Jamie Oliver's known not only known as a celebrated chef but also as a rock-solid devoted family man, so to hear him even mention the word 'affair' is shocking.

There have been wild rumours - all emphatically denied in the past - but with his typical honesty Jamie frankly admits that recently his wife, Jools, has 'accused' him of having a lover.

"I thought it was a good opportunity to get you all up to speed, because it will come out in the press eventually anyway, so I'm going to tell you straight.

"Basically, my wife has accused me of having an affair. She'll tell anyone she meets that I've been nipping out of the house for an hour here, an hour there, and coming back looking refreshed, rosy-cheeked and guilty with grass stains on my knees!"

Surely not 'pukka' Jamie, saviour of healthy school dinners, and loving father to two daughters, Daisy Boo and Poppy Honey?

His fans will be relieved to know that this is actually a bit of a wind up or a storm in a stew pot, as his close encounter is entirely innocent.

Jamie, 32, who's launching his latest book, Jamie At Home, and appearing in the TV series of the same name, confesses with a twinkle in his eye: "All I've done is fallen in love with my garden, and with my veg patch in particular!

"Yes, I have kissed a few of my more beautiful, prized vegetables. I might have hugged a couple of trees and on hot days put my ear to the ground to listen to things growing - I'm just going through what many men go through at this point in their lives, when they become one with Mother Nature.

"And if you think I'm guilty, then lock me up and throw away the key! I can promise you, I've not been having an affair. I just like spending time with my veg."

In fact, the Essex boy's found peace, harmony and a renewed culinary enthusiasm through his love of the soil, and since moving back to his birthplace four years ago.

"Like most people these days, with a busy family life and a hectic working schedule, I began to struggle with finding a balance between the two.

"I seem to have evened things up a bit now, and it's all thanks to my veg garden, believe it or not. Growing my own veg for the past few years has filled me with such pride, pleasure and passion."

This new-found passion has taken him by surprise because, despite 16 years of training and working as a chef: "I never thought I would ever grow stuff properly. It never occurred to me that it might be as easy as taking some seeds out of a packet and popping them into the ground. But it is!"

He's created 100 new, quick recipes for the book, which are broken down by ingredient and season. Readers can start from scratch by growing the ingredients themselves, or simply shop and cook.

His mouth-watering selection for autumn includes Essex Fried Rabbit, Game Ragu with Pappardelle, or easy-peasy snacks like Welsh Rarebit With Attitude and as a dessert, Plum Bakewell Tart.

His menu for a 'delish' (his new catchword, which seems to have replaced pukka) September supper is English Onion Soup With Sage And Cheddar, and Spicy Pork and Chilli-Pepper Goulash.


(Serves 8)
A good knob of butter
Olive oil
A good handful of fresh sage leaves, 8 leaves reserved for serving
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
5 red onions, peeled and sliced
3 large white onions, peeled and sliced
3 banana shallots, peeled and sliced
300g leeks, trimmed, washed and sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 litres good-quality hot beef, chicken and vegetable stock
8 slices of good-quality stale bread, 2cm thick
200g freshly grated cheddar cheese
Worcestershire sauce

Put the butter, two glugs of olive oil, the sage, and garlic into a thick-bottomed, non-stick pan. Stir everything round and add the onions, shallots and leeks. Season with salt and pepper.

Place a lid on the pan, leaving it slightly ajar and cook slowly for 50 minutes, without colouring the vegetables too much. Remove the lid for the last 20 minutes - your onions will become soft and golden. Stir occasionally so that nothing catches on the bottom.

Having the patience to cook the onions slowly, slowly, gives you an incredible sweetness and an awesome flavour, so don't be tempted to speed this bit up.

When your onions and leeks are lovely and silky, add the stock. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. You can skim any fat off the surface if you like, but I prefer to leave it because it adds good flavour.

Preheat the oven or grill to maximum. Toast your bread on both sides. Correct the seasoning of the soup. When it's perfect, ladle it into individual heatproof serving bowls and place them on a baking tray. Tear toasted bread over each bowl to fit it like a lid. Feel free to push and dunk the bread into the soup a bit. Sprinkle with some grated Cheddar and drizzle over a little Worcestershire sauce.

Dress your reserved sage leaves with some olive oil and place one on top of each slice of bread. Put the baking tray into the preheated oven or under the grill to melt the cheese until bubbling and golden. Keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn't burn! When the cheese is bubbling, very carefully lift out the tray and carry it to the table. Enjoy.


(Serves 4-6)
2kg pork shoulder off the bone, in one piece, skin off, fat left on
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 generously heaped tbsps mild smoked paprika, plus a little extra for serving
2tsps ground caraway seeds
A small bunch of fresh marjoram or oregano, leaves picked
5 peppers (use a mixture of colours)
1 x 280g jar of grilled peppers, drained, peeled and chopped
1 x 400g tin of good quality plum tomatoes
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
400g basmati or long grain rice, washed
1 x 142ml pot of soured cream
Zest of 1 lemon
A small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Get yourself a deep, ovenproof stew pot with a lid and heat it on the hob.

Score the fat on the pork in a criss-cross pattern all the way through to the meat, then season generously with salt and pepper.

Pour a good glug of olive oil into the pot and add the pork, fat side down. Cook for about 15 minutes on a medium heat, to render out the fat, then remove the pork from the pot and put it to one side.

Add the onions, chilli, paprika, caraway seeds, marjoram or oregano and a good pinch of salt and pepper to the pot. Turn the heat down and gently cook the onions for 10 minutes, then add the sliced peppers, the grilled peppers and the tomatoes.

Put the pork back into the pot, give everything a little shake, then pour in enough water to just cover the meat. Add the vinegar - this will give it a nice little twang. Bring to the boil, put the lid on top, then place in the preheated oven for three hours.

You'll know when the meat is cooked as it will be tender and sticky, and it will break up easily when pulled apart with two forks. If it's not quite there yet, put the pot back into the oven and just be patient for a little longer!

When the meat is nearly ready, cook the rice in salted, boiling water for 10 minutes until it's just undercooked, then drain in colander, reserving some of the cooking water and pouring it back into the pan. Place the colander over the pan on a low heat and put the lid on. Leave to steam dry and cook through for 10 minutes - this will make the rice lovely and fluffy.

Stir the soured cream, lemon zest and some of the parsley together in a little bowl. When the meat is done, take the pot out of the oven and taste the goulash. You're after a balance of sweetness from the peppers and spiciness from the caraway seeds.

Tear or break the meat up and serve the goulash in a big dish or bowl, with a bowl of your steaming rice and your flavoured soured cream. Sprinkle with the rest of the chopped parsley and tuck in!