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The curious case of Jamie Oliver

I think I’ve sinned. In the last 5 weeks, I haven’t really written about the cookbooks that are the epicenter of my collection. The books that started it all…

It all began with watching their cooking shows on TV that led to experimenting that led to buying the books that led to cooking from them. I’m talking about both the British culinary icons Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver. Their shows were inspiring and what was surprising was that they were and are so chalk and cheese about their approach.

Nigella is all butter, all cream, whereas Jamie is all about healthier eating and wholesome meals. But they are both great. Reading either is a pleasure and its fun picking up all the British phrases that come with the book.

(Did you know that Mind your Ps and Qs come from old crowded British pubs that would shout out to their customers – Mind your Pints and Quarts – these books are peppered with fun facts like these).

When people come to my house for the first time (or the nth time for that matter), I’m always asked whether I have any of Lawson’s or Oliver’s books. Because I own every single Nigella Lawson, I’ve made a separate space for her on my bookshelf. Jamie Oliver however lies closer to my kitchen, where all my tried and tested recipe books are.

Not that I am dissing Nigella (I will do a post on her sometime later) but Jamie holds a special place in my heart. This is because when I got married and I wanted to make something fun for dinner on weeknights, and it was his book that I turned to time and again. In fact I can quite proudly say that I am almost 90 per cent cooked through this one (barring the tasty curries and the sweet things section) – Jamie’s Food Revolution. I love this book.

What I love most about this book is that it’s super adaptable. I love how simple he makes dinner seems – even after you’ve had a long day at work and want to slap anyone who talks to you. I love how encouraging he is and how easy he makes it sounds.

Also, might I just add, this was the book that Oprah recommended in her bookclub. And I can see exactly why.

Firstly, the pictures are gorgeous; the art team has done such a fantastic job documenting his cooking that a lot of the credit must go to them.

Secondly, the instructions are simple. Jamie teaches you to be organized and to multitask. Take his Chicken fajita recipe for example. He tells you how you can slice, marinate and grill the chicken while making a quick salsa, in under 30 minutes.

This book is great for novices, beginners and the experts alike, especially because he’s stripped all the recipes to the bare essentials. He’s divide the book into sections such as Twenty-minute meals, Salads, soups, Delish Veggies, Family Roast Dinners, Tasty stir fries, Quick cooking –meat and fish and Kickstart breakfast.

If you spend a couple of minutes in the beginning of the day, sifting through the book, you’ll get an idea what you can make at the end of the day. Sometimes I sit with this book over the weekend and it helps me plan my meals for the rest of the week.

Jamie’s recipes can be as posh as you want to make them or as light as you wish. You can substitute butter for olive oil (but Jamie is a big believer of olive oil, so you’ll hardly ever need that) omit the cream, leave out the fresh herbs if you don’t have any and each time the recipes turn out great.

One of my favourite recipes from this book is the Chicken and Leek stroganoff  - filling quick – this recipe really hits the spot. Crunchy garlic chicken is another favourite as is the roast chicken. And while I’ve only made this once, because Camembert is so expensive in India (no other reason, I promise) the Baked Camembert Pasta is superb.

If you’re a working person, or have kids, this is a great book to have because most of his recipes are child-friendly (lots are gluten-free) and pretty healthy.

Available in India, US and UK

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  1. Love Nigella and her recipes. Not Jamie Oliver. Looks like a nice book...A healthy one definitely one that I need:-)