The naked chef by Jamie Oliver. Michael Joseph, 1999; Jamie at home by Jamie Oliver. Michael Joseph, 2007.
It’s been a while, but I am back on the job. I decided to return to an old favourite and ended up test-driving the three Jamie Oliver books on my shelves and one I borrowed from a friend.
I bought the Naked Chef when the series first aired on TVNZ – in fact, it’s signed by the author when he visited Aotearoa to promote the book and series – and it has been a firm favourite ever since. There are so many family favourites in here. Roasted asparagus with cherry tomatoes, black olives and basil on p144, makes at least one appearance on our table every spring. I learned the basics of stock from this book and how to make a seafood risotto. It contains my go-to recipe for meatballs baked in tomato sauce on p133, and I always have some containers of the sauce in my freezer. I also happened to have some beef mince in the freezer that needed using, so I revisited the meatballs and, yes, they do not disappoint. For this exercise I am mostly using recipes I haven’t done before to see how they fit with our current eating habits.
The first meal was John Dory baked in a bag with cherry tomatoes, black olives and basil, on p92. This is clever, fast and delicious. I couldn’t get John Dory on the day, so I bought terakihi which worked perfectly well. One fillet per person. Mix a dozen or so quartered cherry tomatoes with black olives, garlic, a small dried chilli, chopped basil or oregano and olive oil. Leave to infuse for ½ an hour then add lemon juice and season to taste.
The next step involves some dextrous folding of tin foil parcels, one for each fillet. On a piece of foil twice and a bit the length of the fillet, lay a portion of the marinade on the right side and top with the fish. Seal two sides and pour in a tbsp olive oil and half a glass of white wine. Seal the remaining side. Bake the parcels in the oven on its highest temperature for roughly 10 minutes, then rest for 3-4 minutes. I served mine with roasted potatoes because you can never go wrong with potatoes. This recipe was perfect and the trickiest part was folding the tinfoil.
For soup Monday, I made the chickpea and leek soup on p20. I have been using tinned beans for a few years but have recently returned to soaking and cooking because they are much nicer. I followed the recipe to the letter, and I did partially mash the beans with a potato masher which made it beautifully creamy. A soup we will be having again.
Jamie is strong on risotto, so my next stop was a borlotti bean, pancetta and rosemary risotto on p172. Jamie has a basic risotto recipe which is always reliable. For this dish cook pancetta with the onion or leeks and add finely chopped fresh rosemary. Add cooked or canned borlotti beans just before adding the butter and Parmigiana. I always cover and rest for five minutes at this stage. Another keeper.
Jamie at Home was a gift from Phoebe, after the tv series aired here. I love it because it is seasonal and all about the vegetable garden. Some favourites I remember are the Mothership tomato salad which I do every year when I can get heritage tomatoes, and crispy sticky chicken thighs which I make with our first crop of Jersey Bennes.
I had carrots and beetroot on hand so I paired those with pork chops, p112. Again, I just followed the recipe and turned out a delicious dinner. Too easy.
I had some leeks left over from another meal. Bring on roasted white fish with leeks, p334. Now here I did deviate. Jamie uses baby leeks but mine were grown-ups, my fish fillets didn’t have skin and I had pancetta rather than bacon, however you can’t go wrong with fish and leeks. Grind thyme and rosemary with a pinch of salt in a pestle and mortar. Mix with olive oil, ground pepper and lemon juice. Toss the fish, sliced leeks, lemon wedges, rosemary sprigs and a bay leaf with the marinade. Jamie parboiled the leeks first and I might do if I had baby leeks but in this instance, I did not. Lay the fish fillets on a pre-heated oven tray. Tip everything else in the bowl on and around the fish. Lay two thin slices of pancetta, (or prosciutto would be good) across each fillet. Roast in a hot oven for about 15 minutes until the fish is just cooked. If the leeks need a bit more time, and nobody likes squeaky leeks, keep the fish and pancetta in a warm place while you give the leeks a few minutes more. I served mine with roasted potatoes because…potatoes.
Everyone these days has a recipe for ribollita, and why not? It’s the best way to use up stale bread and the half a cabbage you have in the fridge. Jamie calls this one Italian bread and cabbage soup, p388. You’ll almost certainly adapt this recipe to what you have in the cupboard. And don’t buy fontina especially, although you should always have a good quality Parmigiana in the fridge. This was delicious but maybe a bit fiddly.
While I was away for the weekend, Peter got fancy with Jamie at Home and made ceviche, p376 and a ham and spinach tart, p347. I assumed he had followed the recipes to the letter, however he tinkered with both, swapping kingfish for tuna and chard for spinach. They both looked pretty good.
So the first two books make the cut and go back on the shelves. It’s been fun trying new recipes and some of these will make it into our regular rotation.