The husband came back from a weekend in London yesterday evening. “Where’s my present?” I demanded minutes after he arrived in the door, not because I’m shallow or greedy or anything but because I had been promised one. And who doesn’t love presents?
He smiled indulgently. “Close your eyes.” I did. A small box was deposited in my open hands. I opened my eyes to see one of these. “Ah thanks,” I said, trying to sound enthusiastic and grateful. “There you go now,” he said. “Thanks very much,” I said again, before honesty got the better of me. “It’s not a great present after four days in London.” That did sound a bit shallow and greedy so I added quickly, “but I suppose it was lovely of you to think of me.”
He grinned back at me before delving into his luggage again and producing Jamie Oliver’s new book. From zero to hero, just like that.
I like Jamie Oliver. Some top restaurateurs and critics look down on him because he’s not “a proper chef” but I find it touching that he cares so much, about school dinners and giving a chance to kids from the wrong side of the tracks. And his recipes are usually pretty straightforward, sometimes to the point that they don’t really involve any cooking at all but you can still throw the dish together and be delighted with yourself for making something out of a cookbook.
This new book is a departure from the style of his earlier cookbooks. No wacky design, no faux-recipes, very few glugs of this and splashes of that. It’s a back to basics guide, with lots of simple, classic recipes and plenty of information on equipment, techniques and sourcing ingredients.
Although Jamie seems to intend that someone who has never really cooked before could start with this book (witness the diagram of the different parts of a chicken – who doesn’t know what a chicken leg looks like?), he does occasionally forget that outré ingredients can put people off.
I have never used and quite possibly have never even seen a Jerusalem artichoke and so feel faintly nervous when I see things like a recipe for ‘Warm salad of crispy smoked bacon and Jerusalem artichokes’. On closer inspection, Jamie does say you can use new potatoes instead. This makes me feel better on two counts. One, I can easily lay my hands on new potatoes. Two, if you can substitute those for the Jerusalem artis, well then the Jerusalem artis can’t taste too weird.
So I will endeavour to hunt some Jerusalem artis down later on today. Failing that, I’ll pick up some wild mushrooms and try out Jamie’s mushroom risotto recipe this evening. I’ve also never made a risotto and a box of Arborio rice has been taunting me every time I look in the pantry for the last few months so high time I got stuck into that.