When you have the opportunity to interview an award-winning British chef with dozens of cookbooks, TV shows, restaurants—and even a royal decree from the Queen—in his repertoire, you jump on it. Needless to say, we were excited to have the chance to talk with Jamie Oliver. But in true Taste of Home fashion, our questions weren’t about his on-the-air secrets or culinary school tricks. We wanted to get to the good stuff: what is Jamie’s cooking like at home? Oliver was gracious enough to share memories of his childhood, what it’s like to be a father of five(!) and a few of his favorite dishes.
What was the first dish you ever made?
You know, I don’t remember! By age 7, I cooked to make pocket money at my parents’ pub (The Cricketers in Clavering, northeast of London). By 10, I was the restaurant’s fastest chopper. As a teen, I’d make a traditional English fry-up of eggs, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms, bacon and chilies for my mates after a night out. (We bet his mates would have loved these hearty breakfast casseroles!)
What’s a good age for children to learn to cook?
Even kids as young as 5 can handle a knife with adult supervision, so don’t be afraid to start early.
With five hungry kids at home, ever eat take-out or packaged meals?
Then you must keep your fridge well stocked. What’s in it as we speak?
Fresh vegetables, fresh fish, milk, butter and cheeses.
Hmmm, are you leaning vegetarian?
No, I love meat, so I could never be a vegetarian. But I do tend to have a couple of vegetarian days a week, almost by accident, really.
So what’s your favorite meat dish?
Taste of Home
I make a mean pork shoulder roast. Crisp golden skin and really tender meat is the holy grail. My trick is to rub the pork with olive oil, salt and pepper, then sear it on the stovetop to crisp up the skin. Finally, bake it at low heat in the oven till it melts off the bone.
What’s your must-have kitchen gadget?
My speed peeler—it’s really inexpensive, but one of the best—along with decent knives and a couple of good pans.
You’re known for eating so healthfully. How do you satisfy a sweet tooth?
Green & Black’s organic dark chocolate.
Any final food for thought?
“You’re going to eat a few times a day for the rest of your life, so you may as well enjoy it!”
Jamie Oliver’s Recipes
Chili con Jamie
“Everyone should know how to make a really good chili, and this one’s a right cracker. I wanted to make sure this had real attitude, so I achieved a brilliant depth of flavor by mixing dried chiles with fresh ones and adding fresh herbs.”
- 2/3 cups hot coffee
- 1 large dried chile (ancho, chipotle, or guajillo)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 heaping teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 heaping teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 fresh bay leaves
- 1 red onion, peeled and diced
- 1 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, seeded and sliced
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 fresh chile
- 1/2 cinnamon stick
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 (14-oz) can diced tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon molasses or dark brown sugar
- 1 (15-oz) can beans (kidney, butter, or pinto), drained and rinsed
1. Make your coffee and, while it’s hot, soak the dried chilie in it for a few minutes to let them rehydrate.
2. Meanwhile, put a medium saucepan on a low heat and add a lug of olive oil, the cumin, paprika, oregano, bay leaves, onions and bell pepper. Fry for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onions have softened.
3. Add the beef and cook until it is browned, about 5 minutes.
4. Seed and chop your fresh chile. Slice up the rehydrated chile and add them to the onion mixture along with half the chopped fresh chile, the cinnamon sticks, sliced garlic, a small pinch of the salt and pepper, and a splash of the chile-infused coffee. Stir, then add the rest of the coffee, the canned tomatoes, the molasses or sugar and the beans. Simmer for 10 minutes. Serves 4.
- Slow cooking the ground beef, even though it’s not necessary to tenderize it, adds depth of flavor—the longer and slower you do it, the darker and tastier your chili will be. If there’s someone in your family who doesn’t like hot chili, you can cook the chili without any chile in it. Instead, serve with lots of fresh chopped chile on the side so people can have as much or as little as they like, or even none at all.
- This is a good make-ahead meal, and it tastes even better once it’s had time to rest in the refrigerator for a day or two. If you make a double batch you can always keep it in the freezer for another day. Be careful not to burn the spices— you want them to have a nice toasted flavor but not to be charred.
If you have never made bread before, this is the perfect recipe to start with. There is no tricky technique involved; if you can mix things together you can make it. Simple as that!
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter + ½ teaspoon for greasing pan
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups fine cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
- 1 fresh chile, deseeded and finely chopped
- ¾ cup frozen corn, defrosted
1. Preheat your oven to 400˚F.
2. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish with a little olive oil. Get a small pan on the heat, gently melt the butter, then leave to one side.
3. In a large bowl, add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and the salt. Mix everything together well.
4. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the buttermilk and melted butter. Add the chopped chile and corn and stir, then add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dried ingredients and beat until well mixed.
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin and pop into the oven to bake for around 25 minutes, until golden and the center springs back nicely when you poke it with your finger. Serve straight away as it’s unbelievably good when it’s warm from the oven. Serves 12.
Jamie’s tip: This is delicious served as a snack or alongside a warming bowl of soup or chili.
Tips from the dietitian:
- Some of the cornbreads you can buy are made with at least a stick of butter or some other type of fat, so it’s much better to make your own version. It’s a great snack or you can serve it instead of a grain or starch on your plate.
- Did you know cornmeal is a whole grain? Whole grains are good for you because they haven’t been stripped of their vitamins and minerals. They also contain more fiber than processed grains.