Farmer and foodie Jimmy Doherty, 39, is best known as the presenter of Food Unwrapped and one half of Jamie and Jimmy’s Food Fight Club, which he presents with his childhood friend Jamie Oliver. He lives on his farm in Suffolk with his wife Michaela and daughter Molly Rose, 4.
Describe your kitchen to us…
I’ve just had it done, it’s got a central island, marble surface tops and an awesome little pantry that we designed – that was really important for me, I love a good old pantry. We had it built by a small, local company.
What’s your favourite thing about your kitchen?
Well it might seem a bit boring actually, but my favourite thing is the butcher’s block that I bought as we obviously started out as a butcher’s and a farm. It’s better than just a chopping board, I had to search online to find a real, authentic one that had really been using for jointing meat. It’s the proper job. It symbolises where we came from and the heart of our business.
What’s your most used kitchen gadget?
Perhaps a speed peeler, I’ve got one shaped like a chicken, which I quite like. Or a knife – I’ve had all my drawers sorted out now so I know exactly where everything is and can always find the right knife.
What do you eat at home?
It’s hugely varied, but obviously living on the farm we eat a lot of meat. And fish, I love fish and it’s nice to have something different. I had a lovely bit of brown trout the other day – I visited a trout farm in Hampshire and came away with some giant trout, it was more like a small salmon – it was a good 2 kilos. And lots of veg.
Do you cook much for yourself?
I do all the cooking, every day when I’m at home… to the despair of my wife. I can be a bit militant in the kitchen. A lot of what we eat is dictated by the children, but I’m lucky as they will eat almost everything. Spaghetti bolognese always keeps them quiet. On Sunday I did a full beef rib roast and Yorkshire puds – the works.
I love doing Sri Lankan curries, too – I go to Sri Lanka every year and there’s a brilliant little shack called The Spice Box where I stock up on blends of roasted spices and curry pastes.
Were you always into cooking, or has working with food drawn you into it?
Farming and food has definitely enhanced an interest in cooking. When I was 12 I had some Bantam chickens and I became obsessed by cooking with the eggs, and as a teenager I’d often get home and get the dinner on while my parents were at work.
Then as a student in Coventry, I flat-shared with a French guy and we’d go to the covered market and buy food, like whole salmons, chickens and pheasants and then we’d joint it up and cook it ourselves – it was cheaper and went a lot further that way. And then, because he was French I was determined to prove to him that British cooking and produce wasn’t crap so we’d make our own bread or go off on trips to Herefordshire cider tasting. It was great fun.
What are your store-cupboard staples?
Tinned chopped tomatoes; passata – it goes in everything from Bolognese to curry; chick peas; butter beans and pulses; Sri Lankan spices and curry blends; olive oil and good balsamic vinegar; and Aspall’s cider vinegar.
Do you have a favourite fast and easy meal that you could share with us?
Yes, it’s dead easy and you only need one pan. Cook some spaghetti and add some chopped up broccoli near the end. Drain the water and mix in and mush up the broccoli, and then run an egg yolk through it all. My kids hoover it up.
What three things would you save from your kitchen in a fire?
My chopping block, my Wolf cooker and my two Irish terriers Whisky and Ginger – they’re named after my favourite drink.
What’s in your fridge right now?
Oooh, a big tub of Greek yoghurt, white wine, salmon, trout, endless pickles and jars of things like chilli jam, butter and lots and lots of fresh, full fat milk. You can’t ever have enough fresh milk.
Your favourite restaurant?
It’s in Woodbridge in Suffolk, and called the Riverside. You go there and have great food and lovely wine… and they own a cinema so at end of meal you get given your cinema tickets and you go and take your wine and sit in a comfy sofa and watch the film.
I love squid. It would be salt and pepper squid or a massive fore rib roast of beef with Yorkshire puddings.
Your food hero?
It’s a guy called John Seymour, he’s dead now. He wrote a book called The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency. That book was the inspiration for The Good Life and it has everything from making a brick to making bread to getting hot water from the sun’s energy or killing and jointing a pig in it.
Your favourite cookbook?
Pork and Sons by the French food writer Stephane Reynaud – it’s a beautifully produced book with lovely pictures and some great French pork recipes.
Now you know what goes into so many of the food we eat, has it changed what you buy and eat?
Probably made me less prejudiced to certain things, that I thought were bad but in fact they aren’t. Just because something’s produced in a big factory behind closed doors it doesn’t mean they’re adding all sorts of terrible stuff. That factory is there because we demand cheap food and in order to produce the volumes and to put food on our table at a price that we will accept, it’s part of life.
What should we all be looking for or avoiding when we buy food?
What’s really important is that we support independent high street traders and small local producers because they add the spark and diversity to our shopping baskets, they are the rockstars of the food world. That’s why I think awards for local businesses and small producers are really good, because it encourages us to recognise their value and support and use them. Otherwise all our food options would be left to the choices of a few big supermarkets.
What made you decide to become a farmer?
From a very early age I was interested in our indigenous breeds of animals. At 11 I had a job at a local wildlife park as a part-time keeper and my best friend’s dad had a small-holding – I loved the cattle and sheep. Then I read John Seymour’s book.
So I studied zoology and then did a Phd in Entomology. I was obsessed by nature but academia had turned nature into theory for me so I was determined to get back to the grass roots. SO I decided to set up my own farm, and it was at a time when Farmer’s Markets were just taking off so there was a chance to sell my own product and butcher the meat onsite.
It all stemmed from there really.
Did you have any idea how tough it would be?
If I’d known how hard it was I’d never have done it! Naviety is a great thing because I wouldn’t have had the courage to do it if I’d known all of the hurdles that were ahead of us.
What else can we do with sausages, other than having them with mash and gravy?
Well I love sausage and mash and Toad in the Hole, but think of them as an ingredient – put them sliced in pasta dishes, or squeeze the meat out of the skin and make meatballs. You could mix them with a bit of coriander, chilli and soy sauce to make little oriental dumplings.
When you have a day off, what do you do…
I take my wife and kids to the farm and do a lot of colouring in. And I never go over the lines!
You and your friend Jamie Oliver went to school together. What did you both want to be, back then?
We both thought we’d be male strippers! No, I’m joking. I was either going to go into academia or the military – I spent five years in the TA when I was a teenager. And Jamie was always going to be in the chef’s trade because he was pretty much working in his parents pub as he was growing up – he was born into it. Or he’d have been in a band, he had a band called Scarlet Division and he played drums. There’s actually quite a lot of similarity in the way he drums and the way he cooks!
Jimmy Doherty has teamed up with Hotel Indigo, IHG’s boutique brand, to launch their ‘Flavours of the Neighbourhood’ campaign, a nationwide search for the UK’s best artisan food vendors and producers, who can enter until 15 February by uploading a picture of their products to the Hotel Indigo Facebook app, facebook.com/hotelindigoflavours.
This article appeared in Metro on 3 February 2015