Jamie at Home – Cook Your Way to the Good Life, Jamie Oliver, 2007, Penguin
Reading Jamie Oliver makes me want to get up and cook. For him, cooking is clearly a joy and in this latest cookbook, the companion to his TV series of the same name, he’s having fun in his garden. Jamie Oliver has gone green.
Which is a blessing. In his early days as the “Naked Chef” most of his recipes seemingly started with “render a pound of bacon”. Thick clotted creams, mountains of cheeses and brick after brick of that heavenly English butter so hard to come by in the states…fat was everywhere.
As he tells it in the opening section “A Nice Little Chat” this is a true lifestyle change for him. He recently moved his family back to the neighborhood where he grew up. To break away from the demands of his life, he’s “fallen in love with his garden”. One thing leads to another and a new approach to food and cooking is the result.
And what a result it is. Yes, the conversational approach that’s always made him so engaging and inclusive is still there. Reading him makes you think he’s standing right next to you, grinning at the peak-of-season asparagus he’s just pulled from the ground, nudging you in the ribs, inviting you into the kitchen with him, just for the sheer pleasure of it. In minutes, he’s steamed and dressed the asparagus with a French vinaigrette, grilled a bunch more with a bit of olive oil and dusted them with Parmesan, while saving the white asparagus to serve with smashed mint and a bit of lemon butter. To use his favorite word “lovely”. Using a bit of this, a knob of that and as few pots, pans and tools as possible, Oliver’s dishes seem to appear almost organically. And without bacon.
The focus is seasonal food, making the most of what’s ripe at that very moment. Recipes featuring root vegetables are followed by “How I Grow Carrots and Beets”. A beautiful section on pigeon and game birds (Oliver is after all, an Englishman) ends with “What I’ve Learned about Shooting”. To a people raised on meals-in-a-minute, Jamie Oliver is a breath of fresh air.
The drool-inducing section on mushrooms alone is worth the price of this book.
One small word of caution. “Jamie at Home” is available in the states in English and in…ah…American. If you’re not well versed in grams, litres and Pimm’s, you’ll want to take extra care when ordering.
Or not. As one who didn’t I can tell you learning about these things has been a fun experience. Just like he envisioned it. Lovely.
Cookbook cover courtesy of http://www.penguin.com.au
Kent McDonald is a Certified Personal Chef, living and working in Phoenix, AZ. All Rights Reserved (c) 2009