Celebrity chef, 16, whips up a fast-food bible for teenagers

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

He has turned thousands of his teenage peers into master chefs by encouraging them to take things nice and steady at the stove, so the many followers of Sam Stern, the Yorkshire schoolboy turned culinary star, could be forgiven for imagining he would turn his nose up at fast food.

Now 16, in a development that his mother Susan admits is "a bit of a risk", he is tackling the fast-food industry head-on by proving to teenagers in a new book that they can all produce high- quality food in 10 minutes.

Sam's exhortations in his book, Real Food Real Fast, are an attempt, in his mother's words, to demonstrate that the time constraints facing young people are "not just a negative thing" but can provide the conditions for memorable food. In a mantra which may prove as valuable to time-starved professionals as to fellow sixth-form students, Sam aims to demonstrate that "fast food does not mean junk food", by showing how griddled vegetables with houmus can be produced in five minutes, hot banana toast pudding in 10, griddled beef steak with lemon, garlic and rosemary rub in 15 minutes, and a mushroom risotto in 30.

Sam, whose latest efforts have earned acclaim from Jamie Oliver, leaves nothing to chance. His fast-food bible comes with chunky tabs for those who have five, 10 or 15 minutes to spare.

But there is one all-important underlying secret: the vital importance of leftovers. "Work the system," says Sam, exhorting teenagers to cook a roast on a Sunday "with all the extras" and "enjoy what's left when you're in a hurry".

The chicken he has roasted on a Sunday, for example, pops up in the book's 10-minute section in his chicken tonnato salad, which involves little more than providing the chicken with the "Trinny and Susannah" treatment, courtesy of salad and tuna mayo. Curried chicken waldorf salad - in the 10-minute section - is another improbable dish.

Some time tricks are as prosaic as a reminder that "runny honey is faster from a squeezy bottle". But they also include the suggestion that batter will sit in the fridge for hours so it can be made in advance of preparing his raspberry ginger cream pancakes. And there are also "time-cheat pizzas", in which a little dough is whipped off for immediate use, while the rest is left to rise, then shaped and frozen. These ideas and others, Mrs Stern discloses, are a reflection of her son's changing lifestyle.

Since his best-seller, Cooking up a Storm, which persuaded a his peers to delights such as moules mariniere and pre-exam hot chocolate, Sam has completed his GCSEs and moved to sixth form, where a more hectic lifestyle has confined his serious cooking to what is known in the Stern household as his "Sunday Challenge" - that is to spend Sunday afternoons on his one major culinary challenge of the week. After television appearances ranging from Blue Peter to US network TV, the appetite for his first book is unrelenting. It has been translated into 12 languages. In Australia, it has been suggested that every child should be given a copy.

The phenomenon is about more than her son being young, said Mrs Stern. "I think the ideas are just curiously old-fashioned," she said. "The Americans felt that it was 'retro' yet fresh. People hark back to a time when things were simpler."

Time-savers with taste

Noodle cake in 15 minutes

Boil and drain noodles, stir oil through and cook. Hold a large plate over the pan and flip over to cook the other side. No noodles? Heat cold cooked spaghetti in olive oil.

Middle Eastern-style lamb in 15 minutes

Throw yoghurt, spices, garlic, seasoning into bowl, rub it into lamb and cook. Don't panic when it browns up. Meat may take a bit longer to cook because it's coated.

Spicy chickpeas on nan toast with raita in 10 minutes

Fry onion, turmeric, chilli, cumin and salt, add chickpeas and turn to coat. Tip yogurt in bowl, crush in garlic and add cucumber. Griddle nan, squeeze lemon on chickpeas, tip mix in nan and spoon raita on side.

From Sam Stern's Real Food Real Fast, Walker Books, £9.99