Joe Wicks can shift books. His Lean In 15 series, which combine super-quick recipes with HIIT workouts, sold gangbusters, and last year he branched out into pure recipe books with Cooking For Family And Friends With Joe Wicks while his star continued to rise on TV and social media.
With his new cookbook, Joe’s 30-Minute Meals, he’s now on first-name terms with the public and after trying one of his books for the first time, I’m glad he’s so well known. There’s a lot to like in this book and not just the food.
The introduction is where many healthy cookbooks take considerable time to tell the author’s story and set out the supposedly revolutionary new approach to losing weight. Not Joe – he takes just four pages, and sticks to some simple but highly effective principles. He reckons your diet should be varied. He’s tried to make these recipes easy for anyone to follow. He’s also labelled each meal “carb refuel” or “reduced carb” to help you eat more carbs on days when you’re active. And finally, he thinks cooking and eating should be enjoyable and help you feel better. I can’t argue with any of that, and I’m someone who likes to find fault with most things in the health, fitness and wellness industrial complex.
Unlike a lot of healthy cookbooks, Joe’s doesn’t include nutritional information – the amount of calories, protein, carbs, fat etc in each dish. He evidently doesn’t want people to worry about that stuff (again, can’t argue with that; nothing takes the joy out of eating healthily like obsessive calorie counting), preferring that they just concentrate on finding recipes they’d like to cook and trust that he’s not cramming them full of junk on the sly. And after trying some of his meals I’m inclined to trust him, especially as it seems clear he’s kept the calories under control: I’m used to going back for seconds and often there wasn’t much left in the pan for me to go back to – no bad thing, frankly.
I tried four recipes from his book, one from each of the protein-based chapters – chicken, fish and seafood, pork, and beef and lamb (there are also all-day breakfast and sweet treats sections) – and I’m happy to report Joe surprised me with the variety of his flavours and ingredients. Even the all-day breakfast section includes things I wasn’t expecting. Dishes like masala eggy bread with tomato relish, or carrot fritters with eggs and halloumi, which alongside the more pork-heavy fare I expected.
The chicken and orzo rat-a-tat bake set the tone for all four meals I cooked. It was a tomatoey pasta bake with chicken that crammed in more veg (courgette and aubergine) than I suspect others would. That’s two thumbs up from me.
Crunchy polenta cod with white bean stew squeezed in cherry toms, spinach, carrots and celery, but the real revelation with this one was how easy it is to roll cod loin in polenta and cook it in a frying pan. And how tasty, too – it’s like fish fingers without the faff and mess of egg, flour, breadcrumbs and lashings of cooking oil.
The final two recipes surprised with the addition of sweet ingredients (raisins in the quick spiced beef and prunes in the chickpea and veg stew with pork tenderloin), and pleasant surprises they were too. And as if to prove there’s nothing controversial or outlandish about the recipes, my two kids – a pre-schooler and a baby – ate all four dishes. Clearly Joe’s catering to all palates.
While I found all the recipes straightforward to make, they took a bit longer than the promised 30 minutes – more like 45-50 minutes all in. I couldn’t get by in a professional kitchen by any means, but I do cook most nights so I guess most people would be in the same boat as myself. Still what’s an extra quarter of an hour between friends?
The only thing I would have added to this book is a vegetarian chapter, especially since Joe offers a vegetarian version of his 90-Day Plan, but I’m sure Joe will be back around this time next year with another cookbook. I can’t see the public’s appetite for him, or his food, diminishing any time soon.
Buy from Amazon | £10 (RRP £20)