Jamie Oliver has made it his mission to make cooking tastier, easier, faster, and better for us. He’s still the cheeky bloke who first stirred up TV chefdom with The Naked Chef; but now he’s also a dad of five with a focus on helping the world think that little bit harder about what it puts in its mouth. Yet we all know how difficult it is to find time to pull a meal together, much less ignore the siren call of the delivery app. His latest book – his 20th – is 5 Ingredients — Quick & Easy Food. It fits into the Brit chef’s canon of ‘fast food’, pairing nicely with Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals, Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals, and Save With Jamie.
‘The whole process has been a bit of a revelation,’ he says. ‘While time and money are often cited as the biggest barriers to people cooking from scratch, and I know that these are real problems as I’ve dealt with them in previous books, it dawned on me that a more subtle reason is also the amount of ingredients a recipe needs.’
Ahead of the book’s release on August 24, Friday had exclusive access to five of his recipes, to help you pull together a quick lunch, a perfect dinner and a seriously simple, yet impressive, dessert. The key to preparing the dishes quickly and deliciously, Jamie writes, is having a store cupboard of quality hero ingredients: Alongside oil and vinegar, he uses jars of mango chutney, dulce de leche and chilli jam to add punch to proteins, vegetables and starches. Here, Jamie discusses the challenges of writing the recipes, what his family eats and how the book helps time-poor people – so that’s all of us, then.
Why five ingredients?
For me, five is the magic number. When I tried recipes with three or four ingredients, sure, they were incredibly easy. But, the payoff for that was that they just didn’t deliver the hit of flavour and texture I was after. Using five ingredients allows a balance between simple and delicious. It’s enough ingredients to have some fun with, but not so many that you have to write a list and do a big shop.
Do you have a favourite recipe?
I don’t think I could choose one favourite, because I think the strength of the recipes are that there are lots of different options and variations. There are some complete meals, but there are also killer side dishes, salads, veg plates, little bakes.
How can it help families shop and cook better?
I hope that this book will streamline the way that people think about food. By really stripping back the ingredients to the bare bones of each dish, quality and cooking technique have become the two cornerstones of each recipe. That’s not to say that you have to spend a load of money on expensive produce, or be the best home cook going. I just want to emphasise simple, but important stuff, like buying the best you can afford, or dressing a salad in the most delicious way that gives it an extra flavour dimension. Put simply, this book is about nailing the basics to incredible effect.
Why should everyone learn to cook?
Knowing how to cook for yourself is an essential life skill. It enables you to feed yourself and your family with good, wholesome meals, and you know exactly what’s in the food that you’re eating. It will work for the people who are already great cooks, but at the same time, I’m really excited about the non-cooks; the millions of people who tend to reheat food in the microwave. Although we obsess about cost and time, being able to memorise the ingredients for your dinner off the top of your head just makes cooking instantly more accessible. I hope that breaking down these barriers will get more people in the kitchen.
Do you have a pantry of ingredients to work with? If so what’s in it?
Yes, but I’ve purposely kept it to just five ingredients that I consider to be everyday staples – olive oil for cooking, extra virgin olive oil for dressing and finishing, red wine vinegar as a good all-rounder, and, of course, sea salt and black pepper for seasoning.
Did you practice any of the dishes on your family? What are their favourites?
Loads, in different forms – my family often get the more experimental side of my cooking, the dishes I’m playing with and tweaking. Having said that, cooking for the family is so different now, as the kids are growing up. I’ve got teenagers who are ready to give anything a go — they loved the dynamic salads, the punchy noodle and rice dishes, anything hot and kicking. [Jamie’s wife] Jools is 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.
What is the top shortcut you found?
Using ingredients that come together naturally to make a beautiful dish. If you get that combination right, then that’s half the hard work done. There’s a chicken recipe that’s really good chicken rubbed with curry paste roasted over potatoes and cauliflower, with a sprinkling of fresh coriander — it’s not complicated, but you just know that combo is going to deliver.
How much veg and fruit should we be eating?
Getting your 5-a-day is really important, but really we should all be packing in a lot more. When you know that just 80g of fresh, frozen or tinned veg or fruit counts as a portion, you can see how easy it can be to get more into your diet, when you’ve got the right recipes to hand. There are loads of great recipes in this book where veg is the hero. I’ve got a recipe for a beautiful whole roasted cauliflower. If you were to pair that with an exciting rice dish, and a couple of gorgeous salads, you’d have yourself a mega veg-packed feast.
Be conscious of what you need to achieve, and you’ll find it easier to up your portions.
What keeps you getting up in the morning? What drives you professionally?
The joy and fun of the food industry, farming, cooking, eating, sharing – it’s generally a beautiful place to be, full of pretty amazing people. On top of that, at this stage of the game where, let’s be honest, our food system is broken, me and all my teams feel like we’re able to influence the conversation globally and hopefully impact real change. Ultimately we want to make a difference, and we want to do that by keeping cooking skills alive, no matter what age you are.
Extracted from 5 Ingredients – Quick and Easy Food by Jamie Oliver, published by Penguin Random House © 2017 Jamie Oliver, photography copyright © 2017 Jamie Oliver Enterprises Limited