A while ago I cooked 2 recipes for the Cookery Calendar Challenge, led by Penny at Homemade Heart. I missed last months though Gillian at Tales from a happy house took part. The book 'Ministry of Food' by Jamie Oliver accompanied his TV series stating 'that anyone can learn to cook in 24 hours'. Inside the book he pays tribute to Marguerite Patten, one of the original Ministry of Food girls. Calling her a national treasure and incredible food guru. There is a wealth of info on-line about how you can get involved in your community, with his mission to see the nation eat, cook and educate themselves with better choice and less waste.
I enjoyed the TV series, the people's stories were emotional at times and excerpts feature in the book. Jamie Oliver sets out with a clear aim to empower the nation to cook one recipe at a time and then teach it to someone else. As each person develops in confidence, they feed their families well and commit to the 'pass it on challenge'. There is a pledge to sign in the book - agreeing to learn a recipe from each chapter and teach them to 2 or more people, on the condition that they pledge the same. Did I do that.... er no, but please don't tell anyone.
The book itself is divided into sections, the usual breakfasts, quick meals, salads and curries etc. The emphasis is on easy but also to cook from scratch, though the curries are made using Patak's curry pastes. There is a section further on in the book for making your own curry pastes when you've gained more confidence. The salads work in a similar way in that you start with a basic salad and make an 'evolution salad' by adding further ingredients. One last thing I like about the book is the stew type recipes that he then tops in different ways eg dumplings, a pie lid, mash or hot pot.
To many who have been cooking for years this book may help with different ideas or encouraging you to 'try' making your own curry pastes, salad dressings or meat burgers. Or even to think about doubling recipes and eating stew today and a pie the next. Other than that, I was just fascinated with his enthusiasm at cooking good enjoyable food and encouraging others to do the same. It is photo heavy with steps and stages and would suit anyone who hasn't much of an idea for cooking and for people who already love cooking and looking at cookery books that teach rather than simply list instructions.
So onto my 2 recipes, the first was 'Meatballs and Pasta'. I must confess that I've never made meatballs before, I envisaged a stodgy mince ball in a thick gravy and this put me off. These ones were nothing like what I had in mind, they were delicious. You can use beef or pork mince or half of each. Everything, including cracker biscuits in the meatballs is chopped, smashed and mixed, rolled into balls drizzled with oil and placed in the fridge. I omitted the mustard which would've given a moist texture but not everyone likes it. When you are ready to cook, you begin with making your tomato sauce, then cook the spaghetti whilst frying the meatballs for 8-10 minutes. The spaghetti is drained and half the sauce added and stirred into it. After serving the meatballs on top of the pasta, add the remaining tomato sauce then some small basil leaves and Parmesan.
My second recipe was called 'My Sweet and Sour Pork'. He says it's all cooked fast and to concentrate and stay on the ball. I tend to prepare all the ingredients at once before cooking generally, so this wasn't a problem. It's basically a stir-fry and as you can imagine with Jamie Oliver, it packs a punch in flavour, delicious!
After preparing all the ingredients, you cook your rice, drain and keep it warm, whist stir-frying everything else, the meat first with the Chinese five spice. Removing the meat to keep warm you then stir fry all the over ingredients and then adding cornflour and liquid ingredients before returning the pork to the wok and checking seasoning. The sauce is reduced for a few minutes before serving the dish on a bed of rice with shredded lettuce, sesame seeds and reserved coriander leaves.
I was sceptical about the lettuce leaves particularly as teen 2 never makes healthy choices. The lettuce gave a crisp, fresh texture that I think is perfect to balance the other strong flavours, all of which were amazing. I left M his dinner as he was home late and I dashed out for the evening. He chose not to add the extras at the end which makes me wonder if others find Jamie's habit of - 'just add this', and 'I think it just needs this...' that he's so fond of on TV, a bit annoying too.
Overall, both dishes were fantastic though the meatballs were a little dry, maybe more sauce is needed or something added instead of the mustard next time. Also I forgot to add the Parmesan cheese on top of the first recipe which was a shame, as I'd specially bought it for this dish.
I hope you've enjoyed reading about my cookery calendar challenge this month, where I choose a cookery book off my shelves and pick 2 recipes to cook that aren't cakes or biscuits and then write about them the following month.