Jamie Oliver was born and raised in the village of Clavering in Essex, UK. His parents ran – and still run – a pub/restaurant, “The Cricketers”, where Jamie used to practise cooking in the kitchen. He left school at age sixteen with two GCSE qualifications in Art and Geology and went on to attend Westminster Catering College (now Westminster Kingsway College). His first job was a pastry chef at Antonio Carluccio’s ‘Neal’s Yard’ restaurant where he first gained experience with preparing Italian cuisine. Oliver then moved to The River Café, Fulham, as a sous chef. It was here that he was noticed by the BBC in 1997 after making an unscripted appearance in a documentary about the restaurant, “Christmas at the River Cafe”. That year, his show ‘The Naked Chef’ debuted and his cookbook became a number one best-seller in the UK. In June 2013, Oliver was inducted into the Culinary Hall of Fame.
Jamie Oliver’s celebrity status has made little difference to his personal passion for teaching people about how to grow and cook good, honest food. His campaigns and ‘offensives’ have led to towns and cities in both the US and the UK canning unhealthy ‘mainstream’ school lunches, opting instead for healthy meals for school-kids without highly processed ingredients and exorbitant levels of sugar. He’s taken on world-wide fast food brands such as McDonalds and has ‘outed’ them for their product’s lack of nutrition and for their support of inhumane practices by their meat and poultry suppliers. An avid Organics Industry supporter, he has also raised awareness world-wide about the need to support this industry and do away with the cruel treatment of animals that mass corporations turn a blind eye to with their eyes fixed on the end result (money.)
Below are 2 of Jamie’s ‘party finger food’ recipes that are guaranteed to go down a treat. Delicious baby taco’s (a little larger than a traditional ‘one-bite’ canape but hey, everyone loves them!) and an old italian favourite – ricotta and herb stuffed baked mushrooms…
JAMIE OLIVER’S PORK-BELLY STUFFED BABY TACO’S
For the pork:
• 350 g skinless organic pork belly
• 1 heaped teaspoon fennel seeds
• 1 heaped teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
For the beans:
• olive oil
• 1 good pinch cumin seeds
• spring onions
• cloves of garlic
• 1 x 400 g tin of black beans
For the salad:
• 1 fresh red or green chilli
• 2 little gem lettuces
• ½ a bunch fresh coriander
• 1 ripe avocado
• 1 large ripe tomato
• 1 eating apple
• low-salt soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
• 1 lime
• chilli sauce
• 4 tablespoons fat-free natural yoghurt
•16 corn taco shells
Cut the pork into 1cm dice and tip into a large hot frying pan with the fennel seeds, paprika, salt and pepper, and stir regularly. Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the cumin seeds into a medium frying pan. Trim, slice and add the spring onions, squash in the unpeeled garlic through a garlic crusher, then stir in the beans and their juices, and simmer.
Finely slice the chilli, lettuce and most of the top leafy half of the coriander, then halve, destone, peel and chop the avocado, along with the tomato. Toss and pile all this on a platter, coarsely grating or matchsticking the apple on top. Ripple a little chilli sauce through the yoghurt in a small bowl.
Stir, mush and season the beans to taste. Drizzle the salad with a little soy sauce, the extra virgin olive oil and lime juice, then toss together. Drain the fat from the pork pan, then serve everything straight away, with a pile of pre-warmed taco shells and all the other elements, sprinkled with the remaining coriander leaves. Don’t forget a big stack of napkins or serviettes and and warm lemon-bowl for guests to wash their paws in afterward.
JAMIE OLIVER’S RICOTTA AND HERB BAKED STUFFED MUSHROOMS
(‘ricotta e herb ripieni funghi ricetta’)
• 75 g good crumbly ricotta cheese
• zest of 1 lemon
• 1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped, to taste
• sea salt
• freshly ground black pepper
• 2 tablespoons fresh oregano or marjoram leaves, finely chopped
• 1 small handful Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus extra for sprinkling
• 6 handfuls small mushrooms, brushed clean
• extra virgin olive oil
• 1 handful rocket or soft leafy herbs
This is an incredible version of the old classic we’ve all tried at some point. You can use one type of mushroom or a mixture, but you will need ones which have a good cap to hold the ricotta filling. Small Portobello or field mushrooms will work well. You can serve this as a starter or as little antipasti munchies.
Preheat your oven to 220ºC/425ºF/gas 7. Put your ricotta into a bowl with the lemon zest, chilli and a little salt and pepper. Beat together with a wooden spoon, then fold in your chopped oregano and the Parmesan. Carefully remove the stalks from your mushrooms and discard them (or keep them for making a pasta sauce), then toss the mushroom caps in a little oil, salt and pepper. Lay them upside down on a baking tray so that they can be filled with small amounts of your fantastic ricotta mixture. Carefully spoon in the filling, sprinkle a little Parmesan over the top and bake in the preheated oven till golden – about 15 minutes. Great served on a big plate, sprinkled with some dressed rocket leaves or soft leafy herbs.