Jamie Oliver! Dontcha just love him, the mockney geezer, sporting a rakish straw cockle-seller's hat in his latest series.
Actually, I've got a lot a time for Lovable Jamie. Not so much for all the worthy and admirable things he's done, like his campaigns to improve school dinners, or to get more men cooking, or his Fifteen restaurants. I like him because he loves food, he positively oozes enthusiasm like the innards of a well-ripened Brie, and because his recipes are always tasty, easy to prepare and imaginative.
I remember when he was first on telly, as The Naked Chef, "stripping food back to the bare essentials". He was a little ill-at-ease with the camera to start with, but you could see he was confident around food, and the end results were always mouth-watering. I bought a Smeg range oven just like his, and made my own pasta, and watched every episode of the cheeky chappy with increasing enjoyment. I have most of his cookbooks. My, how young and slim he looks on the cover of The Naked Chef! He has grown to love the media spot-light, and, as a clearly happy family man, grown chubby with contentment and home cooking.
I wasn't going to watch his latest series, Jamie Does..... because I was growing a little tired of cookery shows where the nation tuned in, salivating wildly, while tucking into a ready-meal, an ersatz version of liver and bacon or slow-cooked lamb shanks. Over on the Beeb, The Delicious Miss Dahl is doing a creditable impression of a young Nigella, all suggestive licking of fingers and pouty lips. Meanwhile, Heston is up to his usual kitchen pyrotechnics, turning food and eating into a ridiculous circus act.
I caught part of the programme where Jamie Did..... Sweden - and within a few minutes, I was hooked. Again. Transfixed by him making beetroot Gravadlax, where the resulting salmon slices are the most beautiful rose pink. I remembered how much I enjoyed his cheery banter, or how his idea of tossing a salad was simply to throw the ingredients up in the air and let them fall from his fingers. The food looked delicious. My mouth watered. I bought the latest book.....
I have two groaning shelves in my kitchen which house some of my recipe books, the ones I use most regularly. The more esoteric titles are upstairs, along with back issues of Jamie's very own magazine (called Jamie, no less!) and Waitrose Food Illustrated (which has recently undergone a complete facelift and now features the Sainted Delia and the aforementioned Ring Master of Food, Heston). It seems foolhardy to add to my growing collection of recipes books, but I just can't help myself. I suspect psychologists have a name for this condition.
In praise of Jamie, here is a selection of my favourite of his recipes, with the title of the book from which they appear:
from The Naked Chef (his first book)
- Recipe for fresh pasta
- Skate wings with Prosciutto, Radicchio, Capers & Lemon
- North African Lamb with Chilli, Ginger, Chickpeas & Couscous
- Spiced Slow-cooked Lamb Shanks
- Perfect Roast Chicken
- Borlotti Bean, Pancetta & Rosemary Risotto
- Pukkolla (muesli)
- Smashed Spiced Chickpeas
- Pappardelle, Spicy Sausage and Mixed Wild Mushrooms
- Salmon Fillet Wrapped in Prosciutto with Herby Lentils, Spinach & Yoghurt
- Braised Five Hour Lamb With Wne, Veg and All That
- Peter's Lamb Curry
- Baked Carrots with Cumin, Thyme, Butter & Chardonnay
- Party Cake
- Favourite Curry Sauce
- Pancakes USA Stylie
- Chicken Breast Baked in A Bag With Mushrooms, Butter, White Wine & Thyme
- Parsnip & Pancetta Tagliatelle
- World's Best Baked Onions
- Costolette di Maiale con Salvia
- Spiedini di Involtini di Agnello e Funghi