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Meals in Minutes? You bet!

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Written by foodie pam   
Sunday, 11 December 2011
List of viewable recipes from "Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes" by Jamie Oliver

Photograph by David Loftus
Jamie Oliver wants people to cook their dinners rather than eat out.  Helping people take control of what they eat is certainly an admirable goal.  Jamie Oliver approaches this goal by arguing that one can cook their dinner in about the same time it takes to go out or heat-up a prepared meal. To make his point he's devoted his latest book, Meals in Minutes, to presenting 3-4 dish dinners that can be cooked in 20-30 minutes.

After first paging thru Meals in Minutes I was not convinced the meals could be cooked in 20-30 minutes.  Jamie Oliver does say it will take practice, but he's confident that by following his specific preparation details the meals can be ready in that time period. Unlike most cookbooks, Jamie Oliver goes into detail on not only how to prepare the ingredients, but into a very specific ordering in how the ingredients should be prepped and cooked.  By following his detailed instructions, a multi-course meal could be cooked in 1/2 an hour. I shared my skeptism with my husband, who used to be a slower cook than I but has recently surpassed me in both prep speed and multitasking. His response?  Game on Jamie Oliver!

Photograph by David Loftus
Our chosen meal was Steak Sarnie with crispy baby potatoes, cheesy mushrooms and beet salad.  Since we don't like to buy pre-made items we bought fresh beets and cooked them the day before so that when the clock started we were at the same point as the recipe required.  I was the time keeper and helped with clean-up, otherwise all of the work fell on my husband.  He read the recipe over several times before-hand and ensured we had all the ingredients available.  When the timer started he went at the meal full speed. He did a splendid job and the resulting meal was fabulous.  His time of 38 minutes was a bit slower than Jamie Oliver claims necessary.  Nevertheless both of us agree with Jamie's assertion that the meal should be able to be completed within 30 minutes. 

Photograph by David Loftus
For the Steak Sarnie, two issues slowed down the time, both of which were related to the crispy potatoes.  First, our kettle apparently boils more slowly than Jamie Olivers.  As instructed, the kettle doesn't go on until after all the ingredients are assembled and other pans are on the stove heating up.  Yet, when it came time for the boiling water to be used, our water wasn't boiling.  Next time, we'll put the kettle up before assembling ingredients. The second issue with the potatoes was their size.  We bought small white potatoes, but ours were apparently bigger than what Jamie Oliver used and despite cutting them in half they took longer to cook and delayed the meal from being done. Overall, Jamie Oliver wins our challenge given that he says some practice is needed to prepare the meals in 30 minutes or less and we clearly can overcome both of the timing issues next time we make this dish (which we definitely will do).

Looking over various recipes in the book it is clear that Jamie Oliver has put an amazing amount of effort into assuring he presents all of details needed for completing the meal in as little time as possible.  Even more impressive is that he hasn't limited the meals to simple one dish things.  Most have multiple dishes and many include desserts.  While some are a bit more higher in fat than I would prefer (using heavy cream, etc.), though in comparison to restaurant or premade food fat levels, they are not high fat.

Photograph by David Loftus
I applaud Jamie Oliver for creating a great tool for all of us to quickly prepare week night meals.  Personally, I can't wait to make the numerous other dishes ear marked for dinner at my house from this amazing book.  If you already cook, this book will not only provide you great recipes but help you get dinner on the table faster than you currently can.  At the same time, novice cooks may be a bit overwhelmed by Oliver's approach but with an open mind and an eagerness to cook your own dinners, the book certainly provides all of the details needed for quickly preparing weeknight meals without sacrificing quality or flavor. After working through a few of the recipes, you'll will have a better feel on how to efficiently prep ingredients and work with multiple dishes cooking at the same time.

Steak Sarnie with crispy baby potatoes, cheesy mushrooms and beet salad

From JAMIE OLIVER'S MEALS IN MINUTES by Jamie Oliver. Photographs by David Loftus. Copyright (C) Jamie Oliver, 2010, 2011. Photography copyright (C) David Loftus, 2010, 2011. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.



  • 1 pound baby white potatoes
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • a few sprigs fresh rosemary
  • ½ lemon


  • 4 large flat Portobello mushrooms  (approx. 8 ounces in total)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ fresh red chile
  • 2 sprigs of fresh Italian parsley
  • ½ lemon
  • 3 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese

beet salad

  • 1 x 8-ounce package cooked vacuum-packed beets
  • balsamic vinegar
  • ½ lemon
  • a bunch of fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 ounces feta cheese

steak Sarnie

  • 1½ pounds best-quality sirloin steak  (cut ½-inch thick)
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 ciabatta loaf
  • a small handful of roasted red  peppers (from a jar)
  • a couple of sprigs of fresh Italian  parsley
  • horseradish sauce, to serve
  • a large handful of prewashed arugula,  to serve


  • olive oil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt & black pepper

TO START Get all your ingredients and equipment ready. Put a grill pan on medium heat and a large frying pan on high heat. Turn the broiler to full blast. Fill and boil the kettle. Put the coarse grater attachment into the food processor.

POTATOES Cut any large potatoes in half, then add all of them to the large empty frying pan with a good pinch of salt. Quickly squash 6 unpeeled cloves of garlic with the heel of your hand, then add to the pan. Pour in enough boiling water to cover, then cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until cooked through.

MUSHROOMS Lay the mushrooms, stalk side up, on a cutting board. Trim the stalks and put the mushrooms stalk side up in a small earthenware dish that they fit into fairly snugly. Crush ½ unpeeled clove of garlic over each mushroom. Finely chop ½ chile and a couple of parsley sprigs, and divide between the mushrooms. Grate over the zest of ½ lemon, drizzle well with olive oil, and season. Cut the Cheddar into 4 chunks and put 1 on each mushroom.

BEET SALAD Grate the beets in the food processor. Remove the bowl from the processor, take out the grater attachment, and pour in a couple of lugs of balsamic vinegar and a few lugs of extra virgin olive oil. Squeeze in the juice of ½ lemon. Finely chop a bunch of parsley and add most of it. Stir to dress, then tip into a nice serving bowl. Scatter over the rest of the parsley. Crumble over the feta. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and take to the table.

MUSHROOMS Broil on the top shelf for 9 to 10 minutes, or until golden.

STEAK SARNIE Put the steaks on a board. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, pick and scatter over the thyme leaves, and drizzle with olive oil. Rub the flavors into the meat, then flip over and repeat on the other side. Pound the steaks once or twice with your fists to flatten them a little, then put into the screaming-hot grill pan to cook for 1 to 2 minutes on each side for medium rare, or longer if you prefer. This depends on the thickness of your steaks, of course, so use your instincts and cook them to your liking. Wash your hands.

POTATOES Check they are cooked through, and drain in a colander. Return the pan to a high heat, add a good lug of olive oil, and tip the potatoes and garlic back in. Use a potato masher to lightly burst the skins open (don't mash them though). Add a few sprigs of rosemary and a pinch of salt. Toss every couple of minutes until golden and crisp.

STEAK SARNIE Put the ciabatta loaf into the bottom of the oven. Finely chop the roasted red peppers on a large clean board. Move the steaks to the board and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Finely chop a few parsley leaves, mixing them in with the peppers and all the steak juices. Scrape the pepper mix to one side of the board. Slice up the steaks at an angle.

MUSHROOMS Remove the mushrooms from the oven and turn the broiler off. Take the mushrooms straight to the table.

STEAK SARNIE Get the ciabatta out of the oven and slice it open with a serrated knife. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil from a height. Spread over as much horseradish as you like, then arrange the arugula leaves on one half. Lay the steak slices on top. Mix and scrape the peppers and juices from the board and scatter over the meat, then fold together and take to the table.

POTATOES Tip the potatoes onto a serving platter, and put ½ lemon on the side for squeezing over. Take to the table.

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.


Last Updated ( Monday, 12 December 2011 )
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