Tag Archives: Jamie Oliver

Cookbook Review: Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals

About a month ago Ward happened to be on the stationary bicycle at the gym watching Food Network Canada when Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals came on. Ward’s a big fan of Jamie Oliver, so he was quite delighted and ended up adjusting his schedule so he could continue catching the show while working out.

He’d make notes in his head, then jot things down as soon as he got back so he could make a dish for dinner that night that he’d watched Jamie making earlier in the day.

The meal that was the biggest hit? Blackened Chicken San Fran Quinoa Salad. It comes to the table all greens and reds, very veggie looking – and the first time Ward made this, Sean, my older son, sheepishly took seconds and then thirds. Sean doesn’t really like vegetables much (so much for all the homemade broccoli, sweet potato and other mashed veg I made for him when he was a baby!), hence the sheepishness. But he had to admit he really enjoyed the dish, despite what to him looked like an overabundance of greens and reds.

After quite a few delicious hits just from watching the show, we decided it was high time we got a copy of the book – only to discover it’s not sold here in North America. Fortunately, Book Depository came to our rescue. We bought Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals from the Book Depository and received it within a week.

Jamie's 15 Minute Meals

It’s a lovely cookbook, with the recipes organized in the following categories: Chicken, Beef, Pork, Lamb, Fish, Pasta, Soups & Sarnies (I had to look up “sarnies”, so if you didn’t know either, it’s a British term for “sandwich”), Veggie and Breakfast. There’s also a great nutrition section at the back that tells you all the nutritional information for each dish.

Each recipe in Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals gives you a full meal: an entree and side dishes (except in cases where the main dish is an all-in-one kind of dish). The recipe is on the left hand side and a gorgeous (as in very yummy looking) photo is on the right hand side.

Just because the meals are supposed to be quick and easy to make, they’re not all the same old plain and boring fare, either. The recipes range from all over the world, and while you can pick something more basic, like Rosemary Chicken or Chicken Cacciatore, you can also go a little more exotic, like Moroccan Mussels, Tapenade Toasties & Cucumber Salad or Beef Kofta Curry, Fluffy Rice & Beans and Peas.

The recipes, unfortunately, aren’t accompanied by any descriptive or conversational paragraph telling us things about the meal. I know it’s not really necessary to the recipe itself, but I’m more of a cookbook reader than I am a cook (I guess it’s safe to say, I’m a cookbook reader, period, actually), and I found myself missing the little preambles to the entrees. How did this recipe come about? I’d wonder. From where did it originate?

We’ve tried a few more recipes from the book, but the Blackened Chicken San Fran Quinoa Salad remains our favourite dish so far. We kept forgetting to take pictures, but the next time Ward makes it, I’ll be sure to get some pictures so I can post the recipe.

There’s one thing I can’t answer, though – the key question, perhaps. Can you really make these meals in 15 minutes?

I, of course, can’t answer this question personally, as I don’t do the cooking around here. So I asked Ward, byt he couldn’t tell me either, because he hasn’t tried to make any of the meals in 15 minutes. He likes to take his time when he’s cooking.  First of all, he likes all the chopping up of things – he finds it quite meditative. In Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals, Jamie includes lots of time-saving tips like using your food processor to chop up all the things that require chopping, and your blender to quickly mix things.

Ward is also a clean-as-he-cooks kind of guy, and he’s not certain he’d be able to make the meals in 15 minutes and still clean things as he’s cooking. But overall he’s quite happy with the efficiency of the meals, and has turned to Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals on nights when he feels a little more pressed for time.

As for me, well, everything Ward’s prepared from Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals has been quite delicious, so I’m quite happy with the book!

I’m participating in Candace’s Weekend Cooking with this post.  If you enjoy reading food-related posts, make sure to check out the links there!

An Evening With Jamie Oliver

On Friday Ward and I had a night out – we had tickets to see Jamie Oliver at Massey Hall in Toronto!

Last November, shortly after we moved into our new place in the city, we’d gone to see Jamie at Roy Thomson Hall. I never got around to blogging about it, but Jamie was funny, articulate and most impressively, he managed to make us feel like we were sitting in his living room, chatting away.

This year’s venue, Massey Hall, has a cozier feel than Roy Thomson, and once again Jamie Oliver worked his magic. He’s such a wonderful speaker, and had the audience laughing several times. I forgot to be a good little blogger throughout the first half of the event, but halfway through, I came to my senses, whipped out my notebook, and began jotting down notes.

So yeah, this post is mostly about what second half of the program, which was the Q&A portion.

Photo 2012-10-19 8 10 38 PM

A very bad picture of Jamie on stage (taken from the nosebleed section …)

Last year we purchased pretty good seats, but this year we decided to be thrifty and chose the centre gallery seats. Very high up, but the sound was fantastic. And considering we each received a complimentary copy of Jamie’s latest cookbook, Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain, it was quite a good deal.

(Although Ward wasn’t as thrilled as I was. He’s much taller than I am, and the centre gallery seats at Massey Hall don’t give you much leg room. He kept looking longingly at the newer, roomier seats in the side gallery one level below us …)

Jamie started the evening’s chat with Matt Galloway (host of CBC Radio’s Metro Morning) by going off on a tangent about his public school days, where he was one of seven or eight boys who were labelled “special needs” (Jamie is dyslexic). He had us laughing from the start, with his imitation of the teacher who was in charge of the special needs class, and how he and the other boys in the class got their revenge on the other boys by shooting spitballs at the students sitting below them in the library.

His point, from what I can remember, is that he never did well at school, but cooking saved him.

Other highlights from the first half of the program: Jamie sang us a few bars of the song the boys at school used to sing about the special needs kids. It was along the lines of  “Special needs, special needs” sung to the tune of “Let It Be”. (He regaled us with a few other bars of song a little later, and he didn’t sound half bad.)

He also talked about how working on the school lunch program in London made him realize how people, even very bright people, don’t deal very well with change.

Moving on to the second half of the program, in which he answered questions from the audience (people got to write their questions down on cards which were then collected and brought to stage) but also occasionally went off on some delightful tangents:

On what he would choose as his last meal: The original question was what was the best meal he’s ever had. He didn’t want to answer this one; it was just too hard because he’s had so many fabulous meals. Matt Galloway rephrased it as a last meal question. Jamie said it would have to be his mom’s roast dinner, because food isn’t just the taste, it’s the memories as well. His mom’s a good cook, but it’s all the memories that are tied into her roast dinners that would make him choose it as his last meal.

On romantic meals: Jamie said he’s not very good at romantic stuff at all. But probably no noodles or spaghetti – too difficult to eat without wearing some of it.

On rude veggies: This was one of the tangents. Jamie talked about how the machines that vegetable producers use aren’t capable of getting rid of malformed vegetables, so people are actually hired to scan the vegetables and pick out the ones which have extra bits sticking out of them (the point being the extra bits usually look like various parts of the male and female anatomy). And one of the things he’s doing is bringing back “bagged rude veg”, because rude veggies always make people laugh and have fun at the dinner table. People get a kick out of serving rude vegetables. Especially to their mother-in-laws.

On family life: His kids are totally not impressed with him, and whenever they see someone who treats him like he’s somebody, they’re in shock.

On possibly opening up a restaurant in Toronto: There aren’t any plans in the works, but if he did, he thinks Torontonians would enjoy a Jamie’s Italian: great food, good prices. He also talked about his new restaurant in Montreal, Maison Publique, which he and Montreal chef Derek Dammann opened earlier this month. One of the things Jamie wanted was for the restaurant, which serves British pub fare, to be accessible. (I gather DNA, which was chef Dammann’s previous restaurant in Montreal, was on the high-end side.)

On mentoring: You can either die of jealousy when your protegé gets better than you – and some of them will, whether it’s because of talent or because they have a passion for a specific niche -  or you can be supportive and continue to help them grow.

On New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban of large sugary sodas: A brave man, showing brave leadership.

Jamie’s advice to chef Susur Lee, who is reforming school lunches in Toronto: Line up long term agreement amongst the people in government. And say “no” to the No Salt people, because when you’ve been giving kids 600 mgs of sodium, you can’t just take it all away like that. You need to give the kids flavour and that does include some salt.

On the most underrated British food: Desserts. Jamie talked about his newest show, Food Fight Club, in which Britain goes head to head with other countries in themed culinary battles. They took desserts to Italy; Britain’s hot desserts were pitted against Italy’s cold desserts. In all the other countries, the judging panel was made up of international judges. In Italy, they were told there would be no international judges; the Italians would do the judging themselves! Naturally, Jamie said, after being flabbergasted by this new wrinkle, they wrote it into the storyline, making for quite a good show.

His guilty food pleasure: Chiles. He loves all kinds of chiles. He told a story about playing a trick on one of his daughters with apples and – you guessed it – chiles.

On people who inspire him: A lot of people inspire him. He named two for us:  Paul Smith, the fashion designer, who used to come regularly to the River Café when Jamie was cooking there. Jamie didn’t know who he was, but Smith would always ask to talk to him after dinner. One time, Jamie told Smith that he’d just bought a new suit, a rather nice one by Paul Smith. Smith said, “I’m Paul Smith.” Jamie said, “No you’re not.” Smith said, “Yes, I am.” Jamie said, “No you’re not.” Smith said, “But I am.” Jamie, who still thought Smith was putting him on, said, “Show me your driver’s licence.” Which was when he realized it really was Paul Smith! He also talked about Richard Curtis, known for his romantic comedies, including Notting Hill and Love Actually. Curtis is also the founder of Comic Relief in the UK, which does a tremendous lot of good.

It was such a great talk and like last year, the time passed by in a flash. I’d seen on Twitter earlier that day that Jamie had just done a presentation in the morning in Pittsburgh, so he must have been quite tired since he would have had to fly from Pittsburgh to Toronto, and then be ready for the Massey Hall event that very night. But he’s such a great speaker and he made it all seem effortless.

Last night Ward made Early Autumn Cornish Pasties from our new Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain cookbook; they were delicious. Since we each got a copy of the cookbook, I gave my copy to my sister Dawn. And hopefully she, too, will cook things for me out of it!

I’ll be linking this post to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking feature later this week. Be sure to drop by Beth Fish Reads on Friday to check out other great food posts.