Jamie Oliver's 20th cookbook is his simplest, but possibly best, yet. He spoke to Alexandra Newlove about kitchen efficiency, cooking with foods you can count on one hand, Kiwi politics, and his new book.

"What the hell is arid dahl? Do they even stock that at Countdown?"

You groan inwardly as you scan the other 27 ingredients listed on the pages of your latest glossy cooking tome.

When you plucked it off the shelves, you were lured in by the mouth-watering photography, imagining yourself, sober and serene, artfully dishing up a perfect Canard en Croûte, miraculously unruffled by the three hours of preparation.


Now it's 10pm, nobody's been fed, you've somehow used six colanders and you've realised you forgot to buy the beef to your bourguignon - overlooked on your essay-length shopping list.

Most home cooks will be familiar with this scenario of foiled ambition and Jamie Oliver tackles it head on in his new book: 5 Ingredients - Quick & Easy Food.

Yes, just five. Not five main ingredients plus carbs, and seven herbs you'll need to source in advance (though he gets a free pass on oil, salt and pepper).

Admittedly, the endearing pub-owner's son has for 20 years been preaching we can "have it all" in the kitchen: Nutrition, bragging rights, deliciousness, efficiency, and money in your account at the end.

"But, I've now realised the biggest block to people cooking a meal is a long, long, list of ingredients," Oliver says. "It's a nightmare. I'm there thinking, 'have I got it? Have I not got it? Can I swap this in, can I not swap this in?"

We'll forgive him for using the hackneyed line of "you'll have most of these ingredients in your cupboard already!". Partly because flicking through the book, he may be the first celebrity chef to ever use this phrase truthfully, and partly because, even starting from scratch a five-ingredient shop is a five-minute shop.

"So what's beautiful is people are texting their partners going 'what's for dinner tonight?' and they're going 'pick up some salmon and coriander, we've got [the rest]'."

If you're already a Jamie disciple and are reading the word "quick" thinking about the time it took you 45 minutes to make a "Jamie 15-minute meal", that was exactly my line of scepticism. After a few wines, I've even clocked in about 90 minutes on one fiasco involving shredding courgettes.

When I put this to Oliver, he says those recipes were tested by 12-year-olds and "if they couldn't get it in time then we didn't put it in the book". To be fair, they probably hadn't had much wine.

So other than "drink less", Oliver's advice for efficiency in the kitchen is to look at your layout.

"If you're moving too much, it's a s*** design. Hang your pots and pans and have the drawer next to it with your spoons. If you start thinking about it, there's all these silly little design mistakes."

And from the same school of thought that says bedrooms should be for sleeping and sex, not smartphones and HD televisions, kitchens should be for cooking, and little else.

"A lot of people have a lot of bullshit in their kitchen. They've got a TV here, and receipts and other s*** over there. I always say 'get your kitchen back'."

He hastens to add that some of the recipes in 5 Ingredients do have long in-oven times and are only quick in terms of active preparation. Many others are less than 20 minutes start-to-finish.

He's also an advocate for getting your technical skills in shape.

"Life's too short to be s*** at chopping!" he booms, axing a piece of salmon into what he calls a "forced, arranged marriage" with a bed of garlic and coriander.

We are having quick Asian fishcakes first - the ingredients mentioned plus lemongrass and chilli jam. "I'm not too proud and cheffy that I won't use a jar or pack," he says.

Next it's Garlic Mushroom pasta (16 minutes, fusilli, garlic, mixed mushrooms, parmesan, crème fraiche). "And life's too short to be a s*** tosser!" he yells, tossing a pan of mushrooms. What advice.

Oliver - who in past years has become as infectiously enthusiastic about politics and health as he is about food - reckons Brexit is "a massive f***-up", and when talk turns to New Zealand, he describes the Government as "assholes" for refusing to consider the so-called Sugar Tax he helped campaign successfully for in the UK.

In June, the father-of-five made a video addressing attendees at an Auckland Hospital conference discussing a potential sugar tax. In it, he was incensed no one from the ruling National Party had turned up.

"I've done the sugary drinks tax, we didn't do it because it's cute. We did it because it's based on morals and fact and economics and science."

New Zealand, he says, is influenced "invisibly" by America, "but that's not New Zealand".

"I know New Zealanders, I've worked with them for 25 years in kitchens, I know how they feel about their country. Twenty years ago, Coke was cute, now it's prolific. It was a treat, now it's hydration. Twenty years ago, we didn't have one in three kids overweight or obese. We do now and we're paying for it.

"When I put that video out it went viral, and hopefully your Government will now do the right thing."

My measure of a good cook book is always how splattered it gets. I'm thinking this one will be barely legible in a few months.

5 Ingredients - Quick & Easy Food is available now in major bookstores or online. RRP $65.00.

Jamie Oliver's 5 Ingredients: Quick & Easy Food - The Kiwi edit

Lovely lamb hotpots

Serves 4 | Prep time 10 minutes | Slow cook 2 hours

3 red onions

400g New Zealand lamb neck fillet

6 teaspoons mint sauce

4 teaspoons umami paste (if you can't get it in NZ, try miso paste instead)

500g potatoes

Preheat the oven to 170C. Peel and roughly chop the onions, dice the lamb into 3cm chunks, then divide both between four 15cm ovenproof bowls, placing the bowls on a large oven tray. Add 1 teaspoon each of mint sauce and umami paste to each of the bowls, followed by 150ml of water and a little pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Stir well.

Quickly scrub the potatoes and rattle them through the thick slicer attachment of a food processor so they're just under 1/2cm thick. Divide between the bowls, overlapping them slightly to cover. Press down on the potato layer to compact everything, then cover with tin foil and bake for 2 hours, removing the foil for the last 30 minutes. Spoon over the remaining mint sauce, and tuck in.

Kumara (sweet potato) salad
Serves 2 | Fast prep 9 minutes | Slow cook 1 hour
2 large kumara (300g each)
500g ripe mixed-colour tomatoes
2 spring onions
50g rocket
40g feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 180C. Scrub the kumara clean, place in a roasting tray and bake for 1 hour, or until soft through.

Once done, roughly chop the tomatoes, trim and finely slice the spring onions, then toss it all with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar. Taste and season to perfection with sea salt and black pepper.

Tear the soft kumara between two plates. Toss the rocket through the tomatoes, then pile on top. Crumble over the feta, drizzle with 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle from a height with a pinch of pepper.