Feeding seven people is never easy. It can be a lot of fun (and also very little fun at all). I’ve said before that there should be a Masterchef challenge where the contestants have £10, 20 minutes and all the distractions of homework, TV, fighting, fussy eating, etc. to get a meal on the table. Cooking really doesn’t get any tougher than this in a first world country.
So it was with some interest that my wife and I approached Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals tome when she received it as a Secret Santa present at Christmas in 2010. Now, just over a year later, we have cooked every single dish from this book, all 50 of them. All 50 of them. Cooked them, rated them out of 5, ticked them off. Everything from Broccoli Orechiette through to Spring Lamb. We noted down what we thought, any substitutions made. And at the end of it, we’ve added quite a few dishes to our family repertoire.
Out of the 50, only 1 came over as average – the Steak, Indian Style. The rest were good at worst, excellent at best. The promise of pudding was usually enough to get the kids to eat the main courses – ice creams, tarts, creamy ganache, the brownies!!! The salads are, without exception, superb. His cheat’s pizza has been repeated again and again. As has the rice and beans he serves with his Jerk Chicken.
If you were ever in doubt about whether this book lived up to the hype, it does. We had our doubts about a lot of recipes. I’m not a mushroom fan, yet the mushroom risotto was very tasty indeed. After cooking 4 of these meals, we gave up being worried about whether they would be any good. The man knows his food. Individual elements taste good but together? Oh, my, together…
Can you do them all in 30 minutes? Yes. If you have a sous-chef, a bowl of washing up water ready and waiting and a team of assistants cleaning up after you. You don’t see a lot of tidying on the TV show, after all. In the real world, 30 minutes is good, 45 is more likely the first time you do them.
Some of them are definitely easier than others. the Pregnant Jools’s Pasta is a real easy crowd-pleaser. The Steak Sarnie to die for. The Tapas Feast is a bit of a juggling act but well worth it.
The only thing we’ve struggled with is his serving sizes. No matter what the recipe says it serves, it’s fed our tribe well, usually with leftovers, though we have had to double up on pudding servings when it’s made individual puddings. And it’s hard to get the kids involved when you’re working to such tight timescales though they have made excellent pot-washers and Ooglie-disposers.
When we got it, the book was pristine. Now, the pages are food-spattered, the edges crinkled and the spine battered. It’s a well-used and much-loved book. Looking forward to cooking the sticky pan-fried scallops this week, if only to get my hands on those brownies again!
This post was not sponsored by, paid for, asked for or in any way anything to do with Jamie Oliver. Though if he wants to send me a copy of his next book I’d be more than happy to cook the lot.