cooking with jamie

little chocolate tarts 

Mention the name Jamie Oliver at a dinner party and I can guarantee pretty much everyone will have an opinion. Love him or hate him, he really is one celebrity chef that gets under people’s skin. Recently I was at such a dinner and while most of the other cookbook junkies like myself, admitted to owning at least one Jamie book and being a fan of his recipes, the not-so-into-cooking contingent were surprising in their response. The general consensus among the non cookers seemed to be that about 5 years ago, everyone found him ‘bloody annoying” especially those that had been living in the UK and had experienced full frontal the expansion of Jamie Inc. But these days the sentiment is much more favourable. The work on the school dinners project and to a lesser extend the whole restaurant 15 thing, tied in with Jamie reducing his exposure and stepping back from promoting everything from wine to CDs to supermarkets seems to have changed people’s minds about the once naked chef. Take note Bill Granger, no good can come of a celebrity chef who is willing to promote something as unfood related as toothpaste.

As a Jamie admirer who has a modest collection of just four of his books, I must say I was very tempted the last time I was in a book shop and spied Jamie’s latest offering: Cook with Jamie. But strength of character prevailed as I realised that it had been ages since I had last turned to Jamie for inspiration and that possibly it would be preferable to reacquaint myself with my current collection before adding his shiny new book to my Christmas wish list.

So with a mid week dinner to plan, I did just that. Trawling through last years Christmas gift: Jamie’s Italy, I came up with an easy mid week menu. A couple of different crostini to start. The eternal comfort food, risotto, fancied up with some Tasmanian mussels and aromatic fennel for the main event. And sinfully lush little chocolate tarts as a sweet finale…all good things….

an italianish dinner
buffalo mozerella, roasted chilli & basil crostini
artichoke & parmesan crostini
risotto of mussels & fennel
radish & watercress salad
little chocolate tarts


buffalo mozerella, roasted chilli & basil crostini
makes 8
Adapted from Jamie’s Italy.

Real Italian buffalo mozerella is an amazing cheese and a world apart from the rubbery bland supermarket product that masquerades as mozerella. If you can’t source authentic mozerella made with buffalo milk, bocconcini will work but the result won’t be in the same class.

The idea to blacken the skins of the chilli and then peel, like you would came from the very first episode of the naked chef that I ever watched. You could just use chopped fresh chilli but you’d be missing out on the slight smokiness and silky texture of the roasted ones.

8 thin slices baguette
1/2 clove garlic
1 large buffalo mozerella
8 basil leaves
4 large red chillis
extra virgin olive oil.

Blacken chillis under a hot grill or over a flame. Place in a bowl and cover with cling wrap and allow to cool. Remove chilli skins and seeds and chop into long fine ribbons. Grill bread on both sides until golden and while still hot rub one side with the cut surface of your garlic. Tear bocconcini into bit sized pieces and divide between crostini. Top with basil leaves and chilli strands. Season with s&p and drizzle with oil.

artichoke & parmesan crostini
makes 8
Adapted from Jamie’s Italy.

Jamie uses fresh artichokes and cooks them first in water, which was my intention. But unfortunately artichoke season appears to be over as there wasn’t a single one to be found when I was sourcing my materials for this meal. Using preserved artichokes in oil worked a treat and was much easier than Jamie’s version.

8 thin slices baguette
1/2 clove garlic
4 large good quality artichoke hearts marinated in oil
3T olive oil
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
large handful grated parmesan cheese
small handful lemon thyme leaves

Pick leaves from the artichokes then halve remaining heart. Remove the hairy choke bit and roughly chop the heart. Heat oil in a small frying pan. Add artichokes and sliced garlic and cook over medium heat stirring periodically until golden brown. Prepare bread as above. Stir cheese through artichoke mixture and divide between crostini. Top with lemon thyme leaves and season with s&p.


risotto of mussels & fennel
serves 6
Adapted from Jamie’s Italy.

The first risotto I ever made was a crab fennel and chilli combo that opened my world to this amazingly versatile vegetable that was destined to become one of my favourites. It also launched me on a mission to make the perfect risotto, a journey that I’m still taking all these years later. If you can’t be bothered with fish stock a light chicken stock would suffice but you’ll loose the depth of sweeet seafood flavours.

It was Terry Durack, the former restaurant critic of the Sydney Morning Herald that let me in on the secret to perfectly cooked mussels. You need to treat each one individually and with love and remove them from the pot as they open rather than waiting until the whole batch is done.

2kg mussels
1/2C dry white wine
2T butter
3T olive oil
1 large brown onion, diced
1 large bulb fennel, halved & thinly sliced, tops reserved
3 sticks celery, finely diced
1t fennel seeds
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1t chilli powder
large pinch saffron threads
400g risotto rice
1/2C dry white wine, extra
1.5L fish stock
1/4C tomato passata
70g butter, extra
juice 1 lemon
radish & watercress salad, to serve

Wash and debeard mussels. Heat wine in a large sauepan until boiling. Add 1/3 of the mussels, jam on the lid and allow to cook for a couple of minutes. Carefully remove any opened mussels and put aside, leaving as much wine in the pot as possible. Return to the heat for a few more minutes, remove any opened mussels and repeat a few more times. Repeat with remaining batches of mussels. Reserve 12 good looking mussels and discard the shells of the remainder. Roughly chop mussel meat and reserve, adding any cooking juices to the stock.

Heat stock in a large saucepan and keep to a gentle simmer. Heat oil in another large saucepan and cook onion, fennel, celery, fennel seeds and garlic over a medium heat for approx 10mins until softened. Increase heat to medium high and add chilli, saffron and rice and toss to coat in the buttery vegetable mix. Add extra wine, tomato puree and saffron and cook stirring until wine has been absorbed by the rice. Add hot stock one ladleful at a time stirring the rice constantly. As each glug of stock gets adsorbed add more until the rice is cooked. If you run out of stock just substitute hot water. Season to taste then stir in chopped mussels,butter and lemon juice. Remove from the heat, place mussels in shells on top and cover. Allow to stand for two minutes.

Divide between pasta bowls topping each with a couple of mussels in the shell and a sprinkling of reserved fennel fronds. Serve with a radish and watercress salad passed separately.


little chocolate tarts
makes 8
Filling adapted from a Matthew Evans recipe published in the Good Weekend earlier in the year.

Although I do have a copy of Jamie’s recipe for Portuguese chocolate tarts which sound delicious and were very much the inspiration behind this dessert. When it came time to cook, I decided to call on my own current favourite sweet pastry recipe and a more simple chocolate filling that resulted in a deliciously oozy chocolate explosion in your mouth when you take your first bight.

Jamie did have the tip that if the chocolate mixture ‘splits’or starts to look curdled that a quick stir through of some cold milk will fix things up. Fortunately I didn’t need to test out this theory but am keeping it in mind to hopefully avert my next chocolate disaster.

8 small sweet tart shells, baked and sealed with egg white
250g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
1/2C double cream
pinch salt< /p>

Heat cream in a small saucepan until just boiling. Remove from heat and stir through chocolate and salt until chocolate is melted. Allow to cool for 10mins before dividing between the pastry shells. Allow to cool for a few hours before serving at room temperature.


  • Oh man, what a feast! Those choc tarts look delish – good note re: the splitting of filling! I’m assuming the sealing of the pastry with egg white is done to keep it crisp – when would you do this step?

  • This feast is making me drool right now! I’m a big Jamie fan & unashamedly cook from his books all the time, I find that 99% of the time the results are excellent & usually not too difficult either!

  • i have a few of his books but have yet to make something from it. you’re making me think that i should pull them out and have a second look…before i get any other books :)

  • Love the tarts Jules… I’m less of a Jamie fan… although I do give him a lot of credit for his work with the school lunches and fifteen… and if i was being honest, it was watching some of his series on tv that got me wanting to cook.

  • I have to comment on the Bill Granger/Macleans deal…it might not really be food related (although it slightly is) in my opinion it is hugely related to Bill and that OTT cheesey, white grin he constantly sports. Didn’t you just buckle over with laughter when you first saw one of the adverts – we did in this household. Love Bill but it was hilarious.

  • Great article. I remember watching Jamie years ago when the Food Network was first starting out. I enjoyed his earlier show, The Naked Chef more than his newer ones. They weren’t so contrived and far less political. Fun to watch and his recipes and technique were irreverant, rustic and relatively easy for your average foodie to duplicate if they were want to follow recipes.

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