Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Jamie Oliver Cookbook Review, Part II

Just in case anyone's been waiting with eager anticipation to see what snarky comments I had about Jamie Oliver's cookbook after I actully cooked something from it (rather than after I just read most of it and looked at the pictures), here you are...

I've cooked several things from this book now, and I have to say, this is a good but weirdly idiosyncratic, in my opinion, book.

1. Perfect instructions for pan-searing salmon, a cooking method that I invariably screw up, usually overcooking the salmon until it's pretty nasty. Same thing for pan-grilling steak. Just absolutely perfect. So, ok, I take back some of my previously snippy words; this did teach me a couple of skills that I was terrible at.
2. Absolutely awesome recipe for lima beans with leeks. I know, half of you are going, "lima beans, ick", and the other half of you are going "but Nina, that's not exactly low carb, is it?" I love lima beans; they're great if they're cooked properly. And, no, it's not the most low-carb thing in the universe, and you have to be very careful with portion size. Regardless, this recipe is just beyond good. Also a wonderful recipe for lamb shanks, simple, easy to adapt to other things, and really, really good.
3. A lot of these recipes involve simple sauces. If you make these in a little extra quantity (or if, like us, you're really cooking for 2 with a recipe for 4), you end up with a bunch of sauces that can be used for other things, making a lot of quick and sloppy food look like you actually spent some time on it.
4. There are many recipes in this book that need little or no adaptation for a low carb diet. I have to say that I've mostly given up on low-carb cookbooks... well, let me put that another way; I prefer cooking real food and leaving out the carb stuff to adding a lot of low-carb substitutes. So this kind of book, which has sections that are certainly unsuitable (skip the pasta, obviously) but probably 2/3 of the book which is fine without adaptation, are my idea of a good cookbook.

The BAD:
1 (and only): Proportions, proportions, proportions. The first part, the inexact measures. How much rosemary is in "a bunch?" Less than I used, evidently. How much olive oil is in "a glug?" How much butter in "a knob?" (Ok, that last one is actually a sort of standard term, although it has a great deal of inexactness, too.) Yes, these things are kind of charming, but they're far better after you've made the recipe once. But the bigger issue is that the proportions in many of the recipes are just wrong. Most wrong was the rosemary-anchovy-lemon sauce for the salmon, simply FAR too much lemon, not enough anchovies, and I think I just didn't put enough rosemary in since I hadn't figured out that his bunch idea is a lot bigger than mine.

I think that once you realize that the proportions are likely to be wrong, it's ok... you can work with that. It's the part where you're thinking that these numbers have some meaning that are really a problem. I do understand that this is partly what I call the professional chef problem... my sister is just like this; you ask her how to make something, and she can usually tell you the ingredients but not the proportions.


The Bionic Broad said...

Okay, I admit one of my darkest secrets - I love limas and butter beans. Yummm....

Crabby McSlacker said...

A very helpful review!

And I'm with you on weird/badly described measuring sizes. I think you should get one "season to taste" ingredient per recipe, and the rest should be clearly spelled out and not be in ridiculous quantities!

MizFit said...

fo' shizzle not for me.
on a few levels but it was ensured after the lack of specific measurements.
Im not a cook so I *need* those.

thanks for the review!