The obligatory cookery book will once again be peeking out of my Christmas stocking this year and this time it’s the turn of Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals.
Jamie’s a bit like marmite – you either love him or you hate him but in my household at least we are firm fans. Jamie revolutionised home cookery, showing us it was possible to have fun with food without fiddling around with weights and measures. His ‘tear-it-up-and-throw-it-in’ approach inspired my husband to cook and for that I am truly grateful.
A few diversions later (a series of award-winning restaurants; transforming the lives of hundreds of disadvantaged youngsters by turning them into top-class chefs; changing the face of British school dinners) and Jamie has come back to his roots with 15-minute meals, a compendium of ‘super-quick, tasty, nutritious food that you can eat everyday of the week’.
Jamie’s not the first to target this end of the market – nor is this his first stab at a ‘quick-fix’ cook book. His 30-minute meals took some big knocks for the misleading timings (an average of 90 minutes to complete most offerings) and also found millions of fans – but anyone who tries to liken it to his newest offering is missing the point of 15-minute meals entirely. 15-minute meals is not so much about creating a gourmet, dinner-party spread in zero time, it’s about finding a compelling alternative to simply sticking a pre-packed, additive-laden jalfrezi in the microwave when you crawl into the kitchen after a long day’s grind.
This is not a new concept – remember Delia’s foray into this market with “How to Cheat at Cooking” (aka “How Not To Cook”)? “Delia has sourced a range of pre-prepared foods (from tins, chill cabinets, freezers and store cupboards) to help you short circuit cooking times and techniques”, read the marketing blurb. “It’s like having a pig piss in your throat. It tastes of freezer and plastic”, opined the critics on tasting one of her creations.
Contrast that with Jamie’s seared Asian beef/best noodle salad & ginger dressing. Featured in his new book, this recipe is one of several that have also appeared on his website and which I tried out before sticking the book at the top of my Christmas list. It took 25 minutes from start to finish, so longer than the target 15, but I certainly didn’t feel I had lost my evening slaving in the kitchen and the end result was more than worth it.
Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals features enough fresh ingredients to cause the Turkey Twizzler brigade to declare it poncey middle-class posh nosh and head straight for the chippy – but these are of course the same people that insisted on feeding their kids illicit burgers through the school gates when Jamie took the initiative to help feed them their five a day.
If you’re looking to create some Michelin magic in your kitchen, this a bit lightweight – but so, too, are the meals. Low cal, low budget and low maintenance – and you can’t say fairer than that. This is the new mid-week cooking bible for the masses.