Nadiya’s Time to Eat review – guilt-free meals in six picoseconds! | Television & radio

Shortcuts! Embracing every cheat in the book! Recipes in a rush! Nadiya’s Time to Eat (BBC Two) is here to show you all this and more! In half an hour! Which you should probably spend cooking if you’re that bothered about it, but never mind! Onward!

Like innumerable programmes before promising to allow “time-poor” people – usually parents, usually women – to knock up a Tudor feast every weekday while spending quality time with their children and starting up a business before bed, the BBC’s latest offering is about squeezing as much deliciousness from compromised ingredients and procedures as possible so that you may purport a little longer to be winning this increasingly absurd game we call life.

The recipe for such a show is simple. First, find an easy recipe. Nadiya (Hussain, winner of 2015’s Great British Bake Off and a shining light in the darkness – but we’ll come back to that) chooses breakfast pancakes because her children are always asking for breakfast pancakes. Then simplify it. The quickest way to do this is to shout at your children that they’ll have cereal and like it, but Nadiya is a good mother and a good baker so she finds an alternative. Nadiya makes a very thick breakfast pancake, swirls jam and peanut butter and bakes it in the oven. It serves 12. What she has made is either a pudding or a dozen children diabetic before school, but we have no time to ponder this because she is off to save another mother from being rushed off her feet at teatime.

Kim’s job plus commute plus business on the side plus two kids plus teacher husband working long hours equals her using a prepped-meals service for the adults and cooking two separate meals for the children every evening. I need the latter part of this explained to me, but nobody does. Instead, Nadiya fills four preserving jars with different combinations of easy yet guilt-free ingredients (tinned mushrooms ’n’ frozen spinach, kimchi ’n’ beef jerky, shreds of roast chicken you have in the fridge because either “time-poor” is an elastic term or you are “deli-price rich” and buy them ready-cooked ’n’ lime) plus some rice noodles and spoonfuls of a spice paste she and Kim cook from scratch because “investing time up front gives you more in the future”. Surely not as much as lifting a jar down from a supermarket shelf would … but! Ours is not to reason why. Ours is but to watch in awe as boiling water is added and four instant meals are created. Not one of which, I suspect, the average child would eat without the kind of cajoling ’n’ threats that would depredate substantially upon one’s free time, but never mind. Kim claims the tooled-up Pot Noodles have given her back “headspace” and we must away! To make Nadiya’s lunch!

Is it toast, we ask? No! It is tortillas coated in beaten egg and rolled up with mushrooms, dried parsley (lots of flavour in dried herbs. No guilt!), garlic granules and tomato paste. Is that quicker and easier than toast, we ask? No, we don’t, because we have to rush … to a mushroom growing factory, for some reason. Ah, because Nadiya loves mushrooms! And because Nadiya is not just a good baker and a good mother, but a good presenter and a good person, she doesn’t make the “Why is living through Brexit like being a mushroom?” joke. (Answer: “Because you’re kept in the dark and every so often someone comes and throws a bucket of poo over you.”) Nadiya gives the pickers some of her egg rolls. They are bewildered and polite. Then she races off to show us how to make a guilt-free, flavour-full midweek evening meal in less than six picoseconds, by roasting marmalade-breadcrumbed haddock on top of tinned potatoes and pretending a family would eat it without complaint.

It works because it is not about food or time-saving at all. It is about putting our feet up for half an hour, basking in Nadiya’s radiant charm, the key to which is revealed when she looks up from frying her egg rolls at us and asks “Can you smell that?!” then catches herself. “No, you can’t smell that. I can, though!” It is what they tell you to do whenever you are broadcasting or public speaking – imagine you are talking to just one person. Very few people can manage it, and even fewer can believe it, pretending that the world and the kitchens she moves through are ours, and maybe – just maybe – getting a few ideas we may use one day down the line.