the book ahead of the series to try out and I can honestly say it is as good as the televised series. There are plenty of fantastic, simple and humble recipes that have been loved by generations past and still made to this day. The vegetable in particular is celebrated with lots of simple contorni, or side dishes, that are stars in themselves. I adored the beans with fried breadcrumbs and pine nuts, that my dad tells me was the pasta topping for poor Italian families that couldn't afford Parmesan cheese! Delicious - Jamie Oliver does a fab cauliflower risotto that uses these fried breadcrumbs with chilli as a topping.

Recipes are interrupted by interesting cultural pieces on Italian regionalism, the north-south divide, cucina povera, religion, immigration and street food which help get an understanding of the origins of the Italian people and foods.

It was easy to cook plenty of dishes from this book as, being a greedy Italian myself, most of the ingredients were in my store cupboard anyway. So far I have tried seven dishes with plenty more bookmarked for the coming weeks like the braised greens and polenta cake, garlic soup and caramelised orange cake. The below were the tried and tested recipes, all of which were a success and ones I will be making again.

This is a must try, Fagiolini e Compagni " green beans and co", a divine topping of fried breadcrumbs and toasted pine nuts which really made the beans shine:

This rustic dish of chicken livers, porcini mushrooms and homemade Tajarin pasta was divine, with a good kick of Marsala:

Making the most of the British asparagus in this raw asparagus and Parmesan salad:

The sea bream with everything from the Med - lemons, olives, garlic, capers, anchovy, wine, tomatoes and herbs - made for a quick, light and tasty mid-week meal:

I shoved this chicken with artichokes, onions, potatoes and rosemary in the oven to feed a crowd of mates which went down a storm:

Carluccio seems to love the use of breadcrumbs and this was an ideal, healthy and quick version of breaded chicken. Stale bread was whizzed up with olives, sun-dried tomatoes and herbs and placed on top of some white fish. Delicious:

Finally this quick dish of broad beans with a walnut, garlic, chilli pesto was created as we waited for the pasta to boil:

Carluccio and Contaldo are from different regions and so recipes are represented from both, showing how diverse the food is in a place that has only existed as a united country for 150 years.

There are some of my Italian favourites as well as some new regional discoveries in these book that truly represents Italian cooking and is essential for anyone remotely interested in the cuisine or want to know a little more about the culture of this cuisine.

Essential for the cookbook shelf.

Two Greedy Italians by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo is published by Quadrille and costs £20.00.

Many thanks to Quadrille for this copy to review.

SHOPPING: Pot + Pantry vintage cookware

I came across this wonderful site selling "new, gently used and vintage" kitchenware that I just had to share with you all. Pot + Pantry sell some seriously beautiful and unique things. Unfortunately they are in San Fransisco but one can still screen drool especially at the set of Dansk range of cookware, a brand that I had not come across before.

EVENT: Residence pop up restaurant, Brighton

Work life balance is the key but I have been working like a petit chien of late. I've only just sat down and it's midnight for goodness sake. One thing I must do before I keel over is tell you about the dinner I had at Residence pop up restaurant, part of the Brighton Fringe festival (and probably the only thing I'll have time to attend this year in it).

This is the second year Residence has run and again will have a different artist in residence each sitting to potentially sketch you while you dine. Last year one poor table of diners were depicted naked from the waist down! This year there is an additional 70s theme, so the food harks back to an era of platforms, glam rock, VHS, Newsround, brown and loads of stuff I don't understand because I wasn't born yet. The food is cooked and served by students of City College Brighton (under some very good head chefs) and it never fails to amaze me how good it is - and for such a good price! You really MUST go along if you can get a table, hence why I'm powering on through to get this down - the way things are going I'd have posted this in September and you only have until the end of May to get down there, useful!

Here are some highlights from our meal there - I took 7 friends down with me (and I had been the Friday night before too) so we tried pretty much everything.

Lucky we went on Wednesday because you can get an extra special Wine Flight chosen by Henry Butler who kindly explained all the wines to us whilst wearing a very pink and very frilly shirt. The 70s hook was that all the wines had been chosen as they were popular regions or grape varieties in that era. We had a Mas Marcia Cava aperitif, then a Château de Fontaine-Audon Sancerre with the starter (my favourite) and a bottle of Les Graves de Mahon-Laville with the mains which was a little contentious. Wasn't my cup of tea but the fellas on the table absolutely loved it.

We almost had a full table of Scotch Egg starters - and to be fair they were excellent, wonderfully seasoned sausage meat and a lovely homemade tomato chutney that had a cheeky chilli kick.

The table carved Springs Smoked Salmon was also a winner - I had this on my previous visit.

Also getting a thumbs up was the asparagus and flaked smoked haddock soup. Nice bowl!

Seeing as I had had my very first Chicken Kiev experience on my last visit and LOVED it (I must have lived a very sad sheltered kiev-less life) it was tempting not to order again but it had to be the Duck a L'orange. Fruit and meat is a bit of a dirty combo for me normally but I have to say I enjoyed this very much. The orange, although sweet, cut through the fat of the confit nicely.

Most impressive main was the Cote de boeuf, again table carved (what was it with the 1970s and table carving?). Big juicy hunks of meat, fat chips, mushrooms and tomatoes. Hell yeah.

Popular desserts were the Crepes Suzette Flambé, mainly to see the near-children servers almost set alight to themselves or the ceiling tiles! A good dozen people ordered this throughout the night and it got a bit of a woop every time - I love Brighton.

Also good was the Baked Alaska, Crème Caramel and Profiteroles.

This is a really fun night, lots of laughter and merriment coming from all the tables so catch it if you can.

Dinner excluding supplements (£2 for the beef, £1 for the crepes etc) was a teeny tiny £16.50 or £12.50 for lunch. Wine Fights are available on Wednesdays and includes a glass of each wine for £12.00. Dangerous but delicious 70s cocktails are also available.

Tables are getting booked up this year as word is spreading so do call ahead. Visit or call 07825 508 083

Residence Pop-up Restaurant
Whitecross Street
Brighton BN1 4FA
07825 508 083

Open Tuesday to Saturday

REVIEW: The Earth and Stars, Brighton (Sunday Roast)

The Earth and Stars is a very cosy, easy going and eco-friendly pub, with a huge selection of organic beers and spirits. Trés Brighton.

On a Sunday however it is packed to the rafters for their roast lunch which, with plenty of other venue choices nearby, is a very good sign. There is a strict 12.30pm start to the ordering and had we not arrived early at noon on the off chance of a table we wouldn't have gotten a look in. It seems that reserving is essential here as space is limited. There are various sittings for lunch so you could be asked to move table, which is a little pet hate of mine being Italian and having the built-in need to linger after eating, but understandable as space at this pub is limited.

There is the general choice of roasts; chicken, beef, a slow roast lamb... but the real plus is that vegetarians are very well catered for here and even carnivores are graced with a tower of vegetables that have been cooked with love and attention. Leeks with cheese, a cajun spiced squash, peppery roast potatoes, crunchy red cabbage, peas, green cabbage and they are not tight on the gravy either. The Yorkshire pudding (sadly not homemade I suspect) was filled with parsnip crisps. The free range chicken supreme that I chose was succulent and tender, and the purple micro-leaves were a nice little touch, even if their presence was just for show.

For the rest of the week the menu features eclectic Brighton pub favourites like burgers (veggie options), fish cakes, mezze platters, panini, pizzas and happy to see that the bangers for the bangers and mash are from The Brighton Sausage Company.

This is a cracking, chunky tabled "Brighton" pub and with a lick of paint to the "rustic" loos and the barmaid given a spoon of happy medicine, the place would be darn near perfect.

The Earth and Stars
46 Windsor Street
01273 722879

SHOPPING: Tomato blanket

Very gorgeous little tomato blanket from Hong Kong based Little Factory, a snip at $25. Shipping to the UK would cost an extra $15.

EVENT: Residence Pop-up, 7th - 28th May 2011, Brighton

Can you believe it's May already? We have just finished the Spring Harvest Food Festival in Brighton and we are now, with the sea breeze blowing and the sun shining, starting the Fringe and Official Brghton Festival. There is so much to see and do but one of my top food picks from last year's Fringe was the fantastic Residence Pop-up restaurant. I'm happy to say they are back this year with a twist - with food and setting inspired by the 70s. As with last year, an artist, designer or illustrator will be in residence whilst you dine (possibly featuring you in their work!) and you will have the opportunity to see all the works displayed on the walls and even bid in an auction finale, with proceeds going to charity.

The 3 course lunch is a mere £12.50 and dinner £16.50, and on Wednesdays Mr Henry Butler of Butlers Wine Cellar will be offering an additional "wine flight", matching 4 wines to your meal. Henry has also selected the wine list from grapes and regions popular in the 1970s. If wine isn't your thing, then food can be washed down with cocktails inspired by classic 70s films - Dirty Harry anyone? As per last year, students from the catering and hospitality course at City College Brighton will work alongside professional chefs and front-of-house staff which will be a great training experience for them.

If you love a Vol-au-vent, Confit Duck a l’Orange or Prawn Cocktail and a different dining experience, they I highly recommend it. If the quality of the food last year is anything to go by, then this is a must.

To book a table visit or call 07825 508 083

Residence Pop-up Restaurant
Whitecross Street
Brighton BN1 4FA
07825 508 083

Open Tuesday to Saturday

Main image via Flickr/willy-photographer.

REVIEW: Côte, Brighton

The building which houses Côte in Brighton used to be the city's music library and whilst that was relocated to the new super-dooper eco book house, this old lady remained empty. When I saw it was going to become a restaurant (a chain!) I was bordering on being a bit Daily Mail about it but after a few visits (more to convince myself that each visit wasn't a fluke), I am more than happy that Côte found their home here.

I walk past every day and even after a year or so, this place still is packed most evenings. I needed a bustling place that would accommodate our equally bustling friends for Mr. Graphic Foodies birthday, and Côte hit the spot. In fact I would go so far to say it has one of the best restaurant atmospheres in the city, with lofty ceilings, gold leaf, ornate cornicing, on-brand tiling and deco fixture feel. It's special yet relaxed, perfect for solo dining, couples and groups and I really do like it a lot.

Embarrassingly, I have only just discovered I like scallops (thanks for the scallop linguine last week Dad - it turned me!). These pillow soft examples were served classically with pea and mint puree, pea shoots and smoky lardons. Where have you been all my life? Fresh, light and sweet.

I normally order the steak here (one I ate earlier below) but I wanted to try something else. The classic French bolshie dishes on the menu all called to me; the Duck Confit, Beef Bourguignon, Prawn Gratinée... but I eventually went for the Breton chicken (a corn fed chicken from Brittany to you and me) with frites and a wild mushroom sauce. I eyed up the groaning steaks on the table and the beautiful sea bass dish one of the girls ordered which looked as good as any fish dish I have seen, but I was really pleased with my choice. Had it been just me and the husband I would have gnawed the bones clean. The woody wild mushroom sauce was perfect for dunking in the succulent flesh and the odd frite. It's simplicity but done splendidly.

With such happiness round the table, I could see that people were satisfied yet impressed enough to throw caution to the wind and dive in with more wine and dessert. Thinking a crepe with Grand Marnier, orange segments and ice cream may be the "waffer thin" option on the menu I pipped for that. I always seem to end up with this dessert but then I am a crepe lover. Oranges, booze, ice cream... what's not to like? A perfect full stop to the meal. The various Chocolate Fondants, Tarte aux Pommes and Creme Caramels all went down a treat with the table.

The touches here are great. I like the ceramic filtered water bottles put (without asking) on the table and service is incredibly efficient, smart and friendly. We were given a round of drinks on the house before the bill arrived (one of our friends cynically said it was because we'd spent too much!) but at £300 for 6 people including 3 bottles of wine, some beers, 4 or so liqueurs, 3 courses each, side orders and coffees, I think you could spend far more for far less in this city.

Having eaten here quickly after work on a Monday, Friday night casual dinner or here on a packed Saturday, standards fail to slip. It's easy to be snobby about chain restaurants however big or small, but Côte is a real gem of one. From talking to friends I do think we have a particularly good and well designed branch here in Brighton, but regardless, I think it is a real dining asset to us.
115-116 Church Street,
01273 687 541