Jamie Oliver wants you to master the dishes that put big, toothy grins on the people you love when you announce what’s for dinner. He’s talking about rich, gooey mac ’n’ cheese or delicious sticky toffee pudding covered in caramel sauce.
Jamie’s Comfort Food, his brand new book, is filled with these recipes, the kind that fill not only the belly but also the heart. “The book is about good-mood food — dishes that evoke happy memories or that make a bad day great or a great day even better,” says Jamie. Take, for example, his Insanity Burger: a thick beef patty brushed with mustard and chipotle sauce, then piled with red onion, bacon, cheese and gherkins on a brioche bun. “It’s a bun full of insane happiness,” he says.
Comfort food means different things to different people. It can be guilty pleasures, dishes from childhood, nostalgic favourites or pick-me-up foods. For Jamie, it’s all of the above, and the book is divided into these and other sections. But the recipes aren’t for busy weeknights. They’re the dishes you save for birthdays and Sunday-night dinners with friends and family. For that reason, Jamie stresses the importance of ritual and process. “The recipes aren’t meant to be rushed — they’re for taking your time, cooking on the weekends and for special occasions,” he says. “Each step has to be the best it can be.” That’s why he’s included personal anecdotes and little details to accompany each recipe throughout the book. His Hummingbird Cake, for example, is to be served “in a bluebell wood on a fallen tree, as you do.”
Whether he’s making his Shepherd’s Pie filled with tender lamb blanketed under a layer of cheesy potatoes for his wife, Jools, and their four kids or whipping up his No. 1 Toasted Cheese Sandwich, Jamie says the key ingredient is love. “Comfort Food is about the emotional journey food can take you on. It’s about treating the ones you love.”
Six questions for Jamie
1. What’s your happy food?
Anything with chilies is going to lift my mood. I could never turn down a good old serving of huevos rancheros—I love mine with scrambled eggs, beans or rice, tomatoes and the hottest chili sauce in the house.
2. What dish do you cook for your family on a cold winter’s day?
Shepherd’s pie. It takes a while to make but it’s one of the most warming things you can put on a table.
3. What’s your guilty pleasure?
Green & Black’s chocolate.
4. What is your desert island cooking tool?
My vegetable peeler. It cost five dollars, but I probably use it every day.
5. What’s the most underrated ingredient?
Eggs. Not only are they cheap and available everywhere, you can eat them any time of day and they jazz up almost anything.
6. What’s the last show you binge-watched?
I don’t really get the time to watch series. My wife, Jools, and I are movie people when we’re relaxing together.
Get a peek at three more recipes from Jamie’s new book here.