Monday, 1 October 2012

Oliver's Army

Cheat's Pizza = fire
Oh Jamie Oliver, with your winning smile, infectious enthusiasm and genuine commitment to changing the relationship that people have with food.  You make us thoughtful, inspire us to want better nutrition for our families, and challenge our largest institutions to do better by our children.  You also made me set fire to my kitchen.

I am not a natural cook, but neither am I a 'microwave mealer'.  My repertoire (if you were to call it that) includes a mean lasagne, spaghetti bolognese, cottage pie and if there is no mince to be had I can cook a rather lovely roast chicken.  But that's pretty much it and because of that almost all of the cooking in our house falls to my husband who reads the Leith Cookery Bible for fun and who must be some kind of sorcerer for he magics up fine meals without swearing, shouting at inanimate objects, or injuring himself.

There are times when I feel that I should make more of an effort, and during one such period I dusted off the 'Jamie's 30 Minute Meals' cookery book to learn to start rustling up some more exciting meals than my usual 'mince wonder'.  Some of the dishes, like the 'Tasty Crusted Cod' on page 140 were rather good, delicious even, but they require me to have "absolute silence!" in the kitchen and created an hour's worth of washing up.

What was somewhat less successful was the 'Cheat's Pizza'.  Apparently I was supposed to be able to create one pizza, three 'delish' salads and a squashed cherries and vanilla cream dessert all within half an hour.  Based on my previous experience I thought I'd go just for the pizza and set all of my ingredients out.  At the appropriate point, I followed the instructions to put the frying pan on a high heat whilst putting the dough ingredients into a food processor, whizzing them up, taking the dough out and rolling it flat.  In Jamie's calculations I think this should take less than a minute.  It is entirely possible that in 'Toni time' this equated to five or six minutes and so when I 'drizzled some olive oil' into the pan I was met with a sheet of flame.

Not the right thing to do when
the kitchen's on fire.
For a moment I stood there looking at it, and somewhere in the back of my mind I felt compelled to start dancing in homage to 'Tales of the Unexpected' but then realised that if I didn't extinguish the fire quickly, it would set off the smoke alarm, wake the children and quite possibly set the entire kitchen alight.  I can cope with a kitchen on fire but not children that have been startled out of their slumber so I gathered my wits about me, fetched a wet tea towel and took the smoking pan into the garden where it would prove less of a danger to my family.

After eating a sandwich for my supper because bread = no fire, I brought the pan in, scrubbed it and got rid of most of the damage.  There is still a black crescent left behind that mocks me every time I fry some garlic and onions (again) to make the base for my lasagne sauce (again).  I realised that if you are a cook or a chef then yes, 30 minutes is entirely do-able but if you are an easily distracted person who has a whole list of other things you'd rather be doing than cooking, it is not such an easy task.  So from now on I'll be sticking to what I know, and taking the 'Jamie's 15 Minute Meals' book off my Christmas list....mince for tea again kids?


Soundtrack: Oliver's Army by Elvis Costello - watch it here


  1. May I suggest adding apple mince to your selection. You cook minced beef with a normal eating apple, a little bit of orange zest, onions and raisins. Add a bit of water or apple juice as you cook to give it a bit of gravy and you've got a delicious meal.

  2. Hey Jessica - do you know what, this has generated more comment & conversation on facebook than a lot of my other posts, I'm in danger of turning this into a food blog!

  3. May 1 recommend a book from my vast cookery book collection - "10 Minutes to Table" by Xanthe Clay, which I would say is, in reality, 30 minutes to table but often less, and no fires yet!

  4. Hi Carolyn! All 'no-fire' recommendations gratefully received, thank you :) x