Jamie Oliver On How To Cook Amazing 5-Ingredient Meals
Food editor Kristen Eppich chats with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver on cooking quick, easy and delicious meals.
Jamie Oliver is one of my all-time favorite food heroes. His timeless, approachable recipes, his social activism and charming demeanour make him a global favorite. He’s currently on tour with his new book, 5 Ingredients: Quick & Easy Food, and I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions. Here’s my conversation with Jamie, packed with brilliant tips from the celebrity chef.
Kristen Eppich: There is such a push right now for people to reinvest in cooking more at home and eating as a family — but this is really hard to do in reality. Is your new book attempting to address this issue?
Jamie Oliver: It absolutely is! The recipes in 5 Ingredients fall into two categories: the first is the home-from-work, coat-still-on kind of food that you can get on the table in 30 minutes or less. The second is recipes that take 10 minutes or less to prep, then have a long, slow cook, so you let the oven or hob do all the legwork. I really wanted to give people options that they could fit in and around their own busy lives, and I think that having two gears like this does exactly that.
KE: What are your tips for overcoming a picky eater? Not preventing one, but dealing with one who already is picky?
JO: Well, I think that the worst thing you can do is a make a big deal of it, because that simply makes things worse. You don’t want the kitchen table to become a battleground. If you include kids in cooking, as well as choosing and buying ingredients they feel more involved in the whole process, which hopefully means they’ll be keener to eat the end result.
KE: Is there a difference in the type of food you cook as Jamie the Chef vs. the Jamie Oliver we know from TV and books?
JO: There really isn’t. And for me, this book is a pretty good representation of how I cook at home — focusing on great flavor combos and ingredients that naturally work together. I’m also not above cutting corners. For example, you can get such cracking pre-made pastry these days, and I also use quality ready-made curry pastas and pestos. These ingredients totally have a time and a place and can deliver big flavor, with minimal fuss.
KE: How do you think social media has changed the way we cook?
JO: Social media is at the sharp end of the food industry — it’s where the conversation is. For example, you’re not lecturing people on Instagram; you’re talking, and the most important thing that I’ve learned is to listen. Instagram has always been a beautiful platform. People often say Instagram gives off a fake impression, but I think you’ve got to be a pretty committed liar to be false on it. I’ve always made a point of having a laugh, and learning from it. I honestly think my life has been enriched by following other food-lovers on Instagram. And my followers give me confidence to do my job every day.
KE: You have some connections to the Canadian food scene. What are your thoughts on it?
JE: I’ve visited Canada a lot over the years, and it’s always been brilliant. The welcome I’ve received and the kindness I’ve been shown is just wonderful, and I’m always excited for the next visit. I love the focus on provenance, good ingredients and good farming.
KE: Our readers love to know what chefs keep in their kitchen. What are some of your unexpected pantry staples?
JO: There’s a whole world of weird and wonderful things in jars and bottles in my pantry! From flavored vinegar to chilli-pickled beetroots and herb-infused oil, you can have so much fun preserving and pickling ingredients to keep things interesting over winter.
KE: Which recipes from your new book have become part of your family’s dinner routine?
JO: I practised all these recipes on my family — they often get the more experimental side of my cooking, the dishes I’m playing with and tweaking. The teenagers are ready to give anything a go — they loved the dynamic salads, the punchy noodle and rice dishes, anything hot and kicking. [My wife] Jools is always into the roasts, slow-cooked dishes, and really beautiful pastas. Then, with the little ones, they like things that are clear and modular — they’re still exploring and expanding their taste buds.
KE: What’s one of the best things you ate in 2017?
JO: This year, I’m all about keeping it simple and celebrating great ingredients. One of the most memorable meals I had this year was at Padella, in London. The restaurant is an homage to pasta. It’s all about the Italian ritual of bringing good eggs and flour together with love, and turning it into beautiful shapes. And it’s extra special for me because the owner Tim Siadatan was one of my first students at Fifteen, back in 2002. To say I am full of pride is an understatement.