When I was in my mid 20’s my friend T. gave me a Jamie Oliver cookbook. It was my first real cookbook. The kind that requires herbs & spices, & the right cookware.
“It’s perfect for dinner parties,” she told me.
I was still at the level of cooking where I had kind of mastered two meals. They were good, but experimenting in the kitchen sometimes brought disaster. I relied more on the how to <insert staple dish> recipe books, then cookbooks by famous chefs.
I expressed my self-doubt in my cooking abilities to T., but she responded with a “trust me, it’ll come in handy one day.”
She was right.
Cooking on a budget with the Naked Chef
My copy of Happy Days with the Naked Chef made every move with me. Periodically I would open it & read the recipes.
I don’t know why, but I didn’t really cook from it. It inspired other meal ideas, but it wasn’t until this past spring that I can say I cooked with Jamie Oliver
As the boredom of job searching & unemployment set in, grocery shopping became a daily routine. I needed to get out of the house, but I didn’t want to spend money so shopping for food became one of my only indulgences. This resulted in:
- Abandoning anything labeled Organic, unless it was affordable or clearly superior
- Buying things I could make multiple meals with or a meal for multiple days
- Daily trips to the grocery stores & markets to find deals
Bonus Lesson: I did learn that the big grocery stores usually have great deals on meats on none-peak shopping days & items that are set to expire in a few days or a week get discounted on Friday after 6 pm for a quick sale.
It started with a Chicken
One day I found a whole Organic chicken for $5 at Loblaws. It wasn’t one of those tiny little chickens either, I could feed the roommates & myself for at least 2 days it.
Once I got home, I realized I didn’t want to make the chicken like I usually did. I turned to Jamie Oliver & found the delicious & super easy Pan-Roasted Chicken with Sweet & Sour Sauce recipe.
The chicken turned out delicious. Cooking it in vegetables made the meat soft & moist. The sauce that I made out of the pureed vegetables was creamy, but dairy free. What started as a “eat when you can” weeknight dinner, turned into a lovely sit-down dinner.
Fish was probably one of the best things I discovered how to cook with Jamie. It it cheaper than red meat or chicken for one & light on the stomach. Thanks to Jamie Oliver, I learned how to Pan-baked Tilapia with a Chardonnay & tomato sauce, with Spinach. It’s a simple meal that looks & tastes fancy.
As a single person most of my dinner meals are not sit-down affairs, but the recipes I found in Jamie Oliver’s cookbook seem to inspire me to sit down at the kitchen table with someone. I wanted to feed someone else, to share a meal & conversation with them.
T. had been right, the cookbook was perfect for dinner parties.
Friendship & Cookbooks
My Jamie Oliver cookbook has become one of my most priced possessions. Every time I put together a delicious meal from the book, I thought of T. & the amazing friendship we had. She was the friend who introduce me to fine dining, red wine & Jamie Oliver cookbooks. She was one of the most positive & supportive people I ever knew. And I’ve been very lucky in having a few people like her in my life. People that believe in me, are always cheerleading in my corner & sometimes encouraging me to do something out of my comfort zone.
This past year I learned that I love to cook. That I am good at it. That it makes me happy. It helps to release stress. It is a simple way to show others my appreciation & love, for their support & love. And really, there is nothing like a mouth-watering meal you have created yourself.
I think it is time to plan a dinner party.