James May has done a cookbook? The James May of Top Gear and The Grand Tour fame? Yep, that’s the one. Not only has he made a cookbook, he’s also got a TV show of the same name on Amazon Prime Video. James May Oh Cook! Is described as ‘60 easy recipes that any idiot can make’ and, as Mr. May himself shows you on the show, he’s right!
It’s perhaps not all that surprising that James May has gone down the cooking route, given that May founded FoodTribe, a spin-off from DriveTribe, with his The Grand Tour co-stars Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond. It’s also the third show he’s done for Amazon, with the other shows being The Grand Tour and James May: Our Man In Japan.
The show itself was a fun watch. May isn’t exactly fond of the way that cooking shows are normally filmed, so he fills the time with his usual brand of random facts about things like history and his life. He also likes to show you the bits of television production that you normally don’t see, so you’ll see him talking to the crew and complaining about how long they’re taking to get the perfect shot when he just wants to eat the food he’s managed to cook.
The whole point of the show, and the accompanying book (which, as May points out in the introduction, was written after the show was filmed), is to teach people who can’t cook the basics of making a satisfying meal. May himself says he can’t cook, often calling for the help of Nikki, a ‘home economist’, who appears from a cupboard (a joke that quickly gets old). But, to be fair on May, he does a pretty good job for someone who supposedly can’t cook.
Each episode of the show is dedicated to various categories of meals, and the book mirrors this. For example, chapter one is all about brunch, so you’ll get recipes for a classic omelette to shakshuka. Chapter five covers curry night, while the final chapter is all about store-cupboard saviours. This latter chapter has recipes involving things such as Spam and sardines, to give you some ideas of what you can make from leftover basics in the cupboard.
Unlike other cookbooks where recipes can be complicated and involve a thousand different ingredients that your local supermarket doesn’t stock, May does his best to keep things simple. He stresses that while fresh ingredients are obviously better, you don’t have to use them if you don’t want to and can use packet or frozen ingredients instead.
I’m not a regular cook myself, as my wife is much better at it and we’ve got into the habit of her doing most of the cooking while I handle most of the cleaning. But this book is perfect for the likes of me, when I do get around to trying some of the recipes myself. However, my wife has done a great job at trying out some of the recipes, and most of them have turned out to be pretty great.
Highlights include the very tasty black pudding hash (I only tried black pudding in the last few years, in Edinburgh of all places, and I’m a little annoyed that I avoided it for so long), the shakshuka and the sticky buffalo wings. We also tried the boiled egg with avocado and prosciutto ‘soldiers,’ but this was a disappointment. Nothing can beat toast soldiers dipped in egg.
If you’ve watched the show and want to try the recipes out for yourself, then the James May Oh Cook! cookbook is a no-brainer. But even if you haven’t watched the show and you’re just someone who hasn’t cooked much and wants to get to grips with the basics, this is the perfect place to start.
You can buy James May Oh Cook! On Amazon through this link*. You can also watch the show by signing up to Amazon Prime Video*.
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