I adore Jamie Oliver.
Even if he doesn’t always wash his veggies (or even his hands for that matter) his food is just so darn finger-licking good. If you’ve ever watched his TV shows, then you know that the charisma translates right onto the page – and if you’re preparing to cook for a horde or a handful, then his latest publication: Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook is the perfect accompaniment to your shelf.
Admittedly, it is a rather hefty tome and for those of us in the Pacific where Christmas is more about hangis and salads with a few meats thrown on the bbq, it is a tad winter-centric. No matter, adapt, change and mix things around for the season and keep the original recipes ready for your mid-winter Christmas in June.
However, having said that, some recipes will do just fine as they are. Beetroot Carpaccio? Don’t get turned off by the name, its simply a fancy way of serving up raw beetroot with a dash of balsamic, olive oil and lemon and drizzled with a silky dressing of Worcestershire sauce, mustard, yoghurt and lemon.
Pigs in Blankets is always a family favourite (despite its rather awful name) but Oliver serves up a seasonal special with a range of assorted fillings delicately wrapped by the bacon. He recommends pear, cranberries and thyme; chicken liver, sage and apricot; oyster, pickled onion and dried red chilli flakes, as well as nine other rather scrumptious combos. Again, no matter what the season, bacon will always be popular so it’s a fairly fool-proof addition to the menu.
Of course, there are recipes for roast chicken, roast duck and roast lamb, but perhaps the most exciting (and if the weather holds up, the most appropriate) is Gravadlax. A cured salmon it asks only for beets, dill, horseradish and a dash of vodka to create a delicious and quite stunning centre-piece.
The weighty cookbook also has a whole range of options of what to do with the dependable spud and if your children are still eating mince pies, there’s a rather nice recipe for that too. Equally, the mince strudels are quite appealing.
To finish off there are a range of Christmas puddings but also bread sauce (yum) fudge (double yum) and a very pretty Arctic roll that is a black forest style chocolate sponge with kirsch and cherries. A charming yuletide addition – if it actually gets to last that long.
But the best part of the book is hidden away the back. Here you will find an array of wonderful warm and cool liquid ambrosia, party prosecco as well as handy ways to make your own crackers. There are even creative festive ice jars to keep your drinks cool in case we have a sweltering hot summer’s day.
Beautiful photographs, handy roasting guideline as well as easy-to-follow-instructions and you’ll find it hard to decide what to leave off the menu.