Review: Cookbook of the Week #2: Jamie Oliver “Return of the Naked Chef”

Image: Amazon
Image: Amazon

“This book’s all about home cooking. It’s nothing to do with restaurant food. Loads of quick tips and accessible ingredients; maximum flavour and minimum effort.” (Foreword)

This week’s cookbook of the week is Jamie Oliver “Return of the Naked Chef”. (it was a long week, and I’m regretting the name of this series already, it should have been called something like “Found on my shelf”).

Anyway, it was published in 2000, and I bought the book around that time but I don’t remember cooking a single thing from it, until now. It’s moved house with me three times, it’s always been on display, but it’s never been used. Have you books like that?

The book is written it what we have become to know as “Jamie style” – his trademark, “cheeky chappy” persona, language peppered with slang, telling us to smash ingredients, calling texture “sexy” and overusing the word fantastic. He’s young too, check out the cover photo.

Jamie’s definition of “accessible ingredients” is slightly different than mine. In 2000 when this book was published I lived in a central city suburb but I’m sure purple potatoes were even more rare then than they are today. Even by today’s standards you’d need a very big Tesco or a gourmet grocer to get many of the ingredients for these recipes. I’m also irked by the references in the ingredients lists to “the best you can get”. Doesn’t it go without saying that if we can afford the fresh egg pasta we’ll buy it rather than the value brand?

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I tried a couple of the dishes, the Spaghetti with Red Onions, Sundried Tomatoes, Balsalmic Vinegar and Basil (above) and tray baked pork chops with herby potatoes, parsnips, pears and minted bread sauce.(below)

The Spaghetti one was tasty, but the kids didn’t like it, saying it was grown up food. I think I might convert them in time as it was sweet in flavour but they just weren’t for turning the day I made it.

The pork chop one is is worth trying, although the lemon is quite overpowering so I’d either up the rosemary or reduce the amount of lemon. The minted bread sauce is excellent, very moreish and has a myriad of uses, and the roasted pear is an excellent accompaniment to the pork. I’ll definitely make a variation of this again.

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The book is light on desserts and I refuse to believe that Jamie Oliver invented bashing up a bag of Maltesers into icecream, but it’s a featured recipe so I am bound to try it.

As usual I have some recipes bookmarked to try- a few simple pasta dishes, but know this reader- I do not see making ravioli from scratch in my future. I also want to make the “Botham burger” as it was recommended by a tweeter as one to try and reads well.

In Short:
Recipes are tasty, not too complicated and some lovely unusual flavour combinations, but the ingredients are not as accessible as the author might think.

The Verdict:
Revisiting this book has been a bit of an awakening for me. I know, dramatic or what. But it has because I’ve come to realise that week on week I don’t menu plan, I buy the same basics in my weekly shop but expect to be able to create different dishes. So if I for example throw prosciutto instead of pancetta into the trolley, or extra sage or rosemary, some limes, extra bits open the possibilities. And menu planning means that the right things are in the fridge to start out with.

I think I’m more likely to pick this book up from time to time now, but it’s not likely to become one of my go to favourites.

Stay tuned for the announcement of the next Cookbook of the Week and keep the suggestions coming!

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