“Chicken and Chorizo Paella” from “Save with Jamie”

Kirstin: We’re having a paella tonight.

Tom: Or as they say in Spain, paella.

Georgia: It’s so yummy!

Tom: Hmmm.

Kirstin: And what do you think Ella?

Ella: I like the prawns!

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Kirstin: What about the other ingredients?

Ella: I don’t know. I just like the prawns…

Georgia: The chorizo is really yummy too!

Ella: Making mathematical puns is the first sign of madness.

Tom: Oh no! Ella, you need to be quiet and eat your Pi-Ella.

Kirstin: This is just delicious and I would definitely consider making it again.

Ella: Yes, let’s have this again!

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“Chicken and Chorizo Paella” from “Save with Jamie”

“Pukka Yellow Curry” from “Save with Jamie”

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Miles: I wasn’t expecting a curry!

Ella: Oh!

Kirstin: Yes, tonight I made Jamie’s Pukka Yellow Curry. It was simple to make, even though it took longer than it said it would in the recipe.

Ella: So I shouldn’t tell any fish jokes then.

Kirstin: No, because tonight we’re having chicken.

Ella: What about cat jokes?

Kirstin: NO. No cat jokes either.

Ella: But that’s clawful.

Kirstin: I said no cat jokes!

Miles: Ella, remember you have to paws in the middle of a sentence when you’re telling a joke.

Ella: Mum, are you feline OK?

Kirstin: STOP IT! No cat jokes!

Miles: Well I think that was purr-fect!

Kirstin: Shall we try the chicken now?

Ella: Yum. I’m still trying to figure out a way to fit canine into a joke.

Miles: I like the chicken!

Ella: Wolf it down!

Kirstin: And on that note and before we go down the whole dog joke route, we thought it was OK, but I don’t think I’ll be making it again.

“Pukka Yellow Curry” from “Save with Jamie”

“Smokin’ Chicken Chowder” from “Save With Jamie”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith a teenager home sick with a sore throat, there was only one thing for it: some chicken soup. Studies have shown that the chicken soup cure really might work, though I’m not sure if Smokin’ Chicken Chowder would be the sort of soup that would hasten healing.

“Save With Jamie” actually has two chicken soup recipes in it– this one and another one called “My Jewish Penicllin.” You would think if I was looking for a chicken soup cure I’d go with the latter, but it was going to take some time, attention and love, so I went for “Smokin’ Chicken Chowder”  instead.

I need to disclose that I went slightly off piste with this recipe from the very start. The basis for this recipe is a chicken carcass from a roast chicken (or “Mothership Roast Chicken,” as Jamie calls it), but as I haven’t made that yet, I didn’t have one on hand. You use the chicken carcass to make a chicken stock, and also to strip off any remaining chicken meat for the soup.

One important note: if you do have a chicken carcass to hand, I definitely recommend making your own chicken stock. I might not faithfully make chicken stock every time I’ve got a chicken carcass, but I’m always glad when I do and feel virtuous, thrifty and healthy for days afterward. But please, if you’re going to make chicken stock, do yourself a favour and don’t follow Jamie’s instructions exactly. You could do what he says and just throw the carcass in with some water and simmer to make the stock. But it would be so much better if you do that but also add a carrot or two, a peeled and quartered onion and some peppercorns, if you’ve got some handy. Your chicken stock will be so much better. You can thank me later.

For the leftover chicken that I didn’t have, I used some cooked chicken breasts that were for sale at our local Cooperative. I figured Jamie would endorse that move because I was using chicken that had the bright orange “reduced” sticker on it, which cuts down on food waste and also was the ingredient I needed. Shopping for the win.

So in short, if you don’t have leftover chicken, you can use regular chicken stock and cooked chicken breast, widely available at supermarkets. I used 1 litre of chicken stock, which nearly covered the ingredients. You might want to add more or less than that, depending on how thick you like your soup.

A word to the wise: I found when that the streaky bacon didn’t render enough fat to fry the carrots, onion and potatoes in– the pan was way too dry for that– so I added some olive oil at that point, which did the trick.

I reluctantly pureed part of the soup, as per instructions, but I feared I would have another “Soup That Looks Like Sick” on my hands, a la Bill Granger’s Sweetcorn Soup. But as I only pureed about 400 millilitres of soup, it looked ok. But bear in mind that you cover this one with crushed cream crackers, parsley and bacon, so maybe there’s enough garnish on there to distract you from the soup underneath.

Would I make it again? Yes. Crucially: would my family happily eat it again? Yes. It’s not the most exciting of recipes, but it was delicious and healthy (only 292 calories per serving, and would be even less if you didn’t add the cream). If you need to, go ahead and use chicken stock and cooked chicken breasts. I don’t think those shortcuts detracted from the taste at all.

“Smokin’ Chicken Chowder” from “Save With Jamie”

“My Sag Aloo” from “Save With Jamie”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKudos for David Loftus, who did the photography for “Save with Jamie,” for making this recipe look so appealing in the photos for the book. My photo doesn’t look horrible, I think, but the ones in the book look SO MUCH more appetizing. 

One of the problems with this recipe is the way that it’s spelled.  Our local indian spells is saag aloo, but a quick check on the Interweb shows that both spellings are OK, so maybe I’m being a bit picky. It doesn’t take anything away from the dish, however, which was quite good.

The recipe itself is a winner. First of all, it’s vegetarian and even vegan — if you drop the use of yogurt– which is always a good thing in my book. We would have had it for Meat Free Monday, but alas we had it on a Tuesday just to mix things up a bit.  I’m always looking for good vegetarian dishes, so I think this one might be added to a regular rotation.

There’s two things you should know before making this, though. First this dish takes some time to make. In my case, it took about an hour from start to finish. This wasn’t a problem for me, as I had the time, but if you’re in a rush, this isn’t a recipe to use. The long cooking time probably did contribute to the really rich flavours that it had, so perhaps the time commitment was worth it. Second, you need to be confident in the instructions and be willing to work the burner on your stove. There is a lot of liquid that needs to be boiled down, but you do get there in the end, even if it does seem like quite a lot of liquid at the beginning. It just takes time to do so (see No. 1).

I had to make one modification, which might have altered things somewhat. It turns out that frozen spinach is a rare ingredient, as none of our local stores (The Cooperative, Sainsbury’s, even Waitrose) had it to sell. In the end, I got 400 grams of fresh spinach– rather than 300 grams of frozen– and mixed it into the curry in batches so it would wilt and become incorporated. I’m quite certain that just adding frozen spinach would be easier, but I had to make do. It might have been even better using fresh instead of frozen as a result.

Did we like it? Yes we did. I had mine wrapped in lettuce leaves (see photo above), while Tim and Andrew had theirs with naan bread and rice. I think Tim and I liked ours slightly more than Andrew, but only because he’s not a huge fan of spicy dishes and this had quite a bit of chilli in it. In the future, I might not add the temper of chilli and garlic to the boys’ dishes and instead just put it into ours.

Will I make it again? Probably. But only on a weeknight in which I had the luxury of time to make it, which, unfortunately, in this house, isn’t very often.

“My Sag Aloo” from “Save With Jamie”

Cookbook of the Month, October 2013, Save with Jamie by Jamie Oliver

Kirstin: I got so excited about this book when it arrived yesterday, I saw loads of recipes that I wanted to do. But then today I started reading it more carefully today, and I decided it looked horrible.

Maureen: What’s so horrible?

Kirstin: It doesn’t look like the kind of food I’d want to eat. It’s all very worthy.

Maureen: I know what you mean. It’s all very basic. There’s nothing really clever.

Kirtin: Also, I don’t know if we can trust his timings ever again.

Maureen: Fair enough. I think the last two books scarred us for life. But I think the interesting thing about this is that he acknowledges all the staff who work for him, and who probably wrote all the recipes. There’s tons of people pictured in the last few pages.

Kirstin: Well, I’m looking forward to his next book.

Maureen: Thinking about it, he hasn’t written a good book in a long time.

Kirstin: The last good one was when he went around the world.

Maureen: I agree with the premise of the book. You can’t fault him for wanting to have people cook more.

Kirstin: Yes, that’s true. He will definitely be knighted at some point. He will be Sir Jamie.

Maureen: I wish he would make more aspirational recipes.

Kirstin: I wish he would just make tasty ones.

Maureen: Fingers crossed the month won’t be as disastrous as we think it might be.

Cookbook of the Month, October 2013, Save with Jamie by Jamie Oliver