FAMED for making home cooking approachable and achievable for millions of people, and for lobbying for better children's public health, Jamie Oliver's influence doesn't seem to be wavering - even 20 years on from the Naked Chef first appearing on our TVs.

His restaurant chain may have recently gone into administration in the UK, but a few months on, he's "moving on, dusting down" after a "very, very painful" time and focusing on his next venture - and this time it's plant-based.

So is the man who brought us the 'insanity burger' turning off meat altogether? "No. No way Jose!" Although a self-confessed meat-lover, it might surprise you to learn that he eats meat "probably only twice a week" these days.

His new Channel 4 show Meat-Free Meals and cookbook Veg feel bang on the zeitgeist. It's no coincidence that social consciousness around food is changing; we all know that cutting down on meat is better for the environment, as well as for ourselves.

"Yes it's trendy at the moment, that's cool," Oliver, 44, says, as if pre-empting any assumptions that he's jumping on any bandwagons. He wrote (and shelved) this book eight years ago, in fact. "I could be wrong but I hope that now is the time to go quite hard and mainstream on veg," he says, and in true Jamie Oliver style he's determined to normalise it, to get all of us cooking it, all of the time.

"We've made it [vegetarianism] more faddy than it needs to be. Veg has been depicted as quite a divisive thing, like football, gangs," he muses. "Vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian - what are you? But it doesn't really matter how you look at it, humans are absolutely deficient in veg, legumes and fibre.

The new TV show sees Oliver travel to countries where veg is often front and centre of the cuisine, like India and Israel. "Meat has always been an expression of progress, it's always been a luxury or a sense of cash or commerce - but when you haven't got much of it, humans are beyond genius," he says, on the food he discovered travelling. "The diversity of textures and colours, for really affordable - onions, carrots - everyday things like pickles and fritters, things that give you the same hugging feeling as a burger or a pizza. You're kind of sitting there going, 'I don't want any [meat], I'm really happy'."

He even visits a meat-free school: "The idea of schools going veggie is a brilliant idea - it would save loads of money."

Oliver says he wanted to go back to focusing on "Monday to Thursday eating, busy working people" for his Veg cookbook (which is incidentally 30-40% vegan), and it certainly harks back to the style of 30-Minute Meals and 5-Ingredients.

It's not rabbit food though. "It's a celebration, not commiseration," says Oliver. There's heartiness (crispy cauliflower katsu), comfort food (Indian-style chip butty), nutrient-dense (veg tagine) and naughtiness (cheesy kimchi toastie) and 'Friday night nibbles' for the end of the week. "For me it's a relief! I'll pour myself a little whiskey maybe and I want to have something fun to nibble on," Oliver says of his Friday nights.

"It's about making it simple, delicious and as good as it can be, I'm not trying to give you the best," he adds, ever the realist. "I'm trying to write recipes that are car crash-proof; OK so you chopped it really badly - that's cool, chop it badly."

He doesn't want busy people to open the book and think: "'Well I'm never going to do that, not until the weekend'."

It's why he's a big fan of using frozen food, particularly veg. "Frozen is the future," Oliver declares. "The science of freezing has never changed, it's just that we've always frozen a lot of s***. The chances are that your frozen pea will be more nutritious, and in better condition, than your fresh pea that's been sitting in a warehouse for a week.

"If you care about higher welfare, cheaper price - frozen. If you care about lack of waste - frozen. Convenience, portion control, nutrition - frozen."

In recent years, Oliver's recipes haven't been without controversy though; he was once criticised for using chorizo in a paella and last year 'Jamie's jollof rice' attracted thousands of comments, many claiming he was 'appropriating' a traditional West African dish.

"I just think that food can be political, it can be divisive," he says. "I learned to make the best hummus I've ever had from theoretically one of the best hummus makers on the planet - and there was at least 300-400 comments that went really dark and really political. We were in the West Bank, Israel, so you've got to be really careful."

Politically speaking, Oliver has never been one to shy away; is he planning to lobby new Prime Minister Boris Johnson on child public health? "Always!" he declares - and there's a long list apparently. "I've met him on a number of occasions, I've seen him as mayor, I've seen him say one thing and contradict one thing, but what now? Will we continue to weekly speak to his teams? Yes. Will I want to meet with him as soon as possible? Yes. Is child health a central pillar of Britain now and in the future? Yes.

"The biggest morally wrong thing we have to deal with right now is that too many times, the better or healthier option is too expensive. We definitely need governments around the world to subsidy better food.

"Generally, what a child and what a family needs is the same as what the planet needs - more veg, more nuts, more seeds, more legumes. If I had a magic wand, I'd love to go to David Attenborough and say, 'Can we do a show called My Health, My Planet?' Because I think that's the conversation now."

I think it's safe to assume we'd all watch that.


Up your veggie curry game with this delicious recipe.

There's nothing more satisfying than a curry - and having one up your sleeve that doesn't involve meat is a game-changer for midweek cooking.

Jamie Oliver says he wrote the recipe for his stuffed curried aubergines with spicy tamarind and peanut sauce eight years ago, and he's sharing it now in his new veggie cookbook.


(Serves 6)

1 onion

4 cloves of garlic

4cm piece of ginger

1/2 a bunch of fresh coriander (15g)

2 fresh red chillies

1tsp each of cumin seeds, mustard seeds, ground turmeric, garam masala, fenugreek seeds

1 big handful of fresh curry leaves

Groundnut oil

2tbsp (heaped) crunchy peanut butter

1tbsp mango chutney

2tbsp tamarind paste

12 finger aubergines (800g total)

1 x 400g tin of light coconut milk

250g ripe mixed-colour cherry tomatoes

Sea salt and black pepper

Nutritional value per serving:

Energy 221kcal

Fat 15.2g

Sat Fat 5.6g

Protein 6.7g

Carbs 15.9g

Sugars 12.9g

Salt 0.9g

Fibre 2.3g


1. Preheat the oven to 190oC/375oF/gas 5. Peel the onion, garlic and ginger, place in a food processor with the coriander stalks and chillies (deseed if you like), and whiz to a fine paste.

2. Put the spices and curry leaves into a 25cm x 35cm roasting tray on a low heat with two tablespoons of oil and fry for one minute, or until smelling fantastic, stirring constantly. Tip in the paste and cook for five minutes, or until softened, stirring regularly.

3. Stir in the peanut butter, mango chutney and tamarind paste, season with a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper, then scrape into a bowl, adding a splash of water to loosen to a paste, if needed.

4. Leaving them intact at the stalk, cut the aubergines into quarters lengthways, rub and stuff them generously with all the paste, then arrange them in the tray (if using regular aubergines, simply trim then cut into 1cm-thick rounds and sandwich the paste between them).

5. Place the tray on a medium heat and fry for five minutes, turning halfway. Add the coconut milk, roughly chop and sprinkle over the tomatoes, season well with salt and pepper, and bring to the boil.

5. Cover with tin foil and roast for 40 minutes, or until thickened and reduced, removing the foil halfway. Season to perfection and scatter over the coriander leaves.

To serve: Always good with fluffy rice, poppadoms, yoghurt and extra fresh chilli.


It's 100% better than takeout.

You might never need chicken or prawn in a pad thai again, after trying Jamie Oliver's new veggie version. You can knock this together in 30 minutes, too. And to make it vegan, just remove the eggs and serve with extra tofu.


(Serves 2)

150g rice noodles

Sesame oil

20g unsalted peanuts

2 cloves of garlic

80g silken tofu

low-salt soy sauce

2tsp tamarind paste

2tsp sweet chilli sauce

2 limes (juiced - plus extra wedges for serving, if you like)

1 shallot

320g crunchy veg, such as asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli, pak choi, baby corn

80g beansprouts

2 large eggs

Olive oil

Dried chilli flakes

1/2 a cos lettuce

1/2 a mixed bunch of fresh, basil, mint and coriander (15g)

Nutritional value per serving:

Energy 593kcal

Fat 19g

Sat Fat 3.8g

Protein 26.4g

Carbs 83.5g

Sugars 10.7g

Salt 1.3g

Fibre 8.3g


1. Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, then drain and refresh under cold running water and toss with one teaspoon of sesame oil.

2. Lightly toast the peanuts in a large non-stick frying pan on a medium heat until golden, then bash in a pestle and mortar until fine, and tip into a bowl.

3. Peel the garlic and bash to a paste with the tofu, add one teaspoon of sesame oil, one tablespoon of soy, the tamarind paste and chilli sauce, then squeeze and muddle in half the lime juice.

4. Peel and finely slice the shallot, then place in the frying pan over a high heat. Trim, prep and slice the crunchy veg, as necessary, then dry-fry for four minutes, or until lightly charred (to bring out a nutty, slightly smoky flavour).

5. Add the noodles, sauce, beansprouts, and a good splash of water, toss together over the heat for one minute, then divide between serving bowls.

6. Wipe out the pan, crack in the eggs and cook to your liking in a little olive oil, sprinkling with a pinch of chilli flakes.

7. Trim the lettuce, click apart the leaves and place a few in each bowl. Pop the eggs on top, pick over the herbs, and sprinkle with the nuts. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over, and extra soy, to taste.


These green pancakes are topped with avocado, tomato and cottage cheese.

Pancakes and weekends go together perfectly, but what if there was a way to make them healthier? Jamie Oliver packs these ones with spinach to give them a vibrant green colour - and a bit more nutritional value.

Serve them with a fried egg on top for an extra-special bonus.


(Serves 6)

1 ripe avocado

350g ripe mixed-colour cherry tomatoes

100g baby spinach

3 spring onions

1/2 a bunch of fresh coriander (15g)

1 lime (juiced - plus more wedges for serving, if you like)

Extra virgin olive oil

1 large egg

1 mug of self-raising flour

1 mug of semi-skimmed milk

Olive oil

300g cottage cheese

Hot chilli sauce

Sea salt and black pepper


1. Halve, de-stone, peel and finely slice the avocado and quarter the tomatoes, then place in a salad bowl with a quarter of the spinach. Trim, finely slice and add the spring onions and pick in the coriander leaves, then squeeze over the lime juice. Drizzle with one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, season to perfection with sea salt and black pepper, toss to coat and put aside.

2. Crack the egg into a blender, add the flour, milk, remaining spinach and a pinch of salt and pepper, then blitz until smooth. Place a large non-stick frying pan on a medium heat, rub the pan with a little olive oil, then pour in a thin layer of batter, swirling it up and around the edges. Cook on one side only for two minutes, or until lightly golden, then stack up on a serving plate and repeat.

3. Top each pancake with dollops of cottage cheese, the avocado salad, and a few good shakes of chilli sauce. Really nice served with extra lime wedges for squeezing over, and a fried egg on top, if you fancy.

Meat-Free Meals airs on Channel 4 this September. Veg by Jamie Oliver, photography by David Loftus and Paul Stuart, is published by Penguin Random House (c) Jamie Oliver Enterprises Ltd (2019 Veg) on August 22, priced £26.