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Cook from the book: Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients Mediterranean

by Rachel Deeley

published on 31 August 2023

Jamie Oliver wowed home cooks six years ago with 5 Ingredients, the cookbook that proved no-fuss recipes with minimal ingredients can have maximum flavour. Now, with 5 Ingredients Mediterranean, he’s given the simple philosophy a fresh makeover inspired by the flavours and dishes of Spain, Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Portugal.

From the book

To put this cookbook to the test, we found four volunteers – cooking for one, two, a young family, and three flatmates – to recreate recipes from 5 Ingredients Mediterranean for a week. Here’s what they learned from the experience.

Who: Francesca Sleet, Marketing Executive 

Cooking for: one person (me)

What I cooked: Grilled fattoush salad, Butter Beans on Toast, Smoky Tender Aubergine, Harissa Sea Bass, Sumac Chicken, Asparagus Carbonara, and Tahini Rocky Road. 

What I thought: As I was just cooking for myself, I picked recipes where I could either make them work for one person or use the leftovers for other meals throughout the week. I found a few that had overlapping ingredients so that the vegetables would be used up in the week instead of sitting in the fridge, which also helped to reduce costs a little!

This meant that the flavours of most of the dishes were complementary, so I could eat the leftovers together and have a cohesive meal. For example, I had some of the leftover Sumac Chicken with the Grilled Fattoush Salad, as the simple sumac dressing on the salad paired well with the meat.

As with all of Jamie’s 5 Ingredient dishes, I found the recipes really easy to follow and they were quick to whip up, which meant that I could enjoy something like the Butter Beans on Toast as a speedy work-from-home lunch or the Asparagus Carbonara as a super simple meal after getting back from the office. It was also great to have a sweet treat to snack on in the form of the Tahini Rocky Road; it took just a few minutes to make, but lasted all week.

Cooking from 5 Ingredients Mediterranean for one person is quite an easy task, as you can scale down most of the recipes to one or two portions without any bother. Since all the dishes are simple enough, if you have all the ingredients you can easily repeat the meals to use up leftovers, while still having enough variety to keep it interesting throughout the week. 

Standout recipe for me: Smoky Tender Aubergine – as a big fan of aubergine and chickpeas, this simple recipe made for a lovely quick weekday lunch or light dinner. 

Who: Jessica Lockyer-Palmer, Channel Lead, The Happy Foodie

Cooking for: two

What I cooked: Warm Halloumi Salad, Green Gazpacho, Potato Bombas, Epic Prawns and Beans, Baharat Chicken Shish, Seared Tuna Salad, and Apple Tart.

What I thought: I’m always on the hunt for the perfect chicken kebab, so the Baharat Chicken Shish with a spiced yoghurt marinade, lemon, and roasted garlic was one of the first recipes in 5 Ingredients Mediterranean to catch my eye. The method couldn’t be easier – you marinate whole chicken thighs in a tenderising mix of yoghurt, lemon and a fragrant Middle Eastern spice mix for as little as two hours (or overnight if you can), then pack them tightly on a skewer when ready to roast. I served the juicy, butter-soft chicken with flatbreads, a zingy chopped salad and some more yoghurt – the perfect Friday night feast.

Though it wasn’t quite Andalusian levels of balmy on the day I made the Green Gazpacho, Jamie’s twist on the classic chilled Southern Spanish soup, I could see how this refreshing, ice-cold blend of cucumber, pepper, parsley, and pistachio would be just the trick on a proper summer’s day. I loved the vibrant green colour, and the whole dish took just 15 minutes to throw together, making it the perfect work from home lunch.

One of my favourite restaurants in the world is Paco Meralgo, a bustling neighbourhood joint in my grandma’s hometown, Barcelona. One of the many Catalan specialities on offer is bomba, a perfectly crisp on the outside but soft in the middle ball of deep-fried mashed potato. (It’s every bit as wonderful as it sounds.) You can imagine my delight when I found a simplified recipe for this heavenly dish in 5 Ingredients Mediterranean, and I am pleased to report it didn’t disappoint. I served mine for brunch, with a fried egg (which didn’t break the five-ingredient rule as eggs are already on the ingredient list) and plenty of Manchego grated on top – the perfect start to my Bank Holiday weekend.

If you love a good Niçoise, the Seared Tuna Salad is for you. Think chunks of seared tuna on a bed of crisp charred green beans, mixed olives and potatoes dressed in feta. Best of all, it was on the table in under 15 minutes on a busy worknight, but tasted like it had taken much longer to put together. The Epic Prawns & Beans is also a real midweek winner, taking just 20 minutes to make. Think plump, gambas al ajillo-style prawns with cannellini beans tossed in harissa and golden sourdough croutons. All it needs is a crisp green salad on the side and away you go.

I love to bake cakes and make desserts, so this cook from the book wouldn’t have been complete without something from the sweet chapter. If you’re looking for an easy but impressive dessert to serve friends and family, the Apple Tart is for you. You can use ready-rolled puff pastry if you don’t want to make your own, and the rest is just a fun assembly job. You slice your apples nice and thin (I used a mandolin as Jamie suggested), coat them in some apricot jam, arrange them in a pretty pattern and bake, scattering some flaked almonds on top for the last five minutes in the oven. Serve with big dollops of vanilla ice cream and you’ve got yourself an impressive, fuss-free dessert that’s perfect for apple season.

Standout recipe for me: Warm Halloumi Salad – this satisfying salad may well take the crown for my favourite recipe of the week. The super summery combination of sweet, caramelised peaches, salty fried halloumi, and fragrant dill makes for layers of delicious flavour, which all comes together in just 12 minutes.

Who: Sarah McKenna, Digital Editor

Cooking for: three (me and two small children)

What I cooked: White Fish Stew, Juicy Charred Chicken, Lemony Rocket Farfalle, Sausage Sandwich, Island Salad, and Jools’ Chocolate Dreams.

What I thought: As honorary Head Chef to my daughters, aged 6 and 3, the concept of needing only five ingredients to make dinner appealed to my desire to save time both shopping and cooking. As I flicked through the range of recipes, which includes everything from oozy mussel risotto to Rioja-infused short ribs, I focused my attention on simpler ingredients I knew my fussy kids would enjoy eating.

I was surprised that even with just five ingredients, the recipes were adaptable, whether that was adding pistachios to my dish of Lemony Rocket Farfalle (unsuitable for my 3-year-old to manage) or a few charred peppers to my portion of peach-infused halloumi salad. Each dish had a version that was perfect for more grown-up tastebuds. Of course, the Jools’ Chocolate Dreams pudding went down a treat for all.

Standout recipe for me: Adding a dollop of olive tapenade to the humble Sausage Sandwich elevated it to a more refined, gastro experience. 

Who: Lucy Hall, Digital Editor

Cooking for: four people (me and my three housemates)

What I made: Speedy Tuna pasta, Giant Baked Beans, Naked Salad Tunisienne, Tomatoes on Toast, Traybaked Pesto Pizza Pie, Herby Steak and Crispy Potatoes, and Chicken Traybake

What I thought: The main thing I noticed was that the recipes were really easy to make, and the Mediterranean focus meant that everything tasted really fresh and delicious. I found it helpful to be able to use the same ingredients across multiple dishes, and having them stacked and ready to go definitely saved some shopping time. This also gave me some great inspiration for easy-to-make, cost-effective and healthy mid-week meals, which I’ll definitely be using in the future.

Standout recipe for me: My favourite recipe was the herby steak and crispy potatoes. As well as being very easy to pull together, the meat was cooked perfectly and the pistachios brought a nice, slightly unusual twist that really made this dish stand out.

Five Ingredients Mediterranean by Jamie Oliver is out now.

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