Recipes fit for His Excellency – 4 Grosvenor Square – A Cookbook by Danilo Cortellini:
English people of a certain age often smile when being offered a Ferrero Rocher sweet and will often quote a line from a cheesy 1993 television advert, “You’re spoiling us Mr Ambassador”. Rather tongue in cheek, we were actually served these at the Italian Embassy on a recent visit. Sadly we didn’t get to enjoy the food of the very talented Danilo Cortellini, a finalist on the 2015 Masterchef: The Professionals. I remember that the judges thought that he would be some kind of banquet cook, but were blown away by the finesse of the food he produced. Having missed his food it was the next best thing to being sent his cookbook, 4 Grosvenor Square: The menu of the Italian Embassy in London.
It speaks volumes to say that Danilo is working for his 2nd Ambassador, each one normally selects his or her own staff, starting with the chef, so it’s unusual to be retained. Having worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy and London, Danilo produces beautiful food for any occasions. What I love about this cookbook is that it is divided by the type of occasion rather than by starters, mains and desserts. So the chapters are:
- Business lunches and dinners
- Sunday family lunches
- Receptions and cocktail parties
- Buffet lunches and dinners
- Gala dinners
- Breads, sauces, condiments
The titles alone give a good indication of the level of complexity that is going to be required. In the lead up to Christmas, I’m looking forward to getting inspiration from the receptions and cocktail parties chapter, with the Sicilian red prawn with chilli and burrata mousse bookmarked to try. However, I’m running around like crazy and just needed a simple lunch, so opted to make a soup from the Sunday family lunch section. This was described as follows:
“A very filling dish, typical of Italian countryside cuisine… If you ask me the best shape of pasta for this dish it has to be the maltagliati which literally translates as “wrongly cut”, little rough squares of pasta usually made from tagliatelle or lasagna trimmings. We don’t waste anything in our kitchen.”
Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t make pasta regularly enough to have trimmings to use, so I broke up some dried lasagna ( about 4 sheets) instead. Danilo’s recipe cooks dried beans, I cheated again and used tinned ones. Apologies Danilo – it still tasted lovely and was indeed a hearty meal in its own right.
I know that this is a book that I’m going to go back to time and time again as it will make entertaining so well organised, and delicious.
- 400 g Borlotti beans I used tinned, if you use dried you will need to simmer for 90 mins with a bouquet garni
- 1 clove Garlic chopped
- 125 g Onion chopped
- 125 g Celery chopped
- 150 g Potatoes peeled and chopped
- 100 g Tomato concentrate
- 200 g Carrots Chopped
- 4 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
- 450 g Pasta Fresh - use less if dried
- 1 Small Rosemary bunch
- 1 Red chilli optional
- 1 l Chicken stock You can use vegetable instead for a vegetarian dish
- Heat the olive oil in large pot, sweat the onions, garlic, carrots, celery, potatoes and carrots until they have softened a little
- Add the stock, chilli, and the tomato concentrate. Simmer until the vegetables are soft. Blend until it's smooth.
- Add the drained borlotti beans and pasta. Season to taste.
- Serve with a drizzle of the oil and some of the chopped rosemary. Add grated parmesan if desired.