“Easy Sausage Carbonara” from “5 Ingredients”

Do you know how sometimes you really enjoy a film or a book or a dish but then you go back and try it again and it’s not as good as you remember it?  That’s precisely what happened here.

The first time we had this, we all loved it. We enjoyed it so much, in fact, that when I realised that I forgot to take a photo of it, I thought, “That’s not a problem. We’ll just have it again and I’ll remember to take a photo this time.” Believe me when I tell you it is *extremely rare* to have something twice in the same month from a cookbook we’re testing.

So I looked forward to this, not least because it was night that many busy families will have experienced themselves: we were scattered across London around dinner time, only getting together once we had finished our early evening appointments. So I rushed home to make this, in this case actually happy that it only takes 15 minutes, and was very much looking forward to a speedy delicious dinner.

However, I’m sad to say it just wasn’t as good this time. Despite using the always magnificent Italian sausages from Dring’s Butchers– and it definitely wasn’t the fault of the sausages– it just turned out a bit bland. I don’t think that was a criticism the first time around, but there we are.

However, I was curious how many ingredients a traditional pasta carbonara would use, because surely Jamie turned to this method because the traditional version would exceed the magic five limit. Guess what? Hold on your hats! Traditional pasta carbonara only uses five ingredients too! This even allows for the two different kinds of cheeses, though you could easily just use parmesan instead of pecorino and parmesan. (If you’d like to see the NYTimes recipe yourself, click through here to see it.)

I wish I knew why Jamie didn’t just include a traditional pasta carbonara recipe instead of this one. It’s quite possible that there’s a recipe for that in one of his 20 previous cookbooks. In fact, that’s highly likely. I just can’t be asked to go back and see for myself. So that must be why this sub-par one was included instead.

[While I was kicking around the NYTimes site, I also found this recipe for something that’s pretty similar to this, but I’m guessing, perhaps a little better.]

So would I make sausage carbonara again? Probably. But would I use this recipe? Probably not. It’s not a terrible idea, but clearly a quick Internet search showed me there were plenty of better recipes out there for a dish like this. I think I can stretch to a few more ingredients if it means it’ll taste better.

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“Easy Sausage Carbonara” from “5 Ingredients”

“Herby Chicken Traybake” from “5 Ingredients”

I’ve got to say, this recipe reminds of the Jamie Oliver of old, back when he offered up delicious food, simply prepared.

To be brutally honest, it’s not as if he’s reinveted the wheel with this recipe, though. It’s just a classic traybake. But traybakes (also beloved by Nigella) are classic for a reason: delicious, easy and easy to change based on what ingredients you have to hand. I’ve definitely made variations of this many times before now.

In this particular recipe, it’s just chicken with garlic, rosemary and lemon: a classic combination that I’ve used, easily, a million times before. But that doesn’t make it less successful. If it’s worked before, it’ll work again. If people like it, who cares if it’s not terribly original?

However, I have to tell him that I completely ignored Jamie’s instruction to put the chicken on the oven rack just above the tray that has the potatoes in it. It seems as though Jamie has forgotten what it’s like to clean an oven rack with chicken fat all over it. (Spoiler alert: it’s a pain to get clean.) I know why he did it. He wanted the fat and juicy goodness from the chicken to drip onto the potatoes below. I get that, I just didn’t want to clean that. What I did instead was I got a baking wire rack that fit over the potato tray, put the chicken on the wire rack, and then put all of that in the oven. Cleaning a baking wire rack is about 1,000 times easier than cleaning an entire oven tray.

Finally, to give credit where credit is due, I picked up a top tip from Jamie in the car crashes that were “30-Minute Meals” and “15-Minute Meals”: using my food processor to slice up the potatoes. To be honest, I don’t think I ever used my food processor for slicing before those two books and now I use my food processor slicer all the time. (It’s also handy for when I’m making apple pie.)

Will we make this again? Obviously. A chicken tray bake was beloved by this family before and will be beloved in the future.

“Herby Chicken Traybake” from “5 Ingredients”

“Epic Rib-Eye Steak” from “5 Ingredients”

We decided we wanted to give this a try after watching Jamie Oliver cook it on the television series that accompanies this cookbook. (Obviously there’s a television series that goes with this book. I hope no one is surprised by that.)

Jamie’s point, and I whole-heartedly agree, is that if you’re going to invest in a really good steak, it’s much easier to concentrate on one big piece rather than four individual ones. Once this beautiful slab of meat is cooked, then you slice it up and distribute accordingly. His other top tip was to cut off some of the fat from the edges and then render that for the fat in the pan before starting to cook the steak. That worked beautifully.

Yes, rib-eye is expensive. This very much was a Sunday Lunch treat for us, and it was worth it. The recipe hardly needs reviewing because rib-eye is always good for steak lovers like us.

As much as we all loved the steak, however, it has to be noted that the teenagers were less than enthused about the beans and mushrooms that went with it. The adults liked it– it didn’t set our world on fire, but it was pretty good– but the teens wanted no part of it. We ended up pureeing the bean leftovers for a white bean dip, which wasn’t bad and a decent way to not let the leftovers go to waste.

All in all, pretty good. If you like beans, that is.

“Epic Rib-Eye Steak” from “5 Ingredients”

“Boulangère Potatoes” from “On the Side”

One of our traditional Christmas Eve dishes is potato dauphinoise. What’s not to love? Cream and potatoes, lovingly roasted until they are as soft as a pillow on your fork. (If you’re curious, I use this recipe from Nigel Slater. Works like a dream every time.) The only downside is it’s a very rich dish. So rich, in fact, that it’s one of our Christmas treats. Goodness knows I could eat it all the time, but I know that wouldn’t be prudent. So we save it as a special treat.

But along comes Ed Smith and these boulangère potatoes. Just like potato dauphinoise, but without the richness of the cream. The rest of the method is nearly identical, save for using chicken stock instead of cream.

What a result. Absolutely delicious. One caveat though: this is very much a “make only when you have a few hours” [read: the weekend] dish. Once you get through slicing 1.5 kilograms of potatoes really thinly– we use either the food processor the mandoline, depending on who’s doing the slicing– you then have to bake it for more than hour. So it takes some time and love. But it’s totally worth it.

Ed’s top tip is to return to the oven throughout baking and pushing down the potatoes with a fish slice (or a spatula would work too), which leads to the layers being deliciously compact and all the more soft.

Highly recommended. And not just for Christmas Eve.

If you’d like to try this yourself, cooked.com has the recipe here. 

“Boulangère Potatoes” from “On the Side”

“Dijon-Dressed Green Beans” from “On the Side”

There’s not much you can say about green beans. On this particular night, I made them because we were trying out three new sausages from Dring’s Butchers, and I thought we really ought to have something green alongside the meat and the mash.

The opinion on this was divided along age lines: the adults liked them, the teenagers did not. They both said they prefer our usual green bean combination with butter and lemon. I don’t know why that is, but there we have it. I would make these again, but maybe only for adults.

“Dijon-Dressed Green Beans” from “On the Side”

“Honey, Thyme and Lime Butter Corn” from “On the Side”

I made a version of this for the first Thanksgiving I cooked myself. Thyme and corn make a really nice combination, and if memory serves people liked it. (In the end, this corn dish got supplanted by the shoepeg corn peanut soup that I now make instead, but that’s a story for another time).

As I tasted this while cooking it, I thought, “This will be good.” I thought that, up until the point that I added some honey. That’s where things went wrong. As you are adding more sweetness to SWEET corn (the clue is in the name), it’s a bit redundant and unnecessary. It actually was just too sweet for all of us.

Otherwise, I would make this again only if I stopped following the directions just before adding the honey.

(For what it’s worth, we had this with beefburgers, using Ruby Tandoh’s method, which is still ACES.)

“Honey, Thyme and Lime Butter Corn” from “On the Side”

“Black Bean, Coriander and Lime Rice” from “On the Side”

Maureen: It’s burrito night!

All: Huzzah! (Well, perhaps it wasn’t this exact word, but everyone loves burrito night, so there was joy in the air.)

Maureen: I need to tell you, though, no Cowboy Rice*.

All: WHAT? [Que outrage.]

Maureen: I just thought it might be an idea to try something else.

Andrew: Why? Why do we have to try something else? Why mess with perfection.

Maureen: Listen, it’s not the end of the world if we just try something new. What do you think?

Nicholas: Well, it’s not cowboy rice.

Maureen: Obviously. It kind of reminds me of the rice you get from Chipotle. I like it.

Tim: It is good, but it’s not better than cowboy rice.

Andrew: Nothing is better than cowboy rice.

Maureen: Moaners, the lot of you. I don’t see how I’ll ever be able to cook this again when you have cowboy rice in your heart.

*Cowboy rice is a mainstay in our house. It is called that because it originates from a cowboy cookbook that Tim brought back for me when he visited Texas once. It is delicious. I’ve just looked to see if I could find a recipe to link to it, but all the versions online are different to the one that I make. Basically, you fry an onion into a load of butter, fry up the rice a bit, add oregano, thyme and a bay leaf, add enough chicken stock for it to absorb, cook it for 30 minutes, and you have our cowboy rice. Delicious with everything, but especially burritos.

“Black Bean, Coriander and Lime Rice” from “On the Side”