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New year, new book! I wasn't sure whether I'd even achieve cooking my way through one book, but now I've started I've got the bug, so it's time to start cook, cook, cooking my way into 2011 with The Return of the Naked Chef, or Nic and Jamie take 2!

Here is the tally of recipes cooked so far:

Morning glory 0/6

Tapas, munchies and snacks 9/13

Simple salads and dressings 10/16

Soups and broths 2/5

Pasta and risotto 18/25

Fish and shellfish 3/11

Meat, poultry and game 10/19

Vegetables 8/11

Bread 2/9

Desserts 4/11

Bits and bobs 6/8



A trip down memory lane…

When I cooked my ay through The Naked Chef the majority of the recipes were completely new to me, but the second book, The Return of the Naked Chef is proving to be a trip down memory.  It seems we were more enthusiastic about these recipes and they were the ones we started with when we started experimenting with cooking and becoming more adventurous.  These days many of Jamie’s recipes are regular week night dishes, but as newly weds in the early naughties they were the height of sophistication.

One of these recipes is the baked Jerusalem artichoke (p208). I can’t quite believe I’m ‘fessing up to this, but back in 2001 I had no idea what a Jerusalem artichoke was.  The artichoke I found in the supermarket was a globe artichoke (a totally different vegetable, but how was I to know?!). In 2001 I also didn’t really know how to prepare an artichoke and didn’t really think to check. This meant my Sunday roast accompaniment was inedible, I had basically baked all the inedible bits and it was way too stringy for even Graham, who will normally eat pretty much anything. Thankfully by 2011 I now know what Jerusalem artichokes are and after 10 years was brave enough to try them again and the dish was actually quite delicious when cooked properly.  As I tried the dish, it also reminded me that we used the sauce for a quick cauliflower cheese for many years after the disaster, so I might also resurrect that dish over winter.

The other dish that holds powerful memories for me is the roasted fillet of beef rolled in herbs and porcini and wrapped in prosciutto (p186). This is one of the first recipes I remember Graham cooking for me and he made it to celebrate my graduation from university in 2002.  I couldn’t believe he had cooked something so adventurous and executed it so well.  This has become a dinner party firm favourite, which most of our family and friends have sampled at some point over the last nine years, and don’t even want to guess how many times it has been made, but judging by the gravy stains on the page it’s quite a few.

This time, I was fortunate enough to have some home made bacon instead of prosciutto to wrap the fillet in but this may also be a good moment to reminisce about the first time I bought prosciutto.  As I was venturing out into the world of Jamie Oliver cooking it became clear that I really should try some of this prosciutto that Jamie uses in so many of his recipes. So off I went to an Italian deli in Didsbury and asked for 100g of “pros-qwee-tow”. I had no idea how to say it and the lady behind the counter had no idea what I wanted, but with a bit more pointing and grunting I managed to get what I wanted and haven’t looked back since.

Saturday Baking

Polenta Biscuits

For those who know me well, you know that baking is my least favourite part of cooking, but if I’m going to complete my Jamie project I have to do recipes that I wouldn’t normally dream of cooking, and today was one of those days.  Graham is cooking an early Valentines day meal, so I offered to do dessert.  My dessert of choice was Chocolate Pots with Orange Polenta Biscuits. Read more »

Jamie meets Charcutepalooza!

Tray baked cod

With a kilo of homemade bacon in the fridge how could I not combine my Nic and Jamie project with Charcutepalooza? Jamie is very keen on using bacon and pancetta in his recipes and he always suggests you use what is available to you, so if that means substituting pancetta for bacon then I say go for it! The recipe that caught my eye before I went shopping yesterday was the tray baked cod with pancetta and runner beans.  Read more »

BBQ is the new baking!

Baked Mushrooms

As I continue to work my way through the Return of the Naked Chef the weather is Sydney is getting hotter and hotter. This means I can’t even give most of the recipes a second glance as it’s just too hot, but then I remembered the joys of indirect cooking on the BBQ. With a gas BBQ with a lid, you can heat it up to a specific temperature reasonably accurately and then turn off the central burners to create a kind of oven. This discovery opened up a whole new chapter of the book… Read more »

All quiet on the Jamie project…

Fig, Prosciutto and Buffalo Mozzarella Salad

I know I haven’t blogged about my Jamie project for a few weeks, but if you look at the recipe tally you will notice the numbers increasing.  The good thing about most Jamie recipes is that they are quite cook-able on a week night, so I have been steadily ticking them off and photographing the results. But then disaster struck! The photos were deleted before they were downloaded and couldn’t be retrieved, so although I had things to write about there was nothing to show for it, which is very disappointing. I have now rectified that, so here is my round up of the last month or so of The Return of the Naked Chef.. Read more »

King of Quick Pasta

Spaghetti

I snuck in an extra day off work today to recover from the last 3 1/2 weeks with the parents, but rather than a relaxing day off I’ve ended up clearing out the fridge and freezer. Not exactly what I had in mind for my day off, but it was pretty productive.  Apart from the large number of jars of chutney that will plague my fridge for the next twelve months, I also found numerous half finished jars of stuff that were all years out of date, and 32 egg whites waiting to be made into something other than meringue! Suggestions on a postcard to…

All this activity meant that the morning disappeared very quickly and early afternoon was upon me without any food passing my lips! Read more »

Off to a good start…

I-Thai Tortellini

Before I launch into the next book good a proper I thought I’d set out some more ground rules. I’ve had a quick flick through book two, and disappointingly noted that some of the recipes have been copied word for word into the second book, so I can tell you now I will be ticking them off and not repeating them, as I think there is little point. So that gives me a head start on a least 7 recipes! I’ll have this booked nailed by the end of the month!!! Read more »

Nic and Jamie

Start of a new year, start of a new book. Time to lay the Naked Chef to rest and embark on the next book!

Well you may not have seen the film or read the book, but Julie and Julia is a true story based on the online memoir of Julie Powell…

Ephron’s screenplay is adapted from two books: My Life in France, Child’s autobiography, written with Alex Prud’homme, and a memoir by Julie Powell. In August 2002, Powell started documenting online her daily experiences cooking each of the 524 recipes in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and she later began reworking that blog, The Julie/Julia Project.

Nichola saw this film on one of the long flights en-route for a surprise visit to the UK and really liked it. And it got her thinking…. “maybe I should cook every single Jamie Oliver recipe – EVER!”.

So this is the start of that project, starting with book 1 – ‘The Naked Chef’ – and in time moving on to the others.

This is good news for Graham, who just has to sit back and reap the rewards of having a wife who just LOVES to cook!!

A review of the Naked Chef as cooked by Nic

So I managed to cook 95% of the recipes in the Naked Chef so  I think that qualifies me to write a review, so chapter by chapter, here is how the Nic and Jamie project panned out. Read more »

The final recipe!

Marion and Buster!

I think I’m done! Well as done as I’m going to be! 6 months of cooking, and 133 out of 140 recipes, that’s not a bad effort and I think I have legitimate reasons for not cooking the recipes I haven’t cooked. 95% – you can’t be disappointed with that! Read more »

Desserts – Done!

Spotted Dick

Of all the sections this was the one that I thought I wouldn’t finish, but alas, cooking my way through the Naked Chef has helped me to develop a bit of a sweet tooth! Which I’m not sure is a good thing! Read more »

Meat – Done!

I was thinking I was going to have to admit defeat with the meat recipes as the final one to cook was boiled ham. But with Christmas around the corner I was able to find the Australian equivalent of gammon (pickled pork) at the butcher, and with a day off work I set the ham boiling first thing in the morning before the kitchen got too hot!

And boy was I glad I gave it a go. We had delicious boiled ham with peas pudding, parsley sauce and a small portion of home grown potatoes! Even though in my head ham is a Christmas (winter) dish it was actually summer on a plate and we were able to take the leftovers away with us for an equally enjoyable dinner in the Barrington Tops.

Risotto and Couscous – Done

I’m ticking off the chapters at a cracking pace now! Risotto and Couscous was finished off with the couscous salad and the seafood risotto. I wouldn’t bother with the couscous again, none of the recipes were anything special and I have a tried and tested couscous recipe that never fails me so why fix something that isn’t broken?! The seafood risotto was a nice surprise though. I’ve been putting off cooking ths one as anything seafood based I usually find a bit over powering, but the fih stock in this was delicious and not too seafoody at all! So there is another recipe to add to my regular risotto flavour rotation!!!

Pulses – Done!

Someone always has to be last, and the last recipe from the pulses chapter was the black eye beans with spinach and balsamic vinegar.  I guess it was last because it was the recipe that least inspired me from this chapter especially as it was one without a picture.  But as the cliché says “save the best ’til last” in this case I really did.  Not that there isn’t always room for improvement of course, but the beans went really mushy (20 minutes before the end of the prescribed cooking time) but following that I folded in the spinach, seasoning and balsamic vinegar and it was the perfect, comforting accompaniment to home made sausages and zucchini picked from the garden.

Soup – Done!

Tomato Soup

I have finally finished a whole chapter of the book with the final soup recipe completed for lunch today.  The final recipe was Fresh Tomato and Sweet Chilli Pepper Soup with Smashed Basil and Olive Oil (p22).  I think this was one of the first recipes I cooked from this book, back in the summer of 2000 when the family came to visit in my new home in Manchester.  I also seem to remember that I vowed I would never do it again as it was to much effort, but that was back in the day when I couldn’t really cook, but this bloke called Jamie Oliver had inspired me to give it a go (it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I fancied the pants off him!!!!).

Freshly baked bread

So 10 years later I try it again and now I quite enjoy spending the whole morning putting a recipe together, as it’s a way to relax at the end of a busy week at work. But not only did I whip up some soup for lunch, but I also managed to bake a batch of bread. So that ticks two more recipes off the list.  I had actually been putting off cooking recipes from the bread section as I was really disappointed with the focaccia but as I am 100% committed to doing this challenge properly I had to suck it up and bake some more bread.

Now here comes the confessions of a home cook. I was all ready to start my bread making when I realised I only had half the quantity of yeast required, and when I looked at the best before date (just wondering how long I’d had it) it revealed it should’ve been chucked out in November 2007 – whoops, no wonder the focaccia was a bit of a flop. So with a fresh tub of yeast I made rosemary and olive rolls and pesto twister bread. And WOW! They actually tasted really good. So now I am inspired to make some more fresh rolls for the BBQ we are having next week.  Whole loaves are difficult to cook through sufficiently, but rolls seem to work really well and I can make them in small enough quantities that we can eat them, as without preservatives I’m sure they don’t last very long.

The gloves come off…

Getting ready

I think my reviews of the recipes have been pretty tame so far but I’m afraid tonight’s offering needs a little more constructive criticism.  I know this was Jamie’s first effort, but even as a reasonably well practised home cook, I found tonight’s recipe tricky to follow. So here is my review of Broth of Steaming Scallops, Prawns and Clams with Noodles, Black Beans, Coriander and Lime (NB: I couldn’t get clams for a Monday night noodle dish so I increased the amount of scallops and prawns).

Comment 1: Having not ever cooked with black beans before “simmer until tender” is not sufficient instruction, especially when you are planning how long it will take you to cook dinner.  As luck had it, there was no real urgency with dinner tonight so the 30ish minutes it took to cook them was not a problem.

Comment 2: As above “steam the seafood above the simmering stock”  is just not accurate enough. Thankfully I am pretty good at judging when things are cooked but I know all too many people that would leave the sea food steaming for 20 minutes and it would be way over done. For future reference it took less than 5 minutes to steam and the prawns were quicker than the scallops.

The finished dish

Comment 3: 455g of noodles is far too much for 4 people if you are using rice noodles.  Jamie doesn’t specify a type of noodle (there are many to choose from and I really home he wasn’t suggesting the instant type) so I used my knowledge of other Asian broths and chose rice vermicelli, of which 50g per person is more than generous especially when serving with beans!

Comment 4: As with the chicken broth it lacked real Asian flavour. There really needs to be some fish or soy sauce and maybe some kaffir lime. I’m giving Jamie the benefit of the doubt on this one though as I don’t think his public were ready for that in 1999!

So I’ll not be doing this one again, especially as Graham said “It’s nice but I prefer your recipe”…

The final push…

Spicy Couscous

I’m determined to get book one finished by the new year so today I re-energised for the last few recipes.  The new enthusiasm started because I have been looking through some of Jamie’s other books, and I’m really keen to try some more recipes, but not one to give up I’m determined to finish what I started.  I was also concerned that I wouldn’t be able to cook some of the recipes because I wouldn’t be able to get hold of some of the ingredients, or justify the cost of some of the others, but having foolishly asked my parents what they’d like for Christmas day, their reply was lobster! So despite have to re-mortgage the house to purchase said beasts I will be doing the lobster recipe (p105) for the festive season (perhaps not Christmas day as you have to cook them as soon after you buy them as possible, and not even the fish market is open Christmas Day).

So today’s triumphs were fish stock (p224) which I clarified (p226), for the Asian Seafood Broth (p27) for tomorrow nights dinner. Followed by Farfelle with Rocket Pesto for lunch (p81).  Although, as we near the end of this challenge I have a few minor confessions – I was unable to buy the watercress required for this recipe so I substituted with extra rocket. Then there was the farfalle which I didn’t manage to make from scratch today, but I did for the other farfalle recipes.

For dinner we had the spicy couscous (p180) which I accompanied with lamb steaks. Again, I couldn’t quite follow this recipe to the letter. Jamie says to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes once the stock has been added. However the stock was absorbed within a couple of minutes so simmering any further would’ve cemented it to the bottom of the pan, so I resorted to my tried and tested cooking method – covering with cling film and leaving to stand for five minutes.  This recipe was nice but simple, I think Jamie was breaking the world in gently to the exotic ingredient of couscous.

Chocolate tart

And finally to top the day off I made the simple chocolate tart.  Now I am really struggling with the desserts and breads so again I had to cheat a little to to tick another recipe off the list.  I have made a lot of homemade pastry recently so I felt I was allowed a day off so I bought some sweet pastry cases instead.  Part of this challenge is about increasing my cooking skills, and I have certainly improved my ability to make pastry from scratch so I am not feeling guilty about this one.  In fact, they were so simple I think it might encourage me to make dessert more often, and as Jamie’s latest project is to get people cooking properly every night (30 minute dinners) I think he would endorse the adaptation.  I have also dressed it up with a raspberry coolie, which makes up for the shop bought pastry, and I have to say it was pretty yummy!

Nearly There!

Pork chops with pesto

I know I haven’t posted in here for a while, but I haven’t given up, I’ve just had to divide my time between being very busy at work and eating my way through the freezer to make room for more food for our Christmas visitors! But in amongst all of that I have had chance to do a couple of dishes. I thought I was going to have to admit defeat with a couple of the meat dishes because sourcing ingredients can be a bit tricky, but I managed to find a guinea fowl in a butchers in Leichhardt, which was pricey, but good to try. Due to the cost of such birds down here I think that one would have to be reserved for a special occasion in the future, but it also meant I have now found a place to buy rabbit, pheasant, partridge and pigeon, if I ever get a new job that has the salary to support that kind of shopping!

The recipes are now 70% cooked. As the weather has warmed up I have managed to blitz the salads and found some amazing ones that will become regular accompaniments to BBQ’s in the summer, the favourite was probably the root salad (p31) but the beetroot salad and radish and fennel salads would come very close, joint second. And trying the beetroot salad has encouraged us to try other beetroot dishes which were equally delicious!

Beetroot Pasta

I have also been refining my ravioli and tortellini making skills, to the point where I have discovered they freeze really well, so I now have a freezer full of the stuff for quick weekend lunches, which is fabulous! I also tried the special pasta recipe (p47) but once cooked, I couldn’t really see how it differed from the everyday quick pasta recipe.  I also tried the beetroot pasta with mussels. Again this one looked fabulous, but the pasta didn’t take on any of the flavour of the beetroot.

I think I can claim the vegetable chapter complete.  I made vegetable tempura, which was surprisingly tasty, leaving slow cooked artichokes. Now artichokes are one of the few things that you can only buy when they are in season. The artichoke season in Sydney has been and gone. I did buy a couple and try the salad recipe with them (p38) then tried frying the left overs (p138) but now, I will have to wait the best part of the year to finish it off, and I think Jamie would let me off that one so I can move onto book two in the hopefully near future.

60% there

I’ve been at it since June, and I’m nearly done. Well I’ve completed 60% of the recipes in the first Jamie book. The momentum has slowed down a bit, as the more I do the harder it becomes. I have cooked most of the everyday meals and all of the wintery dishes, which only leaves the recipes that require fancy ingredients or would benefit from a summers day before eating.

Semi-freddo

Last weekend I made the most of the seasonal figs and tried the semi-fredo. This was a surprisingly pleasant dessert that highlighted the need for food and wine matching. I haven’t worked out whether it’s the cream, figs or honey, but paired with lemon cordial or dessert wine it leaves a strange taste of anchovies in your mouth! Try it! I dare you!!!

It might also be time to start changing the rules of the game, as I’m really keen to move on to book two. So this might be a good time to confess that I can’t cook the red mullet and ham as I can’t buy the raw ingredients. It’s not a cop out, honest!

Serious Stuff!

The Nic and Jamie challenge is proving to be more than just a crazy idea, as it’s forcing me to cook things that I wouldn’t ordinarily bother! In turn this means I’m discovering awesome new recipes and gaining cooking skills.

Mayonnaise

A prime example of one such recipe is mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is something I always buy. Now we’re in Oz mayonnaise is one of the few things that I pay extra for to get the imported British stuff (the other would be chocolate if I could find it!), as good old Helmann’s is tricky to beat. Some things are worth spending extra time to make from scratch, but I’m just not convinced that mayonnaise warrants the extra effort.

But just to prove I can, I did! And I did it with a hand whisk, not my beloved mixer. The only reason I bothered was because there is a very slim chance that I might get an audition for a TV cooking show that cannot be named and mayonnaise really is one of those things you should be able to make from scratch. And I have to say it tasted quite good, and was the perfect accompaniment to my homemade chips :)

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