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Jamie goes back to basics
Jamie's Ministry of Food: Anyone Can Learn to Cook in 24 Hours - Jamie Oliver
Member Name: cerys82
Jamie's Ministry of Food: Anyone Can Learn to Cook in 24 Hours - Jamie Oliver
Advantages: Fantastic ideas, very comprehensive
Disadvantages: Perhaps not for absolute beginners, and see my note about the lasagne
Jamie's Ministry of Food subtitled "Anyone can learn to cook in 24 hours" was released to coincide with his series of the same name As we all know, Jamie likes a crusade when it comes to food and the aim of this was to encourage less reliance on takeaways and readymade meals and to get people producing more food from scratch at home. The eventual benefits behind this would be to improve basic health, increase cooking skills for even the beginner and also to show that home cooked food does not have to be expensive or overly complicated.
The book itself is paperback but with a good quality cover and pages, which are slightly glossy and should therefore be a little more resilient to the inevitable splashes that come with cooking.
There are a few pages of introduction in which he explains the concept behind his 'pass it on' philosophy. That is, once a reader has mastered a recipe, they then teach it to two or more people close to them who do the same in term. I am not sure whether this was a concept which really caught on but this does not detract from the book.
Then there is a section on essentials which lists all of the item that Oliver feels you should have in your cupboard, pans etc. This is followed by a list of what he considers to be Essential cupboard ingredients, basic spices, and basic frozen stuff. I will be the first to admit, that I believe that to someone who does not even know how to start with cooking, this is a long list and can seem a bit daunting. However, on closer inspection of the list - there is nothing particularly fancy or excessively expensive and difficult to source. And as he states, a number of the items will keep for ages so do not necessarily need frequent replacement.
Now onto the recipes. Each section has a page long introduction about the ideas behind it. Each recipe is displayed over a two page spread. One page has the recipe with a short into and additional tips/ideas/serving suggestions as appropriate. The facing page has a number of images, one of the finished dishes and a number of smaller ones visually detailing the method.
To give you a better idea of the scope of the book, I will now give examples of recipes from each chapter.
Twenty minute meals: Butterflied steak sarnie, spicy Moroccan stewed fish with couscous, Asian chicken noodle broth, Chicken fajitas
Quick pasta: classic tomato spaghetti, baked camembert pasta, macaroni cauliflower cheese bake, mini shell pasta with a creamy smoked bacon and pea sauce, cherry tomato sauce with cheat's fresh pasta.
Tasty stir fries: chicken chow mein, sweet and sour pork, super quick salmon stir-fry,
Easy curries: chicken korma, vegetable jalfrezi, leftover curry biryani, chicken tikka masala, aloo gobhi, light and fluffy rice with flavoured variations, a variety of ways to make different curry pastes at home.
Lovin salads: Dressed green salad, a variety of dressing recipes. He also introduces a concept called 'evolution' for potato, green, cucumber and tomato salads - where he starts with a basic idea and then adds a little more flavour and ingredients to each one therefore making a potential 4 recipes out of one. There is a section on how to make a great salad from any variety of leaves, veg, cheese, toppings and herbs. There are a variety of chopped salads and rice salad.
Simple soups: Spring vegetable and bean soup, sweet potato and chorizo soup, tomato soup, lentil and spinach soup. At the end there is a section called 'Pimp Up Your Soup' where he gives some examples of how you can experiment a bit further.
Homely mince: 'a cracking burger', meatballs and pasta, minced beef wellington, pot roast meatloaf, lasagne, classic mince and onion pie,
Comforting stews: basic stew recipe (with beef and ale, chicken and white wine, pork and cider and lamb and red wine variations) and options for puff pastry lid and dumplings, hot pot and cottage pie
Family roasts: beef, pork, chicken, lamb, roast potatoes, parsnips and carrots, gravy, sage and onion stuffing, sauces including mint and bread sauce.
Delish veg: baked carrots in a bag, buttered spinach, best new potatoes, baked creamy leeks, cauliflower cheese,
Quick cooking meat and fish: pan-fried glazed pork chops, Spanish style griddled steak, crunchy garlic chicken, Moroccan lamb with couscous, Asian style steamed salmon, pan-fried curried cod. Sauces include cheesy mustard, tomato, olive basil and chilli, very simple curry, bacon and mushroom cream. Then there are a number of salsas which include tomato and pesto. The section is rounded up with a series of oils - basil and lemon, chopped herb etc.
Classic fish - salmon fishcakes, fish pie, paella, prawn and sweetcorn chowder
Kick -start breakfasts - 'a healthier full monty', a variety of porridge recipes, frozen fruit smoothies, different ways of preparing eggs, a variety of omelette recipes, granola,
Sweet things: vanilla cheesecake with a raspberry topping, ice cream sauces, fruit scones, cookies, mega chocolate fudge cake
The book is interspersed with pictures and testimonials from some of the individuals that he met and influenced during the project.
As you can tell by just a brief synopsis of the recipes, this is a book which is just huge in scope. I have great admiration for just how much work has gone into this book - and is not just a cynical, rapidly put together tie-in.
Jamie's enthusiastic personality comes through throughout the book and is never patronising even when explaining the more basic recipes. He is definitely someone who believes wholeheartedly that anyone can and should cook and that time or finance should not be an issue. I really like the way that he makes a lot of references to the recipes being suitable for kids/family life.
All in all, I believe it is an excellent book that belongs in most cookbook collections and is one of my most used. I am a keen but sometimes not that confident cook and I ALWAYS need to follow recipes so it is perfect for me. I am largely self-taught so it is a really good book to pick up on all of the basic techniques that I have missed out on. Also, I have no real interest in making anything outrageously fancy but still want to be able to impress when needed and this book fits into this perfectly. I like the fact that there are a few more interesting ideas that you do not usually see in 'beginner's cookbooks.' Of particular worth for me, are the subsections where he takes a basic recipe and provides a number of different variations on it - I think that this gives rise for a not particularly confident cook to feel a bit more at ease with experimenting and even come up with their own ideas as their confidence grows.
Now, I must admit that I am a little undecided as to whether it is suitable for an out-and-out beginner. The 'essentials' list may be a bit daunting and I do think that a fair proportion of the recipes would be perhaps a little out of reach - ingredients like capers and anchovies, a staple in a lot of Jamie Oliver cookery are an acquired test at the best of times. However, that said there are definitely a number that I think would work for this audience - eg the egg recipes and the pasta section in particular. I think that perhaps the most important way to come to this book is with keenness rather than experience because the recipes are so well explained both in writing and via the images that there really is a significantly reduced chance that you will completely mess it up.
I have a LOT of cookbooks and it is definitely one of my most prolific go-to books. I have a memory like a sieve for methods so event the most basic ones I often need prompting on. Most of the time, even if my cupboards are particularly bare, I can find something satisfying to cook from it. I think that any home cook even with a decent level of experience would be able to find something here that they can take forward. I think there is also scope beyond the book to get kids involved with some of the recipes here, with a high level of adult supervision of course.
That said, I would perhaps not necessarily follow everything that Jamie says blindly. I have not used the lasagne recipe that he details here because I have my own tried and tested method that I use from elsewhere. However, I have a friend who is a novice cook but keen to learn. She has this book and attempted the lasagne recipe which was a massive disaster for her and knocked her confidence somewhat, with the meat being clumpy and unappetising. I had a look at the method after she said it and I also thought it was quite bizarre as it didn't recommend browning the meat first. I'm not claiming that I am an expert by any means; however I am not surprised it went wrong so just a note to err to the side of caution and to not take it as gospel.
In conclusion, I highly recommend this book - it is almost endlessly useful and I think would make a welcome addition to even the smallest cookbook collection. The ideas are well executed and presented and wrapped up in an accessible and non-snobby way.
Summary: Perfect for the keen but unconfident cook who wants to expand on what they already know