Jamie Oliver brings people ‘Together’ at the table with new cookbook
Famous British chef shares food ideas for family and friends
Together is Jamie Oliver’s 25th cookbook, an incredible record for the famous British chef. His first cookbook, The Naked Chef, was published in 1999.
Together was launched at the end of last year and with it came a TV series in which we see his family, his wife Jools and three of their five children enjoying the fruits of his labour. As always with Jamie at the helm, he makes whipping up mouth-watering meals look easy and he has a knack of making food accessible and delicious.
Here are Jamie’s own words about his new cookbook when it was launched.
Who is Together for?
I really hope this book is for everyone. I set out to write a range of different meals, some familiar, some surprising, some intimate, some for more of a crowd.
From picnics and alfresco eats to cosy autumnal fare and classics we all love, like curry or steak night, or a lovely brunch party with your friends, I want you to feel like you’re in safe hands on the food front as you welcome people back into your home.
What would you like people to take from it?
I think the most important message is that food can be a fantastic excuse to get all your favourite people around the table together. And that entertaining or cooking for others doesn’t have to be stressful. Each chapter of the book is a meal, and I’ve interrogated the recipes to work out what you can do ahead, so you’re hopefully just finessing here and there, whacking stuff in the oven or focusing on the finishing touches once you’re with your mates.
Why was this book particularly important for last year?
I think being stuck at home, which a lot of people have been, has made us question what’s really important. I know for a lot of people, myself included, slowing down a bit has been a good thing. It’s encouraged us to embrace the little things in life that bring us pleasure, and I know food has brought a lot of people great joy.
Whether that’s cooking for the first time, learning a new skill (sourdough craze, I’m looking at you) or simply finding ways to mix up your everyday repertoire, it’s been a great reminder that sitting around the table to eat together is a very special thing. Of course a lot of us are keen to get out into the world again and support our local restaurants, but alongside that, showing your nearest and dearest how much you care by cooking up a storm, in the intimacy of your own home which has been off limits for so long, will feel comforting, safe and memorable.
What makes this book different from your previous ones?
My writing style in this book is quite unique. I’ve structured the recipes into three categories — “get ahead”, “on the day” and “to serve”— making it clear exactly how to approach each recipe. I’m also really excited about the photography.
I worked with three of my favourite photographers and we’ve been much more indulgent on the number of pictures that have made it into the book, which means it’s a good one to flick through with a cuppa and your feet up. I’ve done a photo inspiration spread for every meal, giving you ideas for how to set the table and serve, as well as step-by-step pictures where relevant, and some good old beauty shots of amazing ingredients.
The family pop up a few times, too, which is always fun.
How has the last year changed the way you view cooking for others?
Cooking is an expression of love. So many cultures around the world believe that and it’s true. Investing your time to prepare and dish up incredible food, cooked from scratch, means something to people, and I can’t wait to see how everyone responds to the book and which meals resonate with people.
Your son Buddy is a great little chef himself. Does he enjoy helping when preparing for a family get-together?
Buddy is such an asset in the kitchen and he’s been getting among it since he was little. His knife skills are getting good. He’s always happy to help, and all the children have had their moments. Our elder children Poppy and Daisy are out doing their own thing a lot, but when they were younger they’d always be picking herbs and helping with jobs here and there. Petal’s the same. And River, if there’s music playing and he can dance while he helps you, he’s there.
For an impromptu meal with friends and family, which dish do you always turn to for something quick and delicious that will still impress your guests?
You can’t go far wrong with a roast chicken, and there’s so much you can do with them, so many different ways you can go on the flavour front. Also, the oven does all the hard work, so that always helps. I’ve put a last-minute style feast in the book that’s Italian inspired and a great principle to follow. For starters, you jazz up a load of those shop-bought antipasti, creating an epic spread. Then I’ve done a really simple yet elegant pasta for the main, using one of my favourite shortcuts — cutting up fresh lasagne sheets to mimic fresh pasta. It’s such a good time saver. A nice cocktail or two, and you’re onto a winner.
• Jamie Oliver’s ‘Together: Memorable Meals Made Easy’ is published by Michael Joseph/Penguin Random House and retails at R445.
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