“Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food”

Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food by Jamie Oliver. Ecco, 408 Pages

During cold winter months, there are few things better than curling up with a warm bowl of soup or eating comforting dishes. In his new cookbook, Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food, Jamie Oliver offers 100 of the most beloved comfort food recipes from around the world. While the exquisite photographs and wide range of dishes are appealing, the recipes are not intended for a novice chef.

The recipes in this book are wide ranging, from savory main courses to decadent desserts. While the table of contents does not list specific recipes, there is an index at the back. There are some traditional British recipes like shepherd’s pie, porridge, and beans on toast, but world cuisine is well represented, including recipes for chicken tikki masala and pho, among many others. Depending on the recipe, a visit to a specialty grocery store may be required, but most ingredients are easily found.

I decided to try the recipe for huevos rancheros, one of my favorite dishes. All of the ingredients needed were easily found at my local grocery store. The issue I encountered came from the vague instructions. Twice in the recipe, the instructions said to “add a large glug of oil to the pan,” which is very unclear. Towards the end of the recipe, the instructions said to break cheddar cheese into nuggets, but did not mention where to add it in the recipe. Despite the lack of clear instructions, the dish was delicious. I would have preferred more precise instructions, and this recipe would likely be difficult for a novice chef to follow.

Time required and caloric information is provided for each recipe with the list of needed ingredients.  Further nutritional details are provided in a section in the back. I found this to be an interesting choice, since comfort food is not always known for being healthy, and many of the recipes average around 800 calories per serving.  In a note from Jamie Oliver’s nutritional team, they acknowledge while they nature of comfort food often means indulgent dishes, they want the reader to be able to make an informed choice about the nutritional value of each dish. Given Jamie Oliver’s recent campaigns for nutritious eating and food education, the inclusion of this information makes sense.

The best aspect of this book is the photographs by David Lotfus. Each recipe is beautifully photographed, and photos of Jamie, his family, and the landscapes around them fill the book. Close ups of exquisite dishes spread two pages. Even if you do not find the wide variety of recipes appealing, I would recommend this book based on the photography alone.

Overall, I would recommend checking out Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food, especially if you enjoy food photography. More precise recipes would make this a must buy, but the lack of clear directions prevents it from joining my cookbook collection.

Elizabeth Weislak works in the children’s department of the Mebane Public Library. She may be reached at eweislak@alamancelibraries.org or 919-563-6431.