Thursday, 10 October 2019

September's Cookery Book

Well hello! Thank you for your lovely comments on my blanket. It's still mild enough to earn it's place on our bed and every morning when I make the bed it makes me happy. And here I am writing about another thing that makes me happy: cooking, and eating too, of course.

For September's cookery book I chose Jamie's 30-Minute Meals, one of those titles on my shelf that is rarely used but does contain a few excellent recipes, and it's for that reason that we keep it. This book is a few years old now but I remember loving the TV series that accompanied the book and found it really inspiring. I didn't love the layout so much though, and this is why the book doesn't get used much. Each recipe is presented as a full meal so not just, say, a pasta dish, but a pasta dish with a salad and something else, and a dessert too. It's hard to just isolate a certain dish and I found - still find - the style of writing a bit, I don't know, stressful. I like that Jamie Oliver wants us to eat well and cheaply, that he is so aspirational in what he believes we can create in our kitchens in half an hour. But here's the thing: on a weeknight, I rarely have the energy or attention span to try a new recipe and at the weekend, I do not want to rush through a frantic thirty minutes of chopping and dashing here and there, checking timings and juggling three pans on the hob and something in the oven. At the weekend, I want to cook leisurely with the radio on, or I want to pop something in the slow cooker or oven and come back to it three hours later. 

Anyway, it is a good book and his recipes are, as ever, solid. They are imaginative, achievable and delicious, although not perhaps in thirty minutes, and with a disappointing small number of meat-free options. 

We made "Piri Piri chicken with dressed potatoes, rocket salad and quick Portuguese tarts" first. This was totally motivated by my current obsession with these little tarts, or pastel de nata as they're also called.

The chicken dish is fairy simple - chicken thighs and peppers, browned in a griddle pan before being covered in a homemade piri piri sauce and finished in the oven.

It was a big hit. The sauce had just the right amount of heat for the kids to enjoy it and it was full of flavour. The dressed potatoes were regular and sweet potatoes, lightly mashed and finished with lemon juice and crumbled feta cheese, which was absolutely delicious to John and I but utterly repellent to Bella and Angus. You can't win them all.

The Portuguese tarts are made by blind baking some pre-rolled puff pastry then, when it comes out of the oven, squashing down the puffed pastry before filling with the custard mixture and baking again. The custard is flavoured with orange zest and finished with a little caramel sauce (ready made) when they come out of the oven. 

They were light and sweet and the custard just set enough. I'd like to make these again.

Next, we tried "Spaghetti alla puttanesca, crunchy salad, garlic bread, silky chocoate ganache". We make variations of spaghetti puttanesca often as it's such a good store cupboard dinner, but this was definitely the best I've eaten. The kids really loved it, and were quite vocal about how good it was, even asking if they could have it again. I love serving the children food which they eat with such relish and enjoyment. 

The pasta sauce is your fairly standard tuna, anchovies, garlic, capers, chillies, olives parsley and tomatoes, but the recipe specifically states tuna in oil, and you put in both the oil from the tuna and the anchovies while it cooks. I thought this seemed like a lot of oil, but went with it, and the result was the most velvety smooth, delicious sauce which clung to the pasta. 

The garlic bread and salad were fairy quick and easy to assemble, which left the chocolate ganache.

You melt dark chocolate and cream together with a little clementine zest and then pour into pots and leave to rest. That's it. 

I always think these kinds of desserts should have more effort involved, but I was very glad it didn't. They are like a warm chocolate pot, very silky and very rich. We shared one between two.

Finally, "Mustard chicken, quick Dauphinoise, greens, Black Forrest affogato". We didn't make the dessert but the chicken, potatoes and veg were really lovely and easy. Whole chicken breasts are seasoned, rubbed with mustard and sauteed with leeks. 

When cooked, you remove the chicken, make the sauce with some wine and cream, then return the chicken, sliced, to the pan. The quick Dauphinoise is definitely healthier than the usual version: you put the sliced potatoes into a mixture of cream and water, getting the pan to the boil on the hob before transferring to the oven. 

It's not quite as utterly rich and delicious as the traditional baked version, and I thought that some nice, creamy mash would have been just as good with the mustard chicken too. 

So, some wins (the spaghetti puttanesca) and two new chicken dishes which I will definitely cook again. It was fun to eat puddings that we wouldn't normally, and the chocolate pots were divine. Sorry for the photos - we've now reached that time of year when it's too dark at dinnertime to take decent photos, so everything has a slightly orange hue.

But I need to be honest here - there's no way I could have cooked those meals on my own in half an hour, not while trying to do other thing like keep the dog out of the kitchen, tidy up as I go along, lay the table. It's way too rushed for me. All these meals were made by John and I together, in about 45 minutes and we didn't get too annoyed with each other either. 


  1. I love the recipies in the 15 minute book (in reality they take half an hour!) I will hunt this book out in the charity shops purely because I LOVE Portuguese tarts. Jo xx

  2. You had me at the photo of the chocolate pots! Chocolate and any kind of orange flavour are the perfect combination. The Portuguese tarts also look yummy! x

  3. The chicken pie recipe in this book is a firm favourite but I make it with Quorn pieces - delicious ��

  4. The chocolate pots look divine, and sound easy enough for me to try them some time. Everything else looks and sounds delicious, too - please don't worry about the photos, they are great and really appetizing.

  5. They all look delicious - even though I am vegetarian - shame he does so few veggie recipes in his books - the colours are very inviting.
    I thought I would love those Portugese tarts when I tried one in Costa (Sainsbury's also do them) but I find them far too sweet for me, but then as I get older I am finding more and more cakes and puddings too sweet to eat - maybe not such a bad thing! Yours look so lovely though I would make them when we have friends round.

  6. I had heard that the recipes from the book take longer and involve many pots and pans, but I love the look of what you've made. I am recovering from an overload of birthday ganache at the moment on a vegan birthday cake that turned out to be a MONSTER. No doubt the urchins will manfully plough through it though. Hope you have a good weekend. CJ xx

  7. THESE are the Portuguese tarts: pastéis de nata.

  8. I always think your food photography looks amazing, the dishes look great so you certainly are eating well over there! I do agree that the timings in these cook books are over ambitious, they seem to forget that we can't chop the way they do and also in the shows a lot of ingredients are already measured out into little dishes. x

  9. It all looks yummy, but I agree, 30 minute meals are most definitely not 30 minutes!!!!!! I think I will try those Portuguese tarts and the chocolate pots look good.

  10. I think I'll try and get this book out from the library, as your dishes looked delicious! I tend to look at how long things have to be cooked for and work it back to see how long it would take me. There's no way I could prep as fast as some recipes say!

  11. I like the look of all of it. Chocolate and orange, a perfect match, I think.😊

  12. So true, recipe preparation times are hilarious. Add at least an hour for the 'getting home exhausted after work' effect.
    It would be interesting to have a ballpark price factor across different cookery book trials - how did Jamie compare in rough terms to some others you've tried? Some quick meal books seem to use an awful lot of chicken/meat, which can be very pricey. Perhaps that's just the thrifty Scot in me, but when the children were still at home we might have chicken or meat once a week, and fresh fish once a week, and the rest was veggie/vegan out of taste preference, cost and health (e.g. teenage daughter had read about hormones in chicken and beef so we moved to organic which of course is much more expensive)
    PS - the photos are great!


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