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One Oliver good time
7:00am Saturday 1st September 2012 in NewsXtra
With his second Big Feastival taking place on September 1 and 2, the TV favourite discusses what makes the perfect festival food, how the grub on offer at festivals has improved in the past decade, and why he chose to team up with Blur's Alex James on the venture.
By Diana Pilkington
Jamie Oliver may be as British as tea and crumpets, but he admits he's a "bit of a newcomer" when it comes to music festivals.
That great summertime tradition of getting covered in mud in a field while watching your favourite bands and drinking the beer tent dry has largely eluded the industrious TV chef.
"I've been to V quite a lot because that was local to us in Essex," he says. "But, for whatever reason, I've always just worked, so if I've had a day off I've needed to relax rather than get plastered for two days. So I've never got massively into the festival thing."
Nonetheless, the chef has strong opinions on the type of grub on offer at these musical extravaganzas. And with his own foray into the world of festivals, he is determined to feed the hungry masses something special.
"Food at festivals has got better over the last 10 years, that's for sure. But it's still erratic and there's still an old-school set that turn up and rattle out the same old rubbish burger. That has its place, but it's not what we're about."
The Big Feastival, which takes place at Alex James's farm in Oxfordshire, aims to be a "celebration of British produce".
Chefs including Valentine Warner and Gennaro Contaldo will carry out cookery demonstrations, and well-known restaurants will serve the food. Meanwhile, thanks to Blur star James, bands such as Texas, the Guillemots and Razorlight will perform.
"My vulnerability is I'm not an expert in music, and I don't know the channels to go to, so Alex was a natural partner," Oliver explains.
Asked what makes the perfect festival food, the 37-year-old says: "Capping the price and making sure there's a diverse offer of meat, fish, veggie and international food. There has to be lots of choice."
Once festival fever dies down and autumn kicks in, Oliver will have another big project to present to the nation - a cookbook and TV show featuring 15-minute meals.
It's an ambitious step up from his 30-Minute Meals book, which became the biggest-selling non-fiction title in UK history in 2010, and Oliver says it's the last time he cooks against the clock.
"I'm glad it's all done - I won't ever do 'time' again but it was pretty much a response to the public, not just in Britain.
"It's so much more than what it sounds like. From my point of view, it was a really, really big challenge.
"It's almost like a science experiment, but ultimately, all the public will see is nice food, written in the most simple way possible."
Try these dishes from Oliver and some of his Big Feastival friends to get into the festival spirit at home...
Moroccan-style lamb burgers
600g quality lamb shoulder, minced
6 soft baps, halved
6 heaped tablespoons fat-free natural yoghurt
1 heaped tablespoon harissa paste
Extra virgin olive oil
A handful of fresh mint leaves
For the dry rub:
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ras el hanout or garam masala
1-2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
For the salad:
1 round lettuce, washed and spun dry
½ bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked
A handful of edible flowers (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil
For the dry rub, pound all the ingredients in a pestle and mortar until combined.
Divide the minced lamb into six pieces. Roll each piece into a ball then squash into a burger, about 1.5cm thick. Pat some of the rub all over the burgers then drizzle over a tiny bit of olive oil. Cook on your barbecue or in a griddle pan for six to seven minutes on each side, or until done to your liking. Don't worry if you think they look burnt, that's just a combination of the spices, the caramelising lamb fat and the smoke. When the burgers are nearly ready, toast the baps on the side of the barbecue or griddle.
Spoon the yoghurt into a bowl and dollop the harissa on top. Squeeze over a little lemon juice to loosen, then ripple the harissa through the yoghurt and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
To serve, spread some harissa yoghurt on the toasted buns, top with the burgers and squash them into the buns. Add some more yoghurt, then squeeze the remaining lemon juice over a few mint leaves and place on top.
For the salad, place the lettuce leaves, mint and edible flowers in a bowl, dress with the lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and tap over the pomegranate seeds to add little capsules of sweetness. Delicious!
Valentine Warner's venison curry
A large handful of shaved, dried coconut
OR 3 tablespoons unsweetened desiccated coconut
40g ghee or butter
2 small red onions, finely chopped
1 cinnamon stick (about 4cm long)
6 black peppercorns
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large thumb-sized piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon flaked sea salt
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2½ teaspoons hot chilli powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ star anise
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon garam masala
3 tablespoons tomato puree
500g venison fillet, cut into medium cubes
300ml coconut water or water
Juice of ½ lime
Shredded coriander leaves, to garnish
Rice, paratha or naan bread, to serve
In a dry frying pan, gently toast the coconut until you notice the first signs of it colouring. Allow to cool.
Melt the ghee or butter in a wok or pan (the lighter and thinner the metal, the better, as it is closer to using Indian cookware such as a balti). Throw in the onions and cook fairly briskly with the cinnamon and peppercorns until softened and deep golden, taking care not to burn them.
Using a pestle and mortar, or blender, crush the garlic, ginger, salt and all the remaining spices into a fine paste and combine with the tomato puree.
Add the curry paste to the onions and fry for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Do not let it burn. Add the meat and briskly saute for a couple of minutes.
Add the coconut water or water and lime juice and bring to a rapid simmer for 4 minutes, or until you have a thickish gravy. Remove from the heat and scatter with the coconut and coriander. Serve with rice, paratha or naan bread.
Cheeky chicken chorizo pie from the Piglet's Pantry
(Makes 4 pies)
250g shortcrust pastry
1 roll puff pastry
4 individual small pie tins or dishes greased with butter
Flour for dusting
2 large chicken fillets chopped into cubes
100g chorizo finely chopped
1 red onion, peeled and chopped
1 pepper, de-seeded and chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large potatoes peeled and cut into small cubes
2 tsp dried herbs
Glass of white wine (Spanish Rioja or similar)
Glug of good sherry
1 tin chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp of tomato puree
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp fresh chopped chilli or powder
Good handful of fresh flat-leaved parsley, chopped
Cracked black pepper
1 egg, beaten with a little water
Pre-heat oven to 180°C/375°F/Gas mark 4.
Making sure your pastry is super chilled, dust your worktop, roll out the pastry and cut out four bases. Cover your pie dishes with the bases so that they overlap slightly. Chill.
Place the potatoes and half the garlic in a baking tray. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and black pepper and a splash of olive oil and roast for 12 minutes.
Heat a large deep frying pan with a little olive oil and fry the onion, pepper, garlic, chilli, chorizo and dried herbs in a pan for five minutes. Add the chicken, white wine and sherry. Poach by adding tomatoes, tomato puree, balsamic and paprika, bring the mixture to a fast simmer and carefully add the cooked potatoes. Remove from the pan and cool. Sprinkle a generous amount of chopped parsley over the chicken and mix together.
Generously fill your pie dishes with the cooled mix. Cut out puff pastry lids to fit the top of your dishes. Cut your own design out of the top. Brush the edges with egg and use your thumb and finger or a fork to crimp the sides. Brush the tops with eggs, sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper and dust with paprika. Bake for 20 minutes and serve with a summer salad.
:: Jamie Oliver presents The Big Feastival with Alex James on September 1 and 2 in Kingham, Oxfordshire. Visit www.thebigfeastival.com
:: Valentine Warner's recipe is taken from The Good Table published by Mitchell Beazley, priced £25. Available now