I am a big Jamie Oliver fan. As appealing as his cheeky chappie persona is, it’s his way of creating unusual recipes and his ability to make the most mundane ingredients look delicious that appeals to me. His 30 minute meals book was a revelation and to this day I often go back to it for inspiration (the Satay Chicken and the Rainbow Salad being favourites). I wasn’t as excited about his newly released book, Veg, purely because I am not really a fan of cookbooks that limit themselves to one food group, but it being a Jamie Oliver I was sure it wouldn’t disappoint. Being a committed carnivore, I would never consider giving up meat but I also adore vegetables and am always looking for new ways to make them more exciting, and this is where Jamie Oliver excels. The book itself is as bright and visually appealing as one would expect from a Jamie Oliver publication, and contains over 140 recipes. With 13 chapters covering everything from curries to pies to salads and brunch the books offers a wealth of options for both the vegetarian and the vegetable lover alike. There is also a helpful chapter packed full of interesting hints and tips along with a comprehensive section on nutrition.
Choosing a dish to recreate was tough given the amount of option offered. I toyed with the idea of the Roasted Falafel which appealed because in my experience, Falafel can be tricky to make and the idea of a giant one pan falafel cake, roasted in the oven is pure genius to me. The summer Bubble & Squeak also looks good enough to eat but as it’s now officially winter, I decided to pass on that one for now. In the end, I settled on Jamie’s Avocado & Jalapeno Hash Brown. This was not a mistake I am glad to report.
One of the things I most enjoy about Jamie Oliver’s books is the techniques that I learn through his recipes and this was no different. As a lover of all things potato related, Hash Browns were an easy choice, add to that the spicy hit from the jalapeños and the cooling Avocado and I was sold. The ingredients list was fairly short with nothing difficult to source, just potatoes, avocado, cherry tomatoes, parmesan, coriander, lime, jalapeños, spring onions and eggs. Wait, what? Parmesan?
This addition to the recipe did not sit well with me, as to my mind parmesan has no place in a dish with jalapeños, coriander and lime. Jamie is the master however and so I ploughed ahead. The second ingredient that gave me pause was the fact that upon reading the recipe, I discovered that the avocado was to be cooked along with the other ingredients and not served cold as is commonplace. Jamie had a footnote at the end of the recipe advising that the avocado could be added post cooking if required but I decided to stick with the original technique and so in the avocado went with the rest of the ingredients. The recipe was fairly straightforward, grated potatoes are squeezed dry in a clean tea towel then pan fried for ten minutes over a medium heat with the jalapeños , spring onion, grated parmesan and avocado then flattened down and transferred to the oven for a further ten minutes (where the cherry tomatoes are already roasting away).
Once cooked through and crispy on the bottom, the hash brown is then turned onto a board and topped with poached eggs (probably the scariest part of the recipe), more grated parmesan and then garnished with lime juice, coriander and roasted baby tomatoes. Everything went as planned and I was feeling very smug as I turned the hash brown on to a board and topped it with my perfectly poached eggs. So far so good. As it turns out, Jamie was right about the cooked avocado, it worked really well in this dish and as a whole, the entire technique and combination was a success. Except for the parmesan. Sorry Jamie, the addition was not for me.
As much as I adore parmesan, I found it overpowered the subtleties of the dish and it seemed unnecessary. Of course, that’s a personal taste preference but in general, this is a great dish, perfect for brunch and easily adaptable to whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand.
This book has a wealth of great recipes that I look forward to working my way through whether as exciting side dishes or the main event, they won’t disappoint.
Veg – it’s not just for vegetarians.
Veg by Jamie Oliver, published by Penguin Books, €26.
Feature By: Ciara McQuillan