For many of us, the fun of traveling to a faraway place is discovering the food: new flavors, dishes and dining experiences that wake up our senses and our minds. But with a little creativity, you can bring the same sense of adventure to your home kitchen, shaking up your regular routine by incorporating ingredients and influences from around the world. Who better to play tour guide than Jamie Oliver?
For this month’s Cookbook Club, we’re featuring the chef and TV host’s Jamie Oliver’s Food Escapes, an inspiring book of recipes inspired by travels around the globe. From Moroccan tagines to Spanish paellas and Italian risottos, Jamie offers his takes on the classics, creating dishes that are exciting, authentic and approachable.
Traveling to new places is a great way to stay inspired in the kitchen and keep experimenting. But as Jamie shows, you can find bits of exotic cultures without jumping on a plane, too — even exploring an unfamiliar neighborhood can open your eyes to new cuisines.
Here, we’re sharing a couple of recipes from Jamie Oliver’s Food Escapes to rev your appetite for food and adventure. Scroll to the bottom of this post to learn more about our Cookbook Club!
Whether you’re in Madrid or Manhattan, you’ll have to look really hard to find a tapas bar that doesn’t serve some version of these potatoes. They’re beautifully fried simply with herbs and a pinch of salt, but even more exciting served in a spicy tomato “bravas” sauce. “Patatas bravas” actually means “fierce potatoes” … how could anyone resist something with such a brilliant name?
4 medium potatoes, peeled and halved (approximately 1 ¾ pounds)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. sea salt
For the bravas sauce:
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
3 red chiles, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
A few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
One 14-ounce can of chopped tomatoes
1 Tbs. sherry vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parboil the potatoes over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they are starting to get tender but still hold their shape. Drain in a colander and leave to steam dry until cool.
Meanwhile, put a pan on low heat and start your bravas sauce. Add a lug of olive oil, and once hot, add the chopped onion and sliced garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft but not colored. Add the chiles, carrot and thyme leaves and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, sherry vinegar and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn the head down and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the carrots are soft and the sauce is lovely and thick.
While your sauce simmers, put a large frying pan over medium heat and add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan by ¼ inch thick, Cut your potatoes into large bite-sized chunks. Once the oil is hot, carefully add your potatoes to the pan. Cook them for around 8 minutes, turning occasionally until golden all over. You need to do this in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan. Add your garlic and rosemary leaves to the pan for the last minute of cooking.
Transfer the potatoes, garlic and rosemary to a plate lined with paper towels to drain, then scatter over the paprika, fennel seeds and a good pinch of salt and toss together until well coated.
Carefully tip your cooked sauce into a blender, or use an immersion blender, and whiz until lovely and smooth. Have a taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve in a jug next to your potatoes or, if you want to be more traditional, pour the sauce over your potatoes before serving and toss together like I’ve done here. If you have any leftover sauce, use it with pasta or a homemade pizza. Serves 4 as tapas.
Souvlaki (Wicked Kebabs)
Brits often think of kebabs as a guilty pleasure. But, having seen the love and attention that goes into preparing a proper Greek kebab, I can assure you there is nothing to feel guilty about. It’s all about quality ingredients and fresh zingy flavors. I’d always thought dried mint sounded a bit odd, but actually it turned out to be very delicious and it really helped create a more authentic taste. A few of these with some cold beers would be wicked. Cook them on a grill or in a grill pan, depending on what’s easier for you.
3 sweet frying peppers – a mixture of colors is nice
8 flatbreads, to serve
4 sprigs of fresh mint, leaves picked
A small bunch of fresh dill, chopped (stalks and all)
Red wine vinegar
Greek extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, to serve
For the kebabs:
1 ¾ lb. boneless pork, shin if you can get it, the best quality you can afford, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 Tbs. dried mint
1 Tbs. dried oregano
Juice of 1 lemon
6 Tbs. good-quality olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely grated
1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
A pinch of freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of sea salt
For the tzatziki:
½ a large cucumber
¾ cup plain yogurt
1 small clove of garlic, peeled
1 heaped tsp. dried mint
1½ tsp. red wine vinegar
If using wooden skewers, cut 8 to fit your grill pan and soak them in a tray of water to stop them burning. Put all your kebab ingredients into a bowl and use your clean hands to mix everything together really well. Cover with plastic wrap, then pop into the fridge for 30 minutes, or longer if you want the flavors to get a bit more intense.
Meanwhile, blacken the peppers directly over a gas flame, in a hot dry grill pan or under a hot broiler. Turn them every so often and when they look almost ruined, pop them into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put to one side to steam for 5 minutes or so – this will help their skins to come off.
Make your tzatziki by coarsely grating the cucumber into a sieve set up over a bowl. Add a few good pinches of salt, then use your hands to squeeze out as much water as you can. Pour the water away, then tip the cucumber into the empty bowl and add the yogurt. Pound the garlic in a pestle and mortar with a good pinch of salt until you have a paste, and spoon that into the bowl with the cucumber. Add the dried mint and red wine vinegar and mix really well. Have a taste to make sure you’ve got the balance right, then put aside.
Preheat a grill pan or grill over high heat. Thread the skewers through the marinated pork pieces, leaving little spaces between them so that the heat cooks everything evenly. Cook the kebabs on the screaming hot pan or grill for about 8 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally until done on all sides. Warm your flatbreads in the oven or in a hot dry pan while your kebabs are cooking.
Just before your kebabs are ready, peel and deseed your blackened peppers, then tear them into strips and put them into a bowl. Roll up your mint leaves, finely slice them and add to the bowl along with the dill. Add a few splashes of red wine vinegar, a pinch or two of salt and pepper and a lug of extra virgin olive oil. Toss and mix together, then have a taste to check the balance of flavors. Cut your lemon into wedges.
Put a dollop of tzatziki and the meat from one skewer on each warmed flatbread. Top with some of your pepper mixture, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Life doesn’t get much better. Serves 4 (makes 8 generous kebabs).
I like to think of a tagine as a sort of stew with attitude. It’s really all about the spices and the slow cooking, giving all the wonderful flavors time to develop. What’s great is that you don’t need an authentic Moroccan tagine in order to recreate this beautiful food – a saucepan will still give you great results. Having been to Marrakesh and learned all the principles, I now feel I’ll be able to rustle up an endless variety of tagines at home. Give this one a try and you’ll see what I mean.
1 ½ lb. stewing beef
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
A small bunch of fresh cilantro
One 14-oz. can of chickpeas, drained
One 14-oz. can of chopped tomatoes
3 ½ cups vegetable stock, preferably organic
1 small squash (approximately 1 ½ pounds), deseeded and cut into 2 inch chunks
3 ½ oz. prunes, pitted and roughly torn
2 Tbs. sliced almonds, toasted
For the spice rub:
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. ras el hanout spice mix
1 Tbs. ground cumin
1 Tbs. ground cinnamon
1 Tbs. ground ginger
1 Tbs. sweet paprika
Mix all the spice rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Put the beef into a large bowl, massage it with the spice rub, then cover with plastic wrap and put into the fridge for a couple of hours – ideally overnight. That way the spices really penetrate and flavor the meat.
When you’re ready to cook, heat a generous lug of olive oil in a tagine or casserole– type pan and fry the meat over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add your chopped onion and cilantro stalks and fry for another 5 minutes. Tip in the chickpeas and tomatoes, then pour in half of the stock and stir. Bring to the boil, then put the lid on the pan or cover with foil and reduce to a simmer for 1½hours.
At this point add your squash, the prunes and the rest of the stock. Give everything a gentle stir, then pop the lid back on the pan and continue cooking for another 1½hours. Keep an eye on it and add a splash of water if it looks too dry.
Once the time is up, take the lid off and check the consistency. If it seems a bit too runny, simmer for 5 to 10 minutes more with the lid off. The beef should be really tender and flaking apart now, so have a taste and season with a pinch or two of salt. Scatter the cilantro leaves over the tagine along with the toasted almonds, then take it straight to the table with a big bowl of lightly seasoned couscous and dive in. Serves 4 to 6.
For me (and Italians would kill me for saying this), tiramisu is the coolest trifle in the world. The Venetians don’t really have many desserts, but this is a classic. It’s usually dead simple and all about the ladyfingers, the coffee and the cream, but I think the chocolate and coffee are such good friends that you’ve got to get a bit of chocolate in there. I’ve also used egg whites, which isn’t traditional, but they make it lovely and light and spread the mascarpone about so it is not so rich.
9 oz. good-quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
3 Tbs. butter, diced
6 or 7 oz. of ladyfingers
1 ¾ cups good hot sweetened coffee
Vin Santo or other sweet dessert wine like Marsala
4 large eggs, preferably free-range or organic
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbs. sugar
1 ½ lb. mascarpone
1 Tbs. dried oregano
A few fresh coffee beans, bashed up finely
Put a glass bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl. Put 7 ounces of the chocolate into the bowl, keeping the rest in one piece. Add the diced butter and a pinch of salt, and leave for 5 minutes or so until melted and combined. Help it along by giving it a stir every now and then.
Meanwhile, line a round deep bowl or earthenware dish (about 12 inches in diameter and 4 ½ inches deep)with the ladyfingers, then carefully pour over the hot sweetened coffee. Add a couple of swigs of Vin Santo to your melted chocolate, stir it through, then drizzle all over the ladyfingers. Use a spatula to carefully smooth it out to the edges so you’ve got a nice even layer. Put it aside to cool.
Separate your eggs, putting the whites into one bowl and the yolks into another. Add the sugar to the yolks with another swig of Vin Santo (if you’re feeling naughty!) and beat with an electric mixer on the highest setting for about 5 minutes, or by hand, until all the sugar has dissolved and the yolks are pale and fluffy. Mix in the mascarpone and the zest of one orange.
Clean and dry your beaters, and, in another bowl, beat the whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks—they should be a similar consistency to the yolk and mascarpone mixture, and should hold their shape when you lift the beaters from the bowl.
Using a large metal spoon, add a spoonful of your whites to the yolk mixture and gently fold them in, then fold through the rest of the whites. Spoon and smooth this creamy mixture on top of your chocolate layer.
Scatter finely bashed-up coffee beans over the top. Using a sharp knife or peeler, carefully shave over your remaining chocolate. Finely grate over the zest of half of your remaining orange. Pop the tiramisu into the fridge for 2 hours to set. Serves 12.
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