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Oliver’s gourmet twist

DECCAN CHRONICLE | SURUCHI KAPUR-GOMES
Published Sep 20, 2015, 5:22 am IST
Updated Mar 27, 2019, 6:52 pm IST
Fifteen is close to Jamie’s heart, because it aspires to change perceptions and defies culinary dogmas
Chef and food show specialist Jamie Oliver
 Chef and food show specialist Jamie Oliver

The mop of spikey golden hair bobs into his kitchen garden, back to his bench, then to a herb garden and then back to run his nimble fingers over some succulent meat. He brandishes his marinate, with a simplicity that stuns — Jamie Oliver has gone on to create his roast beef recipe, with garlic, rosemary and griolles, sumptuous. A believer of simplicity, he will be touching Indian shores soon, as a part of his worldly exploits — bringing Jamie’s Italian and Pizzeria to us.

“I was incredibly lucky to have the upbringing I did. I grew up in mum and dad’s pub in rural England  — the Cricketers, and was surrounded by beautiful ingredients and good home-cooked food. My dad got me into the kitchen early, podding peas or washing up but that meant I soaked up everything. That’s definitely where I started to love food and cooking. The best part of cooking is experimenting and being creative. I’m a bit of a food geek to be honest! I love locking myself in the kitchen and trying out new flavours and combinations,” says the chef whose face is known across the world.

 

The father and husband loves family time, “My wife Jools is an incredible woman, a wonderful wife and the best mother to our little ones. Jools has grown into a really good cook. She makes a mean Sunday roast!” His children, who appear from time to time creating their own version of gourmet on television are not overwhelmed by his celebrity status, “They’re alright with it. The littler ones still think it’s cool and the older ones just think I’m embarrassing! They love cooking but I don’t think they’ll follow me.

If they do that would be great but I want them to find their own paths,” says their dada, adding, “There’s a lot keeping me busy! We’re working on a number of campaigns as well as a new book, show and our restaurants. I think I’m good at compartmentalising but I also have a brilliant team! I don’t know where I’d be without them.”

While he has been to India, it is a place he admits, he is “desperate to visit,” adding, “I find the food culture fascinating and inspiring. I’m no expert but I’ve been learning more about Indian cooking over the past few years and it’s something I’ve become very interested in.” So will his Jamie’s menu differ here, he says, “We’re not doing too many tweaks to the Delhi menu.

It’s important that we keep it as close to the original as possible. There will be a couple more vegetarian options. The menu at Jamie’s Italian is based on the traditional Italian table. We make our own pasta every morning and we’ll be serving planks of antipasti, a fantastic selection of meat and fish dishes. The pizzeria is the first of its kind overseas, which is hugely exciting!”

The food world has exploded, and most of us are left gathering sanity in our kitchens, as any dish is just a recipe and hurried shopping trip away, but Jamie stresses on real food, something he has been working with the UK government in schools to promote, “At the beginning of 2015, I started looking into sugar consumption and the effects that sugar has on our bodies and health. What I found shocked me, having researched further, speaking to numerous experts, we are now launching a petition in the UK calling for the government to introduce a sugary drinks tax,” he explains.

He couldn’t be happier about his restaurants. “When we opened the restaurant Fifteen in London 12 years ago and our first Jamie’s Italian in Oxford six years ago, I never thought we’d be opening restaurants in Delhi, Canada and Brazil now! It’s happened organically — I don’t think we’ve ever jumped into anything or tried to run before walking. I don’t have a favourite — that’s like asking which kid I like best!” he says wryly.

Charity, the MBE and a whole lot of ideas are constantly playing in Jamie’s mind, but that’s also what inspires him, “We’re in the midst of a global obesity crisis and we can’t sit back and ignore it. I firmly believe that the key to slowing down the epidemic and reversing it is education. We have to educate children so they know what they should be putting in. That keeps me going.” A must-have in his kitchen, “Lots and lots of herbs. We all love seasoning but a lot of us have too much salt in our diets. At home, we bin the salt and add fresh herbs to season,” he adds.

Fifteen is close to Jamie’s heart, because it aspires to change perceptions and defies culinary dogmas, “Twelve years after opening, Fifteen is still right at the heart of everything we do. It hasn’t been an easy ride over the years and it still isn’t but the work it does is worth it. I’d love to open another but it’s a huge commitment. Never say never though,” says the boy from Clavering.

So how can the innumerable masterchefs improve? “For me, it’s meeting new people, on my travels.” But has food become convoluted in this age of fusion? “What I find fascinating with fusion is that so many dishes we eat are ‘fusion’ without us even knowing it. Take the vindaloo, which is popular in the UK. It’s from Goa — but Goa was under the Portuguese and they introduced vinegar, putting the ‘vin’ in vindaloo.” In London, you can see Jamie tucking into food at Lyle’s in Shoreditch and around the UK, he recently visited Nathan Outlaw’s restaurants in Cornwall. “He’s a lovely guy, completely passionate about what he does and a brilliant young chef,” Oliver adds.

The man has his hands immersed in the many roles he has taken to play with flourish, but on that one sunny day when work is taking a cat nap, he loves a bit of fishing every so often, he adds, “The problem is the kids like to come along too now so it’s become far less relaxing and slightly more competitive!” Well, no one said being an international chef and father all at once is easy especially if the kids get their competitive spirit from their dada.

Penne arrabiata

l3 to 4 fresh red chillies (finely chopped) l6 cloves garlic (chopped) l2 x 400 gm tins chopped tomatoes l200 ml organic vegetable stock l400 gm penne lA bunch of fresh basil l25 gm Parmesan cheese lOptional: Scotch bonnet chilli, (finely chopped) lExtra virgin olive oil for the pangrattato l50 gm sourdough or ciabatta breadcrumbs l a bunch of mixed fresh herbs — sage, rosemary, thyme (chopped) l1 clove garlic (chopped) and olive oil lMix all the pangrattato ingredients and a lug of olive oil in a bowl.

Tip onto a baking tray, then spread evenly and toast for 2 to 4 minutes, or until lightly golden. Set aside. lAdd a splash of olive oil on a pan over a medium heat, then fry chilli and garlic until softened and smelling fantastic, then pour tomatoes and veg stock and bring to a simmer. Add the pasta to a pan of boiling salted water and cook according to instructions. When the pasta is al dente, drain, reserving a cup of water.

Tip pasta and basil into tomato sauce, cook for a minute, adding a splash of reserved cooking water to loosen, if needed. Divide between plates, then finish with a few shavings of Parmesan, the remaining basil leaves, a sprinkling of scotch bonnet chilli, and some crunchy pangrattato. Finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, then serve straight away.

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