A few weeks ago I took a random recipe from Jamie Oliver’s recipe book, 30 Minute Meals and tried cooking it his allotted time. My working theory was simple: Unless you're a professional chef in a professional kitchen, cooking these in 30 minutes is basically impossible. I like a challenge, and the measures of success for these with these recipes be :
- Can I cook the recipe in the allotted time
- Can i produce something edible and non-deadly for my girlfriend and I
- Will my kitchen still look like a kitchen and not a bombsite by the time I’ve finished
My mission is simple – to find the recipe that scores most strongly across these 3 points. My first attempt was with selected by opening the book at a random page and going with it : was his Killer Jerk Chicken served with rice and beans, chopped salad and chargrilled corn, SURELY, with a little planning and forethought, I could do this, the man says so on the front of his book afterall.
The recipe itself is pretty straightforward – you need to prepare your chicken, make the jerk sauce, create a salad and sort your rice. Game on with
- Chicken : Chicken thighs, honey, rosemary and coriander
- Sauce : Spring onions, thyme, bay leaves, cloves, nutmeg, all spice, golden rum, white wine vinegar, honey, a chilli and 4 cloves of garlic
- Salad : Pepper, Chicory, Lettuce, Lime, red onion, coriander and cress. Yogurt with lime and coriander mixed through to dress
- Rice : Long grain rice, stock, cinnamon stick, spring onions, black beans
- Greens : Instead of corn, boiled to serve
[First 5 minutes] I substituted chicken thighs for breast – they have more flavour and are less dry. I skin and chopped the chicken, marinate it in honey, rosemary and coriander. I also added a dash of olive oil and left to one side while I prepared the sauce. Mood = Quietly Confident. Super-fast chopping is a bonus skill here.
[5 to 15 Minutes] The recipe says the jerk sauce is made basically by mixing all the ingredients listed above in a blender, which is more or less the instructions you get. In reality, everything needs washed and chopped, your garlic needs peeled and you need to measure out your liquids. Also, factor in washing time for keeping your hands clean, particularly after chopping chillis. Note to self – do NOT go and pee without washing your hands first. Mood =: Cautious. At this point all I’ve got are a pile of chopped herbs and a bottle of rum. That’s more of a cocktail than a sauce.
[15 – 20 mins] I moved onto the salad prep – chopping and dumping all my leaves into a large serving bowl. This was the natural thing to do – I’d been chopping herbs and spring onions, so it made sense to do them all at once. Game on for the rice too – I didn’t bother measuring it out and inevitably did enough for 15 people. I got the stock and cinnamon ready to go, washed and chopped the spring onions and threw them into the pot, ready to go. Mood : hands in the air - why do I always end up with too much rice?
[20 – 30 minutes] Time to fix the jerk sauce - I put all the ingredients in the blender and forget to close the blenders cover as I am working at pace. This sprays jerk sauce on the wall. Taste the the Jerk Sauce (not from the wall) - I’d been too liberal with the rum (obviously) and had to add more honey as I’d slipped on the white wine vinegar too. Mood : I’m learning – jerk sauce does not equal Rum with some other stuff tossed in
The total prep time for the above was 30 - 35 minutes, meaning that I’d already blown my time limit before I’d even started cooking. My girlfriend, was available for a quick chat, so I spoke to her about the seemingly impossible nature of the meals in 30 minutes by Jamie. I was demoralised that I’d fallen at the first hurdle. Damn you, Mr Oliver and your impossible meals. She challenged me to prove that one could be done – and so the beginning of this quest.
Cooking the meal itself is actually pretty easy, and the instructions the following is all you really need to do :
- Pan fry the chicken for 5 minutes before dumping it in an oven dish and pouring the sauce over it for roasting for 10 – 15 minutes. Nothing too fancy there.
- Similarly, the rice is straightforward, 12 minutes boiling in stock for long grain rice and all you need to do is keep an eye on it. It can even be kept warm easily by boiling, draining and storing in the pot with a lid on it.
- As for the salad, as it was mostly chopped, it was a simple case of adding the dressing and stirring some coriander and lime through the yogurt and getting it ready to serve
- Finally, I put some broccoli on to boil 3 mins before the chicken was due to be ready, again, very straightforward
All in all, the cooking time is less than the 30 minutes. At least he got that bit right. The bast*rd.
Go for a “help yourself” approach with the salad, greens, rice and chicken. It saves time and ensure you keep the jerk sauce in a bowl to pour over the chicken and rice. It’s delicious and you may as well enjoy the cause of most of the mess.
- Total Time : 55 minutes. Double the stated time by Mr. Jamie O. Doing something quickly, does not make it easy, or indeed quick it would seem. Rating : Challenging, but not impossible 5/10
- Edible and Non Deadly: Cutting corners (e.g. not peeling the garlic) will make the quality of the meal worse. You’re far better off taking a bit more time to properly prepare the food and make sure it tastes good. Chicken was delicious and the (Rum) Jerk Sauce was nice too, but that may have been because it tasted more like chicken with rum than anything else. Rating : Rum is good, but add more honey : 6/10
- Kitchen Devastation : Nightmare. I had jerk sauce on the wall, had to use 2 pots, a large bowl, grill pan, an oven dish, 2 chopping boards and 3 knives. Rating : Bombsite : 2/10
13 / 30 minutes marks : You may well be able to do this meal in 30 minutes, but in all likelihood your kitchen will not look like an actual kitchen by the time your finished and you'll be eating bits of Garlic skin with a risk of not actually having cooked your chicken properly. If you are going to do this recipe, allow an hour to cook it - this will make the cooking more enjoyable allow the chicken time to marinade and reduce the likelihood of you eating raw chicken.
Delicious meal, messy kitchen and well outside 30 minutes. Some things never change. Oh and Jack Sparrow would have been proud.