Rugby star Lawrence Dallaglio says emphatically: ‘I am not a star on a jar.’
The broad-shouldered former Wasps and England rugby union captain, who retired in 2008, has just launched his first cookbook, My Italian Family, as well as a range of pasta sauces.
‘I have been very involved with food and everything to do with food all my life, being Italian,’ he explains.
‘Food was a celebration of our life and that passion for food is something that I have taken on. And it came in quite handy as a rugby player as well, with all the training.’
For Lawrence, born Lorenzo, this project is the culmination of a lifelong journey.
Three years ago, his mother Eileen died from cancer and in the same year he began working on a cooking project with his Italian father Vincenzo, 76, the man who taught him to appreciate food.
‘The process helped bring my father and I closer together after the death of my mother,’ he says.
‘The recipes were still very hard to prise away from him, though. You know Italians.’
Growing up, meal times were very important. Despite his parents working multiple shifts in order to send him and sister Francesca to the best schools they could afford.
While he admits the cookbook, which centres around three generations of Dallagio men cooking was a ‘slightly selfish legacy’, the result is still touching. It also includes pictures of Lawrence’s wife Alice, his mother and daughter Ella.
‘Life is about shared experiences and I have always been a team player,’ he adds. ‘Mum would be very proud of this book. She had a wonderful life of great food, being looked after by a man who could cook – although she would think of a way to say that she was responsible for teaching us!’
· My Italian Family Cookbook by Lawrence Dallaglio is published in hardback by Simon & Schuster, priced £18.99. Available now.
LAWRENCE’S SEA BASS ROASTED WITH POTATOES, TOMATOES AND OLIVES
800g potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced
3tbsp olive oil
300ml hot fish stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large sea bass or bream
4 plum tomatoes, halved
A handful of black olives
2tbsp capers sprigs of fresh basil
Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6. Put the potatoes and onion in a large roasting tin. Drizzle with 2 tbsp of the oil and pour over the hot stock. Season well. Roast in the oven for 40 mins.
Slash the fish two or three times on each side, then place on top of the potatoes. Season again. Add the tomatoes, drizzle over the remaining oil and roast for a further 20 mins. Add the olives and capers for the last 5 mins of cooking. The dish is ready when the fish is opaque.
Take out of the oven, sprinkle with the basil and serve immediately.