It’s surprisingly easy to love Jamie Oliver. Maybe it’s because he lisps out gems of British slang, it could be that little scooty he drives around when he’s out shopping, or maybe because he not only loves his food, but invites people over to eat it when he’s done cooking. All this cuteness starts getting saccharine when you learn he’s named his daughters Poppy Honey and Daisy Boo, but all in all, you can’t help but like him. It’s well known that the celebrity chef is the butt of ridicule and jokes in the UK, but then again, Brit cuisine isn’t much to write home about, so what do they know?
Cook with Jamie: Penguin, 447 pages, Rs840
Sunday TV surfing got me hooked after an episode of Oliver’s Twist. Now,I have a weekly alarm on my cellphone, which beeps ‘Jaime’ at 13:00 hours, for his latest, Jamie’s Great Italian Escape. It’s great to get the appetite going for Sunday lunch.
Like all chefs with good TV shows, Oliver makes cooking look easy. So easy, that you think you can do it yourself. Which is why his seventh book, Cook with Jamie , which promises to teach the basics of modern-day cooking, will soon be sitting on many wannabe cooks’ shelves. Whether it gathers grease stains or dust mites is, of course, up to you. He’s a one-man blonde cheerleader, full of encouraging and go-for-it propaganda, so you will at least try a couple of recipes before saying uncle.
This one starts on a slightly militant note, with Oliver urging readers to preserve the integrity of home cooking and to investigate what you put into it. Prepare to be assaulted by the terms ‘free range’ and ‘organic’ many times over. “It always amazes me how these days people can be totally up-to-speed about so many different things—computers, music, fashion—but they don’t give a toss about what they put in their mouths every day,” he writes.
The great thing about Oliver’s books is that he writes as he talks and doesn’t just toss out recipes, but gives some Jamie-speak before each one.
Tuck in: A spiced plum chutney goes will with crispy duck
Like his fourth book, Jamie’s Kitchen, there’s a list of basic cooking equipment any self-respecting cook would have. If you’ve gone down the basic cookery book route before, you know all about thick-bottomed pots and serrated knives. But did you know that “a Flavour Shaker is a modern, downsized version of a pestle and mortar and is really user-friendly? Both will help you bash and bruise and get the flavour out of loads of ingredients”? Bet not.
It’s not kitchen appliances that will do you in, but the stunningly shot food images by photographer David Loftus. There’s page after page of floury pasta, crisp lettuce leaves, seared meats and gooey risottos. But the ones that are guaranteed to draw gasps are the Honeycomb Cannelloni and the Stained Glass Lasagne.
Lovers of desi khana will be happy to see Roasted Chicken Breast with Lemony Bombay Potatoes—an aloo chaat of sorts with turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger and lemon. There’s also a Southern Indian Crab Curry, which seems quite authentic. A neat addition are the wine recommendations with each recipe, made by Matt Skinner, the sommelier at Fifteen, Oliver’s restaurant chain.
I haven’t had a chance to try out the recipes yet. Maybe I’m still hesitant after my experiments with Jamie’s Kitchen . The first try—a simple dish of stuffed herbed tomatoes—was a resounding success. It even had a dash of Worcestershire sauce and fresh fennel, though they weren’t on his list.
Egged on by that success, the Dark Sticky Stew was next. So what if there was no stout, beer went in instead. But it just didn’t turn out as black and sticky—it was a pale tan and swimming in broth.
In this book, I have my eye on the Blackened Barbecued Pork Fillets. All the ingredients in the recipe seem manageable (I think Maggi will do instead of Heinz organic tomato ketchup). The results will be announced when we review Oliver’s next book.
Oliver doesn’t have Anthony Bourdain’s writing skills, nor does he have Gordon Ramsey’s bullish, sadistic streak, which makes for great TV.
But unlike Bourdain and Ramsey, you can be rest assured Oliver won’t be doing a line of coke while whipping up the aioli, or calling the overworked line cook foul names, so he’s tempted to spit in your food.
While you’re putting together the Super Squid Linguine, you can envision Oliver making blackcurrant ice pops for Poppy and Daisy. That’s why it’s so easy to love Jamie Oliver.