Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Triumph of Hope over Experience II : Jamie Oliver's Naked Cheek?

Thank God I didn't attempt Jamie Oliver's three-course 'Thirty Minute Meal' before an audience of guests, laughing-charfing and moving confidently around my domain.  This is what happened in the privacy of my own chaos.

6.30: Read recipe. Strange step-by-step instructions swim before my eyes.

6.32: Throw contents of shopping trolley around work surfaces
6.33 Unwrap new frying pan

6.34  Wash new baking dish.  
6.35 Scrabble in cupboards for slicing attachments for my magimix.
6.37 Realise they went to the charity shop.  Start slicing 2lbs of potatoes and red onion by hand.
6.38  Decide to empty washing machine onto ironing board. Why?

6.39 Cut my finger and search kitchen drawer for blue plaster. Wind it up in kitchen roll.
6.40 Start chucking ingredients for Dauphinoise potatoes in pan. Seems from book that pan's too small so I  wash up new bigger baking dish. Transfer the slop of cream, olive oil, grated parmesan  and stuff into that. Occurs to me bigger pan only necessary to save a vital five minutes' cooking time but what the hell, I'm still in the game.
6.43 'Tear' oily anchovy fillets limb from limb. Would have preferred to use a knife, frankly.
6.44  Scrub and sniff hands.  Notice oil on floor and make a mental note to avoid.  
6.45 Put pan covered in tin foil on a medium gas flame.  Narrow tin foil doesn't fit big pan. Will vital steam escape through the join of two pieces? Oh dear.
6.46  Faff about with slimy chicken breasts and mustard powder. Help, I won't beat the clock if I don't cut 'em up! Realise I should have bought ones with skin on for crispy aesthetic reasons. Try to crush garlic cloves 'without peeling'.  Takes twice as long. Run out of olive oil.

6.48 Do the math on producing three 'baby leeks' out of two jumbo ones. Slice finely and hold knife with one finger sticking out at right angles. 
7.00 Oh quick, shake the potato pan!
7.01 Start frying chicken and leeks together.  It looks all milky.

7.05  Shouts from upstairs "Is there something burning darling?" Shout back "NO, the recipe doesn't say it will burn. It's the anchovy you can smell."  Shake the pan again. 
7.10 Realise the chicken's never going to get crispy like the picture.  Check the stopwatch and axe the idea of whipping up a snappy Black Forest Affogato
7.15 Burn my finger rattling the the sodding potato pan again.  Can't find any indication how long it's supposed to be there other than how long the chicken is taking me.
7.20 Open up tin foil.  So when is an anchovy not an anchovy? When it's your pan burnt to buggery.

7.21  Scrape potato gunge into yet another oven dish, grate on more parmesan, put in oven which I failed to light at the thirty second stage.
7.22  Imbibe wine and notice husband has polished off whole tin of smoked oysters. He announces that he's 'off to watch some mindless telly'.
7.24 Address recipe again.  F*** this for a skylark.
7.25  Go fetch camera and start shooting the mess. Feel vaguely embarrassed about promoting my new strategy for a three-course meal every night to anyone who would listen.
7.40  Chop up purple sprouting broccoli at 90mph
7.41 Scrabble to open tub of double cream and a bottle of wine. 

7.42 Glug it madly into chicken.

7.43  Haven't got time to wash the spinach.  Axe that idea.
7.45  Turn off chicken and weep with exhaustion.  Skid on anchovy oil.
7.46  Remember to cook broccoli and turn off oven.
7.47  Totally lose interest in the whole project.  Sit down in front of the telly with a glass of wine.
8.30 Rechauffé and serve. Apologise for delay in advertised time and discrepancy between picture and finished product.  Laugh bitterly.  Eat in 5 mins flat.  (Okay, it was moderately tasty.)
9 - 9.45  Clean Up 

Hmm rather than Mmm

Next day:  Go back to Jamie Oliver and read this: 'These recipes are carefully choreographed so that no single minute is wasted. If at first you run a little over time and your kitchen is a bit messy don't worry... [it's] all about orgainizing your kitchen and your equipment.'  I should coco!

Only Jamie does it better


  1. You have us in stitches here. I've always suspected Oliver is a fraud.

  2. "hold knife with one finger sticking out at right angles" - I keep plasters in the kitchen specially for my left thumb which is just healing (well, more or less) from the latest slash with a knife. I'm just hoping that the bit stuck back with superglue will stay put. I have a theory that my right hand doesn't like the fact that it occasionally is ignored in favor of the left.

    Thank you for making a very boring Wednesday in the office a bit of a laugh!

  3. What a brave woman you are. I am in awe.

  4. Dear Rosie, that was hilarious! My friend tried to do that cook-a-thon on Channel 4 and got in a right pickle. It was like someting out of Butterflies, I'm sure you remember that show. I used to love her cooking disasters.

    The potatoes look delicious, I hope they were after all that! xx

  5. Vir, I know, I know! I avoided him for so long..

  6. So, Blue darling, you are truly ambidextrous!

  7. HOBAC I was terrifically brave when I burnt my thumb!

  8. Christina, I wish I had felt as attractive as Wendy Craig in the whole process. I don't think I could ever eat dauphinoise potatoes again. In fact I've never liked the things. Wonder why I bothered.

  9. You forgot the part about burning the cookbook! Rosie, I don't even try those anymore (ever?) Makes for outstanding lark for US-I know you do it all for love, and I thank you for that. xo, Gaye

  10. many years ago, i used to cook right out of gourmet magazine much to my ex-wife's consternation. it always sounded so simple and sometimes it was but not usually. she'd say "shouldn't you learn the basics first" and my rejoinder always was " well, if it comes out right, i guess i did." my results usually looked like yours and not jamies or gourmet magazine. but thats the fun of cooking - right?
    anyway, absolutely hilarious!!!

  11. So when am I getting that dinner invitation? And can I watch you cook it first?

  12. Gaye, thank you. The bloody cookbook cost me twenty-six quid so I might try it in slow time - one day.

    Turner Pack Rats - amazed by your optimism and loved your wife's remark.

    Columnist - I've never really recovered from losing our navy chef! But next time you're in London oh do come for a laugh.

  13. This was delicious! Wish we could cook together. I'll do the prep. You do the running, hilarious commentary. I already have the Colman's mustard. May need English dictionary for terms as: blue plaster, charfing, scrabble (in cupboard), faff etc. Am already proficient at drinking wine on the job.

  14. Home, I confess 'charfing' is a neologism - result of a little aliterative turn phrase possibly common only to our family. Glad to introduce you to some British vernacular since I am always envious of American.

  15. HOme, that would be great. Sorry, you won't find charfing in the dictionary - it's just an aliterative phrase possibly only common to our family. Blue plasters are those sticky band-aids that chefs use for health and safety
    reasons, I presume.

  16. Yes, you certainly are a brave woman to share images of that work in
    progress known as a Simple Quick and Easy little menu. May I recommend
    that the ironing board be either
    A: removed before embarking on dinner preparations
    B. Used as an extra working surface.
    Thank you my dear for the only laugh of the day.

  17. Hilarious.I'll let you know if this works with soy chicken. They don't make soy anchovies, as far as I know.

  18. Mr Worthington & rurritable: Thank you for helping to salvage something from my kitchen debacle. I do realise I embarked on the project in inauspicious circumstances and the truth of the matter is that I love doing laundry so much more than cooking. I don't mind if the world knows it.

  19. I am not convinced by these recipes without timings. Love the washing pic - definitely the sort of thing I would do under pressure!


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