Wednesday, 26 January 2011

It was my youngest son Albie who alerted me to Jamie Oliver. Of course I knew all about him, this Essex boy made good who was all over the telly with his fruity language, but I'd never given him much thought. He was too ubiquitous to be interesting (ooh, I am a terrible snob, I confess).

But Albie, who is nine and keen on the kitchen arts, had taken to watching Jamie's 30 Minute Dinners every day with an obsessiveness that he had hitherto reserved for The Simpsons and Top Gear. One day he literally hauled me in front of the television and told me to sit down and watch. And my goodness but I was really impressed.

He's the most personable, least pretentious TV chef I've seen, but - and of course this is the important part - his recipes really work. Albie asked for the book for Chanukah, of course I got it and of course it's really mine. It's a complete fancy that any of these meals would actually take 30 minutes to prepare - maybe perhaps if you have a very decent sous-chef (Albie's learning but he's not there yet), live very near a posh supermarket that sells stuff like prewashed fancy salad and handily sliced Spanish Iberico ham and flaked parmesan, so you don't have to do that yourself. But the 30 minute thing doesn't really do it for me - if I want to make a nice dinner I'm not going to stint on the time it takes any more than on the ingredients I need.

But I do appreciate delicious, relatively easy to cook meals. And Jamie is nothing short of a genius when it comes to that. Albie can knock out his smoked haddock chowder with no help at all and it's terrifically good. You just fry up some chopped bacon and sliced spring onions, add some chopped floury potato, give it all a good stir, then pour in some boiling water, add a stock cube and cook till the potatoes are almost done. Add a can of sweetcorn and a nice piece of smoked haddock, cook till the haddock flakes, stir in some cream, bring back to just under the boil and serve with matzo crackers.

We were in London over the weekend and of course on our way back home we stocked up in M&S on some staples - crunchy peanut butter, which I've never found in France, Chinese crispy duck (it comes with cucumber, spring onions, plum sauce and pancakes and is just as good as your average Chinatown joint) and some spare ribs.

The duck was polished off last night But when I opened the spare ribs tonight I realised that they would never feed five greedy people. And thus came Jamie to the rescue with his Dan Dan noodles!

5 spring onions
clove of garlic
tbs chopped chili pepper sauce
tbs chopped ginger
soy sauce
olive/sesame oil
one lime
beef stock cube
sugar snap peas
packet of Chinese egg noodles

Chop the spring onions and garlic and divide between five soup plates. Divide the ginger and chili pepper sauce (or fresh chopped chilis if you prefer) between the soup plates, then spoon over about a tablespoon of soy sauce and oil, a squeeze of lime and a drizzle of honey into each bowl. Cook the sugar snaps for a minute or so so that they still have some crunch. Add the stock cube to a large pan of boiling water, then add the noodles and cook for about 4 minutes until they are done - but don't let them get too soft. Scoop the noodles out of the stock and divide between the soup plates, then pour the stock over the noodles and top with the sugar snaps. Remind everyone to mix their noodles with the flavourings at the bottom of the bowl.

We topped these with the spare ribs and it was absolutely delicious. Jamie says to top it with slices of rare steak, which I have no doubt would be just as good. Probably you should add chopped coriander but we hate the stuff.