Author: Jamie Oliver
Date Published: 2008
Anyone can learn to cook in 24 hours
Jamie Oliver’s latest book, ‘Jamie’s Ministry Of Food’, continues his passionate goal of teaching the British public how to cook healthy, hearty meals. In an attempt to reverse today’s trend of processed food and takeaway, ‘Jamie’s Ministry Of Food’ selection of recipes are nutritionally sound as well as easy for beginners.
The result is part recipe book and part journal about his TV program. The ‘Ministry Of Food’ title was inspired by the British government enacting a ministry during WWII to ensure that the public used their rations wisely. Jamie hopes to replicate this education by the ‘Pass It On’ scheme, where anyone who buys the book pledges to learn a recipe from each chapter and then teach at least two or more friends/family.
‘Jamie’s Ministry Of Food’ is set in Rotherham. It was chosen for two reasons; apparently because it represents the average demographic of England and also because during ‘Jamie’s School Dinners’ an infamous scene occurred where a mother shoved fast food through school fencing in protest to Jamie’s healthy lunches.
Coincidental my Father’s hometown is Rotherham and I visited it last year. Though I haven’t seen the TV Show that accompanies this book, I can vouch that Rotherham is not a desolate culinary wasteland (my family can cook superbly. Ellies Takeaway pizza, garlic bread and pasta still rocks my socks. Also, The Bluecoat’s Minted Lamb burger is fantastic). My cousins – who were not impressed with Jamie Oliver even before he based an entire TV series and book on their apparent lack of taste and cooking skill – were not pleased to say the least.
‘Jamie’s Ministry of Food’ is littered with pictures of people from Rotherham. The pictures of Jamie and random Rotherham folk have been photoshopped heavily, giving them an odd optical illusion quality (there seem to be shadows no where and everywhere at the same time). To my amusement, the front cover has been cleaned up to make Jamie appear younger and thinner.
An image of each completed recipe dominates the page, but there is also a grid like selection of step by step photos. This really helps to reinforce the instructions and in some cases you can complete recipes without reading the steps. The food photography is beautiful and functional. The layout is charming, especially the inclusion of wallpaper patterns and antique ornaments for Chapter breaks.
The major downfall of Jamie’s previous books – his habit to waffle on during recipe instructions – has been fixed. Jamie has dedicated a separate section before the recipe commences to talk about the dish. The actual instructions are step by step and are separated by little red dots. This results in far easier recipes to follow.
The chapters reflect the variations in an average British diet, including influences by other cultures that have become a staple of the English landscape:
Jamie seems to be an unashamed fan of modern and traditional English cuisine, particularly the roast. Pork, Beef, Chicken and Lamb roasts are included, alongside gravy and Yorkshire pudding recipes. To complement these traditional meat dishes there are also a selection of delicious vegetable side dishes, such as ‘Carrots Baked In A Bag’ and ‘Dressed Asparagus’. Hearty casseroles and stews are also featured with multiple options for toppings (for instance dumplings, shepherd’s pie etc).
Jamie’s selection of recipes achieves its goal. The recipes are not as technically brilliant or individualised than in previous books, but they are wholesome, mostly cheap and easy to cook. In the short time since purchase I have attempted far more recipes from ‘Jamie’s Ministry of Food’ than any of his other books (12 to be exact).
Some of the ‘Twenty minute meals’ only serve two (Jamie is trying to shorten the prep time so most of the dishes can fit into this hasty time constraint). This is quite sneaky, given that it is usually assumed a recipe serves four-six. The reader has to watch out for this aspect when planning the meal. This also means that they are not ‘Twenty minute meals’ for families, only couples.
I don’t appreciate the endorsement of particular brands. Patak’s Curry Pastes and Jacob Cream Crackers are not only constantly listed in recipe ingredients, but also shown clearly in images (why Jamie uses Jacobs Cream Crackers rather than breadcrumbs, which are easy to buy and don’t require ‘bashing’, is another issue also). Other brands, such as types of mustard, receive the same favoritism. This is a departure from his previous books, which are largely anonymous when it comes to items that could possibly be brand related. Though this isn’t a large problem, it still strikes blatant endorsements into what should be a neutral text.
As I’ve previously mentioned, a great deal of the enjoyment a reader can draw from any Jamie Oliver books is based on whether they actually like him. However, if the reader ignores the TV Show and moralising aspect, the book itself is a great success of recipe selection and accessible layout. This is by far Jamie’s best cookbook, rather than homage to favorite recipes.
♥♥♥♥ – 4/5