NPR logo The Naked Chef Bares All

The Naked Chef Bares All

If you want to know if the Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver was fully clothed during his conversation with Liane Hansen then listen to this week's show — it's very revealing. Jamie very kindly answered a few of your cooking queries when he spoke with Liane, and we have posted the questions and answers below.

Question from Ellie Almanzar:

Is there a cheaper alternative to seafood dishes that still have great health benefits?

Answer from Jamie Oliver:

Seafood can be expensive. There's people's time and labor and petrol costs to get the boats out there. You can get some wonderful frozen fish that can be procured in different parts of America that is sustainable. So, I wouldn't write off frozen fish at all. It's much better to get a good bit of frozen fish than a bit of fresh fish that's been hanging about for a couple of days. If you've got a fishmonger, ask them what's cheap. There's something called bycatch. There's also stuff that's rather incredible and delicious that's not quite as fashionable that by the time you've skinned it, or poached it, or flaked it, and turned it into a fishcake, you really don't know if it's a white fish, or a this, or a that, or another. You really can't tell the difference.

I think the key is, to talk to your fishmonger and tell him you're on a budget and set him the task of sorting you out. Fishmongers and butchers have had a lot of business taken away from them by supermarkets. If you just talk to your butcher or fishmonger and say, I've only got three dollars, I've got two kids, what can I do? I think you'd genuinely be surprised with what you come back with.

Question from Susan Ranieri:

I've grown up eating fast food and find it difficult to adjust to home cooked food because in terms of flavor it seems lackluster compared to the artificial but highly designed food stuffs. What can I do to reprogram my taste buds?

Answer from Jamie Oliver:

I think learning the gift of seasoning is an incredible thing. When you cook dishes, you can buy the best organic stuff, you can pick it from a garden and you can have it in a pot in a minute. Can you make it bland and taste lackluster? Absolutely.

I always believe an element of acidity is exciting. It could be different types of vinegar, or it could be a squeeze of lemon juice. If you do a beautiful stew, often the flavors are quite mid-tone. So once you've cooked that little baby and the meat's falling off the bone, if you hit that with enough salt and pepper, that's a good start. If you give the stew a little squeeze of lemon juice, add the tiniest grating of a quarter of a garlic clove and the tiniest grating of some lemon zest, and stir that through, you see what happens. It will turn to something that's alive.

Here's the other thing. Commercial fast food is genius in some respects because they take all sorts of meat from all parts of the world, often cheap cuts, sometimes not even cuts, mechanically reclaimed meat and stuff like that. They put it in some kind of paste and shape the meat, and then they will hit it with all sorts of flavorings to make it taste nice. Fast food tastes nice because someone's worked at it. It's very consistent. They will put a nice crispy topping on it and it'll be soft in the middle, so it's really starting to touch on those buttons that make humans love stuff: crispy, soft, salty and some form of flavoring. If you want to do that with your food, you've got to mimic that. If you get a piece of fish, and wrap it in a thin piece of bacon and roast it hard and fast, you'll protect that fish and it will be soft, and you will get a crispy bacon which is nice and just smash some basil up, add a little bit of oil, salt and pepper, and that fish is going to taste like heaven.

So, I think herbs, acidity, salt, pepper, and stuff like olive oil. And, you can season quite generously. Back up to the level which turns you on when you're on the fast food, and what you want to do is just set yourself the task of weaning yourself off silly amounts of salt.

Question from Paul Jones:

I like yams but don't like adding sugar or marshmallows to them. What can I do with them?

Answer from Jamie Oliver:

Prep the yams as you normally would. Chop it up, toss it in a little olive oil and get some hard herbs like rosemary, thyme or bay, or a mixture of, and bash the living daylights out of it. Add a little garlic into that, you can do it in a metal bowl with a rolling pin or a pestle and mortar, hit it with salt and pepper, and sweet things like carrots, sweet potatoes and squash. They love a little bit of background spice, a tiny little bit of chili, you won't taste it as chili, don't worry, I'm not going to blow your head off, but it'll bring out that nuttiness. Bang it in a roasting hot oven at full whack and as soon as you close that door, you turn that down. Say 280 — 300 degrees and let the oven do the work. It will roast it and condense it and almost sun-dry it. You will get huge sweetness, nuttiness, and those herbs, garlic and tiny bit of chili will give you a slap round the face of happiness like you've never had before.

Question from Matthew Graham.

What would be a great vegetarian main course to sit beside the turkey at Thanksgiving?

Answer from Jamie Oliver:

In some respects I think it's actually rather patronizing to give a vegetarian their own special meal because when I do a killer roast dinner you know with all the trimmings, if I took the meat element away, it doesn't bother me. I make roast vegetables and season them nicely and I serve incredible winter greens. This creates a whole extravaganza of flavors and textures you don't really need anything else.

Every single vegetable I flavor or roast, I try purposefully to use salt and pepper, some fat and some form of acidity. If you take a carrot and let's say you want to roast it: season it with thyme and squeeze a Clementine on it and add a little bit of orange zest. Roast that baby until it's all lovely and delicious. You can also roast a turnip or a potato, but hit it with a different herb or hit it with a different form of acid, or even a different form of fat. If you start applying the salt, pepper, fat, acid and herb and mix it up a bit on different veg, I'm telling you, you'll blow your friends away.

Squash and mushrooms are very good. Risottos are kind of cute. You can basically make your suffrito, which is celery and onion, slowly cook it, put the rice in it, half cook it until it's five minutes away, and you can do that the day before and just have a pot of stock. And that little baby you can bring back to the pot in five minutes and just literally but some pan fried mushrooms that you've cooked in some butter, herb and garlic. You can have them in chunks, or run a knife through it on the board and have it really finely chopped so it goes grey and dark and intense. That's always good. Frankly, a really good roast squash soup is killer with some nice croutons and stuff like that. If you've got bread on the table and delicious salad and incredible vegetables, that's plenty going on.