On June 5, 2024
Arts, Dining & Entertainment

Jamie Oliver’s ‘5 Ingredients Mediterranean’ is an insipirational food tour

Courtesy Jamie Oliver -Jamie Oliver's 27th cookbook, "5 Ingredients Mediterranean," offers 125 recipes from 22 Mediterranean cultures, promoting simplicity, adaptability, and experimentation, with a YouTube channel for cooking tutorials.

With his 27th cookbook out just this past January, Jamie Oliver takes us on not just a cook’s tour of the 22 countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, he takes us on the celebrity chef’s tour of cuisines and cultures that promises to rock us out of dinnertime ruts with casual, easy takes on delicious food.

You don’t write 27 successful cookbooks without having a keen sense for what’s needed now. This one came as the answer to clamoring moms in school pick-up lines with Jools, his wife, for another “5 Ingredients” concept.

With over 125 recipes shown in full color, full bleed photos on each facing page, it’s a riot of inspiration, his perennially delicious dishes promising as little fuss as can be managed by busy people. He does this with pared down lists of ingredients, casual, uncomplicated cooking and no more washing up than necessary. 

A sizeable number of recipes are meat-free or meat-reduced. 

Jamie Oliver’s commitment is consistently geared towards people wanting to avoid the highly processed convenience of so much of what’s commercially available that’s doing so much damage to our collective health. He’s probably equally well known for his commitment to people, to teaching, and training up his restaurant staff for leadership roles. And he’s also still appreciated for the hot boy summer of his youth as The Naked Chef. 

Courtesy Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver

A scroll through Goodreads gives a good sense of what he’s covered in 27 cookbooks, but consider that Jamie Oliver has sold 50 million cookbooks worldwide. For a sense of that scale, Rutland Free Library’s entire collection, housed in an imposing building with an extensive addition, houses a mere 75,000 to 80,000 titles. That’s a difference of 667 times — and all done at just 48 years old. Prolific doesn’t even describe that. 

It should be noted that this isn’t his “5 Ingredients Quick and Easy Food” nor is it “30 Minute Meals.” Those have already hit the shelves and they may be what’s needed now in your household. So be it! 

In this one you’ll find inspiration for all kinds of recipes with seasonal ingredients from salads, soups and sandwiches to long-cooked braises and simple but delicious, sweet finales. There’s a chapter each to “Veg,” and “Pies & Parcels,” pasta, seafood, fish, and chicken and duck, just for a few.

The inspiration you glean might find you bringing home an eggplant and chick peas or a bulb of fennel with some fish or ordering ras el hanout spice blend as I did. Its timing just as we’re anticipating farmers markets moving outdoors again is wonderful. 

Beginning with a salad with a toasted web of haloumi cheese dramatically topping sticky peaches over dressed salad greens and a green gazpacho a few pages further, the book will have you stopping to read and look plenty. Tunisian shrimp over pasta is  punched up with harissa; a veg & feta stuffed flatbread and cauliflower with romesco sauce of roasted red pepper and ground almonds give a good sense of possibility — mostly familiar ingredients with maybe a twist or two. Inspiration.

“Mediterranean” being shorthand for healthy and fresh, I took my copy to the gym, and very quickly I had two volunteer testers elbow deep in the book. The person recommending this title also tested a bit for me, as did I.

Any good cookbook inspires the confidence for adaptation and experiment. Substitutions for what’s on hand or what’s in season become “what is needed now.” Seldom do I come out with a recipe as written beyond the first go, if that, and that’s what each of us did in cooking from the book. We exceeded the five ingredients. (Writing recipes limited to five ingredients must be like cooking with one hand tried behind you. Think about that.) 

I substituted lamb stew meat for lamb shanks, using dried sour cherries and chick peas for a flavor profile somewhat east of the Mediterranean because I’m fond of the middle eastern penchant for meat braised with sour fruit. With the ras el hanout spice blend he calls for from Amazon, it was as delightfully authentic to a tagine as I’d hoped it would be. I’m delighted. 

A point of pride is that he writes each of his own recipes. Not all chefs do. So the recipes are approachable with a couple read-throughs. You might find yourself re-reading because Jamie writes very much as he speaks. And if listening and watching him work is the best means for learning to roll with him, there’s lots to tune into on YouTube. 

It seems he’s always been a natural for cooking and talking at the same time, all while facing into cameras that switch from one to the next. It’s both easy and enjoyable getting a better sense of how he cooks on video. He’ll send you an email every Monday too, if you like. Just visit jamieolover.com and sign up.

Look for the traffic cone orange book cover. It’s designed to make you reach for it.

Do you want to submit feedback to the editor?

Send Us An Email!

Related Posts