Sure, Jamie Oliver is a cutie, but I’d never taken his cooking seriously. My experience with this bloke was seeing him on TV riding around in his motorcycle making food for his mates. I was skeptical about his ability to cook and viewed him as more of a TV personality than a chef.
So I was pleasantly surprised to find out that his cookbook, The Naked Chef Takes Off, offers some excellent recipes, most of which are easy to make (except the fresh pasta section. Fresh pasta is fun to make once or twice; after that, it becomes tedious). The cookbook is written in an informal style; rather than finding carefully detailed instruction, Jamie will tell you to “rip over your basil,” or “throw in your herbs and veg.” The photos are gorgeous — just looking at them will make your mouth water.
I made the Baked Cod with French Beans, Pancetta and Pine Nuts the other night and fell in love with this delicious and quick recipe. The pancetta — salted, cured, spiced pork — drips over the cod and green beans while the dish cooks, creating a warm, cozy and perfectly savory sauce. When making fish dishes, always try to use fresh fish that you buy from a good fishmonger. Frozen is never the same and you don’t want to buy supermarket fish that looks old and haggard. Splurge on the good stuff.
Baked Cod with French Beans, Pancetta and Pine Nuts (adapted from Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef Takes Off)
1 and 1/2 lb French beans, trimmed and sliced at an angle
1 clove of garlic, finely sliced
salt and freshly ground pepper
four 8-oz cod steaks
12 strips pancetta
1 good handful of pine nuts
2 lemons, quartered
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place your French beans in a roasting pan. I used a Dutch oven by Le Creuset, which worked perfectly.
2. Throw in your garlic and a little salt and pepper and drizzle the olive oil until the beans are lightly coated.
3. Nestle the cod steaks among the beans, drape the pancetta slices over the cod and sprinkle everything with pine nuts. Place the lemon slices in the pan. Season everything with fresh ground pepper.
4. Cover the pan with aluminum and cook for five minutes. Remove the foil and cook for another 12 minutes or so, until the fish turns an opaque, shiny white.