When I heard that Jamie Oliver’s new book was going to be called 15 Minute Meals, I admit that I was a little bit sceptical. Is it just a marketing gimmick?
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There had already been quite a few comments about whether his 30 Minute Meals book was realistic. Can a non-professional cook with a domestic kitchen really complete those recipes in 30 minutes? Trimming a further 15 minutes off the cooking time seemed to be even more optimistic. So I was intrigued to see how the book would turn out.
First of all, let me say that I love the way that this book looks. It’s fresh, well laid out and has attractive photographs. As usual for a Jamie Oliver book, it starts with a section of suggested equipment for your kitchen, and a list of staples to keep in your cupboards and fridge. Although I don’t really refer to these lists any more myself, I do think that it’s a great idea for anyone who is just getting into cooking.
The book then has main course recipes divided by meat type, vegetarian recipes, and pasta recipes. There are ideas for soups and sandwiches, and a section for breakfast dishes. Each recipe is a complete meal with side dishes, and they do look very tempting. As with 30 Minute Meals there is an emphasis on presenting the food in an attractive way, promoting the idea of a meal with family or friends around the dinner table.
I found plenty of recipes that I wanted to try out. The Mustard Lamb looks like it would be great for a quick Sunday dinner after a long day out. There are curry dishes that I would like to cook on a Friday night, and I’m even considering buying a toastie maker just to make the Smoked Salmon and Egg toastie. The egg cooks in the toastie, it sounds fantastic!
The book has been developed with a nutritionist and the recipes average out at around 580 calories per portion. However some of them edge closer to 800 calories per portion. At the very back of the book, there are nutrition details for each of the meals. It’s fairly basic information, just calories, fat, sat fat and sugar but it’s great to see this kind of information starting to creep into mainstream recipe books.
OK, so the recipes look and sound fantastic. But do they really take just 15 minutes? Well, to be honest, I don’t believe they can. For a start, the recipes call for all ingredients to be set out, pans and oven heated, water boiled for pasta etc. And that’s before you even start chopping and cooking. I cook on a small 4 ring electric cooker at the moment, and it takes at least 10 minutes for me to get the water at a rolling boil for pasta.
When you take this all into account, and then consider that most people reading the book will not have professional knife skills, I think that it probably takes at least double the stated time to prepare each meal. I’m not really sure why Jamie didn’t release this as ‘More 30 Minute Meals’, other than the fact that it doesn’t sound quite as snappy.
My only other concern about the book is that the recipes don’t generally give timings for each step. For instance, in the Chicken Cacciatore Spaghetti the chicken, mushrooms and various other ingredients are all fried ‘tossing regularly until golden’. Now I know roughly how long that will take, because I have fried chicken like this many times in the past. But if I was new to cooking, I wouldn’t know whether that would take 3 minutes or 13 minutes.
So, yes, the book looks fantastic and I am sure that I will be trying out plenty of the recipes in the coming weeks. I am not convinced that ‘15 Minute Meals’, is really an accurate title, but it’s still worth adding to your book collection.