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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

5 Ingredients Mediterranean by Jamie Oliver


5 Ingredients Mediterranean is an excellent alternative to the other more complex Mediterranean recipe books many of us already own. Oliver’s recipes don’t involve hours in the kitchen, or copious prep and clean-up. As he says in the introduction, he has focused on getting food “to your table with minimal fuss”. Even a reasonably confident cook can be daunted by lengthy lists of (sometimes hard-to-obtain) ingredients – so Oliver’s recipes are perfect choices for days or nights when time, energy, and exotic ingredients are in scarce supply.


Recipes are presented in his trademark conversational style, providing guidance yet also offering flexibility. He trusts the cook to add just the right splash of this, swig of that, dollop of the other and maybe 'a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, if you like'. His writing is both reassuring – recipes are often 'simple', 'quick' and 'easy' – and poetic. Broth is turned into 'a silky sauce using the liaison of eggs and lemon'.


Do all the recipes need only five ingredients? Well, not quite – Oliver presumes that there are always five other basic ingredients in your pantry as a starting point: olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Some recipes rely on practical short-cuts rather than requiring additional prep – using, for example, tubs of tzatziki, packages of pre-sliced stir-fry vegetables, or ras el hanout from a jar. Few would argue with Oliver’s observation that “There’s something very satisfying about dishes where the oven does all the work”. To back this up he includes a recipe where chicken, aubergine, shawarma-spiced rice, crushed nuts and dried fruit are baked nestled together in one large tray.


There are ten main sections to the book (including salads, veg, soups and sarnies, pasta, pies and parcels), with a couple of extra sections focused on practical advice and nutrition. Each recipe has accompanying photos – a large photo of the finished dish, with thumbnails of each of the five main ingredients beneath. You can see exactly what you need at a glance – and if you tend to get tarragon muddled up with thyme, or marjoram confused with mint, then the photos will set you straight. Oliver and his team have access to a wide array of plates, bowls and platters which set the food off well. The ‘sweet things’ look especially tempting, including a beautiful fig and yoghurt tart, a passionfruit-topped crème caramel, and tahini rocky road.


Recipes also indicate the number of serves, the estimated preparation time, and a breakdown of the energy, fat, saturated fat, protein, carbs, sugars, salt and fibre. (Per serving? Per 100g? It’s not stated.) Little goes to waste and Oliver encourages left-over ingredients to be put to good use – surplus egg whites, of course, can be used for meringues “another day”.


The recipes are indexed according to the key ingredient (e.g. fish) and the primary category they fall into (e.g. soups). There’s some duplication with this method, which makes the index longer, although perhaps makes recipes easier to find. The recipe for aubergine flatbread, for example, shows up under both ‘bread’ and ‘flatbread’ headings. Vegetarian recipes are identified in the index – and Oliver also provides a link to a quick reference list of all the vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free recipes in the book.


Oliver explains that his recipes were inspired by decades travelling through the countries, cities, and islands of the Mediterranean. Colourful photos depicting the Mediterranean lifestyle are scattered throughout the book. He says that 'simplicity, love, passion, care and dedication to taste and big flavour' are at the heart of the Mediterranean diet. The recipes in this book reflect all these elements. Oliver has succeeded in his goal of “providing a whole rainbow of simple meal solutions and deliciousness” for those of us living on the other side of the world.


Anne Kerslake Hendricks

Penguin Random House

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