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Book review: Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals


I received this fantastic book from my brother and sister-in-law for my recent birthday and it has been a real winner! I also have Jamie’s previous book, 30 Minute Meals, but don’t really use it, whereas I have used Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals three times in the past week alone, with a lot more meals bookmarked ready to go.

Just like his previous book, this one has come under a lot of criticism about how likely it is you can have a meal on the table in 15 minutes. In reality, I don’t think you can, if you are talking about the length of time from when you step foot into the kitchen, to when you place dinner on the table. However, on careful reading, this is not what he is promising – he is promising 15 minutes from when you start cooking, with all ingredients and equipment ready to go. Unfortunately, not many mums I know have a sous chef doing prep work for them, so 15 minutes from whoa to go – not going to be happening anytime soon!

But if you factor in an extra 5-10 minutes of prep, then 20-25 minutes for a home cooked, (almost all) from scratch meal, is pretty damn great. And so far, most of the meals have been delicious.

The first meal we tried was the Lamb Kofte, Pitta and Greek Salad.  This whole meal was unbelievably tasty! Getting all the ingredients out and washed took about 5 minutes, and following the recipe as instructed took just under 20 minutes, so for 25 minutes total, I was pretty happy. The cous cous could have done with some seasoning, but everything else was perfect. My only concern is the portion size of the meat. All of the recipes in this book have been created with a nutritionist and it shows – each meal only has 100g of meat allocated per person, which I don’t consider enough. For future recipes, I will probably double the amount of meat. However, the vegetable portion was more than generous, and will go a long way to increasing our intake of veggies.

Our second meal of Chicken Dim Sum was not as successful. The coconut bun (made from scratch) served with it were tasty, but there was way too much of them. The cucumber pickle was yummy, and I will definitely make it again. The rest, not so good. The chicken took a lot longer to cook than the recipe stated, and was really bland. Even dressing it up with soy sauce and chilli garlic sauce couldn’t rescue it, and because the chicken needed longer to cook the broccolini was overcooked by serving time. This won’t be made again.

The next meal – Chicken Tikka, Lentil, Spinach and Naan Salad – was another winner – so much so that I didn’t get a picture because everyone was digging in by the time I got back with my camera. It smelt that great, and was seriously tasty. Prep took less than 5 minutes, and I used tinned lentils since a) I had them and b) I have never seen packs of ready-to-eat lentils before! The recipe took 16 minutes to make, so I’m getting closer to the 15 minutes! I used the 400g chicken recommended, and because it was served salad style, it seemed to be enough.

Our last meal from the book, Seared Asian Beef, Best Noodle Salad and Ginger Dressing, was another amazing dinner, and perfect for a hot summer night. I used more meat this time (not quite double), and there wasn’t any left! Again, no pic because we ate it too fast…This salad was fragrant, and crispy, and fresh; everything you could want in a salad, really, and it was a great way to get the kids to try some veggies (like radish and snow pea sprouts, which I subbed for the listed cress) that they would normally run a mile from. Another recipe that will definitely be repeated!

So overall, I highly rate this book so far. I like the emphasis on fresh vegetables, and almost all of the meals we have tried so far have been real winners. If you take the 15 minute claim with a (good) pinch of salt, and factor in another 5-15 minutes for prep and extra cooking, then it is a really great, really practical book. I have found the instructions very clear and easy to follow, even more so than in his previous book, which is why I think I like it so much more!

As for further content, he covers almost all of the protein groups, including chicken, beef, lamb, pork and seafood, as well as a vegetarian section, and a breakfast section. For vegetarians, a lot of the meat dishes could easily be adapted by subbing out the meat for another vegetarian protein source like tempeh or tofu, or eggs/cheese if lacto/ovo. If going carb free/primal, you could easily leave out the carb/processed component, as they are almost always a side addition rather than an integral part of the meal. Paleo might be a bit trickier as there is fair bit of dairy in the form of yoghurt and cheese, but again, these could possibly be left out or swapped for something else. So overall, for busy people looking for real, fresh, and fast meals, regardless of what kind of ‘diet’ you are following, I highly recommend this book.

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