I recently wrote the first editorial on StoveTopReadings.com excoriating the Food Network's deplorable new show, America's Worst Cooks. Perhaps I should have said to the contestants, "instead of being humiliated by condescending chefs in front of several million people, you should have turned to JAMIE'S FOOD REVOLUTION: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals (Hyperion; $35.00; ISBN: 978-1-4013-2359-2). Here is one of the most user-friendly cookbooks that could easily served the contestant who tearfully revealed that she just wanted to learn how to cook for her daughter. Oliver wants everyone to learn how to cook delicious food that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, can be served to family and company, and is creative, fun and healthy. Best of all, once you've mastered at least one recipe here, pass it on by teaching at least one recipe to two cooks.
It's never been a secret that Jamie Oliver can cook. The cheeky lad who showed up on the Food Network as "The Naked Chef" a little more than a decade ago, was cute, had an adorable accent, and made the whole process of cooking seem like a lark. He was respectful, but took all the hot air out "cuisine". Oliver has grown up, married, and has kids. He could have coasted on the lad persona for another decade. Instead he created the Fifteen Foundation, which provides training and mentoring for disadvantaged young people and now has programs and restaurants in London, Cornwall Amsterdam and Melbourne. Through the school dinners program which he launched, Oliver was able to coax 500 pounds out of the British government to make sure school kids would be fed a nutritious meal for 190 days of each year. Now Jamie Oliver is on a mission to let as many people know that good cooking from scratch is a great skill to learn, and worth sharing with others.
JAMIE OLIVER'S FOOD REVOLUTION is organized by a number of chapters of simple, but delicious foods and with the powerful assistance of detailed instructional photography and his engaging manner, shows the cook how to make host of manageable popular dishes including pastas, stir-fries, salads, soups, stews, roast dinners, vegetable sides, breakfasts and desserts. Jamie starts with a chapter on 20-minute meals (Chicken Fajitas, Chicken and Leek Stroganoff. The pasta section has a Baked Camembert Pasta that is ridiculously easy and the gooey Macaroni and Cauliflower Cheese Bake will convert anyone who has ever made supermarket macaroni and cheese from a box. There's a Pot-Roast Meatloaf that is deeply satisfying and the sauce (which includes some marvelous surprises, such as chick peas), makes it just fancy enough for company. Family roast dinners will gather everyone back to the table where they can indulge in "perfect" Jamie versions of roast beef, pork, chicken, and lamb--all served on beds of roasted vegetables and with Consistently Good Gravy. The quick cooking section on meat and fish shoots ample holes in the whiny excuses that cooking is time-consuming. Pan-Fried Glazed Pork Chops, Spanish-Style Grilled Steak , Crunchy Garlic Chicken and Moroccan Lamb with Couscous are quick dishes that should be in every cook's repertory. To my mind, Jamie Oliver is a genius with vegetables and his "Delish veggies" chapter was my first stop. Baked Creamy Leeks, Broccoli with Asian Dressing, and Baked Carrots in a Bag give vegetables a savory lift.
Being a Brit, Jamie offers some recipes that may not be familiar including some Indian curry dishes, and other Asians choices that reflect his culture, as well as such popular Brit fare as British Beef and Onion Pie, Kedgeree and Fish Pie. There is a modest selection of yummy desserts that are impressive but are not challenging to prepare. Jamie also offers solid advice on setting up the pantry for these recipes and photos show the basic kitchen equipment he recommends for best results. The book also features profiles of people who have recently learned how to cook. Their profiles reveal the many reasons they have for acquiring this skill and their happy faces as they hold the dishes they have prepared, show the sense of elation at having mastered their chosen recipes.
My cookbook shelves grown with a lot of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks because he creates appealing food that looks and tastes delicious. I've made many of his recipes including a chocolate tart from The Naked Chef and a braised cauliflower in a tomato sauce with anchovies and black olives from Cook With Jamie. All of them worked over and over again. I still don't know why so many view cooking as a chore to be endured. Today many people would rather eat expensive and tasteless takeout to avoid cooking in their beautiful kitchens. Beef Wellington is one of those old school recipes more read about than eaten. Jamie offers his updated recipe for Ground Beef Wellington, which looked so appealing I grabbed my grocery list and headed for the market. Impressive to look at, economical, delicious...what more could a cook want? Give this book to friends who professes not to enjoy cooking. It just might turn them around. And make sure they pass it on.
From JAMIE’S FOOD REVOLUTION by . Photographs by David Loftus and Chris Terry. Copyright © Jamie Oliver 2008, 2009. Photographs copyright © David Loftus and Chris Terry 2008, 2009. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. No rights reserved.
GROUND BEEF WELLINGTON
1 medium onion 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 carrot a big handful of frozen peas
1 celery stalk 1 large egg, preferably free-range or organic
1 potato 1 pound good-quality ground beef
2 cloves of garlic sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 portabello mushrooms all-purpose flour, for dusting
olive oil 2 sheets puff pastry, defrosted if frozen
To prepare your ground beef
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Peel and chop the onion, carrot, celery, and potato into 1/4-inch-sized-dice. Finely grate the garlic. Clean and roughly chop the mushrooms so they're about the same size as your other veggies. Place all of the vegetables into a large frying pan on a medium low heat with 2 lugs of olive oil. Pick the rosemary leaves off the woody stalks, finely chop them, and add to the pan. Fry and stir for around 8 minutes or until the vegetables soften and color lightly. Add the frozen peas and cook for another minute. Put the vegetable mixture into a large bowl to cool completely. Crack the egg into a cup and beat it up. Add the ground beef to the bowl with a with a good pinch of salt and pepper and half the beaten egg. With clean hands, scrunch and mix up well.
To roll and fill your pastry
Lightly dust your clean work surface and rolling pin with flour and lay the puff pastry sheets one on top of the other. Roll out the puff pastry so it is roughly a rectangle 12 x 16 inches. Dust with flour as you go. Turn your pastry so you have a long edge in front of you and place the ground beef mixture along this edge. Mold it into an even, long sausage shape. Brush the edges of the pastry with a little of the beaten egg. Roll the ground beef up in the pastry until it's covered completely. Squeeze the ends together--it will look like a big Christmas cracker! Dust a large cookie pan with flour and place your Wellington on top. Brush all over with the rest of the beaten egg. Bake in the preheated over for an hour until golden.
To serve your Wellington
Slice the Wellington up into portions at the table. Lovely served with some lightly boiled or steamed greens, cabbage tossed in a little butter, or mashed potatoes.