Wednesday, 17 April 2013

My night with Jamie...

Jamie Oliver that is!!!  Okay, so maybe he wasn't there in person but he was definitely there in spirit.  My starter, main and dessert all came from his cookbooks.  They resulted in an absolutely scrumptious treat of a home-cooked meal, if I do say so myself! 

Starter - Jamie's Crispy Asparagus Soldiers
My parents make a scrumptious variation of this (asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and grilled on the barbeque), so I couldn't resist trying Jamie's version.  Essentially you wrap asparagus in pancetta (singles, or doubles if you have skill), pop them on a baking sheet, drizzle them with olive oil and bake them at 425F until the pancetta is crispy.  Jamie suggested 10 minutes for baking, mine took about 20 minutes.  I'm guessing it was because I was only able to get thickly sliced pancetta. 

Things to note: (1) The pancetta didn't wrap very well, so I ended up tucking the ends underneath to get the pancetta to stay put.  It worked pretty well.  I think the pancetta would have wrapped better if it had been more thinly sliced.  (2) Jamie suggests softboiling an egg and then dipping your Crispy Asparagus Soldiers into the softboiled egg.  I opted to keep this starter very simple and didn't try that, so am not sure how it would taste.  (3) You can find this recipe on page 20 of Cook Your Way to the Good Life (

I thoroughly enjoyed this appy.  The flavours were awesome together and I especially liked the saltiness of the pancetta.  I will definitely make this again.

Up next was Paella!  I love Paella and have always wanted to try making it, so when Jamie's Favourite Paella recipe popped up on his twitter feed the other day, I couldn't resist trying it out.  It was a full on adventure from shopping for the ingredients, to cooking the Paella, to eating it.  The final product turned out flavourful and yummy, and I will definitely make this recipe again but, I'm not going to lie, there was a hiccough along the way...more details below.
Things to Note:
  1. You can find the recipe for this yummy goodness at:  
  2. I halved the online recipe's ingredients and it was good for three very hungry people, or four less hungry people.  
  3. I noticed that in a lot of Jamie's (yes, we're on a first name basis now) paella recipes, he uses pancetta in the same manner that he used the pork belly in this recipe.  So, since I already had pancetta, I substituted it for the pork belly and it tasted pretty darn good.  
  4. I swear it must be easier to buy illegal drugs than saffron.  For you Vancouverite folks, here's a tip: it's held under lock and key at the Customer Service Counter at Whole Foods.  
  5. I had no idea what 200g of tinned tomatoes would be, so I used one small can, which was probably a bit too much.  I'd use 1/2 to 3/4 of a small tin in the future.  
  6. I looked high and low for paella rice and didn't have any luck.  However, as I was phoning around to a gazillion and one stores, I hit the jackpot with a lovely Spanish lady who works at Greens (  She told me that when she makes her paella she uses Basmati rice and she prefers it to traditional paella rice because it gives it a nice nutty taste.  So, save yourself some time and use basmati rice!  
  7. Interesting fact: Greens has a bulk section that includes lovely items such as quinoa, buckwheat, goji berries, etc.  
Okay, so what was the hiccough?  For some reason, my rice just wouldn't soften.  I started out by adding the broth suggested in Jamie's recipe and stirring as described, but 20 minutes later I still had rock hard rice.  So, more broth was added and the lid was put on hoping that would help.  20 minutes went by and the rice was still rock hard.  It took about an hour and a half, double the broth recommended and a lot of hoping and wishing, and the rice finally softened enough that it was edible.  It wasn't perfect, but there were no complaints and my dinner guest went back for seconds, so it must not have been horrible.  I'm convinced I must have got some bad rice, but in case it was due to the fact that I used basmati instead of paella rice, ensure you give yourself a little extra cooking time.

I'm cooking Paella, I'm cooking Paella!

Look at that yummy goodness!

On to the plate you go!  One of my favourite parts was the squid.  I'd never cooked squid before and it was absolutely delightful.

For dessert I opted for one of my all-time favourite Jamie recipes: Clementine Chocolate Salad  from Jamie's Kitchen (  This dessert is heavenly.  It's refreshing, light, sweet, flavourful and just ever so lovely!  For those of you that don't have Jamie's Kitchen, I've included my version of the recipe below.  However, I must warn you, many an elephant died in the making of this dessert. 

  • Clementine oranges - this is going to make up the bulk of the dessert, so select the number you need based on the size of the oranges, the number of people and the portion size you want to serve. 
  • Fresh mint, approximately 3 leaves per person, chopped fine
  • Slivered almonds
  • Shaved bittersweet or dark chocolate
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • 5 tbsp water
  • 1 vanilla bean (you can use pure vanilla extract instead, but the vanilla bean is truly heavenly)
Peel the clementines and then slice them so you end up with clementine circles.  Mix the clementines with the mint.  This can be done ahead of time and put in the fridge for later.  Place the clementine and mint mixture onto the individual serving plates and sprinkle with slivered almonds.  Next, slice the vanilla bean in half and, with the back of the knife, scrape the vanilla goodness out of the bean. Place the sugar and water into a small pan or pot and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Add the vanilla bean goodness, mix oh so slightly and then simmer until the mixture becomes syrupy and golden brown.  Drizzle the golden brown syrup over the clementine salad, sprinkle with shaved chocolate and serve.  I could eat this all night, every night!

Interesting fact: if you place the left over vanilla pod into a container of sugar, it will turn the sugar into lovely vanilla sugar. 

Just looking at this makes me want more!
Warning: the following photo is graphic.  Mature audiences only.
The elephant graveyard.

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