Jamie Oliver has written enough cookbooks to fill a small library, but not once has this culinary maestro penned a ‘pukka’ festive tome. So why now?
“It was like a howler right in front of me – I mean it’s the time of year when people who don’t cook, cook,” exclaims the 41-year-old. “I know for a fact, certainly since social media, people are nervous. Everyone is trying to up their game.”
And “the more kids, the more stressful”, he adds with a smirk. And if anyone should know about the pressure of feeding the masses, it’s Oliver, who has five children with wife Jools – the latest addition being their baby son, River Rocket, born this summer.
But he’s adamant catering for your clan at Christmas can be hassle-free and fun. And as for his opting to release this book now, when he’s arguably busier than ever: “You only get to do one in your life,” he says, “so it feels like a good time to do it.”
Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook is intended to be the ultimate Yuletide companion: a mix of classic recipes for the big day and beyond, as well as loads of delicious ideas for edible gifts, party food, a whole chapter dedicated to potatoes, and new ways to scoff the leftovers.
In typical Oliver fashion, he says it should evoke minimal stress.
“Even though it’s Christmas, it underpins the challenge of cooking at any time of year,” says the friendly Essex-born star, who reveals that this year, he’s set to have an Oliver-only Christmas Day, fuelled by traditions, but plans to “go big” with the rest of the family on Boxing Day.
“Really, if the meat is diligently and brilliantly cooked, if the gravy is bad-ass, and the potatoes are extraordinary, that’s Christmas done,” he assures. “Everything else is just kind of . . . gravy!
“The nice thing about this book is you’ve got full permission to go nuts.”
Jamie’s top tips to get ahead this Christmas?
Plan like a pro
Get more Ninja!
Jamie has given us three fabulous recipes: Baked Squash stuffed with nutty cranberry-spiked rice; Roast Goose slow-cooked with Christmas spices, and Winter Bombe with chocolate, cherries, vin santo, panettone and pistachios.
We will feature them over the coming weeks, starting with Baked Squash today…
BAKED SQUASH STUFFED WITH NUTTY CRANBERRY-SPIKED RICE
1 butternut squash (1.2kg)
1 red onion
1 clove of garlic
1 bunch of fresh sage (30g)
10 sun-dried tomatoes
75g vac-packed chestnuts
75g basmati rice
75g dried cranberries
1 pinch of ground allspice
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Wash the squash, carefully cut it in half lengthways, then remove and reserve the seeds. Use a spoon to score and scoop some flesh out, making a gully for the stuffing along the length of the squash.
Finely chop the scooped-out flesh with the seeds and put into a frying pan on a medium heat with two tablespoons of oil. Peel, finely chop and add the onion and garlic, stirring regularly while you pick the sage leaves and finely chop them with the sun-dried tomatoes and chestnuts.
Stir into the pan with the rice, cranberries and allspice, add a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper and a swig of red wine, and mix well.
Fry for 10 minutes, or until softened, stirring occasionally.
Pack the mixture tightly into the gully in the two squash halves, then press the halves firmly back together.
Rub the skin of the squash with a little oil, salt and pepper, and if you’ve got them, pat on any extra herb leaves you have to hand. Place the squash in the centre of a double layer of tin foil, then tightly wrap it up.
Bake for around two hours, or until soft and cooked through.
Once ready, take the squash to the table and open up the foil in front of everyone, then carve into nice thick slices and serve with all the usual trimmings.