Cook with Jamie, 447pp.
by Jamie Oliver
Michael Joseph, imprint of Penguin Books, London, 2006
Cooking on page 32–33
For being such a young chap, Jamie Oliver seems to have been around forever. I missed a lot of his early television appearances and cookbooks, and can remember wondering ‘who’s this naked chef?’. Then I started seeing him ricochet around his London kitchen like a loose squash ball—full of enthusiasm and passion.
But his presence is infectious, and so is his mission. I have come to admire and appreciate Jamie’s passionate campaigns against the use of processed foods in schools, and his ongoing efforts to get people to eat healthier food and actually cook from scratch at home. He’s also done a great job of getting disadvantaged young people into cooking.
Recent cookbooks and TV series cover his 30-minute and 15-minute meal creations—which are probably unachievable by most home cooks (including me), but still inspiring and encouraging. He makes it look so easy.
I have four or five of his cookbooks. I won his Italian one (I’ve read that Italian food is his real forté). This book was a gift and the recipe shared here is fabulous.
Proper tomato salad
4 big handfuls of mixed tomatoes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
peppery extra virgin olive oil
herb or balsamic vinegar
1 fresh red chilli, halved, deseeded and finely sliced
1 tablespoon freshly chopped marjoram
1/2 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
a big handful of fresh basil leaves picked and divided into large and small ones
Chop the tomatoes in an irregular fashion, from the size of a cherry tomato to the size of a squash ball—be brave and bold. Season from a height with sea salt, using slightly more than you usually would. I’m not asking you to eat this amount of salt, it’s just there to draw out the intense tomato flavours.
Put the tomatoes in a colander over a bowl and leave for 20 minutes to let any excess water and salt drip out of them. Then pour the liquid away, dry the bowl and put the tomatoes in it.
Dress them with a generous glug of peppery extra virgin olive oil and a splash of herb or balsamic vinegar. Add some pepper, the chilli, marjoram, garlic and the large basil leaves, torn up.
Toss together and correct the seasoning if necessary. Tumble the tomatoes on to a large platter, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle over the baby basil leaves.
How it played out
When it comes to home-grown produce, nothing beats tomatoes. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to plant any this year. We got home from our South American travels in January—almost three months too late to get a decent crop.
So I have had to rely on contributions from friends, a self-sown grape tomato plant that suddenly appeared in my backyard and what I could buy in the shops and farmers’ markets.
Farmers’ markets haven’t had a lot in the way of heritage tomatoes, but Aldi’s has. Aldi’s is a great no-frills supermarket that started in Germany. It’s now widespread in Australia, and I shop there because prices are cheap and virtually all the fresh foods are from Australia.
This year they have sold a tomato medley that’s not all that cheap, but colourful and tasty. So that’s what I used for this recipe, along with my home-grown grape tomatoes.
And now that you have all that history, I can say that I followed the recipe, using balsamic vinegar and a whole clove of garlic. Good grief, who’d bother to use just half a clove?
Sensational! I didn’t eat it all, but I could have. Will make this often when I have decent tomatoes. This recipe should be treated like royalty. It’s too good to be made with crappy, hard, flavourless tomatoes. Grow your own tomatoes and eat this every day!