Simple, beautiful, achievable food

Jamie Cooks Italy, by Jamie Oliver, published by Penguin Random House, RRP $65. Photographs, David Loftus.
Jamie Cooks Italy, by Jamie Oliver, published by Penguin Random House, RRP $65. Photographs, David Loftus.
Celebrating the ''utter joy'' of Italian food is celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's aim in his latest cookbook, Jamie Cooks Italy.

''This is about getting right to the heart of the Italian kitchen.''

Italy is a country where everyone is incredibly passionate about food; it is at the heart of all they do.

''No matter how rich or poor, most Italians eat very well indeed - simple, beautiful, achievable food is standard.''

Adopting the Italian attitude - an obsession with seasonal ingredients, a frugal approach to shopping, straightforward common-sense and a little of the ''magic stuff love'' - will serve you well on the path to cooking some of the ''most spectacular meals to enjoy with family and friends''.

Short profiles and beautiful photos of the Italians who have inspired Oliver are included throughout the book.

The recipes are a mix of fast and slow cooking, familiar classics and new things Oliver has learnt. There are simple everyday dishes alongside indulgent, labour of love options for weekends.

The book is divided into chapters such as antipasti, salads, soups, pasta, meat, bread and pastry and dessert.

It also has a handy basics section for things such as polenta, aioli, pasta dough and how to prepare artichokes.

 

Photos: David Loftus
Photos: David Loftus
Stuffed focaccia broad beans, lemon, pecorino and fresh herbs

Serves 12

Time 1 hour plus proving

Ingredients
500g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
7g sachet of dried yeast olive oil
750g broad beans, in their pod
4 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley (30g)
extra virgin olive oil]
50g pecorino or Parmesan cheese
lemon
30g fine stale breadcrumbs

Method
Put the flour and 5g of sea salt into a large bowl and make a well in the middle.

In a jug, mix the yeast into 300ml of lukewarm water, leave for a few minutes, then gradually pour it into the well, stirring and bringing in the flour from the outside to form a dough.

Knead on a flour-dusted surface for 10 minutes, or until smooth and springy. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean damp tea towel and prove in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, pod the broad beans into a bowl, pinching the skins off any larger ones (or use frozen, defrosting first). Peel the garlic, finely chop with the top leafy half of the parsley and add to the bowl with 75ml of extra virgin olive oil.

Finely grate in the pecorino and lemon zest, squeeze in the juice, season, mix together, then put aside.

Lightly oil a deep baking tray (30cm x 40cm), and dust evenly with the breadcrumbs. Pound the dough a few times with your fist, then roll or stretch it out to 30cm x 80cm. 

Drape half the dough into the tray, leaving the rest overhanging. Pour over the broad bean mixture in an even layer, keeping some of the oil behind.

Fold the overhanging dough over the top, drizzle with the reserved oil, then use your fingers to gently push down and, importantly, create lots of dips and wells in the dough.

Cover with a clean damp tea towel and leave to prove until doubled in size again.

Preheat the oven to 220C. Sprinkle the dough with sea salt, then bake for 25 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.

Let it cool on a board, then slice up and tuck in. Absolute heaven.


Stracotto beautiful slow-cooked beef ragu

A Tuscan family favourite: think the emotion of Bolognese on the familiarity scale, but with a whole new level of comfort.

It's inspired by Nonna Miriam from Panzano, and this simple cooking process gives you what she calls a ''rich plate'' - she likened it to the moment you know you've got a winning hand in poker.

To serve, it's traditional to enjoy the rich sauce with freshly cooked tagliatelle as a primo, serving the rest of the sauce with the meat as a secondo, teamed with steamed greens, oozy polenta, mash or whatever you fancy!

Serves 8

Time 4 hours

Ingredients
1kg piece of beef chuck, sinew removed
olive oil
2 red onions
2 carrots
2 cloves of garlic
2 sticks of celery
1 bulb of fennel
½ a bunch of fresh rosemary (15g)
½ a bunch of fresh sage (15g)
250ml Chianti red wine
2 Tbsp tomato puree
1½ litres organic meat or veg stock

Method
Place the meat in a fairly snug-fitting casserole pan on a medium-low heat with 2 tablespoons of oil, turning with tongs, while you peel the onions, carrots and garlic, trim the celery and fennel, then roughly chop it all to make a soffritto - it cooks low and slow so there's no need to be too precise.

Stir into the pan, tie the rosemary and sage together and add, then season with sea salt and black pepper. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until starting to caramelise, stirring the vege and turning the meat occasionally.

Turn the heat up to high, pour in the wine, stir in the tomato puree, and let the wine cook away.

Pour in the stock, bring to the boil, then place a double layer of scrunched-up wet greaseproof paper on the surface.

Reduce to a low heat and cook for around 3 hours, or until the meat is meltingly tender, turning and basting occasionally. Season to perfection.

Lift the meat out on to a board, carve it into thin slices, and spoon over enough of that incredible sauce to keep the meat nice and juicy.

Toss the rest of the sauce (reduce on the hob, if needed) with freshly cooked tagliatelle, and finely grate over a little parmesan, to serve. Double win.

 

Limoncello tiramisu vanilla mascarpone, crushed cherries and white chocolate

Of course this is not a traditional tiramisu, but the layering of the sponge and silky vanilla mascarpone provides the link to the dessert we all know and love.

Using cherries, limoncello and white chocolate gives you a lighter feeling dessert that is hugely enjoyable, inspired by long summer days along the Amalfi coast.

Serves 8

Time 45 minutes plus chilling

Ingredients
2 oranges
200ml limoncello
4 Tbsp runny honey
200g sponge fingers
200ml good espresso (cold)
250g mascarpone cheese
250g natural yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
250g ripe cherries
extra virgin olive oil
100g white chocolate (cold)

Method
Use a speed-peeler to peel strips of zest from the oranges into a small pan. Squeeze over all the juice, add 100ml of the limoncello and 2 tablespoons of honey, and simmer over a medium heat until you have a thick syrup.

Cover the base of a 24cm serving bowl with half the sponge fingers.

Mix the cold espresso with the remaining limoncello, then drizzle half of it over the sponge layer, pressing down lightly to help it absorb the coffee mixture.

Whisk together the mascarpone, yoghurt, vanilla paste and remaining

2 tablespoons of honey until smooth, then spoon half into the bowl in an even layer. Remove the stones from the cherries, tearing the flesh over the mascarpone.

Lay the remaining sponge fingers on top, drizzle over the rest of the coffee, and finish by spooning over the remaining mascarpone.

Spoon the syrup and candied peel over the tiramisu, and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.

Cover and pop into the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Shave or grate over the white chocolate to finish.

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