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Jamie's 15 Minute Meals... Or "The Art of Speed Cooking"
Jamie's 15-Minute Meals - Jamie Oliver
Member Name: KLockwood75
Jamie's 15-Minute Meals - Jamie Oliver
Advantages: Quick (even if not 15 minutes), nutritionally balanced, tasty, good range of recipes
Disadvantages: Lots of equipment needed and lots of washing up afterwards
Picture the scene... An array of fresh ingredients laid out on the counter top, all the required equipment ready and waiting to be used, recipe book open to the right page and the timer set on my mobile phone (well, I do like a challenge!) The basic premise of Jamie's 15 Minute Meals is that you can prepare a full, balanced meal using fresh ingredients in a 15 minute window which sounds ideal for our busy, everyday lives. However, friends who have his '30 Minute Meals' book say that you can't cook those in half an hour, so my expectations of actually being able to get one of these meals on the table in 15 minutes weren't particularly high. Of course, my husband had other ideas - with the timer ticking away on my first attempt ("Gorgeous Greek Chicken with Herby Vegetable Couscous and Tzatziki'), he was posting on Facebook saying that he'd "been waiting 16 minutes for his dinner and it was still not ready"... in the end it took me 21 minutes from starting cooking to serving that first recipe. Plus, I felt like I was racing round the kitchen, from one task to the next, like a contestant on some kind of bizarre 'speed-cooking' game show.
* The Recipes *
Jamie's 15 Minute Meals is designed to allow you to cook quick, tasty and nutritious food that you can eat every day of the week. It is not 'dinner party cooking'. You definitely wouldn't want to attempt the 'speed cooking' required for these recipes while trying to entertain guests at the same time. Instead it is the kind of food that you can prepare after a day at work and sit down to enjoy, safe in the knowledge that you are eating something that is fresh and full of flavour, all in approximately the same timeframe as serving up a plate of oven chips. In addition, whereas some of Jamie Oliver's books have been criticised for being unhealthy / too high in fat and calories, these recipes have been developed in conjunction with nutritionists and have an average of 580 calories per serving. The book is divided into chapters based on the main ingredient (type of meat / fish / veggie) or style of meal (Pasta / Soups and Sarnies / Breakfast) and I will talk about my personal favourites below.
Chicken - The chicken section is my favourite part of the book so far and the one I find myself coming back to time and time again. The 'Gorgeous Greek Chicken' mentioned above has now become a favourite in our house (and I've shaved 5 minutes off my original personal best time for making it) and we also love the 'Spicy Cajun Chicken, Mashed Sweet Potato and Fresh Corn Salsa'. The 'Incredibly Delicious Chicken Salad' is tasty too. I feel that I have learned some new techniques too from this section - such tenderising and flavouring the chicken breasts by shaking the spices over them in a greaseproof paper wrap before bashing them repeatedly with a rolling pin. The range of recipes is really varied - from 'Chicken Dim Sum' to 'Warm Chicken Liver Salad with Little Welsh Rarebits' via 'Golden Chicken, Braised Greens and Potato Gratin' and I feel that there really is something for everyone here. Quite a lot of the recipes do have an element of spice (always popular amongst the adults in this house) but there are also recipes which I feel are suitable for the whole family.
Beef - The beef section of the book is also really good. There are simple recipes such as homemade burgers (definitely one for the BBQ season, assuming we get a summer this year), Chinese inspired recipes such as 'Sizzling Beef Steak, Hoisin Prawn and Noodle Bowls' and more classic recipes such as 'Steak Medallions, Mushroom Sauce and Spring Greens'. My personal favourites from this chapter as the 'Beef Kofta Curry with Fluffy Rice, Beans and Peas' and the 'Grilled Steak, Ratatouille and Saffron Rice' both of which were relatively simple to cook and tasted delicious. Again, you can use this section as inspiration for creating your own meals as well as following the recipes - we always eat steak with either chips or potato wedges, but it was delicious with the ratatouille and I have used the saffron rice recipe to accompany several other dishes since.
Pasta - We eat a lot of pasta in this house so I am always on the lookout for quick and easy pasta recipes, and this chapter of the book is full of them. All of the pasta dishes in the book come with their own salad accompaniment, although you could obviously serve them on their own / with garlic bread just as easily. Personal favourites here are the 'Sausage Fusilli with Creamy Garden Salad', the 'Chicken Cacciatore, Spaghetti and Smoky Tomato Sauce' and 'Prawn Linguini with Sicilian Shaved Fennel Salad'. The Prawn Linguini (or Tagliatelle / Fusilli / Penne depending on what we have in the cupboard at the time) is an excellent quick dinner option and one that we seem to have every few weeks, although I don't usually bother with the salad.
Overall though, there are so many enticing recipes in this book. I have pulled out a few favourites above, but if I was to go through my list of 'things that I want to make', this review would be far too long. There is a good range of vegetarian recipes too, plus a lot of recipes which could be converted to suit vegetarian guests / family members by just substituting something else for the meat. Veggie meals include a 'Keralan Veggie Curry', 'Falafel Wraps, Grilled Veg and Salsa' and 'Spring Frittata, Tomato Toasts, Watercress and Pea Salad'
* A Few (Minor) Issues *
Overall, I think that this is an excellent cook book and one that I use regularly. There are a few issues though - not so much for me, but on a more general basis. The first is that you need a lot of equipment - there are very few recipes which don't specify the use of a food processor, for a variety of different purposes (chopping, blending, disc-slicing etc.) and, although all these tasks can be done by hand, you would need to allow a lot more time if you don't have a food processor. The other issue is timings - there are no defined timings in this book, which if you stick to the recipe and do things in the right order, shouldn't be an issue. However, if you can't do it as quickly as Jamie thinks you should be able to do it, you are likely to find that your chicken (for example) is cooked long before you have finished making the accompanying elements of the meal. Or, sometimes, you buy something and it takes much longer to cook that the recipe suggests it will - I did one last week which needed to have bulgar wheat put on to cook about five minutes into the cooking time, but the instructions on the packet said it took 15 minutes to cook.
The other issue, which my husband is constantly pointing out, is that this style of cooking makes a lot of washing up - the average meal uses at least two (often three pans), plus the food processor, and all of that needs to be washed by hand. Oh, and while I'm here, you need to take his advice about 'serving' the food with a pinch of salt - seriously, who has a variety of different shaped boards to serve their everyday dinners on?
* Price and Purchasing *
Jamie's 15 Minute Meals has an RRP of £26.00 but you are very unlikely to have to pay that much for it, as it is usually reduced. Current Amazon price for the hardback is £11.96. It is available everywhere, in proper bookshops and online.
* Final Thoughts *
Jamie's 15 Minute Meals is a book that I would highly recommend. The recipes are mostly easy to follow and the results are impressive. I love the way that one recipe gives you a complete meal - it takes away all the indecisiveness about what to serve with a main dish, and it has certainly broadened our culinary horizons. We had slipped into a bit of a rut where everything was served with rice, couscous, pasta or some kind of potato, and it is refreshing to cook (and eat) a greater variety of meals. I have used this book at least once a week since I got it at Christmas - a combination of experimenting with new recipes and revisiting ones that have quickly become favourites - and I feel like it is one that I will continue to use. You do need to have a bit of confidence in your own abilities in the kitchen as there are a few tricky techniques in this book (it is definitely not as basic as 'Jamie's Ministry of Food' for example), but there is nothing that should make it inaccessible to a relatively experienced cook. So, if you want to make fresh, healthy, balanced meals which taste delicious, go out and buy this.
Summary: A great cook book for adding a bit more variety to those after work dinners
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