Saturday, November 08, 2008

October 27, 2008: The Vegeterranean

After offering her a little assistance with her project, I was thrilled and more than a little proud to see colleague Elise submit her thesis recently. I was even more thrilled when, the following week, she presented me a card and gift, thanking me for my help. Along with a cute little potplant, there was this vegetarian cookbook: The Vegeterranean by Malu Simões and Alberto Musacchio.

Simoes and Musacchio, a married couple, are the creators and owners of Country House Montali, a Michelin-starred vegetarian restaurant and hotel in Umbria, Italy. In this book, they tell the story of their meeting, coupling, and the development of the Country House, as well as sharing many of Malu's original recipes from the restaurant.

As you might imagine, these recipes aren't exactly the kind of thing you knock up for dinner after a day at work. Many have multiple stages and involve fiddly techniques such as piping , pasta- and pastry-making. But the reward for such efforts is evident - the thick glossy pages feature stunning full-colour photos of each dish. Here some that I'm aching to taste :
  • alua, an Indian-style breakfast of semolina, fruit and nuts;
  • crespelle fantasia, light pancakes stuffed with aubergine cream, served with a cheese sauce;
  • torri di zucchine ripiene con crema di piselli, zucchini towers stuffed with pea cream and roasted almonds;
  • ravioli sud tirolesi, a spinach and potato dough ravioli stuffed with two kinds of mushroom and topped with juniper cream and shallot sauces;
  • coxinhas encantadas, a Brazlian-style fried pastry stuffed with a creamy herbed eggplant mix;
  • cannoli di radicchio e pere, radiccio, pear and smoked cheese rolls; and
  • their most popular dessert - volcano di cioccolato, a chocolate volcano cake served with liquorice ice cream and kiwi sauce.
There's also an instructive introductory chapter on basic ingredients, techniques and foundation recipes, such as béchamel, choux pastry, stock, puff pastry and even seitan. I noticed a lot of cheese throughout the book, though the recipe for a vegan Sacher might well warrant the cover price for those eschewing animal products.

I found the background stories throughout the book overly verbose and florid, though there is one tale of vegetarian triumph over Italian beauracracy that's worth a read. We haven't yet tried any of the recipes, but you'll be the first to see them here on this blog when we do. For now, I've taken pleasure simply from curling up on the couch with this sizable volume and imagining life in a glamourous, rural, technicolour and vegetarian-friendly Umbria that may well only exist within its pages.


  1. ...though the recipe for a vegan Sacher might well warrant the cover price for those eschewing animal products.

    Or you could photocopy it and hand it around at the next potluck. Just putting it out there. ;)

    Actually the book sounds awesome. I'm craving reading veg-focussed food writing at the moment so I might check it out (from the library, that is). And what's with the naff title?!

  2. I've seen this book and loved the italian bureacracy story (had to be dragged from the bookshop) but was on holiday so thought maybe another day! will look forward to hearing how you go with some of the recipes

  3. Lisa, the vegan Sacher has quite accessible ingredients so I might make it for a future potluck! If you do borrow this book, I'll be interested to see what you think of the prose.

    So you've seen it around, Johanna? I'd never heard of this book (or restaurant) before!