Celebrity chef cookbooks

Time Out reviews the best celebrity recipe books to give you culinary inspiration

Jamie's 30 Minute Meals

Jamie Oliver, Penguin, £26

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This tie-in to the TV series claims to offer ‘a revolutionary approach to cooking good food fast’. But these meals cannot be prepared in a normal kitchen by a normal cook in 30 minutes. I’ve tried, others have tried, and so far no one I know of has managed it. One hour? Maybe.

I discovered during recipe testing how the time economies are made to approach the 30 minute target. Virtually no allowance is made for rinsing or cleaning, and very little for chopping ingredients; no leeway at all is made for time spent clearing as you go – so your kitchen will look like a bombsite by the time the dishes are ready to be served.

Multiple and occasionally expensive ingredients are used almost recklessly, thereby ramping up the meal cost. The fishcakes meal I tested required three types of fish, including fresh tuna (total cost: £12.05), plus five types of fresh herbs – at nearly a quid per bag at the supermarket (not everyone has pots of herbs growing at home), thrift was not one of the main criteria.

Total cost for that one: around £30 for a meal for four; a rib-eye stir-fry came to about the same.

The recipe editing is also not as polished as you might hope. For the fishcake recipe, it first asks you to put the kettle on, then… that’s the last you hear about the kettle.

But what’s good about this book? It encourages people to cook, that’s what. Better still, it encourages men to get in the kitchen, because this is unashamedly the cooking of New Blokeism.

The results are showy, and done for applause – the results work most of the time, and can look great. They taste not bad too – even the bish-bosh ones that sound as if they shouldn’t work, such as the ‘dan dan noodles’ that aren’t, or the ‘kimchee slaw’ that no Korean would recognise. 

Is this approach ‘revolutionary’? No – but it makes great television. And as Gil Scott-Heron once observed, the revolution will not be televised.

Guy Dimond, Time Out London Issue 2098: November 4-10 2010

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