There is new trend making its way into food culture, led by one of the most well-known chefs of our time. The chef of which I speak is Jamie Oliver. He has taken the Western world by storm. He adapted the 30-minute meal theory, sold it in a book (the fastest-selling non-fiction book of all time!). In his new book, Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals, he took it to the next level by halving the time. Nothing appeals to a modern day student or worker more than the idea that good, healthy, nutritious food can be made in 15 minutes. That’s only half an episode of The Simpsons. Dinner could be cooked, eaten and cleaned up before The Voice has even started. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?
I may sound like I don’t like the guy, but I am a huge fan of Jamie Oliver. His recipes are, without fail, delicious; ever since he was a young London guy known as ‘The Naked Chef’, he has been doing something right. His ideals about free-range, organic produce run parallel to mine. However, I do find it a little hard to comprehend the idea that a whole meal can be made in 15 minutes without cutting too many corners, so I decided to put a few recipes to the test.
I chose 3 different recipes from the 15 Minute Mealscookbook: a soup, a pasta dish, and a vegetable curry. They were all vegetarian, for my sake, however there is a large range of beef, pork, chicken and fish recipes for the meat-eater. Each meal pretty much ran smoothly; I didn’t yell too much whenever someone walked into the kitchen, however the phrase “JAMIE OLIVER DOESN’T HAVE TO PUT UP WITH THIS S**T” was used at one point, as setting the table does not need to be done while I’m on a timer (thanks, Dad).
Meal number one was the Keralan vegetable curry. During the day I had collected all of the ingredients and I was pleased to see that it was mainly herbs, vegetables and spices that were on the list. For this dish I used my parents’ kitchen; it is slightly bigger than my own and has most of my kitchen equipment still in it (because I’m too lazy to move it). For these kinds of recipes, food processors and stick blenders are handy. I did have to spend ten minutes setting up all my ingredients so that they were all at hand, which should be taken into consideration by everyone as it immediately stretches the 15 minutes to 25.
However once I was ready, and slightly nervous, I started the timer. Sixteen minutes and thirty-two seconds later, dinner was ready. I didn’t think that was too bad for my first time trying.
The next meal I attempted was in the comfort of my own kitchen. It isn’t very comfortable considering it’s tiny but I had found a recipe that didn’t need too many ingredients or equipment and so the kitchen suited me well. On the menu was Mexican tomato soup with chili nachos. It was a simple recipe but I loved the amount of fresh ingredients such as tomatoes, avocado, herbs and limes that were to be used. I was a little worried that the rice in the soup wasn’t going to cook fast enough and perhaps I should have let it cook longer but I was determined to beat the clock, which I did, almost. It took me 22 seconds past 15 minutes. This meant I was improving – or choosing really easy dishes. It was still an amazing time for a dinner to be prepared in.
It was definitely a nutritious meal. According to the cookbook, it only contains 642 calories – this is maybe a quarter of a McDonald’s burger. I spend the same amount of time cooking as I would have if I’d gone to a drive-through and lined up for a Happy Meal.
Finally, I made mushroom pasta with apple, hazelnut and feta salad. This was really satisfying to make, using truffle oil and a large handful of beautiful mushrooms, and if I hadn’t have chosen a pasta that takes more than 15 minutes to cook, I would have been successful in beating the clock.
One thing I noticed was that whenever I finished cooking these meals andlooked back in the kitchen, it looked like a food fight has just ended.
I was definitely hesitant at first, but if there is one thing that I have taken away from my week of cooking research, it is that cooking really isn’t about the time. Despite the preparation and the hefty clean up, I believe that the point of a concept like this is to convince everyday people that cooking is not a daunting, time-consuming task. It is really easy to cook good food in less than half-an-hour, regardless of the amount of experience you have in a kitchen. There is nothing more satisfying than putting a meal that you have made in front of others to enjoy with you.
He may be a multi-millionaire and be known world-wide for his work as a chef, but Jamie Oliver has tapped into the fast food trend and transformed it into something healthy and simple that can be done at home by anyone. There’s no hurt in trying and it’s definitely more fun if you time yourself.
Your fifteen minutes on the clock starts now…