Cookbook Review: Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals

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I’ve had the chance to spend a bit of time in the kitchen this weekend – and I mean, a bit of time, so I’ve trialled a few of the recipes from Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals.

Tim gave me this book for Christmas, but due to our baby’s night time routine, I haven’t done very much cooking at all. However, the concept behind this is fantastic: flavoursome, healthy meals that can be created in 15 minutes from start to finish. I’ve watched quite a few of the television programmes which accompany the book, and I think the principles are really good, and do demonstrate to people that it is possible to cook well in little time. It also makes a nice change from the usual ‘fast’ meals – there is a pasta section, but there are also plenty of chicken, veggie, lamb and beef meals too. There are even recipes for ‘Quick Lamb Tagine’ and ‘Golden Chicken with Potato Gratin,’ which seem to defy expectations for fast cooking.

The recipes I’ve tried so far are White fish tagine, Falafel Wraps and Squid n Prawns in a spicy broth. All were very good. I have to be honest, and say that the recipes I chose were unusual for me – I’m not normally a big fish eater, and, although we are trying to eat more vegetarian food, I would not normally go for these to start. I think that is probably because I didn’t have to invest lots of time in a meal – I cooked them all in less than 20 minutes, and I wasn’t particularly rushing.

The ingredients are typically ‘Jamie’ – chilli, lemon and fresh herbs feature heavily – but all are easily purchased at a supermarket. Compared to 30 minute meals, the meals are priced reasonably, as well. Jamie encourages you to ‘season thoughtfully,’ and you do get the sense in the writing that he genuinely wants you to become a better cook, and for your family to eat better. There is a really good range of recipes, making good use of some ingredients like pre-cooked rice, but usually completely from scratch. I was impressed by the healthy aspect of the recipes too – all show the calorie content, and make the most of fresh vegetables. Last night’s Squid and Prawns in a spicy broth contained at least 3 of our 5 portions of vegetables.

One of the biggest criticisms of the 15 and 30 minute meals books is that you can’t do them in the time. Jamie makes it very clear that you have to be prepared – equipment out, ingredients out,  – and that you do need the right equipment. He makes good use of it though: I love, for example, how he tells you to chop up flavourings in a food processor (lemon, chilli, herbs, olive oil) and then add cous cous and hot water to the processor bowl. The cous cous is cooked quickly and efficiently with minimal washing up.

As an improvement to the 30 minute meals, I also found the recipes much more economical – probably because you’re only cooking 1 course, rather than 2 with 30 minutes. They’re also the kind of meals which fit better into our lifestyle and our tastes.

As a family who like to cook and eat well, with a baby, this is a great book. It does do what it claims.

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