Those familiar with renowned chef Jamie Oliver’s television appearances agree that he is known just as much for his effervescent personality as for his cooking expertise. Fans will be pleased that Oliver’s character is a pervasive force in his latest cookbook, Jamie's Italy. Oliver infuses the book with his unique style, presenting not only a wonderful collection of recipes but also an examination of Italian people and how their customs and spirit make their way into their homes and onto their dinner plates.
The book is very traditional in both its physical appearance and its selection of recipes. The main chapters include antipasti (starters), street food and pizza, first courses (soup, pasta, and risotto), insalate (salads), secondi (main courses), contorni (side dishes), and dolci (desserts). The Italian name of each recipe is prominently displayed on the page with its English translation directly below it.
At first glance, the recipes may seem a bit overwhelming due to the amount of text associated with each. Upon further inspection, however, you will realize that the instructions are clear and concise, and even the more elaborate meals are not difficult to prepare. The extensive text is attributable to Jamie Oliver’s narration, which adds to this cookbook’s overall appeal and separates it from the many others that crowd bookstore shelves.
Everyone is likely to find something of interest in this recipe collection. If you are seeking a basic Italian meal, you might be drawn to a simple pizza recipe accompanied by something as exotic sounding as “ricotta tipica per verdure Verdi.” This translates to Italian-style greens that consist of six handfuls of mixed greens, olive oil, garlic, pepper, extra virgin olive oil and the juice of one lemon. If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, you might want to try the arrosto misto (mixed roast), which includes recipes for rabbit, duck, chicken, squab, and quail. I particularly liked the recipe for sorbetto di limone (lemon sorbet), which is prepared with just five ingredients and minimal effort. Once you read the recipe and prepare this dessert, you will have a refreshing treat as well as an appreciation for the workers who, Oliver learned, used to have to carry and put ice into icehouses all winter long so it could be churned and stored as ice cream throughout the summer.
The extensive commentary presented in Oliver’s boyish down-to-earth tone also includes his “thoughts” on everything from lighting a fire and grilling fish to eating rabbit. In addition, as he educates his readers he readily admits this trip was a personal education. When introducing a recipe for crostini (small toasted bread), he explains that while he always thought of crostini as small bruschetta, he learned this is not an accurate description since the treats are usually made from white bread as opposed to sourdough. He goes on to say that he learned that, in the old days, the bread was so stale it had to be soaked in something to make it edible. There is no need to worry, however, he continues, because today the Italians have developed other methods to create this taste using olive oil, some garlic and a grill.
Jamie's Italy is part cookbook and part diary as Oliver takes his fans with him to explore Italy, its people and its food. This volume will add great value to both your recipe collection and your knowledge base about Italy, and it should definitely not be overlooked.