“I’m going to show you how to put a whole meal on the table in a matter of minutes! Not just one dish, a whole spread of beautiful things.” – Jamie Oliver in “Meals in Minutes”
Right then. Clearly Jamie is not cooking in a science lab with 11 little boys under the age of 12. With only an hour from start to finish. But no matter. As soon as I saw the title of Jamie’s latest book, I knew this is what we would use for Les Petits Chefs cooking club this
term. Whilst Jamie’s concept is “30 minute meals”, my idea was to take one dish from each menu and complete that in an hour with the boys. Because Jamie begins each recipe with “Get all your ingredients and equipment ready”, I knew that most of our hour would be taken up doing just that. After all, it’s what I am trying teach the boys – to prep all their ingredients so that the actual cooking part doesn’t take so long. As Jamie says, “it’s about being organised, working fast, and using shortcuts and clever tricks” so that you can
get great food on the table in no time, “using every kitchen minute wisely [and] having fun.” Sounds right up Les Petits Chefs’ alley, right?
On Monday, I welcomed back some old hands into the kitchen lab as well as a handful of fresh new faces, eager to get cooking. I’d decided on Jamie’s spinach and feta filo pies because there was not too much prep to do and I knew we would finish in time. A recipe with only a few tasks also helps me get a handle on the new boys’ skills too. In the back of my head, though, I was wondering if they would turn their noses up at the spinach. Surprisingly, none of the boys seemed too adverse to the idea – though the feta drew some concerned looks.
We chatted about tasting everything – even just a mouthful – before deciding whether they liked it or not and everyone agreed that they would. One of our little chefs this term can’t eat eggs so I’m pleased to see how much I can make without eggs or using some kind of substitute – love that kind of a challenge! His pie this week was pretty darned yummy, even sans eggs and a little pale on top as it wasn’t brushed with egg wash. So we got to work. With graters, microplanes and knives… Some of us had a lot of fun greasing the pans. Because, of course, I mini-fied the dish. I just figured in an hour, we’d be lucky to get finished so by letting each boy make his own individual pie, it would cut down slightly on cooking time. It also allowed us to make one sans eggs.
A few of the boys had fun learning to crack eggs whilst some others supervised the spinach as it slowly got smaller and smaller as we cooked it…. Magic! We had a lot of fun working with the filo pastry. The boys couldn’t get over how thin it was. We dabbed at it with paper towels soaked in oil and there were hardly any breakages! The boys did a better job working with filo than I usually do!
If you’re interested, you can check out how to assemble the full-sized spinach and feta filo pie in this video on Jamie’s site. Personally, I love the mini-sized ones! Once the pies had come out of the oven and I was organising them in “carry-able” packages, some people couldn’t wait to taste the flaky pastry….
Note to Les Petits Chefs: I am quick with the camera!
And the finished dish?
I loved this – I had a concern that it might just be like a quiche in filo pastry but it was definitely its own being. I love that it had substance – even meat-loving Mr Neil thought it was tasty! It was spinach-y without tasting too much like spinach (important when you are dealing with little boys) and the cheddar and feta played nicely off the lemon zest. I was happy that reheating it in the oven for about 20 minutes at 300°F left the pastry still cripsy (even on the bottom) – great news since sometimes dishes made with delicate pastries don’t hold up well overnight. It was a little one dimensional in texture, but the recipe calls for pine nuts which we can’t use due to allergies. I am going to try this again with pine nuts at home.The complete recipe for Jamie’s spinach and feta filo pies can be found here with the rest of the menu.