Jamie's Food Revolution

I have been a long time fan of Jamie’s TV shows. I’ve always loved his bare bones, accessible approach to high class cooking. Unlike some celebrity chefs I don’t feel intimidated or scared off by his dishes. Yet despite my long time fandom, I have never cooked one of his recipes! Until now that is. Like my fellow food challenger Jason, I am in no way a chef, or a cook, or even mildly competent in the kitchen. Thankfully for me my girlfriend, Melissa, is a fantastic cook! Combine her culinary skills with Jamie’s brilliant recipes and only deliciousness can follow!

For my inaugural food challenge I decide to step outside of our comfort zone and try one of his Indian dishes. Indian food, curry especially, has ingrained itself into British cooking so I thought this would be a great way to try something new, but still something quintessentially Jamie. We chose to make his Tikka Masala Chicken, from page 82.

So few ingredients for such a big payoff!

The best thing about this recipe is how pain free it is. The thought of cooking Indian food scared me at first. I had images of foreign spices and vegetables I’d never seen before or hunting through little India for some rare pepper. I couldn’t have been farther from the truth. The dish was accented very simply with onion, garlic, ginger, chile, and topped with cilantro, almonds and yoghurt.

Fry baby fry!

To make it even easier this dish all goes into one pan (Ohhh yeah!). You simply fry up the veggies, add coconut milk, tomatoes, and your chicken, boil and simmer. Voila! If I’d only known how simple it is too make delicious, authentic Indian cuisine! Oh the possibilities!

Nothing says beauty, like a one-pot recipe!

To finish it all off, we served the dish on a bed of basmati rice, with some lovely naan and red wine on the side, lovingly brought over by our friend Josh who gave the dish rave reviews (and took home leftovers). This experience has emboldened me to try more Indian recipes and continue to spread out of my culinary comfort zone. Or I’ll just keep making this one over and over…time will tell.

The Spread.

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Jamie's Food Revolution

There’s little doubt in my mind that Jamie’s Food Revolution is one of my favourite working cookbooks. I’ve tried half a dozen recipes from it, and I often re-do many of them. I haven’t bought store-brand spaghetti sauce in over a year and am constantly trying out new things that eventually make their way into our weekly cooking. However, it was a bit of a special weekend up north (my birthday, shhh) and my RRHB asked me what I wanted for my *special* meal. It took me days and days to decide until I said one morning, “I want spaghetti and meatballs.”

Now, pause for a moment while I explain that I’m actually mainly vegetarian. But lately we’ve been eating locally raised poultry that we buy from a butcher in the city. It’s really the only meat that I eat so our “meatballs” are actually ground chicken and not beef and/or pork. The first time I made this recipe, I did beef meatballs for our friends who came for dinner, and chicken for myself. This time, we just did chicken. I think they’re delicious. However, note that my RRHB and my brother think they’re good but that they don’t exactly taste like the real deal.

Chopping the fresh rosemary

This time around I had fresh herbs from my garden (the recipe calls for rosemary, basil and dried oregano; I used fresh because that’s what I had on hand), two cans of organic tomatoes, and a pound of happy chicken (as I like to call it). We bought whole wheat pasta at the grocery store, but up until about fifteen minutes before we left, I entertained bringing my pasta maker just because it might be fun. In the end it seemed a bit too ambitious for the confines of my grandmother’s cottage kitchen.

Fresh Onion & Cocozelle For The Sauce

For the sauce, I also used up the first of my summer squash, a little cocozelle that I had picked the previous afternoon before we left for up north. The picture here is just after chop-chop-chopping the onions.

Mushing Up The Meatballs

The last time I made the meatballs — and they were a disaster. They were too big and fell apart a little when we tried to fry them. This time, as my RRHB said, he staged an intervention. His were perfectly cylindrical, sized just right, and cooked in no time. By then, my sauce was ready so we put everything in the pot to simmer together. It smelled divine.

That's A Spicy Meatball!

The ideology behind Jamie’s Food Revolution — rediscovering how to cook simple, delicious meals — is utterly vindicated with this recipe. All tolled it took us about 45 minutes to make everything from scratch, with the exception of fresh pasta, and it truly was a delicious birthday feast. Even if it wasn’t technically spaghetti and “real” meatballs. My RRHB (pictured above) was actually much happier than this eating dinner. I can’t recommend this cookbook enough — from the simple, delicious soups to more complex meals like a full roast chicken (at least for me!), there’s something to be said about this movement towards teaching yourself some basics. In the end, the biggest cooking lesson I’ve learned from Jamie is that it doesn’t have to be complicated to be truly mouth-wateringly yummy.

(“Meatballs and Pasta, page 151).
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Congratulations to Emilie who has won a copy of Jamie’s Italy!

For you chance to win a copy of Jamie’s Food Revolution, send your answers to the questions below (as well as your shipping address) to katerina.ortakova@harpercollins.com

1) Who/what inspired Jamie to write Jamie’s Food Revolution?

2) Name another one of Jamie’s cookbooks.

3) How has Jamie empowered his readers with Jamie’s Food Revolution?

(Hint: Take a look here)

While you’re here, make sure to vote for which challenger you think did the best job:

Jamie's Italy

Now let me start off by saying that I am in no way a professional a cook, in truth I usually only cook the staples of the male diet: chicken fingers, sandwiches, and cereal. So, when the idea for this blog was floating around I thought, who better than me to take on the recipes of professionals?

I rarely cook following directions or a recipe, so this was a bit of an experience for me. I decided on the Spaghetti with Shrimp and Arugula recipe found on page 116. I’m not going to lie, this was the first time I had seen arugula and I didn’t even know what I was looking for in the supermarket, until a nice older lady took me out of the baked goods section and into the vegetables. I had originally planned on making the Tuna Meatballs, but who would have thought it was so hard to find “fresh” tuna in the city of Toronto, at 7pm, on a Thursday night? The last time I made spaghetti my kitchen looked like the set of a low budget horror film, sauce everywhere. I made the mistake of wearing a white shirt to cook, and whilst the sauce left a lovely pattern, now seagulls and pigeons chase me down the street whenever I wear it.

Preparing the ingredients.

The best thing about the spaghetti and shrimp recipe was the fact that you could add any type of vegetable you want. Also, it calls for one small glass of white wine, so that gave me an excuse to buy wine mid-week! To go with the garlic, chilies, arugula and sun-dried tomatoes Mr. Oliver asks for, I decided to add in some red pepper and a small amount of diced onions for a bit of flavour and texture. All the while I was thinking, who am I to add to Jamie Oliver’s recipe? I mean this is the man who has basically cornered the market on cookbooks and revolutionized the idea of a TV host/chef. But no, with all my experience and wisdom I added to a master’s recipe, surely nothing could go wrong…

Cooking away.

After everything was prepared, sliced, diced, chopped, and blended, it was time to start cooking. I was really surprised at how calming and fun it was to make this dish. When I had the veggies and shrimp sautéed, the white wine came into play. Since I was having so much fun, I decided on the old “one for you and one for me game” which turned out wonderfully for both the meal and for me! With cooking skills like this, I wondered, how am I still single? I found the hardest part turned out to be combining the pasta with the sauce. I had obviously made too much pasta and it was a bit difficult to get everything to mesh well, but in the end it turned out much better than I could ever have expected. The chilies gave it a great kick and the sun-dried tomatoes were key for overall taste. It was easily, the best cooking experience I have ever had, and definitely will not be the last.

The finished product.

Watch out Jamie Oliver, this kid can cook!

Ready to enjoy.

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Jamie’s Italy

Jamie's Italy

Risotto Bianco con pesto (p.132)

Jamie Oliver, without a doubt, is my favourite celebrity chef for one-million-and-one reasons. Most importantly, and most recently, he has turned my husband into my favourite “real-life” chef through his brilliant iPhone app 20 Minute Meals (if you have an iPhone or an iPad, I highly recommend this). I have been watching Jamie on TV since he was a wee Naked Chef and he influenced me to start experimenting in the kitchen at a fairly young age. My friend Lisa and I even had the honest pleasure of meeting Jamie last year when he was in Toronto. He comes across as an all around top-notch kind of person who aims to teach everyone a little something about eating fresh, home-made food and about taking care of one another.

Chop Chop.

So with that in mind, and the fact that his cookbooks are beautiful, I gladly took the challenge of cooking something out of Jamie’s Italy this week. I chose Risotto Bianco con pesto (p.132). Overall, the recipe was simple though time consuming (which everyone already expects with Risotto). First things first, I poured myself a glass of wine. Next, I began chopping my onion and celery. While the veggies were cooking over a low heat I made the pesto (oh wait, no I didn’t). Instead I opened the jar of ready-made pesto because I couldn’t find an ingredient as simple as pine nuts in my local grocery store!!). After adding the risotto to the pan, letting it lightly fry for a few minutes, I added the wine. The smell was UNBELIEVABLE. I stirred the risotto while adding ladles of broth continuously for about a half hour and, of course, Mr. Murphy was there to show his support…


The Process.

I tasted for seasoning a few times and when the risotto was final cooked I took the pan off the heat and added butter and parmesan cheese. After scooping some risotto into the bowls, I topped each with a dollop of pesto (which was surprisingly good) and sprinkled some fresh basil leaves on top. After one bit my husband said, “This is the best thing I have ever tasted, it has a harmony of flavours and the texture is perfect.” And to that I said, “shot gun: not doing the dishes.”

Final Dish.

This was a great recipe that was easy to follow with fantastic results. I do regret not shopping around for pine nuts earlier but I will be making this recipe again with home-made pesto next time. NOTES: the reason the risotto did not turn out as white as Jamie’s photos is simply because I used a vegetable broth with tomato paste in it.

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Jamie's Italy

I was very pleased when we settled on Jamie’s Italy this week. I love Jamie (who doesn’t?) and I love his recipes even more because he uses simple, fresh ingredients and it really comes through in the flavour of the food.

This is one cookbook where you don’t want to be substituting anything and I should have know that. But let’s leave that for later. I decided to make Jamie’s Spaghetti Tetrazzini which is baked spaghetti with mushrooms and chicken in a creamy sauce. Sort of like a baked chicken alfredo which is great for anyone who likes crispy spaghetti.

This recipe is quite easy and only has about 8 ingredients, which is where the no substituting rule comes into play. Jamie suggests using 2.5 cups of cream so I decided to substitute this with blended fat-free cottage cheese (bad idea). The lack of fat meant that the sauce separated.

Prior to separation taking place.

The fact that the sauce separated meant that the overall dish wasn’t as creamy and the sauce turned glue-y on the back of the spoon. Unlike what you would expect, the flavour was perfectly fine.

I mixed in the spaghetti and turned it all into a baking dish. I sprinkle with parmesan cheese and baked until the cheese melted and the spaghetti got nice and golden brown and crispy.

Baked to perfection.

In the end, I would definitely attempt this recipe again as it was very easy and intuitive. However, I would only do it when I was in the mood for a calorie fix because attempting a low-fat version of this dish will only serve to disappoint in texture (and creamy flavour).

Spaghetti Tetrazzini.

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Congratulations to Linda of North Bay, ON and Irene of Brantford, ON. You will be receiving your copies of Laura Calder’s French Taste shortly!

On to Jamie’s Italy. For your chance to win a copy, send your answers to the below questions to katerina.ortakova@harpercollins.com

1) What has Jamie’s ambition always been?
2) Jamie brings more than mouthwatering food back home, what else does he bring?
3) Where did Jamie start cooking?

(Hint: take a look here)

Good luck and make sure to vote on which of Jamie’s recipes you like the best!