Jamie's Italy (Anglais) Relié – 3 octobre 2005
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Speaking of recipes, he really has traveled all over Italy, to every nook and cranny, to find delightful, fresh and unique recipes that you haven't seen before in other 'Italian' cookbooks. He covers: Antipasti, street food, pizza, soups, pastas, risotto, salads, main courses, fish, meat, side dishes, and deserts. The book is a staggering 307 pages, and it's just full of Italian food. Everything from mixed, roasted vegetables to roasted sole three ways, to sausages with green lentils, to lamb kabobs, fried zucchini, fig tart, and so many recipes your head will swim and your senses will go on overload.
With this extraordinary book, Jamie Oliver shows the world why he has such staying power in the 'food biz' and why millions of people world-wide adore him. I'm old enough to be his mum (my daughter is a year older than he is), but I've got a real soft spot for the lad. He has paid his dues, worked very, very hard, hasn't let fame change who he is. This Italian cookbook is a joy in every way. What a wonderful holiday gift this would be for anyone you love.
Thank you, Jamie! It's a beautiful book.
The book reaffirms my earlier comparison of Oliver and Robin Williams, versus lets say, Susan Spungen and Dan Aykroyd. While Aykroyd is a very talented comedian, Robin Williams is a force of nature. Similarly, while Ms. Spungen's first book will probably win a James Beard award (it is nominated), Oliver's books grab you by the heart and never let go from first page to last.
I will even go so far as to say Oliver's book is superior as a first Italian cookbook than the eminent Mario Batali, Lydia Bastianich, or certainly Giada De Laurentiis. In fact, this book validates my giving Giada's books only four stars, as a rather thin, albeit `easy' presentation of familiar Italian dishes.
The book is certainly an even more genuine and personal chronicle of experiences with Italian food than Mario Batali's `travelogue' book, `Simple Italian Food, Recipes from My Two Villages', not to mention the rather detached and sterile reporting of Italian regional cooking by Mary Ann Esposito of the PBS `Ciao, Italia' series. All recipes appear to have been personally discovered by Oliver `in vivo', mostly in southern Italy, including Sicily and the islands off Sicily.
All my gushing over Oliver's greathearted embrace of Italian life should not hide the facts that Oliver is a hugely talented chef AND the dishes he translates for us are almost all genuine originals. While one will always find strong family resemblences between the fish and pasta and crostini and brodo recipes in all Italian cookbooks, Oliver has managed to push the envelope just a bit further and track down recipes which are certainly unfamiliar to my eyes, which have seen at least 50 Italian and Italian-influenced cookbooks over the last three years. One of my favorites is the recipe for `sushi del chianti', a speciality of `celebrity butcher' Dario Ceccini, one of the stars of Bill Buford's book, `Heat'. This is a Tuscan steak tartare, done with chili, orange zest, and marjoram.
I am generally not a big fan of cookbook photography, but I make a huge exception for this volume. There is an equal measure of snaps made of prepared dishes and of his nibs chatting it up or mugging with the local populace. After having seen books filled personality-centered pics of, for example, Giada or Ted Allen, I'm pleased to find a book which does this self-serving practice right. And, Italian landscapes in the background and charming Italians in the foreground go a long way to making this book a pleasure to look at as well as a pleasure to read.
Yet another delight of this book is the subtle way in which Oliver slips in some bits of culinary wisdom, as when he describes his shrimp frittata, which fussy Jamie must have just so thick, but not too thick, and browned on top, but still creamy in the center. For all the times other culinary writers talk about cooking with love, Oliver seems to be one of the very few who can translate that into words which evoke his own experiences. The text in this book seems to have more substance and fewer gimmicks than his earlier books, but you still get the sense that he is dictating the text, which is then transcribed by a secretary or copy editor. There are also some pages of pure technique, as with the page of guidelines for making minestrone. But, there are no long tutorials on important techniques such as making pasta or sausage.
That doesn't mean there are no elaborate recipes. One excellent example is Jamie's `lasagne alla cacciatora', which uses a mix of up to five different meats, not unlike the more elaborate `ragu alla Bolognese'. It also uses your own freshly made pasta rather than something out of a box from Barilla.
While Jamie has been known to do some serious bread baking (see `Jamie's Kitchen'), there is little bread in this book, except for an excellent little recipe for pizza dough and the techniques for rolling and baking the pizzas, followed by eight combinations of toppings and a recipe for `fried pizza'.
As you read through the antipasti recipes in the beginning of the book, you may be dismayed at the amount of deep fried carbs in some of the dishes including bread or pasta. Our Jamie saves the day when he announces that Italians have the third longest lifespan in the world, due to a great extent to their heavy diet of green vegetables. Sir Jamie serves up a whole world of greens in a simple method (Antipasti page 11) for preparing all sorts of leafy green goodies. This also has one of his better lessons on `cooking with love' where he warns us to `cook the greens with your full attention... then dress them as if they were a salad...'.
This book is simultaneously so authentic and so charming that it easily becomes my first choice for introducing someone to Italian cooking. If they are at all serious about it, they can move on to one of the better manuals from Hazan or Bastianich.
Now step right up to the top of this page and put in your order for this little gem!
None of these things would amount to much, however, if the recipes did not deliver. The bonus is that they do more than just deliver. They inspire. This book has become - for me - a reliable *go-to* book for daily inspiration. I can go from boredom to captivated in less than 5 seconds and before I know it I have my mortar and pestle out and am transporting simple ingredients into a sensory masterpiece such as Jamie's pesto recipe (p132). It is simple, delicious and reliable, like just about everything else in his book.
There are numerous recipes that seem so modest that they are somewhat overlooked at first glance. The "pasta e ceci" (p76) is - for me -one of these recipes. I discovered this hidden bombshell on a day that I otherwise thought I had nothing in the cupboard to work with. This dish has now become a standard in our house.
Jamie Oliver is a delightful personality on the screen and he translates that enthusiasm into his recipes which are all delicious, solid, simple and - best of all - affordable. That's what makes this book perfect for a daily reference.
His devotion to his belief that there is a tasty homemade meal waiting to be cooked in any kitchen drives this cookbook. In it he will teach you to look at cupboard and fridge items with fresh eyes, infuse them with flavour in ingenious ways, and offer his culinary advice in such accessible fashion that the experience of attempting just one recipe from this book will make you - dare I say - a happier person.
Get it. You'll love it.