Our Verdict: 5 Ingredients

Maureen: It’s much better than his most recent books, but that’s not saying much.

Kirstin: Well, maybe it was. The Family Superfood book was really bad*. [Editor’s Note: this is actually not the word that Kirstin used, but we try to be a family-friendly blog.]

Maureen: You can’t quite say it’s a return to form, but it’s pretty good.

Kirstin: Do you think we set the bar higher for Jamie because we have so lovely memories of his book?

Maureen: [Ponders.] Maybe, but I don’t think so. I think the problem with Jamie, and we’ve said this for the past few years, is that he feels compelled to release a new cookbook every year. I just wish he– and his team– would take a breather and maybe take some time with the next book. I’m pretty sure the annual publishing calendar is hurting the books more than the fact that we love his first books so much. Though that’s also true.

Kirstin: Well, he’s a whole industry now, so he has to keep it going.

Maureen: While it’s not a brilliant book, I do think it would be a good cookbook for students or people learning to cook. It’s like a gateway drug to better recipes and food. It gets you started and maybe you could figure out ways to make them better.

Kirstin: Exactly. I made a lot of the recipes. They are easy and I liked this format more than 15 Minutes and 30 Minutes cookbooks. They were done quickly, but you didn’t have a deadline to get them done.

Maureen: You didn’t feel the pressure to get it done in a certain amount of time, which was good. Saying that, we did find that a lot of the recipes over promised and under delivered.

Kirstin: But if you did make them, you could– shock horror– add more than five ingredients to make them better.

Maureen: Yes. And maybe leave out red wine vinegar from time to time.

Kirstin: Maybe that’s another way you could use the book, to teach yourself how to make stuff better.

Maureen:It felt like he was a bit hamstrung at times with the five ingredient limit.

Kirstin: Absolutely.

Maureen: Apparently, this book is selling much better than his last few, but then again, both the superfood books were shockingly bad.

Kirstin: This book is more for food explorers and newbies than food lovers and good cooks.

Maureen: At least it was an improvement. It still wasn’t brilliant, but it was better.

“5 Ingredients”
Overall Grade (A- F): B- (Kirstin) C+ (Maureen)
Best recipes: Kirstin: Baked fish and I enjoyed my first tarte tatin. Maureen: There’s nothing that jumps out at me.
Grade for Photography (A-F):  B- (It was a bit boring.)
Any disasters? Kirstin: Yes! The sea bass was awful. Maureen: The pork was gross and the timings were all wrong.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin & Maureen: We’re both saving it to give to our children when they leave for university in a year, but otherwise, will probably not use the book again.                                                                                                                                 Would You Give This Book to a Friend?: No. There are loads of better books out there.

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Our Verdict: 5 Ingredients

“Rose Pesto Prawn Pasta” from “5 Ingredients”

We had high hopes for this. After all, we’re huge fans of prawns in this house and this looked like a new way to serve them up with pasta.

But in what is fast becoming a theme to this book, this was a bit bland. It was bland even with me including far more red pesto than Jamie had recommended. Hard to believe that’s how it played out, but it’s true. I’m not sure what more it needed, or maybe the whole recipe was just a bit boring. I don’t know.

Maybe the problem was that it pales in comparison to our very favourite pasta with prawns, shrimp scampi. This is what the Americans call this dish, by the way. British scampi is much different– that’s deep-fried prawns. That’s also delicious, but it’s also very different.  American shrimp scampi is made by sauteeing garlic in butter and olive oil, adding white wine to make the sauce, tossing in some red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, adding the shrimps (or prawns, depending on whether you speak British or American), then finishing it off with parsley and lemon juice before putting over the pasta. See? Easy. Not to mention fast.

It’s not that this Jamie Oliver version was bad, mind you. It just wasn’t that good. But if you can stretch to 7 ingredients instead of five, I highly recommend making this shrimp scampi (from the always wonderful Melissa Clark) instead.

Jamie hasn’t posted this recipe online yet, so I can’t provide a link. You’re not missing much. 

“Rose Pesto Prawn Pasta” from “5 Ingredients”

“Plum Tarte Tatin” from “5 Ingredients”

Kirstin: I have never been brave enough to make a tarte tatin. In fact, thinking about it I’ve never eaten one before either so I made this recipe in the dark. First things first; there was no red wine vinegar in this recipe, which is a huge step forward. Also the plums and greengages are just gorgeous at the moment and were proper ripe. I wonder if they might actually have been too ripe as they produced a lot of liquid which made turning over the tarte a little more interesting than I had expected (for the record, I was very smug as I used my frittata flipper to help with that part of the tarte). No matter though because imagine the plum sauce combined with the salted caramel ice cream that I served this with and you can see what a winner it was. I have no idea whether I cooked the pastry for long enough or whether it tasted anything like the real thing but I am intrigued enough by the whole concept to do some research and try a tarte tatin again.

“Plum Tarte Tatin” from “5 Ingredients”

“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.

“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”

“One-pan Fabulous Fish” from “5 Ingredients”


Kirstin: How could I resist such a pretty looking dish? And one that was so irresistibly simple? The answer is I couldn’t.

Ella: I really like the fish. I mean really like it!

Miles: And the rice is OK.

Kirstin: Just OK? I didn’t put in as much tapenade as he said because that would have overwhelmed the whole dish. But you’ll never guess which under the radar ingredient he added…

Ella: Red wine vinegar?

Kirstin: Totally. What is it with Jamie and the red wine vinegar? I hope he has shares in it or something! But you know I would definitely consider making this again. Especially on a school night when I’m in a rush. I could even imagine adding a few ingredients to personalise it even though that would take it above the hallowed 5.

If you’re interested in trying this recipe for yourself, here’s the link with a very interesting conversation about how long basmati takes to cook in the comments. For the record, Jamie got the cooking time for the rice totally right. It was perfect.

“One-pan Fabulous Fish” 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”