By now he needs no introduction – 23 books, almost 40 TV shows, controversies, successful ventures, failed restaurants. Whatever you make of him – for he does split opinion – his core endeavour has always been to get the Average Joe cooking. Whether young lad, cash-strapped mum or anyone just too busy to cook, Jamie (like with Nigella and Delia, we’re on first-name terms) has always been here to help.
Jamie’s new book, Veg: Easy & Delicious Meals for Everyone (Penguin, £26), focuses on, you guessed it, vegetarian food. Apart from the odd ingredient, such as parmesan or Worcestershire sauce, for which he offers alternatives, it’s fully vegetarian (there are some vegan recipes, or you can make easy tweaks).
Though apparently eight years in the making, it’s clear why this book is coming out now. Whether for health, ethical or environmental reasons, many of us are cutting down on – if not cutting out – meat. This book is aimed at all, though it’s particularly appealing to the meat-free Monday crowd, with a wealth of umami-rich dishes that aren’t too far from their meaty equivalents.
With 11 chapters there’s something for everyone. The curries and stews are impressive – and cheap! – while, this being Jamie Oliver, there’s a hefty pasta section, with a proper pukka sweet leek carbonara.
Pretty Persian-style rice
This Persian classic is a centrepiece dish, perfect for plonking in the middle of the table. A tapestry of rich colours: red, green, yellow, brown, white. It tastes delicious too. Rice, caramelised below and fluffy on top, is infused with delicate and floral cardamom and saffron, and sprinkled with bold flavours (dill, parsley, mint, pomegranates, harissa, pistachios). A success.
Mediterranean vegetable rice
Another one-pot, rice-based show-stopper (the book’s replete with no-frills cooking). This recipe, though easy, hinges on the quality of ingredients. The better your veg, mozzarella and pesto, the more enjoyment you’ll get.
A little on the dry side, I felt it would work best as a side for an aubergine and tomato-based sauce.
Wonderful veg tagine
Another simple, colourful dish, and one that packs a punch, too. Jamie, offering the sort of independence I look for, suggests practically any combination of vegetables you like, encouraging seasonal, local fare.
I opted for yellow and green courgettes, aubergine, and red and yellow cherry tomatoes. Combined with saffron, dried apricot, cinnamon and preserved lemon, it was a sweet, sour and spicy delight.
Jamie churns out books, practically one a year, but there’s rarely a dud. Still, it’s been a while since his greatest hits: The Naked Chef, Jamie’s Kitchen, Jamie’s Italy.
Despite a couple of minor bugbears – I’d rather know how a vegetable is chopped or sliced in the ingredients list than within the recipe – there’s an impressive range of dishes, inspired from all over the globe, that don’t skimp on flavour.