Cook with Jamie by Jamie Oliver Review

To borrow from Jamie Oliver’s British vernacular, this book is just smashing. With the verve, wit and insouciance that brought him fame as The Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver has compiled what may be his most inspired book to date. Cook WITH Jamie means that Oliver’s sharing his knowledge of techniques, and he does so with such originality and so many delicious recipes on which to hone those techniques, that you will be serving memorable food even as you develop your skills. Should you purchase this book, you are also helping others. All of Oliver’s royalties “are going toward training and inspiring young kids from tough backgrounds all over the world to have a career in food through the Fifteen Foundation. So on behalf of them, thank you.” Thank you, Jamie.

Oliver’s famous insouciance is not just his trademark as a persona, it is an essential part of his approach to cooking. He does not waste time with excess explanations that serve to confuse or make cooking tedious; he does not overcomplicate a recipe that is essentially simple, but peels away the inessential. Using the teaching methods developed at Fifteen, he has “concentrated on breaking down cheffy procedures.” He jumps in, unabashed and unafraid. His recipes sparkle and his advice exhilarates.

 

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Many of his recipes are updated versions of classics. They are accessible to the home cook, their success resting primarily on what he has imparted in technique and on the verve that one or two ingredients add to a dish. These are decidedly not expensive chef dishes with a long list of hardly-available ingredients. The recipes will entice: for a simple retro dish such as coleslaw, Oliver advises on the use of lemon to lift a good-quality mayonnaise higher and states that success is achieved when getting the right balance between the ingredients. Easy when the recipe does it for you!

The recipes are divided into major food categories and include salads; pasta, gnocchi and risotto; meat; fish; vegetables; desserts. In his final, eclectically-named category called ‘some bits and bobs’ he includes notes on sharpening knives, food storage, food safety, herbs and spices. Some chopping techniques are presented through photographs.

 

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Many of the recipes have been on the menu at Fifteen. All are accompanied by photographs by David Loftus and Chris Terry that show the results. Sometimes the recipes are unique: Baked Potatoes Stuffed with Bacon, Anchovies and Sage is not a potato baked, then stuffed, but a cored potato cooked with the stuffing inside. Oliver shares his chef’s secret that the anchovies will not taste like anchovies, “you will just get an incredible richness from them.” Sometimes it is his presentation of a simple dish that lifts it out of the ordinary, for example, Sticky Saucepan Carrots which Oliver states is “brave and brash.” For this dish the carrots are packed into the pan “all stood up like little soldiers.” What a wonderful dish to enhance a holiday table.

We even like the descriptive titles of these recipes. There are such gifts as Ultimate Rib of Beef with Rosemary and Garlic Roast Potatoes (Christmas, anyone?), and My Favorite Crunchy Squid with Lime and Chili Mayonnaise. Perhaps you’d like to try Bloomin’ Easy Vanilla Cheesecake, or The Best Shortbread in the World, possibly the Ultiamte Gingerbread. We have tried and tested and can vouch for the use of his superlatives. A fine achievement and one making a contribution to a fine cause. Thank you, Jamie, on both counts.

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