“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”

“Harissa Chicken Traybake” from “5 Ingredients”

Kirstin: I have been stressing about this recipe all day after the previous epic failure of a recipe. Also because as we all know, spatchcocking chickens is not my thing. But the harissa in this recipe was calling me.

I made sure to buy a small chicken, so as to ensure it was all cooked through with the spatchcocking malarkey. But again. Jamie. 5 ingredients. So cheeky. You can slip the red wine vinegar in there under the radar, with no quantities, but it’s still an ingredient. So I swapped it for the mint, which should never have been there in the first place. Honestly! Mint with chicken! I wasn’t quite sure how much red vinegar to add so I kind of made a paste with it. He also wanted me to TEAR the peppers. I’m not sure why a knife couldn’t work and to be honest it didn’t add any flavour to the dish. But all things considered, I have to admit that this recipe worked. The peppers were good. The harissa was good. The chicken was all cooked through and very juicy. I might even be tempted to make this again!

I know, right?

“Harissa Chicken Traybake” from “5 Ingredients”

Cookbook of the Month, September 2017: 5 Ingredients by Jamie Oliver

Kirstin: We promised we would never, ever, ever buy another Jamie book.

Maureen: And yet, here we are.

Kirstin: We are such hypocrites.

Maureen: I feel a little bit dirty.

Kirstin: Faithful readers: don’t hate us for it! We’re sorry! So what changed our minds?

Maureen: I think what swayed me were the recipes in The Times and they were things I actually wanted to cook.

Kirstin: And I saw the pictures by David Loftus on Instagram, so that piqued my interest.

Maureen: I’ve got such mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, the recipes sound like things we would like to eat. But on the other hand, his last several cookbooks have been such disasters, I worry that will be true again. Also, he’s not the first to come up with this idea. But because he’s Jamie Oliver, he’ll sell a bazillion copies.

Kirstin:: Really? Do tell.

Maureen: John Whaite published a book last year with the same idea.

Kirstin: That is a shocker! Cheeky Jamie!

Maureen: I know, right? But John Whaite is not the first one to come up with either, though. I bought a cookbook probably 15 years ago that was the same idea. It was a disaster, but still, the idea certainly has an obvious appeal.

Kirstin: I’ve got to say that the fluorescent green on Jamie’s book kind of put me off.

Maureen: The green is a very strong colour, to be sure. The optimist in me though this could be a return to form for Jamie, but then I thought that about the last however many books he’s written that we’ve not liked and I worry that it’ll just be another annual Jamie Oliver disappointment.

Kirstin: When I saw the calorie counters at the bottom, it reminded me of the last two awful cookbooks, crossed with the 30- and 15-minute disaster zones when he talks about how long it’s going to take, because they’re all pretty fast. It doesn’t make me hopeful.

Maureen: Until I saw the TV show, I didn’t appreciate that he really wants us to get dinner on the table as quickly as possible, but that doesn’t always work. I don’t like to cook against a timer. Life is stressful enough sometimes.

Kirstin: Agreed.

Maureen: Remember when we learned what the title was going to be? I said to you, “When did Jamie decide that he hates food?” [We laughed. Oh, how we laughed.]

Kirstin: I don’t count the number of ingredients when I cook. When did it become such a thing?

Maureen: Saying that, it looks like it’ll be a great one for getting dinner on the table quicikly during the week.

Kirstin: It’s a good one for September, to be sure. It’s also got lots of good fish recipes…

Maureen: And vegetable recipes, and even desserts, for the first time in the long time.

Kirstin: [Dubiously] With five ingredients?

Maureen: Yes. I know. But we’ll give it a go. Again, the eternal optimist in me is hoping for the best.

Kirstin: This may really be the last Jamie book.

Maureen: We said that the last time. It appears that for us, Jamie is hard to resist. But that’s probably true of a lot of people.

Cookbook of the Month, September 2017: 5 Ingredients by Jamie Oliver

Our Verdict: Superfood Family Classics

Maureen: I think I have fallen out of love with Jamie Oliver.

Kirstin: Oh My Goodness.

Maureen: I still love his old stuff, but it has been such a long time since he’s written a cookbook that I’ve liked or we liked.

Kirstin: You’re absolutely right.

Maureen: In some ways, I feel as though I’m in an abusive relationship because every time he releases a new cookbook I want to buy it, even though I hated the last one, but then I cook from it and he disappoints me yet again.

Kirstin: I don’t know who’s cooking this food, but it certainly isn’t me. What I’d really like him to do– because the question after all is what is he going to do next–  is reissue his good books and then add all the nutritional information and people would love it. He could even call it “The Best of Jamie.” I can see it already.

Maureen: Maybe, but why would you and I buy it? We’ve got all the old books– despite all the stains and splatter marks. We wouldn’t need to buy a repackaged one.

Kirstin: You’re right. Do think this might be the last Jamie book you buy?

Maureen: Probably, but we’ll have to see what he does next. Do you think this is the last one for you?

Kirstin: It may well be. But I’ll also have to look at what it is next and then I’ll decide.

Maureen: The whole thing was ridiculous. All of the curries looked gross just in the pictures, I can’t even imagine how they would taste. And he had how many pages of avocado toast? [Pause to find book and learn the answer] SIX! Six bloody pages on avocado toast. I’m sorry, but that is just absurd. Do we really need that many pages on how to make avocado toast? OK. Now I’m just RAGING. I could go all day.

Kirstin: (Whispers) Numpty.

Maureen: Indeed. It’s just awful. If the first test of any cookbook is does it make good food, this one absolutely falls at the first hurdle. For the most part, this food was gross and no one liked it. This was an Epic Fail.

Kirstin:: I absolutely agree.

Overall Grade (A- F): F (Maureen) F (Kirstin) It failed in every way.
Best recipes: None.
Grade for Photography (A-F):  C
Any disasters? The entire book.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Do we really need to say?
Would you give this to a friend? Only if they weren’t really a friend at all.

Our Verdict: Superfood Family Classics