Even if you don't speak German, you should be able to digest at least part of the new opera-celebrity cookbook Die Oper Kocht. And not just because it's stuffed with photos by noted opera-snapper Johannes Ifkovits.
Alongside the German text of each singer's recipe, a hand written version is served up in their own native tongue. Even the most linguistically-challenged could manage Danielle De Niese's Guacamole, Simon Keenlyside's Fish Pie and Joyce DiDonato's Cinnamon Rolls, though Renee Fleming's serial-killer handwriting makes Diva Renee au Chocolat hard to decipher. If that's not enough, an English language version of the book is promised for later in the year.
Each of the 64* featured performers gets a 4 page spread, which begins with a little amuse-gueule about what they cook and like to eat. We learn for example that Juan Diego Flórez enjoys quinoa with olive oil and parmesan before a performance, and used to phone his mother for cooking tips when he moved from Peru to the US (aaahhh).
Then there's a full-page oven-ready portrait in jocular vein (see JDF's at the top of this post). Flipping over, we come to a double page featuring the recipe itself, copiously garnished with photos of the singer preparing his or her creation (or at least pretending convincingly).
It's not clear whether you're expected to actually cook the recipes or simply gaze at Jonas Kaufmann pawing his parmesan. But I gave it a go anyway.
I picked one of the easiest dishes in the book, JDF's Papa a la Huancaína, a spicy potato salad from Peru, mostly because I like it. And I've also made it before using different recipes, giving me a standard to measure JDF's version against.
A couple of issues quickly became apparent. The first is that the German translation is not entirely accurate. Juan Diego's scrawl demands 1/4 de taza of oil and milk. This is a quarter of a cup, or around 50ml. But it's been translated as 250ml. The other, related, problem is that certain specific ingredients have been translated in overly general terms. Ajíes amarillos literally means 'yellow chillies' (gelbe Chilis in German), and that's how it's been translated. But it actually refers to a specific type of Peruvian pepper with a unique fruity/smoky taste, not any old yellow chilli, so it should really have been left in Spanish. Similarly, queso fresco has been rendered as 'fresh cheese' (Frischkäse) - but again it's a particular kind that's hard to find outside South America, a sort of less salty feta.
Not that this matters too much if you're making Papa a la Huancaína, which is hard to screw up totally. There's no definitive recipe in any case. But be careful if you try anything else from the book.
I shouldn't complain though. I was too lazy to traipse to Harrods and get the proper Peruvian ingredients, so I ended up substituting a standard green chilli plus half a yellow bell pepper for the Ají amarillo and fromage frais for the queso fresco. In preference to the suggested 'milk', I used evaporated milk, which is what most Huancaína recipes specify. I chose light olive oil as the 'oil', and instead of mixing it in with the other ingredients, I added it to the blender last, drop by drop, to make the sauce thicker and more mayonnaise-like. And I didn't peel my new potatoes - which probably should have been salad potatoes instead.
So what all this boils down to is that I haven't really made Juan Diego's Papa a la Huancaína at all - I've made my own. But it was very delicious anyway. Photos are below.
* the full list of contributors Roberto Alagna, Fabio Armiliato, Lado Ataneli, Janina Baechle, Ekaterina Bakanova, Piotr Beczala, Barbara Bonney, Johan Botha, Lawrence Brownlee, Heidi Brunner, Joseph Calleja, José Carreras, Diana Damrau, Annette Dasch, Danielle De Niese, Angela Denoke, Natalie Dessay, Daniela Dessi, Joyce DiDonato, Adrian Eröd, Giuseppe Filianotti, Renée Fleming, Juan Diego Flórez, Barbara Frittoli, Ferruccio Furlanetto, George Gagnidze, Elīna Garanča, Angela Gheorghiu, Marcello Giordani, Thomas Hampson, Anja Harteros, Tamar Iveri, Vesselina Kasarova, Jonas Kaufmann, Simon Keenlyside, Angelika Kirchschlager, Adriana Kučerová, Aleksandra Kurzak, Salvatore Licitra, Nino Machaidze, Ambrogio Maestri, Peter Mattei, Akiko Nakajima, Anna Netrebko, René Pape, Adrianne Pieczonka, Luca Pisaroni, Matthias Rexroth, Kurt Rydl, Michael Schade, Shenyang, Neil Shicoff, Bo Skovhus, Nina Stemme, Krassimira Stoyanova, Kurt Streit, Bryn Terfel, Rainer Trost, Natalia Ushakova, Juha Uusitalo, Ramón Vargas, Deborah Voigt, Anne Sofie von Otter und Markus Werba.