The West

Great meals in even less time
Jamie Oliver

Many said it couldn't be done; preparing and cooking a nutritious three-course meal in under 30 minutes.

Yet that didn't stop Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals becoming a publishing hit - the fastest-selling nonfiction book of all time when it was released in late 2010.

_The West _'s food editor Rob Broadfield declared "cobblers" before having a go at cooking against the clock with a Gen Y colleague, eventually declaring Oliver's recipes were brilliant even if they would take most average home cooks longer than 30 minutes.

Now Oliver's at it again, in half the time, with a new book, 15 Minute Meals - and an accompanying TV series.

Given television traditionally operates in half-hour blocks, each episode features two 15-minute meals. In tomorrow's first episode, Oliver dishes up chilli con carne meatballs, plus sticky kicking chicken, watermelon radish salad and crunchy noodles.

Ten is showing the series in double episodes, with the second instalment offering flashy fish stew, saffron sauce and garlic bread, plus seared Asian beef, best noodle salad and ginger dressing.

The obvious question to put to the king of "pukka tukka", who will open a branch of Jamie's Italian in Perth next year, is why did he decide to make the meal time even shorter when he was criticised for trying to do it in 30 minutes?

"Yes, we've had a few people knocking 30 Minute Meals, but whenever there's been something in the media saying you can't do it in the time, we've had a load of people sending messages on Facebook and comment boards saying they can - and they have," he said in an interview done via email. "People seem to love the challenge and have really embraced the concept. Anyway, 15 Minute Meals is really all about those midweek evenings when it's all about speed - you want something delicious and nutritious, but you haven't got ages to muck about. I set about creating methodical, fun recipes with big flavours - it's about concentrating on one dish, but doing it really well. We've tested all the recipes many, many times, and we've had home cooks doing them in less than 15 minutes - we've even had children doing them in the time, so there's no excuse!"

The cookbook 15 Minute Meals - "delicious, nutritious, super fast food" - covers cuisines including Mediterranean and Asian. Does Oliver think dishes from those regions are quicker to make?

"They're all pretty quick, but I suppose you could say that some of the Asian dishes are speedier because you're using more griddle pans and high heats and not having to wait for pasta to cook," he explained.

"But in all honesty, everything's speedy - if any of the recipes were taking me longer than 15 minutes, I worked on it and tweaked until it was achievable in the time."

To make meals in 15 minutes obviously requires a degree of organisation and some time-saving appliances. Does Oliver have anything he can't do without, and is he an advocate of the weekly meal plan?

"I think one of the most important things is to invest in a few bits of good kitchen kit," he said.

"At the front of the book, there's a list of equipment - some people might look at it and think it's a lot of stuff but most people have got quite a few of the things on the list already and for any of the other things, Christmas is coming, you know what I mean?

"As for weekly planning - absolutely. The more you plan, the less you waste."

Oliver has long campaigned for fresh over fast food and has tackled the obesity issue head on, challenging authorities and eating habits in his School Dinners and Ministry of Food series. With so many parents claiming they are too busy to cook, isn't it possible some of them are simply too lazy?

"You're absolutely right, but I don't think it's always laziness, but more of a fear of cooking," he said. "Unless you've got the knowledge, then cooking from fresh can be pretty scary, and it seems much easier to pop a ready-meal in the microwave.

"But is it tastier? No. Is it as nutritious? No. Is it more expensive? Often. Hopefully, with this book, I'll be able to show people that they can produce something that looks and tastes amazing in less time than it takes to order a takeaway or warm up something processed."

Jamie's 15 Minute Meals starts tomorrow thursat 7.30pm on Ten. The accompanying book is published by Penguin with an RRP of $49.99.

The West Australian

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