BREAD IS GOLD -MASSIMO BOTURRA Q & A
Bread is Gold is the culmination of recipes donated by over 45 of the world’s top chefs who have spent time cooking at Refettorio Ambrosiano, the Milan based community kitchen set up by Boturra. Using every day humble, imperfect and often out of date ingredients, the chefs create simplistic yet incredible dishes and ones those that are easy to replicate at home. There’s a focus on food waste, creativity and as you’d expect from Bottura; a passion for good food.
All of the royalty proceeds from Bread is Gold go to Food For Soul community kitchens, which are being set up across the world over with the aim to fight food waste and feed those less privileged. This book is an essential for your cookery book collection.
Where’s home for you or where do you spend the most of your time?
I live in Modena, my hometown. I couldn’t live anywhere else in the world. That is where Osteria Francescana is located. I am so lucky to have such incredible ingredients around me to work with, from Parmigiano Reggiano to Balsamic Vinegar. I also travel a lot, and although I love the kitchens from around the world, I will always be true to my Italian roots.
What inspired you to write the book?
It was October 2015, and we were celebrating 6 months of success of Refettorio Ambrosiano, the community kitchen we set up in Milan as our own interpretation of the theme launched by Expo: Feed the Planet –Energy for life. Chefs from all over the world came and joined us to transform food surplus from the pavilIons into tasty and nutritious meals, served to our guests from vulnerable conditions. We had no idea of what we were doing or the impact of such a project on the overall community. It was amazing: people who were complaining for the opening of a community kitchen were now volunteering day and night. Chefs were so enthusiast that they wanted to come back as well as set a new community kitchen in their towns. From the first weeks where guests were sitting in silence and ate as quick as they could, we couldn’t let them leave. They were celebrating every single night. The Caritas Ambrosiana decided to keep the Refettorio open and alive, whereas Lara and me decided to found Food for Soul to replicate the same model around the world and reach as many communities as possible. But then we thought: how can we reach the wider public? How can we involve the people at home in the fight against food waste? And the answer was just in front of us: not only the chefs came all the way from their restaurants to Milan, but they also found the time to write down the recipes they had made for our guests. Bread is Gold collects all these recipes, as well as the stories of Refettorio Ambrosiano. But more than a cookbook, Bread is Gold is a book for ideas. You won’t learn how to make pesto, but how to make pesto with what you have left in your fridge. The fight against food waste starts from your home.
Who should buy it?
Everyone should, because everyone can be part of the solution.
Favourite recipe from the book and why?
I love them all… but maybe the Banana peel chutney by Gastromotiva is my favourite because it is is totally unexpected. By making resourceful even something that we usually throw away, you’re making visible the invisible. I also like the two variations of the original pesto alla genovese: instead of pine nuts, I used breadcrumbs and René Rezdepi used popcorn. Both results are lighter than the original recipe and give more attention to the herbs.
BANANA PEEL CHUTNEY
Makes about 1¾ cups (600 g)
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 tablespoons (30 g) butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
9 oz (250 g) red onions, diced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 malagueta or habanero chilies, chopped
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2½ teaspoons coriander seeds
1½ teaspoons whole cloves
1½ teaspoons cardamom pods
2 whole star anise
Peels from 5 overripe bananas, finely diced
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
Juice of 2 oranges, plus more if needed
⅓ cup (50 g) whole green grapes
Juice of 2 limes
In a saucepan, heat the mustard seeds over medium heat until they start to pop. Add the butter, oil, and onions and sauté until golden. Add the ginger, chilies, and spices and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
Add the banana peels, salt, brown sugar, and orange juice and let cook for 15 minutes, or until a thick chutney consistency is obtained. Add the grapes and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and add more orange juice or filtered water if necessary to obtain a jammy consistency.
Season to taste with salt and sweeten with sugar if necessary. Add the lime juice and stir. Transfer to a sterilized jar and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Which recipe should we head to for your favourite quick mid week, no fuss dinner?
There are recipes for meatballs that are easy and delicious, as well as gazpachos and soups for every season, like the gazpacho with strawberries made by Daniel Humm at early summer; the one with watermelon by Matias Perdomo in late summer; and the one by Mark Moriarty with roasted vegetables. They don’t need any professional expertise nor luxury products: all these extraordinary meals are mad from ordinary ingredients. Exactly the same you can find at home, in your pantry or fridge.
Your ultimate dinner party dish from the book, failsafe and impressive?
I would start with a mole dell’orto that Enrique Olvera made for our first charity dinner at Refettorio Ambrosiano. The intense flavour and the vibrant colour are a good way to say welcome to your guest. As main course, I would serve the rich, heartwarming baked pasta alla parmigiana by Viviana Varese, makes you feel like home. And to end up with a smile –and I literally mean it, the banana smile by Michel Troisgros. The simplest yet the most impressive dishes.
Your favourite dessert from the book and why?
Ricotta ice cream with tropical fruit sauce and balsamic vinegar by Daniel Patterson. I love ice cream. Everyone used to love it at Refettorio Ambrosiano. We kept our ice cream machine running day and night, because it was the easiest way to recover fruit and milk. Then some chef, like Daniel, found out how to make ice cream even with cheese, vegetables and other unexpected ingredients. Daniel enriched this very delicate ricotta ice cream with a sweet twist of tropical fruit, balanced with the acidity of my favourite ingredient: balsamic vinegar.
Which chefs have influenced you and your approach to food the most?
I have been very lucky to have several culinary mentors. Some are more famous than others. My first mentor was George Cogny, a French chef living in Piacenza. He taught me how to apply classic French technique to the ingredients from our local terroir in Emilia-Romagna. Then came Lidia Cristoni, a true Rezdora, who taught me everything about traditional cooking and how to run a clean and efficient kitchen. Then came my encounter with the one and only Alain Ducasse who taught me the value of using locally sourced ingredients and establishing trusting relationships with artisans, farmers, fishmongers and so forth. These lessons at Louis VX were very valuable to me and helped guide my decision to open Osteria Francescana. My last mentor was Ferran Adrià. During the summer of 2000 I was able to cook with his incredible team at El Buli. He pushed me over the edge and taught me not to be afraid of my ideas. He let the cat out of the bag you could say.
What cookery books do you always reach for from the shelf, do you collect cookery books?
The art of eating well by Pellegrino Artusi, which is the cornerstone of the Italian Cuisine. When Garibaldi unified Italy through battles, Artusi made it with a cooking book, by stating its uniqueness through the wide diversity of regional cuisines. Artusi is also an example of cucina povera, the philosophy of recovering every single breadcrumb, leaf, and peel; every animal from nose to tail. Moreover, it is a book addressed to domestic kitchen, hence a book for everyone. In this way, I hope that Bread is Gold will be the new Artusi.
What’s next for you?
After Milan, Rio de Janeiro and London, the next Refettorio will open in Paris in early spring. We’ve also been very lucky to receive a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation that will help us grow sustainably and expand our model even in the US. And then there are many other plans for Montréal, Thessaloniki, Rome, Naples, Turin, Burkina Faso, and who knows where else. As I always say, in my future I see more future.
Bread is Gold: Extraordinary Meals with Ordinary Ingredients by Massimo Bottura & friends is published by Phaidon
Bread is Gold: Extraordinary Meals with Ordinary Ingredients by Massimo Bottura & friends is published by Phaidon, buy your copy here.