Bish, bash, bosh: Putting Jamie's 30 Minute Meals to the test (2023)

Rogan josh curry with fluffy rice, carrot salad, poppadoms and flatbread

Tester: Tim Hayward

Time spent cooking: 10 mins prep/setup, 30 mins cooking

Time spent clearing up: 45 mins

Stress levels: 6/5

Tastiness: 0/5

Overall rating: 0/5 (but only if I can't use negative numbers)

Find the recipe here

I'll admit I cheated. I watched the Jamie programme right the way through first, worked out that it was a simple veg curry from a premade paste as performed daily in a thousand halls of residence – and then happily bet my editor I could knock it out in 25 mins.

With the oven pre-heated, kettle boiled, everything laid out in place in the kitchen and the laptop on the bench, I made a start and, within three minutes I was hopelessly in the weeds. It should have been obvious that the rhythms and timings of engaging television are not the same as those of a working kitchen. I've got above average knife skills but I couldn't get the onions and squash into the pan anywhere near as quickly as Jamie seemed to, even allowing time for his health and safety lecture on cutting with a knife. The helpful suggestion that 'you can always chuck it in the food processor' was made too late (besides which, I bloody resent spending 20 minutes cleaning it for the sake of a single damn onion and so, I bet, would any other home cook). By the time the spice paste went in I was catching up again but without the commercial break I'd have lost the plot entirely.

To be honest, the individual details of the ensuing debacle are just too depressing to relate. As the closing credits rolled, my kitchen looked like a crime scene. I had enough undercooked curry sludge to feed eight students with no sense of taste and iron stomachs. The rice was burned to the base of the pan, I'd had to skip the chapatis altogether (not juh-patties, Jamie), the pickle tasted like bath cleaner and the salad was reminiscent of something I'd once thrown up after a wedding buffet in 1978. I also owed my editor a fiver. It took just under 45 minutes to clean up the kitchen, after which time on a slow burner, the cauliflower in the rogan josh had become edible. Sadly everything else had liquefied.

Taking into account the amount of food waste, it would have been cheaper, greener, healthier and far more fulfilling to send out for a ruby or buy a Sainsbury's ready version. I have nothing but respect for Jamie and what he's trying to achieve in communicating to the public about cooking. But it's a shame that nobody seems to have bothered to work out what a completely awful experience it's going to be trying to recreate the recipes from this show at home.

Spinach and feta filo pie, cucumber salad, tomato salad and coated icecream

Bish, bash, bosh: Putting Jamie's 30 Minute Meals to the test (1)

Tester: Tim Lusher

Time spent cooking: 59 minutes

Time spent clearing up: 20 minutes

Stress level: 2/5

Tastiness: 3/5

Overall rating: 3/5

Find the recipe here

There isn't anything remotely difficult about this spinach and feta pie, but I was undone from the start because none of the six local shops I visited sold filo pastry. If you had time for a supermarket run, this wouldn't be a problem, but I had to settle for puff. The result was like a labrador impersonating a chihuahua; my effort related muttishly to the recipe but lacked snap.

Jamie makes the whole thing look so simple, I wonder how I took double the time to make it – I only got the pie in the oven at 28 minutes (he banged on to the dessert at 11 and boshed out all four parts in 28). I'm pretty sure that if I make it again, I'll hit the deadline – it's not a recipe that requires careful measurement (you could do it by eye and improvise) or tricky techniques. Will I bother? It's not a new favourite.

The pie looked plump, golden and appealing in the pan, fresh from the oven, but was stodgy like a huge vegetarian sausage roll – my fault – and was also a little bland because it lacked the cayenne between the filo layers. But the cucumber salad was delicious even without the mint (I discovered too late that the plant in my garden had died) and with flaked chili instead of fresh, and the olive/spring onion combo is a trick I'll reuse. The tomato salad looked beautiful on a slick of blitzed basil (although good luck finding Greek basil).

Perhaps I over-chopped the nuts and chocolate for the ice cream coating. There was no crunch and it had the mouthfeel of something from the bottom of an exotic pet's cage.

The clear-up wasn't too bad but the whole business felt like a big to-do for a quick midweek supper (I have a delicious salmon and noodle dish I can make in four minutes). I reckon it cost about £20 – not bad as the pie would certainly serve four, perhaps the claimed six, although two of us easily saw the salads off. I also now have a huge jar of posh ice cream dust in the larder. I'm going to try it as a crumble topping instead.

Thai red prawn curry with jasmine rice, cucumber salad and a papaya platter

Bish, bash, bosh: Putting Jamie's 30 Minute Meals to the test (2)

Tester: Susan Smillie

Time spent cooking: 1 hour 10 minutes

Time spent clearing up: 40 minutes

Stress level: 5/5 (though to be fair, it was 3/5 before I started)

Tastiness: 1/5

Overall rating: 0/5

Find the recipe here

Having just come back from a fortnight in south-east Asia I approached Jamie's curry recipe with gusto, although my levels of grumpiness were accelerated by shopping – and shelling out £25 – for the 30-odd ingredients required to make it. I hit the kitchen, following Jamie's instructions to "peel the cucumber in long ribbons over the first 'platter' of the evening" - disregarding the fact that I neither knew what a "speed-peeler" was (er, a peeler it seems) nor own a platter. I just tried to do it fast. So fast in fact, that wasn't until I finished grating my third finger that I spotted his note to "discard the watery core". Oh well.

I chucked my rice on with the two jasmine teabags, doubting the advice to cook for seven minutes and let steam off the hob for seven, blitzed together the ingredients for the curry paste and chucked double the amount of king prawns he specifies into a pan (Eight? I'm wasn't going to all this trouble for eight king prawns). When I tasted the paste, I was struck by how un-currylike it was – but threw it in with the prawns. It smelt pretty good so I remained cautiously – very cautiously – optimistic.

The addition of coconut milk, however, turned it into a huge soup which didn't reduce, even with extra cooking time. The rice, surprisingly, came out pretty well, although I'm not convinced the jasmine teabags added much in the way of flavour. I left them in the rice for the element of surprise. The papaya and banana yoghurt dessert thing was fine, in that it tasted like papaya and banana with yoghurt, though the instruction on the recipe to serve the banana skin-on is clearly mad (and, as the video shows later, wrong).

The curry itself tasted ... weird. Mainly, I put it down to Jamie's addition of two jarred red peppers in oil – red peppers in Thai curry I get; roasted red peppers in oil have a very distinctive taste, which turned the finished dish into an odd Spanish-Thai fusion. My partner in dining said he enjoyed it. Until he got stuck with the washing up and revised his view: "So not worth it".

Ultimately, this mid-week 30-minute against-the-clock extravaganza sucked the joy out of cooking for me. If you need to rush out 30-minute meals, pick something simple to make; if you want an elaborate three courses, cook when you've got time to shop for quality ingredients and the luxury of a few hours in the kitchen to enjoy the cooking.

Piri piri chicken with dressed potatoes, rocket salad and quick Portugese tarts

Bish, bash, bosh: Putting Jamie's 30 Minute Meals to the test (3)

Tester: Vicky Frost

Time spent cooking: 55 minutes

Time spent clearing up: 45 minutes

Stress levels: 4/5

Tastiness: 3/5 (points deducted for mad spice levels)

Overall rating: 2/5

Find the recipe here

It wasn't a complete disaster – the results were edible, if a bit too fiery for even the super-strong hearted – but it would be a stretch to describe my attempt to cook Jamie's 30-minute dinner as a success. Not least because it took me almost twice as long as it should have done, and made me use every bit of kitchen equipment (and indeed swearwords) in the process.

It's obvious that there's a great big flaw in this 30-minute dinner plan – and that is that nobody (or nobody in their right mind) bakes a pudding for a midweek dinner. The whole hideous battle against time could be alleviated and made more pleasant by just cooking a main course. Except the little Portugese custard tarts were delicious. Of course they'd benefit from a proper custard filling, rather than crème fraiche whisked with an egg, but the pastry method – roll it up into a log with cinammon, cut it into rounds and then squash into a muffin tin – is something I will actually use in the future. When I have enough time to do it justice.

No, my problem wasn't the pudding – it was the main course. The brilliant thing about Jamie's recipes is that you multitask. The rubbish thing is that because you do one thing after another – instead of one thing after a certain number of minutes – if you overrun, things start to get overcooked. Exhibit one: the chicken which managed to end up both too dry and, thanks to a piri piri sauce that even my spice-loving partner was slightly terrified of, far too hot. Think of it like the desert in a dish. With roasted peppers on the side. (Also a thought: the chicken quantities seemed a bit off to me – one chicken thigh per person appeared a wee bit mean.)

And yet other areas seemed to benefit from the delay. The potato salad – the overall winner of the evening and a dish that looks likely to make it into our weeknight dinners most often – was so much better for a extra five minutes of steaming. This is actually worth making: steamed sweet and white potatoes roughly chopped with coriander, chilli, feta and olive oil. It is divine. In fact give me the potato salad, a bit of rocket and a custard tart and I'd quite happily skip the chicken. Which would also, of course, mean I could probably get it made in time.

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