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The Naked Chef    by Jamie Oliver order for
Naked Chef
by Jamie Oliver
Order:  USA  Can
Hyperion, 1999 (1999)
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Okay. So I'm slow. I've reviewed Jamie Oliver's second and third cookbooks - but hadn't gotten to the first. Now I have, I think I'm in love. What a personable young man with a refreshing slant on cooking.

Basics - that's what The Naked Chef is all about; foods that are easy to cook and wonderful to eat. Oliver gives us 'A foolproof repertoire of simple, delicious and feisty recipes' while he avoids 'culinary jargon and any complicated, time-consuming process that isn't justified by the end result.' And his kitchen language is all his own. Delightfully so. Terms like pukka, mash and smashed, brilliant, whiz, mucking are sprinkled throughout this great book (I assume that is the way he normally speaks).

The Naked Chef begins his book with a list of staples that he recommends to properly stock your pantry; he also suggests growing your own herbs in pots or jars or in the ground - whatever works for you. He starts his recipes with his favorite soups - Chickpea and Leek Soup looks brilliant. In Salads and Dressings I want to try the unusual Whole Potato Salad with Salsa Verde. The Pasta section is to die for - Oliver takes the mystique out of homemade pastas; thank you, Jamie. These recipes are too numerous and luscious for me to pick out any one.

Fish and Shellfish follow. Pan-Seared Scallops with Crispy Bacon and Sage, Green Lentils and Green Salad and Roasted Trout with Thyme are just a couple I'd like to taste. By the way, the photography is glorious. You can almost sniff the aromas rising from the pages. Meat, Poultry and Game brought back memories of my childhood with Roast Leg of Lamb for Sunday dinner (Oliver suggests four variations to try). And I have to fix My Perfect Roast Chicken - looks delicious. His method for the accompanying gravy is mouthwatering. Bring it on!

Vegetables are my bailiwick. Photos depict how to trim an artichoke. There is a basic recipe for Mashed Potatoes and then five new suggestions. Black Olive Mash? I ask you. But I'll try it. The Risotto & Couscous section has useful advice for preparing risotto. Oliver pushes you to try new things. He gives you the courage to make dishes you would usually only order in a restaurant. Words of explanation precede most recipes, and there is a nice introduction to the Bread section. His basic bread recipe is 'pukka', with suggested variations to try. Wish he'd been around in the years when I baked breads.

The author's ideas on desserts appeal to me. Not real fussy, but good basic recipes that can be altered with a slight change of ingredients. I've fallen in love with the idea of Baked Fruit. What a lovely dish. That goes at the top of my must try list. Next will be the Semi-freddo. The Naked Chef finishes with recipes for Stocks, Flavored Butter, Mayonnaise, Aioli, Sauces. 'Go on. Get stuck in.'

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