Jamie Oliver is an absolute machine. The celebrity chef – no longer “naked”, but very much clothed and still campaigning for us all to cook (stress-free) from scratch at home – is back with a new recipe collection, Together.
While not all five of his children are featured on the cover (three are, we get the sense the teenagers have bowed out this time around), this book is all about feeding the people you love. There are dinner party menus, ideas for big gatherings and celebrations, and nifty get-ahead tips and tricks so you’re not losing your cool as your guests start to appear.
Dedicated to NHS staff, the impact of the pandemic is a thread that Oliver picks up on throughout. And he’s right, it’s very lovely to be able to sit down, chat and scoff our faces together again.
We put three recipes to the test.
Ella Walker tried: elegant tuna carpaccio
I do not usually attempt anything remotely “elegant” on a weeknight, but having located fresh tuna steaks in Sainsbury’s, I reread the recipe and realised I could prep it on my lunch break, then just throw it (OK, delicately assemble it) all together at dinnertime.
In terms of process, it did feel rather clean and graceful. I emptied the fridge of veggies (runner beans, carrot, pak choi) and sliced them into thin spears, before “scrunching” the lot with miso and rice wine vinegar. Searing the tuna (20 seconds each side in a hot pan) with tongs was suitably chef-like, and super speedy, and I’m glad I made the effort to buy frozen edamame beans. Their texture is so moreish. The trickiest bit was fitting all the elements in the fridge to wait out the afternoon.
I made the fatal error of thinking, “Where is the carb?” upon assembly, and made rice on the side. You absolutely do not need to do that. Oliver has actually designed it as a starter for two people, but it’s a lot. The protein and veg involved really is enough, and the spicy-limey dressing makes the dish zing. My serving style was more “tumbled” than “elegant” but the pink of the tuna was very pleasing on the eye. The only bit I wouldn’t bother with again is toasting the sesame seeds. The tiny little things just stuck together in the pan (causing more washing up) and the toastiness barely registered. I’d just chuck them on straight from the packet instead next time.
Satisfying, fast and really quite beautiful, I just need to invest in a decent platter, and a bigger fridge.
Noreen Barr tried: fragrant squash curry
Reading through the ingredients for Oliver’s fragrant squash curry, one glared out – two tinned pineapple rings in juice. The last time I knowingly ate pineapple in a curry was reluctantly as a child back in the 1970s. That strangely sweet and chunky, but trendy at the time, experience put me off curries for at least a decade.
Yet Oliver’s recipes generally go down well in our household, so casting aside my doubts, and those of my meat-loving teenage son and nine-year-old daughter who announced it sounded “weird”, I decided to give this veggie curry a try.
Making it was simple. While chunks of squash (no need to peel) were slowly roasting for an hour in the oven, I had plenty of time to dry-fry the onion, garlic, ginger and spices. Soon the pineapple rings and tomatoes were softening and beginning to char – and the smell was surprisingly promising. Once whizzed in the blender with coconut milk, I’d a flavour-packed sauce that thickened up nicely with some chickpeas and finally the caramelised squash.
There was only one hitch. As our local shops had no coriander to use as a garnish, my daughter popped on some oregano to “lift” the final look. Since I had an hour without too much to do, I also knocked up some homemade naan bread. But the star of the meal was the curry, with the pineapple giving a sweet but balanced layer to the – fragrant as advertised – sauce. Every plate was cleared. Everyone (and this doesn’t happen often) wanted to have it again.
Lisa Salmon tried: chocolate orange crème brulée
Chocolate orange crème brulée sounds decadent, delicious and oh-so-posh. And that surely means it must be tricky to make, right?
Not at all! Jamie Oliver’s crème brulée was super-easy – other crème brulée recipes are baked in the oven in a bain-marie, but there was none of that faffing with Oliver’s little choc pots. It was as simple as melting chocolate into cream and milk, whipping egg yolks, sugar and orange zest together, combining the two mixtures, heating and whipping some more, and putting it in the fridge to set before caramelising sugar on the top to serve. Simple!
The hardest part was separating the four eggs, which I miraculously managed to do without any egg casualties. I had no idea how long to whip the egg yolks for – the recipe says till they’re pale and fluffy, but after whipping for ages my mixture was pale and definitely not my idea of fluffy. But it still worked (phew!).
Caramelising the sugar topping under the grill (like most people, I didn’t have a blow-torch) was nerve-wracking, because I didn’t know how long to do it for and was paranoid about burning it. I probably didn’t grill it for long enough in the end, but thankfully it did go hard (ish) after it cooled a little. The finished brulées tasted smooth, rich, and very sweet, with just the right hint of orange – definitely decadent, delicious, and dead easy!
‘Together’ by Jamie Oliver (published by Penguin Random House © Jamie Oliver Enterprises Limited; £26; photography by David Loftus) is available now.