Inspirational, but practical is how one reviewer described the latest book by Jamie Oliver: Together - Memorable meals, made easy
What is the heart of the home and what is the preferred language of love? For cheeky chappie, Naked Chef Jamie Oliver, it’s food. With his most recent book, Together, Oliver has become personal, if not emotional, about the role that food plays in peoples’ lives.
“It’s close to my heart, I wrote it during lockdown knowing this day would come – when we can have friends and family together again,” he said in a Facebook video posted ahead of the book’s release.
“The whole point is getting people around the table.” Food allows people to kick back, relax, talk, laugh and just connect, he believes.
“Every time you get a new book – it’s so exciting! To see what it looks like, feels like …” he admitted with the refreshing candour that the Essex chef is known for. “I’m really proud of it. It feels substantial and gorgeous and quality – there’s a nice little ribbon to mark your place …”
How many other authors would be chuffed about a place marker?! Furthermore, Oliver has dedicated this book, his 25th, to “the wonderful NHS and key workers” for the pivotal role they played during the pandemic. Now that vaccinations have gained momentum and restrictions are being lifted, people can gather once more and this is what Oliver knew would be the case.
“There’s something for everyone,” he said in his FB promo. “Starters, main course, desserts, dinners, lunches, brunches. Table plans, cocktails. Veggies are covered, vegans are covered. Pescatarians covered …”
Perhaps the most important attribute of the book is the sentiment behind it. It was a lockdown project in which Oliver and wife Jools made the best of a bad situation, filming footage with their mobile phones rather than a film crew. Their children helped out too, both with the preparation and the consumption.
“The job of the book is to arm you with the ability to get ahead so that you can spend as much time with friends or family as you can,” Oliver said. “And be there and enjoy both them and enjoy being together as much as possible.”
His final word was about everyone affected by the pandemic appreciating the simple things in life; a cup of tea, a bit of cake. And getting to see friends and family in the flesh. “Food is the most incredible excuse to get people together.”
Chicken, sausage and bacon puff pie
English mustard, leeks and watercress sauce
2 rashers of higher-welfare smoked streaky bacon
2 free-range chicken thighs (100g each), skin off, bone out
2 higher-welfare sausages
2 small potatoes (100g each)
2 heaped teaspoons English mustard
2 heaped tablespoons plain flour
500ml organic chicken stock
500ml semi-skimmed milk
320g ready-rolled puff pastry
1 large free-range egg
You can do this on the day, if you prefer. Slice the bacon and place in a large shallow casserole pan on a medium heat. Chop the chicken and sausages into 3cm chunks, and add to the pan. Cook until lightly golden, stirring regularly, while you trim and wash the leeks, peel the potatoes, chop it all into 3cm chunks, then stir in with a good splash of water. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the leeks have softened, stirring occasionally, scraping up any sticky bits, and adding an extra splash of water, if needed.
Stir in the mustard and flour, followed by the stock, then the milk. Bring to the boil, simmer for 15 minutes on a low heat, stirring regularly, then season to perfection, tasting and tweaking. Carefully pour everything through a colander to separate the filling from the sauce. Pour the sauce into a blender, add the watercress and blitz until smooth.
Spoon the filling into a 20cm pie dish with 100ml of sauce. Let everything cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Brush the rim of the pie dish with olive oil. Cut the pastry into 2cm-thick strips, using a crinkly pasta cutter if you’ve got one, then arrange over the dish – I like a messy lattice. Egg wash all the pastry, then bake the pie for 45 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the filling is piping hot. Gently heat up the watercress sauce to serve on the side.
Peel 500g of root veg of your choice, chop into 2–3cm chunks and cook for 20 minutes with the leeks, potatoes, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the leaves from ½ a bunch of thyme (10g). Use organic veg stock with the milk, top up with 125ml of sauce on assembly, then finish in the same way.
Dukkah roast chicken
Warm pomegranate gravy dressing
1 x 350g jar of small preserved lemons
1 fresh red chilli
1 bunch of rosemary (20g)
1 x 1.5kg free-range whole chicken
1 tablespoon runny honey
3 tablespoons dukkah
Red wine vinegar
140g wild rocket
ON THE DAY:
I like to time this so the chicken is coming out of the oven to rest just as my guests arrive. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Get a roasting tray that will fit the chicken fairly snugly. Halve, deseed and finely chop four preserved lemons and place in the tray. Roughly chop and add the chilli, strip in the rosemary, then halve the pomegranate and squeeze all the juice through your fingers into the tray. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then the chicken, season lightly and rub all that flavour over the bird, getting into all the nooks and crannies. Pour 150ml of water into the tray around the chicken and roast for 1 hour 20 minutes, or until golden and cooked through, basting halfway with the tray juices.
Remove, cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes in the tray.
Move the chicken to a serving platter, drizzle and brush with the honey, then scatter over the dukkah. For the dressing, skim off and discard a spoonful of fat from the tray, then place the tray over a medium heat on the hob, add 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar and simmer until thickened, scraping up all the sticky bits and loosening with splashes of water, if needed. Pour through a sieve into a little jug. Serve with the chicken and a bowl of rocket. Great with my Smashed aubergine and Roasted squash recipes, which you'll find in the book.
Use 1 cauliflower (800g) instead of chicken for veggie guests – use just two preserved lemons in the marinade, then roast and finish it in exactly the same way as the chicken..
PRESERVE THOSE LEMONS:
Preserved lemons don’t last that long once the jar’s open, so what I do is pour all their liquor into a blender, deseed and add the lemons, then blitz until smooth. Freeze in ice cube trays ready to jazz up stews, salads, couscous, rice, roasts and dressings.
My sumptuous beef bourguignon
Burgundy, bacon, button mushrooms and baby onions
1.5kg higher-welfare beef cheeks, trimmed
4 large carrots
4 sticks of celery
4 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 fresh bay leaves
1 small pinch of ground cloves
750ml Burgundy or Pinot Noir
50g plain flour
20g unsalted butter
6 rashers of higher-welfare smoked streaky bacon
400g button mushrooms
½ a bunch of flat-leaf parsley (15g)
Chop the beef cheeks into 5cm chunks. Wash, trim and chop the carrots and celery into 3cm chunks. Peel the garlic and onion, then roughly chop. Place it all in a large bowl with the mustard, bay, cloves, a generous pinch of black pepper and the wine. Mix well, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
ON THE DAY:
Preheat the oven to 160°C. Pour the contents of the beef bowl into a colander set over another bowl. Pick out just the beef and pat dry with kitchen paper, then toss with the flour. Put a large casserole pan on a medium heat and melt the butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. In batches, brown the floured beef all over, turning with tongs and removing to a plate with any crispy bits once browned. Tip the veg into the pan, and cook for 10 minutes, or until starting to caramelize, stirring occasionally and scraping up any sticky bits. Return the beef to the pan, pour over the reserved wine and 750ml of boiling water, then bring to a simmer. Cover with a scrunched-up sheet of damp greaseproof paper and transfer to the oven for around 4 hours, or until the beef is beautifully tender, topping up with splashes of water, if needed.
When the beef is perfect, turn the oven off. Slice the bacon, then place in a large non-stick pan on a medium-high heat. Peel, chop and add the shallots, tossing regularly, then trim and halve or quarter the mushrooms, adding to the pan as you go.
Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden, stirring regularly. Finely chop and toss through the parsley leaves, then pour the contents of the pan over the bourguignon and season to perfection, tasting and tweaking. Serve with mash and garlicky greens.
Satisfying veggie bake
We all need extraordinarily tasty ways to get in the good stuff, and with five of your five-a-day per portion, this dish makes me very happy.
3 cloves of garlic
3 level teaspoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons olive tapenade
3 mixed-colour peppers
3 sweet potatoes
3 large Portobello mushrooms
3 x 400g tins of quality plum tomatoes
3 large free-range eggs
500g Greek-style yoghurt
100g feta cheese
1 bunch of oregano (20g)
1 packet of filo pastry (270g)
1 mug of basmati rice (300g)
1 x 400g tin of butter beans
You can prep this on the day, if you prefer. Peel and finely slice the onions and garlic, and place in a large casserole pan on a medium heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the ground coriander and tapenade, stirring regularly. Alongside, we’re going to lightly char our veg in a large dry non-stick pan on a high heat to intensify the flavour, so deseed the peppers, scrub the sweet potatoes, then chop into 3cm chunks with the mushrooms and courgettes. One veg at a time, lightly char all over, moving them into the casserole pan as they’re done. Add the tomatoes to the mix, breaking them up with a spoon, along with 2 tins worth of water. Simmer gently for 30 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are soft. Season to perfection, tasting and tweaking, leave to cool, then cover.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs into the yoghurt, roughly crumble and mix in the feta, then cover. Refrigerate both overnight.
ON THE DAY:
Assemble the bake as your last prep job. Use half the oregano as a brush to coat the inside of a large roasting tray or baking dish with oil. Layer in all but one of the filo sheets, leaving an overhang and brushing with oil as you go. Evenly sprinkle in the rice, drain and scatter over the beans, then pour in your veggie stew. Scrunch over the remaining sheet of filo and fold in the overhang, brush the top with oil, then cover, until needed.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Cook the bake on the bottom of the oven for 1 hour.
Remove from the oven and use the back of a spoon to crack the top of the pastry, then spoon over the creamy topping. Pick the remaining oregano, rub in a little oil and sprinkle over, then return to the middle of the oven for another 40 minutes, or until golden. Great with a simple salad.
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