Not that I am biased, but to be fair, one has to look at the situation objectively. That's Jamie Oliver we're talking about: the charismatic creative multi-tasker who flips meat fillets with his bare hands. This is one hyperactive boy-master who punctuates his cooking with large slaps and claps of the hands, tilting his body sideways at an angle while telling you what he's going to do next. I don't think he's on a caffeine high. I think he's a natural genius.
But then again, he has most ingredients prepared in advance for him, safe for the handful of fresh herbs he pulls from the pot. He blitzes his way through with the Magimix food-processor which someone else will wash thereafter. He sweeps crumbs off the worktop, just, like, that. And he walks his drained pasta, still dripping, between the sink and his cooktop. I'd be upset if Jamie Oliver was my husband. But I'd take his cookware and serveware in a heartbeat.
Frame of mind. Mindset. That's what separates us and those who compete in the Olympics.
But in our own kitchens, it IS possible to come up with 30- or even 15-minute meals. We've all done that before, come on. Instant noodles that had been dressed up nicely. Egg sandwiches (I don't know why but I kept thinking of these the past few days). JL has his own 15-minute meals too: toasts with dry sausages, cornichons and olives. Toasts with butter and ham, sometimes with brie. Quality and freshness is key.
Last week for two nights, I made the same 15-minute meal of creamy pasta. In fact, I think it was done even before the 15th minute. We're talking about the 15-minute frame of mind, right? So keep the ingredients to a minimal, eyeball your quantities, prepare them as you go along, and multi-task while keeping your eyes and ears open. You should try it - I promise you it is efficient and effortless.
Note: In the spirit of the 15-minute meal mindset, exact amounts of ingredients are omitted. We will eyeball how much we need for all the ingredients here. The main focus is to multi-task for us to minimize cooking time.
1. Kettle and set up. Boil one full kettle of water. Mine takes 3-4 minutes. While waiting, grab a 3-cm diameter's worth of spaghettini, twist and release them in a large pot on the stove (the second ring). Shake a teaspoon's worth of salt in it. Set up your cutting area next to the stove. Secure your cutting board by placing a damp towel underneath. Get a large sauté pan on the stove (the main ring).
2. Cook pasta and prep the rest. Water boils. Empty the kettle into the pasta pot. Bring the pot to boil on medium-high heat. Set your timer as indicated on the pasta packaging. Mine cooks in 7 minutes. Use thongs to check on the pasta once or twice while it boils. Meanwhile, take from the fridge, 2 rashers of streaky bacon, half a small carton of cream (a small carton of cream usually contains 200ml), half a punnet of white button mushrooms (a standard punnet of mushrooms weighs 200g). Slice the bacon into tiny 5mm strips. Scatter them in the sauté pan and let them fry moderately on low-medium heat. While the bacon is frying, slice the button mushrooms but leave them on the cutting board. Get 2 large cloves of garlic on standby. If you don't have a garlic press, chop the garlic now. Sauté the mushrooms only in the last 2 minutes of the timer, and the garlic in the last minute.
3. Add pasta and finish up. Pasta is done. Turn off the heat. Move the sauté pan next to the pasta pot and use thongs to transfer the spaghettini to the former. The pan must be really hot and dry by now so pour some of the pasta water in (less than a cup, guys), loosen up any bits stuck to the pan. Pour the cream in. Reduce the heat. Add a handful of shredded parmesan, salt and pepper, some herbs if you wish, and stir thoroughly. Serve immediately.
Yes, it is that simple, all within 15 minutes. And because we minimized our work area and prepared the ingredients as we went along, the washing up has also been greatly reduced. With that small half carton of cream and half punnet of mushrooms left in the fridge, and knowing how doable the meal is, you'll probably do it again within the next three days.