Smile Politely

The Return of Jamie Oliver

The secret’s out: I love Jamie Oliver, the 32-year-old British culinary superstar who champions healthy eating in all corners of society. Imagine my excitement to hear he has returned to the Food Network after what seemed like an eternity. Granted, Oliver has continued to be a public presence, releasing his eighth cookbook and reforming the school lunch program in England, where he’s given wayward youths new opportunities through his Fifteen restaurant program. But it’s still satisfying to know Oliver will be back in my living room on a weekly basis.

Last Sunday marked the debut of Jamie at Home, a stylistic new look at what Oliver is cooking up in his own back yard. (The program now airs every Saturday night at 8 p.m. on the Food Network.) Using produce and herbs from his home vegetable patch, Oliver conveys the message, as the Village Voice puts it, that “gardening is cool.”

I agree. But this isn’t the only reason I take inspiration from Oliver. His simple approach to food — loading dishes with herbs and exciting flavor combinations — makes my mouth water. And this is why I’ve turned to Oliver to deliver the recipe for beef stew, a winter standard in my kitchen.

Jool’s Favourite Beef Stew
from Jamie’s Dinners

• olive oil
• a knob of butter
• 1 onion, peeled and chopped
• a handful of fresh sage leaves
• 800g/1®lb stewing steak or beef skirt, cut into 5cm/2 inch pieces
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• flour, to dust
• 2 parsnips, peeled and quartered
• 4 carrots, peeled and halved
• ½ a butternut squash, halved, deseeded and roughly diced
• optional: a handful of Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and halved
• 500g/1lb 2oz small potatoes
• 2 tablespoons tomato purée
• ½ a bottle of red wine
• 285ml/½ pint beef or vegetable stock
• zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
• a handful of rosemary, leaves picked
• 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Here are Oliver’s instructions:

“Preheat the oven to 160ºC/300ºF/gas 2. Put a little oil and your knob of butter into an appropriately sized pot or casserole pan. Add your onion and all the sage leaves and fry for 3 or 4 minutes. Toss the meat in a little seasoned flour, then add it to the pan with all the vegetables, the tomato purée, wine and stock, and gently stir together. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper and just a little salt. Bring to the boil, place a lid on top, then cook in the preheated oven until the meat is tender. Sometimes this takes 3 hours, sometimes 4 — it depends on what cut of meat you’re using and how fresh it is. The only way to test is to mash up a piece of meat and if it falls apart easily it’s ready. Once it’s cooked, you can turn the oven down to about 110¡C/225¡F/gas ¼ and just hold it there until you’re ready to eat.

“The best way to serve this is by ladling big spoonfuls into bowls, accompanied by a glass of French red wine and some really fresh, warmed bread. Mix the lemon zest, chopped rosemary and garlic together and sprinkle over the stew before eating. Just the smallest amount will make a world of difference — as soon as it hits the hot stew it will release an amazing fragrance.”

What makes this recipe so unique is the thoughtful addition of Jerusalem artichokes and butternut squash. These vegetables add a delightful sweetness to the dish. Jerusalem artichokes are an unusual vegetable that are often available from October thru March. Not from Jerusalem nor artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes are tubers that get their name from the Italian word for sunflower, girasole. Also called sunchokes, Jeruselum artichokes are nutty, sweet and crunchy. They can be eaten raw, but are exceptionally delicious when roasted, boiled or used in a braise, such as in this dish.

Oliver seems to be a chef of insurmountable energy. Of late, he’s decided to become involved in raising awareness about chicken welfare and the implications of our world’s demand for cheap food. His show Jamie’s Fowl Dinners airs this week in Britain. You can check it out on his website. Love him or hate him, it’s great to see someone use fame and fortune for the greater good.

Related Articles