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Jamie Oliver…Love Him or Hate Him

The general consensus about Jamie Oliver seems to be either you are firmly in the “love Jamie” camp, or you detest him. Very rarely have I met people who are in the middle – that is, people who like most of what Jamie does, but not everything.

I probably fit some place in the middle, but close to the “love him” side.

I first “met” Jamie when I was visiting Tim in 2008. I arrived in mid-October, and was looking for something to watch on TV. I stumbled on “Jamie’s Ministry of Food” and enjoyed the episode because the food looked easy to cook. I wasn’t a completely new cook, but I hadn’t cooked a whole lot on my own – even when I had apartments and things, most of my cooking was really simple. I had never cooked anything like a whole chicken on my own before. I liked how Ministry of Food eased people into cooking.

I started watching Jamie whenever his shows were on as repeats and online on 4OD. Tim bought me the Ministry of Food cookbook for Christmas 2009, and I dove right in. I learned how to make a perfect poached egg without a fancy pan and how to create two British Roast Dinner staples – roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings. One of our favourite 20-minute meals has become a pasta dish of Jamie’s with mint, peas, and bacon (I can’t believe I never blogged that recipe!).

I tend to read my cookbooks from cover to cover when I get them, but I don’t read word-for-word. I look at the pictures and titles of recipes, and then if something looks good, I’ll read the recipe. If I think it’s something I’d like to make, I stick one of those Avery tabs on it for later. I used to do one new recipe each week, but as we’ve gotten busier, I haven’t had time (or energy), but hopefully, I’ll rectify that soon.

I borrowed Jamie’s America from the library alongside Cook with Jamie, and I have both those on my wishlist now. I found a great (though time consuming) recipe for barbecue ribs in Jamie’s America (which again, I apparently never posted).

I was very disappointed with Jamie Does. I enjoyed the series, but not so much the cookbook. As a matter of fact, since I got it when it came out (on a pre-order from Waterstones), I think I cracked it once until a few weeks ago when I finally sat down and looked at it again. A lot of the recipes I probably will never try, but both the Italy and Sweden section took a hammering with tabs, and I even marked off a few recipes from his more exotic locations.

Jamie’s latest book and series is 30 Minute Meals. He has been getting a lot of press for this book/series, both good and bad. I love watching Jamie cook and I could happily sit and watch 5 or 6 of these episodes in a row. He teaches a lot of tricks, and he isn’t afraid to purchase a few pre-packaged goods in the name of saving time. The bad press comes from his meals taking people longer than 30 minutes to cook. One article complained about the list in the front of the cookbook listing all the items you “need” to create the recipes in the book and accused Jamie of being flippant about spending £300 on the items.

The thing you have to remember, is that if you don’t have all the proper tools Jamie recommends, it will take longer. Watch the show. Jamie uses a food processor in nearly every meal – the slicer attachment to easily slice handfuls of mushrooms, a mixing attachment to whip up a sauce, a paddle attachment for batters. I don’t own a food processor (though it’s on my wish list to buy used), so when I create a 30-minute meal, I automatically know it will take me longer than 30 minutes if the recipe tells you to use a food processor.

To me, £300 is a decent amount of money to spend on outfitting your kitchen. I don’t think I will ever spend £300 all in one go (unless it’s on a major appliance), but I’m sure if you add up all the little things I’ve purchased for my kitchen, the total would be shocking. Especially if you add in the value of items I’ve received as gifts, like the bread machine or George Foreman grill we got for a wedding gift. I also don’t always buy new, and I ask for things on gift-giving occasions. I received both a Le crucet ceramic casserole and a dutch oven for Christmas this year. The ceramic casserole was purchased at TK Maxx of all places (US: TJ Maxx) for £20 (retails at £60), and the dutch oven was purchased months before Christmas at a stock clearance sale at a local cookery shop. I recently picked up a set of four ramekins at a charity shop in Newark for £2 (when typically you have to pay £10+ just for two). I check charity shops, jumble sales, table top sales, car boot sales (US: flea markets), and freecycle regularly for items I want. I seriously regret not picking up a food processor at one of our recent village jumble sales. They were selling them for less than £5, and I haven’t seen any at the jumble sales since!

Before you even start your 30-minute meal, Jamie expects you to have all your tools out, all the ingredients together, have your oven pre-heated, your pots and pans pre-heated, and a freshly boiled kettle of water ready to go. Depending on your kitchen, getting things together and pre-heating can take 20 minutes. IMHO, this does not mean the 30-minute meal has now taken 50 minutes though, as those things are prep work, not recipe work.

You also might run into other problems. For example, if I have my oven on, I can only use one burner of the two-burner hob. Some of Jamie’s meals require you to have a (standard) 4-burner hob with all four going plus the oven on. I know this meal will take me longer than a half hour simply for that reason. Because of the way the burners are set, I can’t do anything that involves putting a roasting tray over two burners. This isn’t a fault of Jamie’s, but rather a fault of my own kitchen.

I also don’t think people are reading the recipe’s before they start a meal. I’ve read several complaints that the recipes are “confusing”. This is probably because it doesn’t lay out each component of the meal in one straight recipe, it lays everything out according to the timeline. Each 30-minute meal creates a main, a side, and a pudding (US: dessert). Your first task might be to start to cook your meat, but the second task might be to start working on making a base for a tart – it all depends on where each task fits in within the timeline of 30 minutes. I can see where some of this might get confusing for people, but again, I point to reading the recipe first. Each recipe is separated into sections, so you know which part of the meal you are working on at any given time, and if you want to isolate part of the meal (like I tend to do), you can pull out those specific instructions easily.

I do have to admit, when I first had a read through of the book, my initial thoughts were that this book was just as bad as Jamie Does and I was beginning to worry that I was falling out with Jamie. But then I started to watch the series on Channel 4, and I decided I wanted to try making some of the meals, or at least parts of the meals. Out came the plastic tabs, and I think I now have at least 20 tabs in 30-minute meals, though I do admit most aren’t for the full meal. On the show, Jamie made roast beef with potatoes and Yorkshire pudding (link to YouTube). I know, it sounds incredible, but he really did do it in the 30 minutes. Now, I’m not a beef person, but Tim and I both love Yorkshire puddings. What I never liked about making them from the original recipe was the part where you had to let the mix stand for 30 minutes, pre-heat the tin, and then pre-heat the oil in the tin. It took ages to make them, and sometimes I’d have 20 minutes left for my roast before I would remember I had wanted to make them. We had many a meal that was Yorkshire-less, or even served with Aunt Bessie’s pre-made yorkies we purchased at the Spar shop, but not any more. I just use Jamie’s recipe, where he even simplified measuring by telling you to use a regular coffee mug for the measurements. Through trial-and-error, I learned that I need to use a largeish mug to be able to fill my tin, since mine is obviously larger than the one Jamie uses, but it now only takes 20 minutes total between mixing and baking, meaning that if I’ve forgotten them, it’s fairly easy to add them in!

Okay….so I guess after this post you can firmly plant me in the “love Jamie” category. Heck, I even purchased some of his branded spice grinders from Fiddes Payne (for cheaper than the shops wanted, though). But I won’t purchase his expensive line of cookery, because I think there are plenty of good quality items at far less prices, even if I do like the looks of some of the items he has branded!

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5 comments

5 Comments so far

  1. falnfenix April 6th, 2011 13:14

    your Le Creueset is ceramic? huh. i thought they only did cast iron enamelware.

  2. Rebecca April 6th, 2011 13:24

    They make both ceramics and stoneware. Now that I think about it, it might be a stoneware dish. http://www.lecreuset.co.uk/

  3. falnfenix April 6th, 2011 13:16

    oh, also? i’m tempted to pick up what appears to be the US version of 30 Minute Meals.

  4. Rebecca April 6th, 2011 13:22

    looks like it. Also, Food Revolution looks to be a re-brand of Ministry of Food. It’s really a good book, but like I said, if you really want to do teh meals in 30 minutes, you have to be prepared. If you want, I can scan in a few pages for you to take a look at before you invest money in the book.

  5. falnfenix April 6th, 2011 14:18

    eh, i’ll just hit the bookstore today since i’m going to the mall after work. if they have it, i’ll thumb through it…if they don’t, i’ll let ya know. 🙂

    i wasn’t aware they did more than cast iron, but i suppose i shouldn’t be too surprised. neat, though

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