J amie Oliver, bestselling author, restaurateur, celebrity chef and media personality with shows such as “The Naked Chef” and “Pukka Tukka,” is out with a new book, “Jamie's 30 Minute Meals” (Penguin Books UK, Rs. 899). The handsomely-produced book has 50 recipes which show you how to whip up a complete meal — main course, side dishes, puddings and drinks in a jiffy. The 35-year-old, whose love affair with food began at age eight cooking in his parents pub The Cricketers in Essex, talks about the book, British cooking, returning to line cooking and his garden, among other things.
How did ‘Jamie's 30 Minute Meals'come about?
I'd been thinking about quick and delicious meals for a while. I used to find that I would get home from work and want something on the table quickly so I'd be dancing around the kitchen doing different things, and it got me thinking about how much you could actually do in 30 minutes if you used all those bits of kitchen kit we've got in our cupboards.
What is the raison d'etre behind the book?
It's really to show you that the old excuse ‘I haven't got the time to cook properly' doesn't stand up. If you've got a bit of knowledge and if you follow the instructions in the book, you can get a fantastic spread of food on the table in very little time.
The iPhone app for ‘Jamie's 30 Minute Meals' and your video games have been very popular. Does technology help you reach out to a wider audience?
Definitely. And, also a different audience because the people who download the app aren't necessarily the same people who would usually buy a book. They're often a bit younger, a bit more tech-savvy but understand the need to be able to feed themselves as well as anyone.
How important is it to have the latest tools and gadgets in your kitchen?
I don't think it's a question of having the latest gadgets, so much as having the right gadgets. Most of the things I use every day are things I've had for years and things that last — my pestle and mortar, my speed peeler, my Tefal pans.
What are the gadgets you absolutely cannot do without in your kitchen?
I've just listed three of them. On top of that, a good food processor and a good set of knives are things I use every week.
What is your take on vegetarianism?
I'm probably vegetarian a couple of days a week, not on purpose but really just because I love eating vegetables and salad. I admire vegetarians, but I'm too much of a meat lover to ever become full-time vegetarian.
What place does gardening have in your scheme of things?
I'm a keen gardener and I'm lucky enough to have a big garden full of vegetables, fruit and herbs that I use in all my cooking. I usually have enough left over in the summer to supply 15 restaurants and my dad's pub.
What has been the influence of curry on British cooking?
Huge. I remember reading a survey last year saying that tikka masala had become Britain's favourite dish.
British cooking is notorious for being quite tasteless. Comment.
It is definitely changing for the better, and I think that is down to the influence of different cuisines and cultures. I think visitors to the U.K. can still experience bad food, but these days, they are more likely to experience great food, whether it is British or Indian or Italian or Spanish.
How important is creativity in cooking?
If you are a beginner, I'd suggest following the recipe and make sure you start with a simple one. But as you get more confident, I think recipes are there to be adapted. Once I have written my books, I know people are going to add their own spin to certain recipes.
With television shows, bestselling books and games, do you have time to cook? Will you be able to return to the punishing routine of line cooking? Would you want to?
I probably cook every day, whether it's developing recipes for books or for the TV series, or for the restaurants, and it is something I love doing. Recently I've been in the kitchen at the new Barbecoa restaurant and it's been such fun being back in a restaurant kitchen with all the smells and pressures.
Would you describe yourself as a chef, a media personality, a writer, a drummer or an avid gardener?
I'm a chef who is also a campaigner, and I am a family man, which is most important.