Jamie’s Great Britain
He’s done it again. Every October Jamie Oliver writes me a book for my birthday. I now have 13 beautiful cook books lined up in order of publication from first to most recent, with a slight blip for Jamie’s Kitchen, (it’s bigger than all the rest and doesn’t fit neatly in the row). I have to confess I have bought all of Jamie’s books regardless of whether I’ve been interested in the contents as I am a little partial to Jamie. It was Jamie that started my cooking journey, so it would be wrong not to buy the latest book.
I may be a little bias (on two counts) but I really do think the latest offering from Jamie is a good one. I was uninspired by some of his recent work, but Jamie is back on fine form with Jamie’s Great Britain. So not only do I love Jamie, but I am also passionate about British cooking; this meant I was eagerly anticipating the recipes in this book. I was imagining roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, fish and chips, stews and pies, but Jamie has delved deeper than that. Jamie has realised there is more to British cooking than the old traditions. If you have been following Jamie’s adventures on channel ten then you will know he is wending his way around the country in his converted army van (The Cock in Cider), in search of modern British food, which when you look back through the history of Britain is largely influenced by the countries of the Empire and new migrant populations.
Having said all that the book does cover some classic British dishes, with a Jamie twist. There are Yorkshire puddings (served with smoked trout or as the classic toad-in-the-hole); roast chicken (with Indian spices); fish pie (making use of underused fish varieties) and a re-invention of the retro dish prawn cocktail to name but a few.
So what caught my eye? In the ‘pub grub’ section, the first dish I had to try is what I know as the classic scampi dish. No, not those beautiful, small, lobster type creatures (also known as langoustine) that I buy at the fish markets, but the English pub dish that involves breaded fish, often served in a basket with chips and tartare sauce. I know the term ‘breaded fish’ is a bit vague, but vague is what you get in some lesser quality establishments, but if it is good quality scampi it will contain scampi. Jamie suggests using scampi, but the price per kilo I couldn’t quite justify it, so I went for good, large king prawns. And, oh my word, it was sensational. Even better than the best pub food I remember, and served with Jamie’s home made tartare sauce I can see this becoming a regular fixture on our menu. Thank you Jamie for confirming my love of scampi.
What else did I try? The Sunday roast steak of course. Well, actually, not of course because this roast beef challenges my definition of roast beef in so many ways, and for those of you that know me well, you’ll know I like to do things my way and I’m not that good with change. I did however follow the roast beef recipe to the letter, instead of changing the recipe to how I would normally do it, and it pains me to admit it, but I liked it… I like the different cuts of beef, presented in an unusual way, and I like the roast potatoes and roast turnips, cooked in butter of all things. If you’d asked me prior to this whether butter would work, I’d have said don’t be ridiculous it has to be duck fat, or in the very least lard, but you can also roast in butter it just gives a slightly different taste and texture.
In the Sunday lunch section Jamie offers a range of options for the Sunday roast, which is an absolute institution in all good British homes, but instead of regurgitating the same old options Jamie offers some great new ideas, and apparently they don’t all have to be eaten with roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings…
I feel I have to try and give a balanced view of this book to prove that I am not as biased as you think. My only uncertainty is the way the book is arranged. The chapters are a bit of a confusion between mealtimes (breakfast, afternoon tea, Sunday lunch, pudding); food categories (soups, salads, pies and puddings, vegetables, wild food, condiments); and a couple of other categories thrown in for good measure (pub grub, new British classics, seaside). Having said that, if you can’t find what you’re looking for, use the index, it’s not that hard!
With my new unending supply of eggs from my backyard chooks I jumped straight into the breakfast section an enjoyed the Glasgow potato scones with scrambled egg. I substituted the smoked salmon with some home cured gravlax. This is another dish that will become a regular fixture as it was pretty quick to make, much easier than Graham’s favourite potato rostis and I think they are probably tastier.
I think I may well end up cooking all the recipes in this book as I did with The Naked Chef last year, so if you are in any doubt about British cuisine I challenge you to give this book a go and I defy you not to love the end result.
You can see a full list of the recipes in this book here. And in case you are wondering I bought this book with my own money and I am in no way, shape or form, sponsored by Jamie Oliver!
Posted: December 31st, 2011 under cook book review.