Jamie’s Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals (Hyperion 2009) is the companion book to Jamie Oliver‘s TV series about getting the residents of Rotherham, UK to eat right, learn to cook and loose weight.
There is plenty of hoopla in the press about Jamie’s new campaign in Huntington, West Virginia (see The New York Times Magazine article for starters). Jamie’s new cookbook is more than hoopla. Just compare it to scores of other books for home cooks. Jamie might be introducing standard recipes for inexperienced cooks, but there is nothing boring in the book. He packs in plenty of taste and some exotica as well. Even if you do know your way around a kitchen, this kind of book can help get you out of a rut.
Jamie’s idea is simple:
Regardless of recession and credit crunches, we all need to know how to cook simple, nutritious, economical, tasty, and hearty food. And once we’ve got this knowledge, we should pass it on through friends, family, and the workplace to keep that cycle of knowledge alive. (p. 9)
The book provides the essential recipes, and readers are urged to pass them on, by teaching others what they have learned. To Jamie Oliver, this is serious stuff. The introduction even ends with a pledge to be filled in. Throughout the book are photographic portraits by David Loftus and Chris Terry, of the inhabitants of Rotherham, UK, where Jamie tried this experiment first. Each person proudly holds up a dish that they have cooked. They are convincing.
The next section is Essentials, which shows in clear photographs, all the tools and pantry essentials you should have on hand. There is even a photograph of the shelves with neat stacks of cans and bottles.
The recipes are organized around dishes that make a meal – pasta, stir-fry, curries or stew. The first chapter focuses on speed in Twenty-minute meals, Jamie writes:
I’ve written the recipes so that you can use your time well–while your pan is heating, you can be chopping and getting stuff ready for instance. (p.23)
Speed is organization and multi-tasking. The first recipe, Butterflied Steak Sarnie (p. 25), shortens the cooking time by reducing the thickness of the filet mignon steaks – delicious, but not exactly a cheap cut.
Another under twenty minute dish is Quick Salmon Tikka with Cucumber Yogurt (p. 28), easy to make if you have some curry paste on hand. In that case, if you have the time, the curry section is full of tantalizing curries that depend on curry pastes made by a British company, Patak’s. Jamie also provides recipes for making curry paste for the more advance cook. Hearty Lamb Rogan Josh (p. 80) to Chicken Tikka Masala (p.82) and Vindaloo (p. 87) like all the recipes in the book, come with a large photo of the finished dish, surrounded by smaller step-by-step photos that give a good idea of what the ingredients should look like at each stage. There are step-by-step photos on how to make various rice dishes as well. Photos of Jamie are kept at a minimum, just enough to see him working in the kitchen.
Since this is a British book, you’ll find hearty recipes for very British Ground Beef Wellington (p. 156), British Beef and Onion Pie (p. 177) and Fish Pie (p. 285). One of the most useful chapters is on Comforting Stew. The Basic Stew Recipe (p. 180) is transformed wit the addition of a pastry lid (p. 184), dumplings (p. 185), hot-pot topping (p. 186) and cottage pie (p.187). It helps a new cook explore how to use one recipe in many ways. It is well thought out, useful, and inviting. Get this book for anyone starting out cooking or giving up take-out and fast food.