Friday, 13 September 2013

Oliver’s Twist


I’m usually quite a fan of Mr O [I love his Triumph teeshirt, by the way!] but this latest series…

Having reduced our meal-prep time from 30 minutes to 15 minutes, I suppose he couldn’t realistically save any more time, so the latest twist in the plot is to save money as we cook. But I feel that actually this time around he has rather lost the plot!

I have watched two of the programmes now, and been a little disappointed.

  • This week a lady emptied her freezer and showed him all her bags of frozen lamb – but bizarrely, Jamie ignored them and cooked a meal using a fresh piece of meat [what happened to the other stuff? please don’t let it have been wasted!]
  • He has his ‘Mothership’ recipes – the big thing you start with [e.g. for your Sunday roast] which provides leftovers for making future meals. But this is hardly new – it’s four years since Allegra McEvedy did “Economy Gastronomy” with her “Bedrock” recipes, following the same principle. This method has been used for generations, to use leftovers for the next few meals.

leftovers poster

  • He says his portions are carefully costed and ‘cheap’ – but that is all relative to how much you have got in your food budget in the first place.
  • There are definitely ‘economies of scale’ in place- cost per head may work out cheaper for eight people – but not necessarily for one or two [and not all of his meals can be portioned and frozen]
  • What he says he is using for his ingredients does not always exactly match up with the picture on screen, or the recipe on the website. We watched carefully – and saw a picture of pizza with mozzarella, while he was telling us to save money and use cheddar [melted cheddar is a bit less photogenic].

I have concluded that this programme may be helpful if you have plenty of money and you are not spending it very wisely, and want to cut your food budget. But if you are already used to cooking frugally, there’s not too much here for you to learn. And it takes a while [and cash] to build up a supply of spices and sauces in your pantry. I’ll keep watching, but I am not sure I will enjoy the series as much as I did the 30 Minute Meals.

Having said that, I did use up some of our leftover meat in his Dim Sum Buns this week.  JO’s on left, mine on right

tv picIMG_0768

Serves 8 – Ingredients

  • 1 fresh red chilli
  • 4 spring onions
  • ½ a bunch of fresh coriander (15g)
  • 300 g leftover cooked higher-welfare pork shoulder
  • 4 heaped tablespoons black bean sauce
  • 2 tablespoons hot chilli sauce
  • 500 g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 400 ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds [toasted]
  • 1 round lettuce
  • hoi sin sauce, to serve

Find the method here 

I divided the recipe by 4 [obviously - there are only two of us], and omitted fresh chilli [don’t like it!] and coriander [had none to hand] I used sweet chilli sauce [Approved Food], and some rich leftover gravy. I pulsed the meat, sauces, and one spring onion briefly in the processor to make the filling. I did have some oyster sauce in the cupboard [chinese supermarket, Leicester], so used that for dipping – and served the buns with lettuce and cucumber wedges. It tasted OK, and the buns looked suitably impressive with their seeds on top. I may do these again.

But my kitchen is blessed with a processor, and a bamboo steamer, I have access to online budget food orders from Approved Foods and a city nearby with at least three good Chinese supermarkets, plus a friend kindly gave me some cucumbers from her garden before she went on holiday. Lots of families do not have these advantages.

There are plenty of other ‘austerity’ cooks around at the minute – many of whom have had to live for long periods on tight budgets. Somehow it feels as if Jamie, and the celeb chefs on the Great British Budget Menu [here] have been parachuted in to troubleshoot a situation about which they really have very little personal experience. [And please don’t get me started on Michael Gove and Foodbanks or I shall be ranting all day]


  1. My first thought on reading this was that Michael Gove should watch it!!!!

  2. I agree with you - Jamie is doing good recipes for people who have had a lot of spare money but now have less spare money. It is also good for those able to get out and with accessible places to buy good, cheap food. Have you read the recipes by 'A girl called Jack' ? They are a bit more realistic for those who use bare bones cookery. WS xxx

  3. I have the book on loan from the library, but after looking through saw nothing that inspired me, as you say just like the economy gastronomy. I prefer some of my old thrift cookery books - am inspired to do a post about them!

  4. Jamie tries hard, but as you say, nothing that we don't really know in the first place. It all seems a bit publicity seeking now.

  5. I haven't seen JO doing his budget cooking but I have seen a couple of Nigel Slater's. I quite his recipes but he hasn't done a book it's all on the internet.


  6. I haven't seen any of the series yet and look forward to catching up. I admire Jamie for trying so hard to get the nation to cook fresh food and not waste food, but I fear that those who most need to do it will watch the programmes while tucking into a take away or ready meal of poor nutritional value, not to mention poor value for money.

  7. I've always enjoyed watching JO's shows here in the USA and I like his rustic style to cooking. I haven't seen the budget style cooking, but mine is super simple -- Use what's in the pantry, fridge, garden. This time of year we are eating lots of fresh cukes, tomatoes, peppers, and zukes. The meat is whatever is in the freezer (which is running low now). Living a good long way from the grocery store makes me stretch the food budget even more.

    1. We call zucchinis 'courgettes' over here- but I love the idea of "cukes and zukes"!!

    2. I could play my newest instrument while you're eating, then it'd be "cukes, zukes and ukes"!!!!


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