Book Review: Jamie Cooks Italy

Jamie Oliver

Michael Joseph

Penguin Random House

Review: Brian Joss

You don’t have to leave home to get a taste of Italy. Ok, much more than a taste of Italy. This blockbuster (405 pages) will have your and your family’s taste buds tingling with delight as you try some of Oliver’s dishes. Oliver left the Naked Chef television series about 17 years ago to open his first 15 Restaurant in London to train young people for careers in the catering industry. Along the way he revolutionised the school food-system and became vocal advocate for healthy eating, changing the way people feed themselves and their families.

You can dip into the book any day of the week and find simple dishes that are quick to prepare or more indulgent options for the weekend when there is more time.

The chapters are Antipasti; Salads; Soups; Pasta; Rice and Dumplings; Meat; Fish; Sides; Bread & Pastry; Desserts and Basics which tells you to make Oozy Polenta; Royal Pasta Dough; Garlic Aioli; Simple Pesto and images that show you How To Joint a Chicken.

Many of the dishes in the book come from Oliver’s friends and that have been passed down from generation to generation. Among them are the Orechiette Nonnas who make fresh pasta every day and Nonna Rosa from the Po Valley. She once worked as a ‘mondina’ , a seasonal rice picker, and now teaches the younger generations to cook traditional recipes. Others are Nonna Linda and her Baked Risotto Pie; Nonna Teresa, famous for her potato gnocchi she serves at her family trattoria, Settimio in Rome, and Nonna Rosina, a former shepherd in the Dolomites where Oliver enjoyed a pastorale or lamb stew on the mountainside.

If you have a sweet tooth then turn to the chapter on Desserts.  There you will find Chocolate Cannoli, Amalfi Lemon Tart, Limoncello Tiramisu, Rolled Cassata and a Semifreddo, to name a few. No self-respecting Italian cookbook would be complete without pizza or focacio bread recipes. There are fish dishes to get you hooked, four ways to do octopus and lamb recipes aplenty.

An unusual dish is Pot-Roast Cauliflower which has anchovies as an ingredient. A quick and simple meal to prepare is Cacio E Pepe. All you need is spaghetti, black peppercorns, pecorino cheese and a knob of butter for an epic Roman pasta. A more complicated dish is Beef Cheek Ragu which takes four hours and a bit cooking time and serves 10 people.

If you follow the recipes step-by-step all your guests will be shouting, “delizioso”.

Jamie Cooks Italy is a must for your cookery book collection. The images are by David Loftus and Oliver.

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