23 February 2012

jamie's 30 minute meals: duck salad with giant croutons and cheat's rice pudding with stewed fruit

Here we go! Now, I consider myself to be a fast cook. Almost none of my weekday meals take longer than 30 minutes, so I should be able to bash out these Jamie meals with no problem at all (confidence is everything ;)).

For my first foray, I've chosen to make duck salad, which is Series 1, Episode 6. Watch here on 4OD.

Oven on, pans out, and we begin. The duck breasts are given a quick massage with salt, pepper, 5-spice, dried thyme and oil, the skin is scored and they go skin-side down into a hot pan with oil and are weighed down with a flat pan lid and my pestle and mortar.

Flaked almonds are washed and coated in icing sugar, spread in an oiled dish and popped into the oven. We are supposed to be about 6 mins in. Yes, on track.

My over-sized croutons are cut from a ciabatta and laid into another baking dish with a drizzle of oil, salt and pepper. Fennel seeds... where are they?! Have to work my way through my spice cupboard to find the jar, and sprinkle them over. I realise I need rosemary. "HUSBAND!" *flutters eyelashes* "Can you go out into the cold rainy night and cut me some rosemary?" (He's so good to me). The rosemary isn't looking too healthy, so I pick out what I can and sprinkle over. Then, I add garlic cloves - some crushed, some whole, but our stupid garlic crusher is not as fancy as Jamie's, and I have to fiddle around trying to squeeze enough garlic out. These delays have cost me at least 5 minutes and by the time I have got the croutons in the oven and turned my duck I am looking at 15 minutes gone as opposed to Jamie's 10.

Now to start the dessert. The orange zest and orange juice go into a pan with vanilla paste. I don't use paste but decide to use some vanilla pods that my sister had brought back from Mauritius. I had been waiting for an opportunity to use them and that opportunity was now. But, alas, I had waited too long - they'd gone mouldy! I salvaged what seeds I could from the clean looking pods and binned the rest. Another delay.

For his stewed fruit Jamie uses beautifully ripe looking peaches, nectarines and plums and stones and cuts them into the pan with ease. I only had plums and couldn't work as fast as him at removing the stones... tick tock tick tock. The kitchen looks like a bomb site and the pressure is mounting.

According to Jamie we should be just over halfway at this point. I'm at about 25 minutes, almost 10 minutes too slow! I take out the almonds, ruffle them up a bit, and leave them on the side to crisp up.

Now onto the salad. Pomegranate is cut in half and the seeds are banged out into my serving dish and any "piff" (sp. pith) as Jamie calls it, is picked out. A handful of ready prepped salad leaves are piled on, topped with cress, chopped mint and shavings of carrot.

Dressing: oil, balsamic vinegar, 1/2 lemon, pinch salt and pepper, stir. I suddenly get a sense of achievement from placing the first finished element of the meal, the salad, on the table. I've been moving at serious pace now, but we are behind - 33 minutes in, Jamie says we should be on 20 minutes!

I put the duck on its serving board to rest (probably overdone by now, but Jamie says he's bored of rare meat) and add blueberries to my stewed fruit, which I have to say is smelling amazing.

I slice some mint and a chilli onto the duck board, and keep some aside for the top. With the remainder I squeeze on 1/2 lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper and swizzle around the board. Then I thickly slice the duck and use the them to mop up the minty chilli goodness. The croutons come out the oven and go on the board around the duck to soak up the juices and keep them from spilling off the sides. The duck goes on the table - yay!

For the rice pudding I use the old classic Ambrosia tinned rice, rather than Jamie's fancy organic tubs, pour it into a bowl, top with the delicious fruit, a sprig of mint to look cheffy, and off to the table it goes. We're done!

Total cooking time: 43 minutes
Delays encountered: searching my herb cupboard, dealing with dead-looking rosemary, blunt garlic crusher, slow chopping, washing hands after handling meat, chilli, fruit etc (you never see Jamie do this) and mouldy vanilla pods.

Well it certainly looks convincing, but how did it taste? Quite frankly, out of this world. The duck was perfectly pink and extra juicy as it had absorbed the lemon and oil, and it was zingy with lemon and chilli. We loved the pomegranate in the salad, and the pudding... oh boy the pudding. Who knew that humble old tinned rice pudding could taste so damn good? The stewed fruits were tart and fragrant with the orange and vanilla, and although I had my doubts about the cold rice it was the perfect creamy, silky accompaniment. Annoyingly, I forgot to top my dessert with the crunchy almonds, but we picked on them afterwards while digesting the whole experience, and they were actually the most surprisingly good part of the meal, so simple, but such a gorgeous sweet nutty taste and light and crunchy. I will definitely be making the dessert again, and despite the over-run on timing, this would make a perfect and impressive meal for dinner with friends.

Score: 10/10 (Wow. Can I award that this early in the game? May have to re-calibrate as I go along...)

Next week on Thirty Minute Thursdays: killer jerk chicken, with rice and beans, refreshing chopped salad and chargrilled corn.

19 February 2012

jamie's 30 minute meals put to the test

Over the next few months I've set myself a challenge of cooking one of Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals per week and I'll be publishing the results on this blog every Thursday, in the aptly titled: Thirty Minute Thursdays.

I'll fess up right now to not having bought the book. Instead I'll be working off some roughly scribbled notes from the TV series. All 40 episodes from series 1 can be viewed here on 4OD. I'm hoping that making notes on the show will commit the recipes to memory and help me hit the 30 minute target rather than waste time referring to a recipe book.

Jamie's ideas and projects often come in for a lot of stick and his 30 Minute Meal series is no exception. Many others before me have put these recipes to the test and sadly, positive comments are few and far between. Here's a selection:

The Guardian has four testers try out four different meals with consistently dismal results. Criticism as expected from another four testers at the Daily Mail. A slightly fairer commentary from Foodepedia, but negativity again from Moveable Feast. Finally, a satisfied customer at The Hungry Boyfriend.

I am a big fan of Jamie. I love his relaxed style, his Italian influences, and big-hitting flavours, so I have high hopes for these 30 Minute Meals...