Jamie vs Jamie

Jamie’s Ministry of Food

Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals

I’ve never classed myself as a Jamie Oliver fan. I may have watched him on TV once, about a decade ago. I am glad he was brave enough to challenge unsatisfactory school dinners but I’m not of the persuasion that he should be called upon to comment on all matters of national importance.

I received Jamie’s Ministry of Food cookbook a while back now. I enjoy cooking so had my fingers crossed that some of the recipes would take my fancy. Much to my surprise, the second recipe in the book leapt out at me: Moroccan Fish Stew. Yum. Simple to make and it has now become a regular meal, along with Lamb Rogan Josh. Unlike most other cookbooks I can honestly say I have tried a huge number of these recipes and all have turned out well. It seems impossible to mess up the recipes. Jamie is clever with his substitution of ingredients. For instance, the curries use olive oil and butter instead of ghee which makes the recipe much more accessible to reluctant cooks. I never thought I would be a regular couscous eater but now I am, and I am also confident in adding a splash of balsamic to some dishes. I love cookbooks where you can learn new tricks.

Hoping for a second treasure trove of fantastic recipes, I bought Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals. Before I bought it I was aware that 15 minutes is optimistic when it comes to preparing a meal and in the introduction he does state that the 15 minutes excludes chopping time. The concept of this book is that each meal has three or so parts thrown together such as a meat portion, a rice portion and a salad portion. Each portion should also be presented on a serving platter for a sort of communal feasting feel. Unfortunately, when it is just two people sitting down I am reluctant to mess up more dishes than necessary so my versions just look like ‘normal’ mains.

I have found the recipes in this book harder to follow than Jamie’s Ministry of Food and I think it is because Jamie has tried too hard to condense full meals down. I think it may confuse and overwhelm reluctant cooks. I feel I would have got more out of this cookbook if each small portion was presented on its own in different sections allowing you to mix and match following some recommendations or your own desires. I know you can do this but it does get a bit hard to imagine different things going together in the current format, particularly when the food photography isn’t that great. That being said, I do like some of the recipes in this book and have thought of new ways to flavour up couscous add chorizo to meals.

Overall, as much as I like cooking, there are some nights 15 minutes in the kitchen seems too long. On these nights I would much prefer to throw something in the oven and get back to the TV rather than chop madly and wonder why I still have a bunch of basil and cup of chicken stock left over at the end of the process.

Jamie’s Ministry of Food: 5 stars. I cannot recommend this book enough.

Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals: 2 stars. A little too ambitious.

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