Jamie’s Meals From Mars


Jamie's thirty minute meals
Jamie's thirty minute meals. Whatever you do, DO NOT forget the wet towel under the chopping board.

Quite what the rush is, I’m not sure. In Jamie Oliver Land, it is assumed that those of us who are not famous chefs are constantly blighted by the problem of what to have for dinner. More precisely, how to avoid reaching for the takeaway menu every night.

I’m not sure about you, but I can neither afford nor have the inclination to work my way through the takeaway section of the Yellow Pages every week. I can quite happily leave such a special treat for the weekend.

Jamie’s having none of this, though. “You are going to love this pizza,” he insists. “Not only can you make it in under thirty minutes, but it’ll be tastier and healthier than anything you’ll get from a takeaway. Do not reach for that menu. Trust me, this one is going to knock your socks off.”

It is with this constant reaffirming, slightly irritating, Essex gusto that he sets about proving just how easy it is to make multi-course dinners in the space of ‘well under thirty minutes’.

And he does, every time. Yes, without fail, he ends up with a table full of sumptuous delights in less time than it takes Eastenders to play out another family tragedy.

There are several problems with this concept. Firstly, it is impossible to complete any of the meals detailed in the accompanying book in under thirty minutes. I’m not sure it’s even possible to complete them in an hour. No, my first attempt at his steak and pepper sandwich with chilli baked mushrooms, rocket salad and beetroot salad took as long as you think it might. Fucking ages.

Secondly, if you attempt to put your foot down and really go for the target completion time, you will end up with a kitchen that makes the streets of Cairo look tidy. A kitchen that will take at least three months to clean up and repair.

So why is this? What am I doing wrong?

Nothing, as far as I can tell. You see, as fantastic as the food he creates is (and it is wonderful, there’s no getting away from that), Jamie clearly lives on a different planet to the rest of us. He has a kitchen full of every utensil you can think of. A ‘nice serving platter’ or ‘gnarly little bowl’ is never more than an arm’s length away. I don’t have such things. If I cook anything that involves more than one course, I run out of pans very quickly. Finding a knife and fork that match is a challenge. I certainly don’t have a ‘cute little spoon’ to serve my homemade tartare source with, as was suggested in this evening’s episode.

More perplexing is Mr Oliver’s seemingly never-ending supply of chopping boards. Like most normal people, we’ve got one. He has (and I’ve counted) around twenty-seven. I will never have more than one chopping board, ever. I think it might even be illegal.

He also insists on serving every piece of food on the boards themselves. This may look lovely, ‘gnarly’ and rustic, but on our table would leave no room for people.

There’s an ever-present elephant in his sick-makingly perfect kitchen, too. While I’m sure it probably is possible to achieve the thirty minute deadline, any mention of the prior planning, preparation and investment required is firmly shoved under the carpet. Firstly, you’ll need to buy all of the ingredients. That means a trip to the shop and a good hour wandering around looking for ingredients you’ve never heard of and stumbling over your words as you ask perplexed shop assistants for the location of a vegetable you can’t pronounce. Jamie also asks us to purchase ‘good quality’ stuff. That means no reaching for the value range and consequently playing at least £3.50 for every ingredient. Next, you’ll need a food processor and liquidiser. No one owns either of these and those who were given them as wedding presents have long since flogged them on eBay.

In summary, you’re left penniless, knackered and beyond the point of hunger. And that’s before you’ve even started cooking.

The problems continue long after you’ve finished eating, too. Jamie fails to mention the fact that you will inevitably have several chillies, onions, lemons and bunches of herbs left over. All of which you will have no use for. Sure, I bet he’d suggest you can bung them into your next thirty minute meal, but I’m not sure I’d have the patience or time to do two of these in as many days.

So, 80% of the lovely fresh ingredients you bought – much of which is so exotic you’ve imported it directly from Indonesia – will end up in the bin.

Lastly, there is the amount of oil required. If you follow Jamie by the book, you’ll get through around eight bottles of the stuff for every meal. Contradicting his claims of healthy homemade cooking, his suggested use of ‘good quality’ olive oil will take whatever shrapnel you have left from your bank account by this stage and leave you very dead.

I must admit though, the steak sarnie was amazing.

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2 thoughts on “Jamie’s Meals From Mars

  1. Being vegetarian (and therefore often using a vast array of cookbooks for such things), I’ve run into the exact same thing. I’ve recently taken to experimenting (and, by “experimenting” I mean firmly sticking to the recipe printed in the book) in the kitchen and my recent, failed attempt at a vegetarian orange chicken (using homemade seitan which, like your thirty minute meals, was meant to be a quick and easy part of a larger recipe *bashes head on cutting board*) quite literally took days and, in the end, tasted like foam rubber. (To be fair, the next night we fried the bejeezus out of the seitan and it actually was halfway decent. Warning: anything that sounds like the embodiment of all that’s evil, probably is.)

    Glad that I’m not the only one who noticed that these chefs are living in an alternate dimension where time and resources are no obstacle.

  2. 30 minute (or less) meals in my book: eggs on toast; oven chips & good quality sausages; jacket potato with endless lovely toppings; Fray Bentos pie and frozen veg (just as nutritious as the supposed ‘fresh’ veg we get in supermarkets’); a lovely lamb or beef steak with salad, garlic bread….the list is endless – now that is real quick food. And not a takeaway in sight. And probably healthier than Jamie’s ideas.

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