Why I’m not cooking anything else from “Jamie’s Superfood Family Classics”

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Kirstin: I’m going to admit it. I have given up on Super Food Family Classics. There will be no more recipes cooked from it and it will go directly to the charity shop. Our family eat healthily, but we also like to eat tasty food, and the superfood book just wasn’t doing it for me. It was just too bloody boring, and was making me depressed as I thought about what food I was serving to my children. So instead, here’s an old Jamie Oliver recipe which I have recently resurrected from his second book and love. Why? Because it’s healthy, it’s tasty, it’s easy to make. It’s everything I used to love about Jamie. Food is not some kind of drug that is going to instantly make you live longer. It’s something that should be enjoyed, cooked with love, shared with others, looked forward to all day—a way to try new flavours and experiences, and a way to keep those memories.  And if you love food as much as we do, then it is this that makes you happy (provided it is in moderation). This is the trick of it, to living life and happiness, and this is what I call superfood.

Why I’m not cooking anything else from “Jamie’s Superfood Family Classics”

“Tandoori Chicken Salad, Minty Yoghurt Dressing and Poppadoms” from “Superfood Family Classics”

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I hope you’re sitting down, but guess what? We ate something from the new Jamie Oliver cookbook AND WE LIKED IT.

Actually, that might be an overstatement, but only because I was so excited to make something that wasn’t greeted with a round of groans when I placed it on the table. But still.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should also tell you that we ate this dinner in darkness at the table outside, because I am desperately clinging on to concept of outdoor eating, even though the sun sets at 7:15 p.m. now. So I’m suggested that perhaps my family also liked this better because they couldn’t see it. I will never know.

Everyone liked the chicken, covered in tandoori paste and then grilled. Yum. The adults liked the brown (obviously) rice with the minty yogurt dressing, but the teenagers were less keen. (I could see myself making this for lunch on a very ambitious day without the chicken.) Poppadoms always go down a treat in this house and I’m a bit surprised they were included in a healthy eating cookbook, since there’s really nothing healthy about them. But we all scarfed them down nonetheless.

Would I make this again? I might, actually. I just hope we won’t have to eat in the dark so that my family would like it.

“Tandoori Chicken Salad, Minty Yoghurt Dressing and Poppadoms” from “Superfood Family Classics”

NOT “Italian Superfood Burgers” from “Superfood Family Classics”

img_9461The weather on Sunday in London was absolutely glorious. It was a day begging for a barbecue, particularly when you consider we probably don’t have many barbecue days left. Consequently, I scrapped my original plan of a roast beef Sunday dinner– it had been raining and miserable when I bought the ingredients on Saturday– and pivoted over to the idea of burgers and other barbecue treats for Sunday dinner.

“Great,” I thought. “I know Jamie has a burger recipe in the book, so I can make that.” (This thought is important because we’ve been struggling to find recipes that we want to make out of this book so far.)

So we took the long way around to Waitrose– like I said, it was a beautiful day– to buy the ingredients. This is a word-for-word transcription of the conversation that occurred in the meat department:

Me: So we need 500 grams of lean mince for the burgers.

Tim: 500 grams? That doesn’t sound like very much.

Me: Well, you add cannellini beans to them to bulk them up. This is a Superfood Jamie recipe.

Tim: No.

Me: What do you mean no?

Tim: No.

Me: But it will make them healthy burgers! Jamie says so!

Tim: No.

Me: We could just try it. It won’t kill us.

Tim: No.

{This went on for a bit.}

Tim: I’m sorry, but it sounds disgusting.

Me: You’re right. It does. Let’s just make regular burgers.

In the interest of full disclosure, this is the first time in 5 1/2 years of doing this blog and testing recipes that he’s ever flat-out refused to try something. But I could see where he was coming from. What’s the point of having something delicious if you’re just going to muck it up by doing something weird* to it? Why risk buying expensive ingredients only to have everyone hate it?

*In this case, the weird was adding beans to mince. Although I was intrigued enough to want to try it, I’m not intrigued enough to make it just for me.

This conversation does go reinforce to what I said in my last post: this book is completely joyless and feels as though it was written by a team of people who don’t like food very much. I know that burgers are decidedly not the healthiest option. But surely I could have them every once in a while as part of a balanced healthy diet? Particularly on a night where we’re firing up the BBQ? Also, what does this tell people who don’t know how to cook and want a burger? The only way to have one is to add beans to it? WHY???

MAKE THIS MADNESS STOP.

When we told the boys we had elected to not try the healthy Jamie burgers the response was nothing short of rapturous. I was glad we went the old-fashioned route, otherwise I imagine we would have had several leftover burgers on our hands when it was all over.

In the end, we had our usual burgers (best-quality mince with salt and pepper),  with cheddar cheese melted on top (somewhere a nutritionist on Jamie’s team is weeping), along with grilled halloumi, grilled corn on the cob, salad and potatoes in packets.

It was delicious and we were all happier for it, as we sat on our back patio under the setting sun laughing about the weekend. That’s what I call superfood.

NOT “Italian Superfood Burgers” from “Superfood Family Classics”

“Tomato Risotto” from “Superfood Family Classics”

img_7952Oh my. This is going to be a long month.

Risotto: What’s not to love? Going back through the Cookbook a Month archives, it appears that this family has tested at least 12 different recipes for risotto through the years. Our love of risotto goes back even further, as I distinctly recall the first time I made it, using a recipe from the Chicago Tribune written by the head chef of the Clinton White House.

That’s the FIRST Clinton White House. Yes. I’m dating myself.

But back to the latest test. As anyone who’s made risotto knows, the key to a successful risotto is lashings of butter and cheese. I’m pretty sure that in Jamie Oliver’s earliest books, he called for exactly that. Unfortunately, this one had neither.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem with this risotto.

In fact, as we were discussing it as a family, we started to use air quotes around the word risotto every time we used the word. I think that tells you everything you need to know.

Aside from the obvious lack of butter and cheese, I feel what this “risotto” lacked was any sort of goodness. It didn’t taste horrible, but neither did it taste lovely or joyful. It tasted as if it had been devised by a nutritionist who had to write recipes for someone who was recovering from triple-bypass heart surgery who needs to give up all fat and tasty ingredients.

Alas, we are not recovering from triple-bypass surgery.

I know that Jamie is now studying to be a nutritionist (through private tutors, natch), but I really do think this recipe signals an unhappy way forward for him. Good on him for wanting to make everyone eat better and with more awareness of good nutrition, but what happened to the Joyful Jamie we knew and loved? You know the one: put in a nob of butter here, a few turns of parmesan there, bingo.

This tastes and feels as though the recipe was written by committee. This is not a good thing.

Would we eat it again? Obviously, no. We’ll return to those that call for lashings of butter and cheese. It makes us all happier.

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“Tomato Risotto” from “Superfood Family Classics”

“Sesame Butterflied Chicken, Peanut Sauce, Asian Slaw and Rice Noodles” from ” Superfood Family Classics”

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Kirstin: I would definitely recommend making the slaw. But even with my best attempts at putting the chilli peppers into our food processor they still tended to slip in sideways and did not end up the way they looked in the picture! That said, I was pleasantly surprised by the sauce; not very nice by itself but I thought it tasted ok with the chicken. However, this recipe was a tad uninspiring. I do hope this isn’t the start of a sad month of average recipes. Gah!

“Sesame Butterflied Chicken, Peanut Sauce, Asian Slaw and Rice Noodles” from ” Superfood Family Classics”

Cookbook of the month, September 2016: “Superfood Family Classics” by Jamie Oliver

Kirstin: Another year, another Jamie Oliver book.

Maureen: Last year’s Superfood one, which is a companion, I guess, to this one, was not a huge success with us. I guess he feels compelled to release a book a year, but I sort of wish he would take some time off. But this one could be interesting as it’s for families. But you know how I feel about the whole superfood thing.

Kirstin: I do indeed! I’m hoping to cook a few of these with Miles as he seems to be getting into the whole cooking thing. And a whole chapter on Traybakes. Oh yes!

Maureen: Well at least there’s traybakes. The rest of it seems a bit joyless, but maybe he will prove me wrong. Jamie & Jools just had their fifth child, a boy called River.

Kirstin: I wonder if they’ll have any time to cook from the book themselves!

Maureen: To give credit where credit is due, at least they give their children interesting names.

Cookbook of the month, September 2016: “Superfood Family Classics” by Jamie Oliver

Our Verdict: “Stirring Slowly”

Kirstin: I absolutely adored this book. It was just the perfect pace for an August summer holiday with lots of lovely flavours in non-stressful recipes. I loved her words about the blondies and coconut oil in particular, after attending a diabetic conference and asking a nutritionist all about the latest trend in coconut oil in food. The nutritionist looked at me blankly as if I was mad, having not heard of the trend and told me that I should stick with the olive oil. Coconut oil was much worse, she assured me.
This is a treasure of a book in every way. Thank you for making our August so peaceful and delicious. Yum!

Overall Grade (A- F): A+ (Kirstin)
Best recipes: Kirstin: The harissa chicken, for sure. I’ve already made it twice since.
Grade for Photography (A-F):  A with gorgeous styling too.
Any disasters?  Not one.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: Bookshelf. High rotation.
Would you give this to a friend? Kirstin: I’ve already given two copies to friends,

Our Verdict: “Stirring Slowly”