"Don't let food be one of the things that worries you," says Jamie Oliver in the first episode of his new television series, Keep Cooking and Carry On. It's just one of his many soothing words throughout the show that encourage us all, as the series title references, to remain calm. In response to the global pandemic (and the ensuing panic buying), Oliver put the call out to his social media followers to ask them what they wanted to learn in the kitchen during this period of isolation and uncertainty, and the message came back loud and clear: how to make do with basic ingredients at home. This series is just that. And unprecedented times call for unprecedented production turnaround: Oliver and his team filmed, produced and launched the show in just three days.
Over ten episodes, Oliver brings out some of his most flexible recipes – dishes using ingredients from the freezer and pantry, easy swaps or alternatives, and simple ways to put twists on the steps to make the dishes suit you and whatever you have on hand. From classic comforts like a hearty legume chilli and creamy fish pie to clever hacks like a two-minute fresh pasta with frozen pea pesto, Oliver is all about getting creative with humble ingredients. "I can do the only thing that I can do, which is help you with food," he says. "I can give you the best chance to get decent grub on the plate and feed yourself and the people that you love around you."
Keep Cooking and Carry On airs on Friday nights at 7.30pm on Channel 10 and WIN.
Frozen peas add a pop of green to pies, pasta and pesto. Photo: David Loftus
Jamie Oliver's 10 tips to keeping calm in the kitchen
Swap it in or leave it out
As our world starts to change around us, maybe there's not so much stuff available in supermarkets. These recipes are truly flexible, you can swap in ingredients whether you've got them or not. You can duck and dive with the vegies that you've got in your fridge. Substitute onion for leek or spring onion; if you haven't got parmesan or mozzarella, just use cheddar; if you don't have olive oil, use a knob of butter; throw dried herbs in instead of fresh.
There's no need to panic buy
Make sure you've got your usual basics in – good oil for cooking and dressing; vinegar to add acidity to stuff; a range of dried stuff as the base of meals, pasta, rice, more unusual grains – but use this as an opportunity to try new things. And, of course, where you can make sure you get vegies and fruit in, whether that's fresh, frozen or tinned – we need to keep feeding our bodies with the good stuff.
Make it yourself
A lot of people drum up fresh pasta to be fancy, but it is the simplest thing in the world: it's just flour and water. Mix the two in a bowl for a minute, knead it slightly, roll it out and then slice it up ½cm-thick. It can happen in the time it takes to cook a portion of dried pasta. A lot of people are also really scared of making bread, and it's so easy. My basic recipe uses just flour, yeast and water, but you can have fun with it – the shapes, the sizes, take leftovers and put it inside, do pizza, calzone, there are so many things you can do.
Get the kids involved
Now is a really lovely time to get kids involved in food prep and cooking. Giving them that chance to understand food and where it comes from, giving them a bit of ownership over something, really helps and – with little ones – ups the chances that they'll actually eat it!
Stretch out your meats
The cheaper cuts are typically tougher, so the gift to make them tender is time in the oven and time in the pot. Slow-cooked stews with fall-apart meat can be bulked up with vegies and served with rice, potatoes or even frozen for later.
Make a versatile no-waste sauce
A tomato sauce is so easy to put in things… curries, lasagne, cannelloni, on pizzas, in soups. You can hide loads of vegetables in it for the kids, too. I just roast off a load of vegies… squash, carrots, celery, peppers, onions, with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Then give it a nice little whizz up. It helps you utilise everything you've bought, veg-wise.
Freeze in portion sizes
Once you have your big batch of sauce, freeze some for future meals, from cheat's pizzetta to simple pastas. Reusable pouches are brilliant. I normally put them in four or six portion bags, and then I freeze them flat. It's just fantastic to have this kind of food at your disposal.
Dress for success
Dressings can be used not just as a salad dressing but also as a marinade on grilled or roasted fish or meat. It will kiss life into beautiful beans, chickpeas or tinned fish. The most simple recipe ever is the three to one method. Three parts olive oil to one part acid. Acid can come in different shapes and forms: lemon juice, grapefruit juice, lime juice, cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar – whatever you have at home.
Waste not want not
If we look at our neighbours from over the past 500 years, some of the best, most delicious dishes, come from leftovers. A rösti is wonderfully comforting – adding another veg to the potatoes makes it more nutritious, and it looks great, too. Think of your rösti as a base for embellishment. Get creative and serve with whatever you've got leftover – haloumi, grilled mushrooms, roasted cherry tomatoes, baked beans, grilled chicken, you name it.
Pimp your desserts
You can easily bring extra flavour bombs to simple desserts by adding a sprinkling of dried fruit to the mix, such as a few sour cherries, raisins or apricots. Add chopped fudge, or chocolate chips before baking for extra indulgence. And add a few chopped or flaked nuts for texture.
Fresh pasta is as simple as mixing flour and water. Photo: David Loftus
Super-quick fresh pasta
My easy homemade pasta recipe is great for emergencies. You don't need a pasta machine, just a rolling pin.
- 2 large handfuls of plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- Put the flour in a bowl, then gradually mix in just enough water to bring it together into a ball of dough (if it's sticky, add a little extra flour).
- Knead for just a couple of minutes, or until smooth and shiny.
- On a flour-dusted surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the pasta to about 2mm thick.
- Dust it well with flour, then loosely roll it up. Use a sharp knife to slice it ½cm-thick, then toss it with your hands to separate the strands.
- Cook in boiling salted water for 2 minutes, then drain and toss with your chosen sauce.
Any fish you have in the freezer will work for this creamy fish pie. Photo: David Loftus
Sweet pea fish pie
I've used a mixture of frozen salmon, white fish and prawns in this recipe, but you can use whatever you've got in the freezer – just aim for the same total weight, about 600g. Don't worry if you don't have any frozen spinach – leave it out this time and pick some up next time you're shopping. It's great in so many dishes.
- 1kg potatoes
- 400g frozen peas
- 1 lemon
- 40g unsalted butter
- 2 carrots
- 2 onions
- olive oil
- 500ml semi-skimmed milk
- 2 x 150g frozen salmon fillets
- 2 x 100g frozen white fish fillets
- 65g plain flour
- 100g frozen spinach
- 125g frozen cooked peeled prawns
- 1 heaped teaspoon English mustard
- 40g Cheddar cheese
- Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan-forced)
- Peel the potatoes and cut into large even-sized chunks, then cook them in a large pan of boiling salted water for 15 minutes, or until soft, adding the peas for the last 2 minutes. Drain and mash well with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, the zest from the lemon and the butter. Set aside.
- Peel and chop the carrots and onions, then fry them in a large ovenproof pan (roughly 30cm in diameter) with 1 tablespoon of oil over a medium heat for 15 minutes, or until softened but not coloured, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, heat the milk in a pan on a medium heat. Once simmering, add all the frozen fish fillets and cook for around 10 minutes, or until cooked through, then use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a plate, taking the pan off the heat.
- Stir the flour into the carrots and onions, then gradually add the warm milk, a ladleful at a time, stirring continuously until you have a smooth sauce. Stir in the spinach until thawed and incorporated, then season to perfection.
- Flake in the cooked fish fillets (carefully remove and discard any skin or bones), add the prawns and mustard, along with the juice of half the lemon, grate in the Cheddar, and stir gently to combine.
- Top with the pea-spiked mash and smooth out, scuffing it up slightly with a fork to give it texture that will crisp up. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until beautifully golden. Serve with a good old helping of baked beans (if you like). Delicious!
A big batch of rosti is great for using up leftovers. Photo: David Loftus
Giant veg rosti with poached eggs, spinach & peas
Poached eggs can be a little tricky to get right, and tend to work best with super-fresh eggs. If you're not feeling that confident, or your eggs are less than fresh, you can top the rosti with fried eggs instead.
- 600g potatoes
- 3 large carrots
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ a lemon
- extra virgin olive oil
- olive oil, for drizzling
- 100g frozen peas
- 100g baby spinach
- 4 large free-range eggs
- 50g feta cheese
- Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan-forced).
- Peel the potatoes and carrots, then coarsely grate them in a food processor or by hand on a box grater. Add a good pinch of sea salt, toss and scrunch it all together, then leave for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix the mustard, a good squeeze of lemon juice, and a couple of lugs of extra virgin olive oil with a little pinch of salt and black pepper in a medium bowl and put aside.
- Drizzle a really good lug of olive oil into a large bowl and add a good pinch of pepper. Handful by handful, squeeze the potato and carrot mixture to get rid of the excess salty liquid, then sprinkle into the bowl.
- Toss in the oil and pepper until well mixed, then evenly scatter it over a large oiled baking tray (roughly 30cm x 40cm). Roast for around 35 minutes, or until golden on top and super-crispy around the edges.
- Meanwhile, blanch the peas for a minute in a large pan of boiling salted water, then scoop out, add to the bowl of dressing and pile the spinach on top.
- Just before your rösti is ready, with the water gently simmering, crack in the eggs, poach to your liking, then carefully remove with a slotted spoon.
- Serve the rösti with the eggs on top. Quickly toss the salad together to dress it and scatter in piles on the rösti, then crumble over the feta and serve. I like to whack it in the middle of the table and let everyone dig in.
- I've used carrots, but you can use any crunchy root veg you've got in the fridge.
- Use any woody herbs you've got to hand in your rosti, or you could simply add a pinch of dried herbs if that's all you have.
- You can use any gorgeous green veg in place of the peas and spinach.
- Grate or crumble over any cheese, or leave it out altogether.
Can't find eggs? Jamie's melt-and-mix chocolate cake recipe will do the trick.Photo: David Loftus
Eggless chocolate cake
There's no need for eggs in this incredible chocolate cake. Crisp on the outside and oozy on the inside, it's so easy and so delicious. It'll make you happy for sure! I like hazelnuts in this recipe, but almonds, pecans or cashews, or even a mixture would be delicious.
- 200g soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
- 200g hazelnuts
- 200g quality dark chocolate
- 200g self-raising flour
- 200ml semi-skimmed milk
- 200g golden castor sugar
- Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan-forced). Grease and line a deep non-stick 25cm x 25cm tray with baking paper. If you don't have a non-stick tray, simply grease what you've got and dust it lightly with flour before lining with the paper.
- Blitz the nuts in a food processor until fine.
- With the processor still running, snap in the chocolate, then add the butter, followed by the flour and a pinch of sea salt.
- Pour in the milk, then add the sugar, letting the processor do all the work bringing it together.
- Once smooth and combined, use a spatula to help you tip the mixture into your lined tray, spreading it out evenly.
- Bake for 18 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven, or until crispy and spongy at the edges, but still a bit gooey and wobbly in the middle.
- Now, you can either serve it warm with an extra grating of chocolate, some fresh fruit and a dollop of yoghurt, a scoop of ice-cream or even custard, and enjoy it like a pudding. Or, let it cool into more of a gooey brownie.