Monday, September 26, 2011

"Jamie does Spain, Italy, Sweden, Morocco, Greece and France"- an eclectic European food trip

I’ve searched for this book for a long time when I saw a short article about it in a cooking magazine. I searched for it in big, specialty bookstores in Makati but to no avail. Then one time, I was chasing my hyperactive child along the aisles of National Bookstore in Sucat, I caught a glimpse of it at the bottom section of a shelf. I was actually scanning for Anthony Bourdain’s book, Kitchen Confidential but there it is. I was so happy I almost squealed, I couldn’t believe it was tucked here in a small bookstore in the South.

Anyway, “Jamie does Spain, Italy, Sweden, Morocco, Greece and France” is a collection of recipes he derived from his travel to these places. Not only does the book contain recipes but also spectacular pictures of these European cities and its people. I’m especially intrigued by the morcilla he mentioned in his travel to Spain. The one made of solidied pig’s blood and fat, perhaps a cake-like version of our dinuguan, sometimes called black pudding in other cities like London. I wonder what that taste like, to think that some find our dinuguan weird. Hah!

I would love to try his recipes on the Spanish gazpacho, the cold soup Spain is famous for and of course, his version of paella. Perhaps, this time I might actually cook a tastier version of the latter, the one I made before was almost soaked in stock. It was almost unrecognizable.

Interesting too are the fish stew of Italy and Greece, clear soup with vegetables and fresh fish. Yummy and healthy if you ask me. I might actually cook it, really. Meanwhile, I would also like to try his recipes for chicken and beef tagines of Morocco and the souvlaki (kebabs) of Greece, Yum! Just thinking about the exotic spices rubbed in tender meat makes my mouth water, oh, such bold flavors are a treat to me.

Jamie also has a recipe for a steak tartare, chopped raw meat splashed with vinegar and olive oil. Now, that’s something I’m sure I won't cook. Maybe have a taste of it, why not? But having it as a favorite, I’ll definitely pass. I’m not fond of raw meat or raw fish no matter how “cooked” it is in vinegar or spices. It’s just me, I guess.

But something I would love to try in a restaurant is the Duck confit he mentioned in the book, succulent legs of duck slowly cooked in fat. According to Jamie, this method of cooking was born out of necessity when there were no refrigerators. The fat is used for cooking and storing, protecting the meat from spoiling. The result is a crispy piece of duck with the softest meat you’ve tasted. Wow, I would love to have a taste of that. Now if I can just threaten my husband to bring me to a reputable French restaurant in the city. Hmm..

My hunt for this book was definitely worth it. The text reads like it's really Jamie Oliver talking. He writes the way he talks, gushing and quite passionate. One can’t help but be carried over by his childlike enthusiasm. The photographs by his friend David were also moving, insightful, giving you a scan of the food and people in that part of the world. And how I love the rustic feel of the pages, unlike the smooth, shiny ones of modern books, these evoked the rustic and unique feel of the Old World. Moreover, the recipes here were also quite authentic, tenderly inspired by the bounty of resources from the different regions. Overall, it is a book worth poring over and over especially if you want to visit these places one day like me. Reading it is almost like being there, reliving the sights and flavors the way Jamie Oliver did.

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