Italian Food. Elizabeth David.

This is an absolute gem.IMG_5771

I spotted it on my first visit to Charlie Byrne’s bookshop and couldn’t resist going back to buy it on the last day. I am so glad that I did. This copy dates from 1973 but the bulk of the text was written in 1953. Evelyn Waugh, writing in The Sunday Times, named this book as the one which had, in the year 1954, given him the most pleasure.

Elizabeth David spent a year travelling around Italy gathering encyclopedic knowledge and genuine recipes. She then  returned to England, where post-war rationing was still in place, and experimented (resorting even to stock cubes and turkey eggs) to translate Italian recipes to an English kitchen. The insight into the food scarcity and poverty in both Britain and Italy at that time was a real eye-opener for me.

Elizabeth David is a true teacher; simultaneously educating and entertaining. Take this line for example;

‘Stewing beef and the ewe mutton which proves such a problem in England, can be improved by a 6-8 hour bath in wine.’

I could say the same for myself.

She brooks no nonsense. When it comes to acerbic remarks, Elizabeth David puts the Dowager Countess of Grantham in the ha’penny place;

‘Except for sauces, one does not often measure oil by tablespoons. One pours it out of the bottle into the pan. One uses one’s eye and one’s loaf.’

My favourite recipe in the book, possibly my favourite recipe of all time, is this one;IMG_5930

Into your glass of wine after luncheon slice a peeled yellow peach. Leave it a minute or two. Eat the peach and then drink the wine.’


My least favourite,  least likely to ever cook unless I am actually starving, is this one;IMG_5931

‘(Stewed Snails)
……. The cloth must be changed at frequent intervals, or it will be smelly beyond endurance.’


I made her Mozzarella in Carrozza for lunch.IMG_5929

‘Remove the crusts from thin slices of sandwich bread…Put the slices of mozzarella cheese between the slices of bread. Beat 2 eggs in a large plate, with a little salt. Put the sandwiches to soak in the egg and leave then for about 30 minutes, turning over once, so that both sides are saturated with egg. Press the sides of the sandwiches firmly together so that the cheese is well enclosed. Fry them quickly in hot oil, and drain them on a piece of kitchen paper. Serve at once.’

IMG_5932IMG_5933IMG_5934I’ve never met a cheese toastie that I didn’t like but these were exceptionally delectable.IMG_5935

Soft, salty, stretchy morsels of goodness. Oh, soooo good.

I was inspired to make pilgrimage to our local Italian shop.IMG_5945IMG_5944IMG_5942

Is that not the best looking bag of flour you ever saw?

There is a wonderful section at the end of the book where Elizabeth David describes with enthusiasm her many vineyard visits and wine-tastings. She discreetly admits to a degree of over-indulgence;

‘For mornings after I have Italian friends who swear by a grisly mixture of Fernet Branca and Creme de Menthe; the appearance of the drink is that of a stagnant pond, and it’s effect depends upon the individual reaction to shock treatment.’

Useful, honest, funny; cookery books just don’t come any better than this.

5 thoughts on “Italian Food. Elizabeth David.

    1. There is! Eggplant is called aubergine on this side of the pond. She calls this aubergine pie or, Melanzane Parmigiana:
      2lb of aubergines, 1/2 lb mozzarella, 2oz.,parmesan, 1/4 pint freshly made tomato sauce, olive oil, flour, salt, pepper, flour.
      Peel the aubergines and cut them into long thin slices. Salt them and put them into a colander to drain for an hour or two. Dust them with flour, fry them gently in olive oil, and drain them in kitchen paper.
      Put a little oil in the bottom of a china souffle dish or a deep cake tin. Put in a layer of aubergines, cover it with thin slices of mozzarella and then the tomato sauce. Continue in this way until the aubergines are all used up. Cover with grated Parmesan and sprinkle oil over the top. Cook in a moderate oven for 20-30 minutes.

      I love how housewives in 1953 were more likely to own a china souffle dish than a lasagne dish! This is not too different from the recipe I have always used although I lightly brush the aubergine with oil and char-grill them. I like the flavour and it’s a bit skinnier.


      1. thanks I love eggplant casseroles….its about the same way I do it too, with the exception I also grill mine, no oil…and I don’t uses mozzarella, I have used Monterey jack or some other creamy white cheese…sometimes I layer mine with other vegies I have grilled, squashes mainly…I do use my good china only because I have seen all the elders in my family die with them sitting in china cabinets and then the kids pack them up and give them to good will….but I don’t have a china casserole…LOL thanks again…what a great book find….

        Liked by 1 person

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