Sunday, April 13, 2014

Fifteen minute meals

I haven't written about cooking for a long time, mainly because there has been little change in the dishes that I cook. The few changes which I have tried in the past few months didn't receive a encouraging welcome, so I've been sticking to the tried and tested and familiar.

I discovered a few weeks ago that one of our television channels has been broadcasting a series of cookery programmes with Jamie Oliver, "15 minute meals". I enjoy his style of presenting and have been watching the programmes avidly. They are broadcast on Friday afternoons at around 4pm, which means that anything which I might learn from the programme can only be implemented the following week. Unfortunately, his recipes cannot be used in the kosher kitchen without change: he frequently uses bacon and almost always adds yoghurt to a meat meal.

I tried a few of his dishes without success: one time, he cooked salmon steaks after having spiced them with salt, pepper and green tea. As I was about to cook salmon that day, I decided to adopt his ideas (normally I cook salmon in the slow cooker in a mixture of lemon juice, butter and dill). The steaks were so salty as to be almost inedible and I couldn't detect any influence from the green tea. I may try this again, but only with the green tea!

The programme shown on Friday had steak, rice and ratatouille all cooked in fifteen minutes. The steak and the rice can easily be cooked in fifteen minutes, but I raised my eyebrows at the ratatouille [side note: this word contains all the vowels, but not in the correct order; a better example of a word containing all the vowels and in the correct order would be facetious]. When I cook ratatouille, it takes about three hours!

Jamie started by placing a courgette sliced into two lengthwise on a ridged skillet, along with slices of aubergine, no oil. This cooking method will char the vegetables. In a pot, he placed coarsely sliced onion along with diced yellow and red pepper; these were cooked with a little oil. After about five minutes on the skillet, he chopped the courgette into slices and added them to the onion/pepper mixture, along with the aubergine and a fair amount of tomato paste. This mixture was stirred then left to cook for another ten minutes.

I always make ratatouille with potatoes and probably with carrots, both of which take a longer time to cook than onions and peppers, so it's not surprising that my ratatouille takes longer to cook (I also use fresh tomatoes instead of paste). Charring the courgette and aubergine is an interesting idea, and I will try this out on Tuesday.

Yesterday I cooked a fifteen minute meal of which Jamie would have been proud: pineapple chicken with vegetables, accompanied by rice. I didn't actually cook the rice as we had enough left over from the previous evening, but I did add the juice of a lemon - an addition which didn't go down well. Jamie cooks his rice thus: one cup basmati rice, two cups water and a few strands of saffron. He places half a lemon in the mixture and lets it cook for ten minutes. 

I cubed about 600g of chicken breast and placed it in a closed container along with pineapple chunks in order to marinade; I tried to add as little pineapple juice as possible. Later I diced an onion, a yellow pepper and a red one. These I cooked in the wok for about five minutes before adding the chicken and pineapple; I then cooked for another ten minutes. I didn't stir the mixture too much at first, which caused some of the pineapple juice to caramelise. At first, I was a bit annoyed about this, but afterwards I realised that it was serendipitous as the flavour of the dish had been enhanced.

This is a very easy meal to make which is also very nutritious (protein, vegetables, complex carbohydrates) and in my opinion, very tasty. I've taken what was left over for lunch today.

I prefer to cook my meals in advance so that I can spend time with guests whilst the food is cooking. For this, the slow cooker and the oven are ideal. Cooking with a wok means that the food is prepared quickly and served directly to the table, but it does take me away from guests.

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