Are these the foods you buy all the time?
"New ideas for ingredients you know and love" Jamie Oliver
Like Nigella's latest book, that I still have to get to, Jamie's 7 Ways, has a lot of talking points in it. With Nigella it comes from her words, and from Jamie it mostly comes from the food.
I think Nigella's book requires more deep thought, so I'm taking the easy way out today and tackling Jamie.
The concept of the book is to take 18 'hero' ingredients and give 7 new ways to cook with each ingredient. Plus the emphasis is on 'maximum flavour with minimum effort' which means that there are a lot of cheat short cuts in there.
First those ingredients. Above is the list. I don't know if it is in any particular order, but it's supposed to represent ingredients that kept appearing in lists of items that the great British public is buying. In terms of fresh food that is. I do not actually know whether these are the actual top ten - onions are not represented for example. I suspect he has picked at the real top buys a bit, but that's Ok. I couldn't actually find a list of the top fresh food bought in either UK or here, but I did find that in Australia fruit and vegetables make up almost 50% of our food purchases with meat at 33%. I also found that in Australia the most popular 10 vegetables - in order - are: carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, broccoli, mushrooms lettuce, capsicum, pumpkin and zucchini. In the Uk in 2019 this was potatoes, tomatoes, leafy salad, mushrooms, peppers, avocado, onions, cucumber, broccoli and carrot. Which sort of confirms the fact that Jamie has tinkered a bit - although not greatly - except for the omission of carrots, tomatoes and onions and the inclusion of cauliflower. Not that including cauliflower is a surprise. And of course, those tomatoes, onions and carrots occur over and over again in the recipes anyway.
Perhaps he regards them more as the basics - salt, pepper and olive oil, and the condiments that are found in almost every recipe.
I have to say that neither the UK nor the Australian vegetable lists are a surprise to me, except perhaps for the carrots. Although of course that shouldn't be a surprise. They are certainly something that I always have to hand - like onions, and maybe he should have done more with them as a 'hero ingredient', rather than a background must have. Oh and where is the avocado in the Australian list? Perhaps they are just too expensive.
Beside every recipe there is a vertical strip showing thumbnails of all the ingredients that you will need - omitting the basic oil, etc. And just about every one includes something either frozen or in a jar or tin. In recipes elsewhere he has given his own recipes for these. Rose harissa for example crops up a fair bit, but it is always shown as a purchasable product not as something you have made yourself. But if you search his site you will find his recipe for it. Ditto for pesto and all sorts of similar things. So it's not that he can't do these things, it's that he is trying to make it simple for his audience. Somewhat like Delia's How to Cheat at Cooking for which she was roundly criticised. Mind you she did go a little step further with some of her choices - like frozen mashed potato, etc. and she specified brands too.
So what about some examples? Well let's take broccoli - the first ingredient in the book. There are several recipes in this section that I could be tempted to try some time, and interestingly the broccoli chapter has a bit of an Italian bias. This bias does not fill the book, and anyway we know that Jamie (and everybody else anyway) loves Italian. I was most tempted by the Broccoli and cheese pierogi which are somewhat non-traditional in pierogi terms. This is how Wikipedia describes pierogi:
"Typical fillings include potato, quark, sauerkraut, ground meat, mushrooms, or fruits. Savoury pierogi are often served with a topping of sour cream, fried onions, or both"
Well Jamie, does not have a typical filling - it's more like the filling you might get in ravioli - broccoli, cheese, sour cream and chives. He does fry them but then he sits them in a sauce constructed from a tin of cherry tomatoes, more broccoli and garlic. So short cuts too - in using a tin of tomatoes. I mean you could just use cherry tomatoes couldn't you? They do look pretty tempting though, and I might give them a go one day. And did I say the broccoli in the filling is grated - stalks and all? Not that quick to make (50 minutes he says) - it's a bit fiddly to make the pastry and stuff the pierogi - but you could buy the pastry - or use lasagne sheets. And not difficult either.
Then there's the Easiest broccoli quiche. The twist here being that the pastry is filo. The condiment is a jar of red pesto - pesto with sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers and there are a lot of eggs in there, but no cream. The dairy element is cottage and cheddar cheese. Looks good though doesn't it?
These are just two sample dishes. Things to do with the broccoli that we constantly buy, and then, if you are like me, don't know what to do with it other than put it in a stir fry, pasta or soup.
And did I say that every recipe - like many other cookbooks and magazines these days, has a nutrition breakdown as well, as well as a whole two pages on nutrition at the back of the book.
So seven new ways with broccoli - well the risotto and the soup are not that new, but there are four more recipes elsewhere in the book in which broccoli plays a big enough role to get a mention in the index.
It's an interesting list of ingredients - I mean chicken appears twice - in the form of breast fillets and also as a whole bird. But then, as I have said recently, we do eat a lot of chicken. And three kinds of seafood, although it seems we do not eat that much. I think that is Jamie trying to get us to eat more. He has things like sardines and anchovies and tuna scattered throughout the book as well.
Overall I think I would give Jamie four stars for this one - it didn't completely blow me away but there is plenty to enjoy and plenty to try. I'm making those pierogi next time I go to the market and buy some broccoli. And I've also got my eyes on Mushroom cacio e pepe and Cauliflower cheese pasta. Yes definitely. See I like pasta too.