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Jamie goes to the States
Jamie's America - Jamie Oliver
Member Name: cerys82
Jamie's America - Jamie Oliver
Advantages: great, tasty recipes , well explained and beautifully photographed
Disadvantages: a lot of them are probably best for evenings when you have a bit more time
"Jamie's America" is the cookbook companion to his latest Channel 4 series, "Jamie's American Roadtrip". if you have have watched this series then you will know that basically it follows Jamie as he travels around the States sampling the best homegrown regional cooking he can find - sharing food in people's homes and in small-time (and sometimes illegal!) restaurants which form part of the local community. There isn't a massive amount of footage of Jamie's recipes or him actually cooking in the series, however looking at this book he obviously garnered a lot of knowledge whilst travelling.
It certainly doesn't feel like just a TV series companion that has been slapdashly put together in order to make a quick buck. The book contains circa 120 recipes. It is currently in hardback form but has a loose lef cover which I have found it is best to remove for the most part to keep in pristine condition for as long as possible (ie until you start cooking from it!). The paper is of good quality and the spine is able to withstand some manipulation in order to flatten it out to cook from. Each recipe is generally featured over two pages, one of whihc is a large photograph of the associated dish. The are some pages with 2 recipes on, however thse are generally basic recipes such as snacks and accompanying sauces.
There is a brief introduction and then the book is split into the following categories - New York, Louisiana, Arizona, Los Angeles, Georgia, WildWest.
Each chapter features a brief introduction from jamie which summarises his food experiences of that particular area. Each recipe also has a brief spiel introducing its use, its origins and any other information it might be useful to know before cooking it. He explains he has had to take a few liberties with the traditional recipes to compensate for the fact that we may not be able to access some of the ingredients over here.
The recipes are punctuated with some excellent photographs including collages of the people, food and sights that he has come across on his travels.
The first section "New York" features a delicious recipe for 'burgers and sliders' as well as pizza, cheesecake and cupcakes. We then launch into Chinatown which features noodle dishes and others of the type that you may find at food stalls in the area. It then moves on to some Jewish cookery before launching into Jamie's passion - Italian cooking albeit with an Italian-American twist - in particular I would recommend "NYC Vodka Arabbiata", basically pasta in a spicy tomato sauce with vodka - simple but with fresh clean flavours and an extra 'zing' from the alcohol.
There is in his own words "a killer mac n' cheese" recipe whcih requires a few more ingredients and work than your conventional macaroni cheese recipe, but believe me is well worth it. The recipe is for a large quantity of people (8-10) but works well if you cook it for one day and finish it off on another. He then mmoves into Peruvian and Egyptian cookery. These recipes include ingredients that are largely difficult to find such as sumac and zahtar, but Oliver does detail some website which means that you can easily source them.
The Louisiana section is unsurprisingly largely based around Cajun cookery - filling, satisfying dishes with plenty of flavouring. I particularly recommend the "Southern Sausage Stew". The traditional dish of gumbo is featured with a meat or "surf and turf" variety. The meat one is on my list to try. Also unsurprisingly seafood features highly in this section. There are also some recipes featuring alligator, but do not worry about this too much because he encourages other white meat and fish as an accessible alternative! Dessert wise, the recipes in this section are pastry heavy but feature that Southern staple "sweet potato pie" - another which is on my to-do list!
'Arizona' features recipes largely influenced by meetings with Native Americans. The food here is spicy with a nod to Mexican cooking. There is a rustic tortilla soup recipe which is utterly yummy but will probably be of greatest benefit to most people on a cold winter's evening" There are some substantial lamb dishes here also.
There is a "hot! choccy" recipe here and the hot! stands for the inclusion of chilli. It is certainly a wake-up call but again probably best to leave for the depths fo winter. There is a really simple "chipotle chilli popcorn" reicpes which has gone down really well with my friends on an evening in front of a DVD.
The 'Los Angeles' delves further int the Mexican influence featuring breakfast tortillas, wraps, salsa and spicy salads as well as wholesome main meals - I would mark the chicken on chickpeas as one I would particularly recommend. There is a condiments page which has some recipes which I believe I will probably have as 'keepers' - 'chilli vinegar' and 'hot chili sauce', just as long as you have some jars and bottles that you can sterilise (you can get kilner jars etc at reasonable prices from homebrew centres and places like The Range).
The Georgia section takes inspiration from the 'soul food tradition' - wholesome and dense recipes. This then moves onto barbeque foods - however this refers more to the style rather than the method and includes some staples such as a barbeque sauce idea. There is also the recipe that is probably the one that would stand out as being the most bizarre on first glance - "beer butt chicken." it is essentially a part filled can of lager placed upright inside a whole chicken. The skin is heavily flavoured also adn the chicken comes out deliciously moist.
Then we move on to recipes inspired by the "Wild West" such as meatballs and steak. I particularly recommend the "Cornish cowboy pasties" inspired by the influx of Cornish miners to the Wyoming area in the 1920's and incorporating chicken and squash.
In conclusion, I really like this book. A lot of thought has obviously gone into it. As with other Jamie Oliver books, the ingredients list can look pretty daunting but this is primarily because his dishes are so full of herb and spice flavourings. I will be the first to admit that most of these dishes need care and attention but Oliver is excellent at explaining the methods and what result you should expect at each step. For the most part I think that these are meals for when have a bit more time to spend preparing them, yet not overly complex. The recipes are largely well considered and different to the norm without feeling too intimidating.
I highly recommend this book as a hearty introduction to different types of American cooking.
Summary: Well written, interesting recipe book with some great ideas
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