Jamie Oliver on his wife's health nightmare (2024)

By Cole Moreton For Weekend Magazine 22:31 19 Aug 2022, updated 01:36 20 Aug 2022

  • Jamie Oliver opens up about his marriage to Jools and dedicating a book to her
  • The TV chef gets candid about the challenges of her suffering with long Covid
  • He speaks about the future and what it's been like to raise his children so far

Jamie Oliver has a secret. 'I've dedicated this to the wife, she hasn't seen it yet. That might get me some brownie points.'

He grins and flips open his new book to reveal a picture of his other half Jools, clutching a mug of something and looking chic. 'If ever I wrote a book that was perfect for you, it's this one,' says the dedication in One: Simple One-Pan Wonders.


'Simple, delicious recipes with minimal washing up!' That doesn't sound very romantic, so what's this all about?

'Jools is an avid cleaner. It's her passion. You have to see her to believe it. She often says, "I wish I'd started a cleaning company, I'd have loved it." Cooking in one receptacle, with big flavours and minimal effort? This has got her written all over it.'

He slows down and considers. 'But it's also an opportunity to say, "Thank you. Love you."'


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Jamie's voice cracks a little when he says that. They've been through some hard times as well as good ones on their rollercoaster ride through fame and fortune, the rise and fall of his restaurant empire and the pressures of bringing up five kids under a spotlight.

But the boy and girl from Essex who met as teenagers are still together, 30 years later. 'If I can't dedicate a book to the one I love, what can I do? I've used up all my best tricks on birthdays and anniversaries so now I'm grovelling!'

Jools has been poorly of late, he reveals. 'She's had bad Covid and long Covid, so she's been really affected by it, sadly. She's OK, but still not what she wants to be.'

Jamie doesn't usually talk about his wife publicly, so this is an exception. 'It's been two years. She finds it deeply scary.'

So does he, by the sound of it. 'We're all over Harley Street like a rash, but no one really knows anything. The data on long Covid is still piling in. She's been an absolute superstar.'


Jools is back home at Spains Hall, their £6 million Tudor mansion near Finchingfield in Essex, while Jamie has been here at his company's HQ in north London since the crack of dawn.

A chef brings smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, but the boss ate hours ago. He's dressed in bright white trainers, tight blue jeans and a pale blue T-shirt and overshirt, with his hair greased into a quiff.

Even at 47, with a face creased by the worries of recent years, there are traces of the schoolboy who went on a double first date with Jools and another girl and his lifelong mate Jimmy Doherty, now famous for the Jimmy's Farm TV show.

'Me and Jools have been together since we were 18. We went to London with nothing but dreams and aspirations.

Luckily, we were able to solidify our relationship before it all kicked off. Then we did it together. It was exciting.'

So Jools was already his partner when documentary cameras caught the young Jamie working in the kitchen of the River Café in Fulham in 1997 and a star was born.

The Naked Chef series and the first of his 25 cookbooks followed. Jools helped him stay calm amid the inevitable backlash.

'I got my first a**e-kicking from the press about three years into my career. We were going, "This was never the plan. Do we want to be in this or do we call it off now?"'

What would they have done instead? 'I had my eyes on a fantastic little pub near Cambridge. Me and Dad were sizing it up.'


Jamie and Jools could have settled for a less public life in the pub, but they pressed on with TV instead. 'We thought, "If we're going to do this, we have to make it mean something."'

So that's why Jamie Oliver has used his fame as a platform to try to improve the health of our children, including school dinners, obesity and the sugar tax. So, is this aimed at Britons trying not to starve during the cost-of-living crisis?

'Honestly, no. This is a middle-class cookbook for Middle England. In the other world I love and work very hard for – which is kids on free school lunches and people on universal credit – they ain't buying this. But does this book help Middle England address the economic weather we're currently going through? Definitely.'

The recipes – some of which are running exclusively in Weekend today (see page 69) – are refreshingly easy, with just a handful of ingredients in each.

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'Being dyslexic is a strength, in a way. Too much text stresses me out, so there's no philosophy here, just getting down to business.'

He'll be showing you how to cook some of them himself in the TV series accompanying the book, which starts this week. There are personal touches like Petal's Pudding, a lemon, meringue and blackcurrant jam creation he made to try to change the mind of one of his daughters.

I really tried to be an on-point dad, but having teenage girls is hard. They get to 13 and you’re dumped


'Ironically, my kids don't like puddings. How weird is that? My childhood was propped up by sticky toffee pudding and roly-poly. They just tend to go for a piece of chocolate or a biscuit. I don't know how I've created these children.'

There was a time when Jamie and Jools thought they couldn't be parents. 'When I first started going out with Jools, she was like, "I'll never be able to have kids." She had polycystic ovaries. But here we are with five.'

Poppy, now 20, was the first. Daisy's 19, Petal 13, Buddy 11 and River's nearly six.

Again, Jamie doesn't usually talk about the kids, but today is different. He's hurt his back and been stung on the lip by a bee from the hive at his 70-acre country estate.

'See that jar of honey over there? That's the reason for this face!' So all other meetings have been cancelled and this very busy man has time to stop and reflect.

'I haven't done teenage boys yet but I found teenage girls very hard. I tried to be an on-point dad, I'd give myself nine out of ten for effort. Then the minute they get to 13, you're dumped. You're outside looking in. That involved a lot of patience. All you want is a few hugs a day and to be appreciated, but there's a lot of chemistry going on. You never get the kid back after 13, they completely change. That took a while to get over. So I've struggled with the teenage years.'


Relationships do improve when they become adults, he says. 'But then just when you start to get them back they're off to university. So it's like a bereavement.'

What's it like for his kids though, having a famous father? 'I'm quite a ball and chain. I don't think their lives are easier because I'm their dad. I think it's probably the opposite.'

Why's that? 'If you're out on the p*** at university... I think it was about three-and-a-half minutes of my daughter going there before, whoosh!'

He mimes her privacy flying away, as students realised who was out drinking.

'And that's the banter for the whole year, right? They get judged. When you're not able to make a genuine first impression because everybody thinks they know who you are, because of who your dad is, that's tough.'

What about boyfriends or girlfriends? 'Luckily for me, the boyfriends are lovely. Good lads. If they weren't, I'd be terrible.'

He chuckles. 'I grew up in kitchens and I call a spade a spade. I like a bit of hard work. I like sweat. I like a bit of resilience. I don't like Cotton Wool Britain.'

Jamie thinks hard before explaining what he means. 'The overriding emotion from talking to lots of young people in the work that I do is that there's a flavour of resentment towards serving people. To saying, "Yes sir, yes madam."'

He grimaces. 'I utterly disagree with the idea that you shouldn't take pleasure in serving. I grew up in a pub serving people. It's not a weakness. To serve people and make their day a little better is one of life's gifts.'


Jamie's getting worked up. 'I can assure you if I was asked to clean a toilet, I'd clean it. If it was for the good of me or my team or my family, I'd get in there and clean other people's s***.'

So let's be clear: by talking about Cotton Wool Britain, is he saying young people are reluctant to get their hands dirty and serve?

Jamie nods and says, 'I've had scenarios where you take people who are vulnerable or receiving charitable status and they think certain things are beneath them. So it's not even about class, vulnerability or wealth. In scenarios within my work or personal life, there are people being picky about what one would or wouldn't do. And because I know there's nothing I wouldn't do, it baffles the hell out of me.'

I like a bit of hard work. I like sweat. I like resilience. I don’t like Cotton Wool Britain

The rise of Jamie Oliver came to a sudden halt in 2019 when his restaurant empire collapsed and all but three of the 25 branches of Jamie's Italian were closed (the other three were sold off).

A thousand people lost their jobs. 'We got the basic equation of rent and rates wrong,' he admits.

'Then you put in a bit of high street decline and the way things changed with the delivery services [like Deliveroo and Just Eat]. It was definitely a dark time.'


Rivals like Strada and Byron also went into administration as people fell out of love with mid-market restaurants. Is it true he lost £25 million of his own money?

'Yep.' Still, Jamie was estimated to have been worth £200 million at the height of his success, so will he ever open another restaurant?

'Definitely. The plan is to see how the dust settles in the next 18 months, which will be tricky for everyone in the restaurant game, then get back into it. With a wiser head.'

There's another plan too, which is to make more use of that mansion. 'The papers are obsessed by my home: Essex boy, big gaff, I get it. I can't change that but I can talk about it.'

So he does. 'We want a place that'll allow me to get old but still be productive. The cookery school will move there. We'll have a bakery, a residential side and we'll have conferences. I'll host it. We'll feed them. So the place is relevant to the work.'

Again, there's also something very personal going on here.

'I've had a massive rethink on life. Who do you want to spend your time with? What does happiness look like, really? If there's anything good to come out of Covid, it's a little more internal contemplation. I'm trying to act on that.'

It's easy to see how writing about one-pan cooking and doing less washing up fits in with the desire to simplify life, but what else is Jamie doing?


'Travelling less, trying to have more quality time with Jools, planning a bit more for holidays and family occasions, being nearer Mum and Dad.'

Older, wiser, quieter and more battered than before, he clearly still thinks of himself as the determined lad who Jools met 30 years ago. Let's hope she likes the dedication.

'You get to 40 and you start realising you're going to more funerals than weddings. That's tough. I've always been searching for more work-life balance, but now I want to be more ninja about it!'

  • Jamie's One-Pan Wonders, Monday, 8.30pm, Channel 4 and All4.

One-pan wonders: Tasty, fuss-free, economical – the mouthwatering dishes in Jamie Oliver's new book can all be made in just one pan or tray, meaning minimal washing up too!



Serves: 4

Prep: 12 minutes

Cook: 2 hours

You will need:

  • Casserole pan
  • 4 higher-welfare lamb shanks (roughly 400g each)
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 6 mixed-colour peppers
  • 1 lemon
  • 800g baby new potatoes
  • 8 black olives, stone in
  • Red wine vinegar
  • 1tsp runny honey
  • ½ a bunch of flat-leaf parsley (15g)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/ fan 180°C/gas 6. Place a large deep casserole pan on a high heat. Season the lamb shanks with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper, then fry in 1tbsp olive oil, turning until browned all over.

Meanwhile, halve the unpeeled garlic bulb across the middle and tear up the peppers into big chunks, discarding the seeds and stalks. Add both to the pan, then use a speed-peeler to add the lemon peel in strips.

Go in with the potatoes, halving any larger ones, then squash, de-stone and add the olives, also stirring in a splash of liquor from their jar. Mix together well, cover, then transfer to the oven for 1 hour.

Mix up again, and cook uncovered for another hour, or until the lamb is tender. Remove from the oven.

Mash the soft garlic cloves into the stew, discarding the skins, then season to perfection with salt, pepper and a thimble of red wine vinegar. Brush the honey over the lamb, then pick over the parsley leaves, and serve.


ENERGY 681kcal FAT 38.4g SAT FAT 14.4g PROTEIN 70.6g CARBS 14.8g SUGARS 12.4g SALT 1g FIBRE 5.4g


Swap the lamb for quarters of scrubbed celeriac, treating it in exactly the same way, and chuck in a jar of drained chickpeas.



Serves: 1

Total: 8 mins

You will need:

  • Frying pan
  • 125g fresh lasagne sheets
  • 2 spring onions
  • 80g spinach
  • 60g smoked salmon (2 slices) from sustainable sources
  • ½ a lemon
  • 5g Parmesan cheese
  • 1tbsp cottage cheese

Boil the kettle. Cut the lasagne sheets in half lengthways, then into 2cm strips, using a crinkle-cut knife, if you've got one.

Trim the spring onions and finely chop with the spinach and half the salmon. Finely grate the lemon zest, then the Parmesan, keeping them separate.

Put a 28cm frying pan on a high heat.

Once hot, put a little drizzle of olive oil into the pan with the spring onions, spinach, chopped salmon and lemon zest. Scatter the pasta into the pan, then carefully pour in enough boiling kettle water to just cover the pasta – about 250ml.

Let it bubble away for 4 minutes, or until the pasta has absorbed most of the water and you've got a nice sauce, stirring regularly and loosening with an extra splash of water, if needed.

Turn the heat off, squeeze in the lemon juice, stir in the cottage cheese and Parmesan, then season to perfection. Delicately tear over the remaining salmon, and finish with a kiss of extra-virgin olive oil, if you like.

ENERGY 431kcal FAT 14.8g SAT FAT 4g PROTEIN 29.5g CARBS 43.6g SUGARS 4.6g SALT 1.7g FIBRE 3.1g




Serves: 6

Prep: 8 mins

Cook: 2 hours

You will need:

  • Casserole pan
  • 1 x 1.5kg whole free-range chicken
  • 4 rashers of higher-welfare smoked streaky bacon
  • 6 small carrots
  • 4 corn on the cobs
  • 1 bunch of rosemary (20g)
  • 3 nests of vermicelli rice noodles
  • 400g frozen peas
  • English mustard, to serve

Sit the whole chicken in a large, deep casserole pan. Roughly slice and add the bacon.

Trim and add the whole carrots. Carefully chop each corn on the cob into three pieces and add, then cover everything with 4 litres of cold water.

Cover the pan, bring to the boil, then simmer on a medium-low heat for 1½ hours.

Use tongs to carefully lift and transfer the chicken to a plate, then divide the bacon, carrots and corn between six serving bowls, leaving the pan of broth on the heat.

Turn the heat up and bring the broth back to the boil, while you use two forks to shred all the chicken meat off the bones, dividing it between your bowls.

Skim the surface of the broth, if desired, then tie the rosemary bunch together with kitchen string, and drop into the bubbling broth for 2 minutes, along with the noodles and frozen peas – the rosemary will add a beautiful aroma.

Remove the rosemary, season the broth to perfection, then use tongs to divide the noodles between the bowls. Ladle over the peas and broth, then serve with English mustard on the side.

Finish with a kiss of extra-virgin olive oil and extra black pepper, if you like.

ENERGY 446kcal FAT 6.9g SAT FAT 1.8g PROTEIN 47.1g CARBS 50.3g SUGARS 7.9g SALT 0.6g FIBRE 6.8g




Serves: 14

Prep: 15 mins

Cook: 5 hours

You will need:

  • Roasting tray
  • ½ a higher-welfare pork shoulder, bone in (4.5kg)
  • 2tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 whole nutmeg, for grating
  • 4 red onions
  • 4 large carrots
  • 4 eating apples
  • 1 bunch of sage (20g)
  • 1 bulb of garlic

Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas 7. It's important to use a snug-fitting roasting tray.

Sit the pork shoulder in the tray and drizzle with 2tbsp of olive oil and the red wine vinegar, finely grate over the whole nutmeg, season generously with sea salt and black pepper, and rub well.

Peel and halve the onions. Wash, trim and halve the carrots lengthways.

Quarter and core the apples. Pick the sage leaves.

Lift the pork and sit the onion, carrots, apples, sage leaves and whole unpeeled garlic bulb underneath the meat.

Roast for 2 hours, then reduce the heat to 170°C/fan 150°C/gas 3 and cook for another 3 hours, or until the meat effortlessly pulls apart, adding splashes of water occasionally to prevent it from drying out, if needed.

Lift off the crackling and put aside. Remove the pork to a board to rest.

Spoon the excess fat off the tray into a jar (save for tasty cooking another day), then squeeze the soft garlic cloves out of the skins, and mush up the carrots, onions and apples.

Return the pork to the tray, then shred and pull apart with two forks, removing gristly bits and bones. Mix until beautifully dressed in the outrageous tray juices, then season to perfection.

Snap up the crackling and place back on top, then enjoy as is or hold in the oven until needed. Batch up the extra portions to stash in the fridge or freezer for future meals.


See below and right for some of my favourite ways to celebrate it.

ENERGY 376kcal FAT 26.2g SAT FAT 8.4g PROTEIN 28.6g CARBS 7.2g SUGARS 5.4g SALT 0.4g FIBRE 1.6g


Embellish a margherita pizza by scattering over some pork, sliced fresh chilli and tenderstem broccoli (halved lengthways), before cooking according to the packet instructions, or make your own. Serve with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.


In a frying pan, heat up some pork with a splash of water, sliced fresh chilli and peanuts till crisp and piping hot, then toss with red wine vinegar, runny honey, and cooked noodles. Serve in an iceberg lettuce cup with a wedge of lime.


In a pan, heat up some pork with a splash of water until piping hot and lightly golden, then pile into a bap or bun with some wholegrain mustard, cheese and onion crisps, a wodge of rocket and a few cornichons or pickles.


In a frying pan, heat up some pork with a splash of water till crisp and piping hot, then remove. Next, simmer some tinned cannellini beans, juice and all, until the liquid has reduced. Serve with fresh soft herbs and finely chopped quick-pickled red onion.



Serves: 4

Total: 33 mins

You will need:

  • Frying pan
  • 500g skinless boneless free-range chicken thighs
  • 1 bunch of spring onions
  • 320g mixed mushrooms
  • 320g sheet of ready rolled puff pastry
  • 600ml semi skimmed milk
  • 1 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • 1tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 80g mixed bag of watercress, spinach & rocket

Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas 7. Chop the chicken into 3cm chunks and place in a 30cm non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat with 1tbsp olive oil, stirring regularly.


Trim the spring onions, chop into 1cm lengths and add to the pan. Trim and tear in the mushrooms.

Cook for 10 minutes, or until golden, stirring regularly. Meanwhile, unroll the pastry sheet on its paper and score a 3cm border around the edge (don't cut all the way through), then very lightly score a large criss-cross pattern across the inner section.

Brush with a little milk, then place the pastry, still on its paper, directly on the middle shelf of the oven to cook for 17 minutes, or until golden, risen and cooked through.

Stir the flour into the pan for 1 minute, then gradually stir in the milk. Simmer on a medium heat until the pastry is done, stirring occasionally, and loosening with extra splashes of milk, if needed.

Turn the heat off, stir through the mustard and half of the leaves, then season to perfection. Remove the pastry from the oven, leave to cool slightly, then transfer to a serving board, discarding the paper.

Use a sharp knife to cut round the border, cutting through the top few layers of pastry only.

Use a fish slice tocarefully lift up and remove the inner section (like a lid), leaving a layer of pastry at the bottom. Pile in the remaining leaves and filling, then put the lid back on, slice and serve.


Simply ditch the chicken and ramp up the mushrooms!

ENERGY 679kcal FAT 36.2g SAT FAT 13.5g PROTEIN 39.8g CARBS 48.2g SUGARS 9.5g SALT 1.1g FIBRE 4.7g




Serves: 2

Total: 15 mins

You will need:

  • Frying pan
  • 2 x 125g chunky white fish fillets, skin on, scaled, pin-boned, from sustainable sources
  • 1 lime
  • 4 spring onions
  • 250g ripe mixed-colour cherry tomatoes
  • 2 heaped tsp Keralan or korma curry paste
  • 2 heaped tsp coconut cream
  • 450g pumpkin gnocchi
  • 160g sugar snap peas

Put ½tbsp olive oil in a 30cm non-stick frying pan on a medium high heat, then place the fish skin side down to one side of the pan and finely grate over the lime zest.

Trim the spring onions, chop the white parts into 2cm lengths and add to the pan with the tomatoes, halving any larger ones. As soonas the fish skin is golden and crispy, move the half-cooked fish to your board.

Boil the kettle. Stir the curry paste into the pan for 1 minute, then squeeze in half the lime juice and add the coconut cream and gnocchi.

Pour in 300ml of boiling kettle water, bring back to the boil, then sprinkle in the sugar snaps. Sit the fish fillets on top, skin-side up, cover the pan, and cook for 4 minutes.

Finely slice the green spring onion tops and scatter over, then serve with lime wedges, for squeezing over.

ENERGY 565kcal FAT 12.2g SAT FAT 4.6g PROTEIN 37.9g CARBS 72.8g SUGARS 20.6g SALT 2.7g FIBRE 10.8g



Serves: 12

Total: 1 hour 5 mins

You will need:

  • Roasting tray
  • 2 large oranges or blood oranges
  • 200g runny honey
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 200g Greek yoghurt
  • 2tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • Optional: rose water

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Line a 20cm x 30cm roasting tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper, then rub it with olive oil.

Finely grate the orange zest into a large bowl and put aside, then take your time to very finely slice 1 orange into rounds. Layer it into the tray, drizzle with 100g of honey and bake for 20 minutes.


Meanwhile, add the almonds, flour, yoghurt and vanilla paste to the bowl of orange zest. Crack in the eggs, add 200ml of olive oil, a small pinch of sea salt, the remaining 100g of honey and a small thimble of rose water, if using.

Whisk together well. Remove the tray from the oven, gently pour the cake batter over the orange slices, and return to the oven for 35 minutes, or until golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Turn the cake out on to a board, and carefully peel away the greaseproof. Nice served warm with a dollop of yoghurt or custard.


My dear Nan loved a traybaked sponge. With the combination of honey, almonds and orange here reminiscent of Greece, it's like I've sent her on her holidays in the form of a cake! I think she would have really liked this one.

ENERGY 397kcal FAT 28.9g SAT FAT 4.4g PROTEIN 7.1g CARBS 29g SUGARS 16.3g SALT 0.3g FIBRE 0.9g



Serves: 12

Total: 37 Mins

You will need:

  • Roasting tray
  • 100g soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 150g golden caster sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 4 large free-range eggs
  • 500ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 2 lemons
  • 200g blackcurrant jam
  • 2 meringue nests (25g total)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/ fan 180°C/gas 6. Lightly grease a 20cm x 30cm roasting tray, then dust with a little sugar.

To make the batter, blitz the butter and sugar in a food processor until well combined. Crack in the eggs, add the milk and flour, finely grate in the lemon zest and blitz again to combine.

Spoon the blackcurrant jam into the tray, squeeze in the lemon juice, add 2tbsp water, gently stir together and spread across the base.


Evenly pour over the batter, then place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until risen with a slight wobble in the centre.

It'll sink quickly once it's out of the oven, so take the pudding straight to the table and eccentrically crumble over the meringues, as your diners cheer on.


I set out with the intention of reimagining a lemon meringue pie, but then I got excited about French clafoutis, and ended up creating this little beauty.

The tang and deliciousness of the blackcurrant works so well with the custardy sponge, but feel free to experiment with your favourite jams, too.

ENERGY 270kcal FAT 9.9g SAT FAT 5.3g PROTEIN 5.6g CARBS 41.9g SUGARS 29.5g SALT 0.3g FIBRE0.8g

* All nutritional values are per serving

  • ONE by Jamie Oliver is published by Penguin Michael Joseph © Jamie Oliver Enterprises Limited (2022 ONE), priced £28, on 1 September. To order a copy for £19.60 go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937. Free UK delivery on orders over £20. Promotional price valid until 03/09/22. Photography: © David Loftus, 2022; © Richard Clatworthy, 2022.
Jamie Oliver on his wife's health nightmare (2024)
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