Jamie Oliver, Jamie's Dinners, published by Michael Joseph/Penguin, £20 hardback.
Have you noticed how many cookbooks are now aimed at cooking family dinners at home, rather than simply replicating restaurant meals? Not so long ago, most cookbooks published featured a collection of recipes from a celebrity chef or famous restaurant, but suddenly it seems that even those chefs with their own restaurants are encouraging us to stay at home and cook. The latest is Jamie's Dinners (like Delia, Nigella and Nigel, no surname is required), which concentrates on feeding the family. "I've noticed, as I continue to work as a chef and grow as a parent, that there are a whole bunch of people who just don't cook at all, or do so very rarely," says Jamie in the introduction to this 322-page book. He adds: "I truly believe that anyone can cook and love it… what I hope this book will do is show that anyone can have a go at cooking."
The book, which is peppered with countless "lifestyle" photos of Jamie and very few of him actually cooking, is divided into 11 main chapters, from a top 10 of family favourites (chosen by people visiting his website) to a chapter devoted entirely to "sarnies". As with his previous books and his television shows, it's all very chatty, although he tries to hammer home a few serious points about organics, local produce and sourcing good quality ingredients. The 120 recipes range from simple after-work pasta dishes and salads to more restauranty dinner party recipes such as the "laksa-style scallops with sweet chilli sauce" and "tray-baked sea bass with crispy roasted asparagus bundles wrapped in bacon". I find I have to take issue with the chapter on "five minute wonders". I tried the recipe for lamb cutlets with couscous and it took me considerably longer than the four minutes and 31 seconds listed. Jamie, if you can make that dish from scratch in that time in my kitchen, I'll take my toque off to you.
Although there are some good ideas in Jamie's Dinners, pub chefs and serious foodies looking for inspiration and menu ideas would be best advised to look elsewhere.