Ainsley Harriott on his new star-studded culinary series: ‘Martin Kemp surprised me!’

Ainsley Harriott whips up delicious dishes in Ainsley's Fantastic Flavours.
Ainsley Harriott whips up delicious dishes in Ainsley's Fantastic Flavours. (Image credit: Rock Oyster Media)

Ainsley Harriott is relishing the prospect of spicing up Saturday mornings with his new culinary show.

Ainsley’s Fantastic Flavours is a 10-part series on ITV1 and will see the charismatic chef share recipes for mouthwatering meals while a celebrity guest joins him in the kitchen to create a dish that holds special meaning for them. 

The theme for the opening episode is Spices, with Morning Live favorite Dr Ranj popping in to make butter chicken with turmeric rice.

Here, in an exclusive interview, Ainsley tells What To Watch what’s on the menu…

Ainsley Harriott interview: What makes this series special for you?

Ainsley Harriott: “I can’t tell you how much fun it was! Normally on shows guests are promoting a new book or film or something. But in Fantastic Flavours it’s about coming on and cooking their signature dish. It’s got a good vibe, like when you get together with your mates. I love that I’m not cooking for them - they’re cooking for me. It turns the tables. 

“One week it’s Spicy, another is Fruity, there’s also a Cheesy and a Sweet week. [Laughing] It sounds like a relationship, doesn't it?!”

Future guests include Gloria Hunniford, Lisa Snowdon, Samia Longchambon, Ella Eyre, Richard Madeley and Martin Kemp. Did any of them surprise you?

AH: “In our Fresh episode Martin Kemp surprised me a little! He cooked seared tuna with spring onion mash and roasted tomatoes and revealed that he does most of the cooking at home because he loves cooking for his wife, Shirlie. 

“In the Meaty episode, Richard Madeley made this spaghetti bolognese that he’s been cooking forever. His secret is he puts in chicken livers — and nearly a bottle of wine that cooks down. He’s a bit of a wine connoisseur!”

Dr Ranj impresses Ainsley in episode one with his favourite meal - butter chicken with turmeric rice and mango and mint yoghurt.

Dr Ranj impresses Ainsley in episode one with his favourite meal - butter chicken with turmeric rice and mango and mint yoghurt.  (Image credit: Rock Oyster Media)

Do you think the dishes people choose reveal something about them?

AH: “Sometimes food is very revealing. When someone’s cooking you can tell something about their personality, from the way they chop ingredients to whether they clean up as they go along!

“Some choices are safe. Others are more adventurous. But they want to share what they love. Like the way Coronation Street star Samia Longchambon describes her Moroccan chicken in Sweet week… Food takes people back to their roots.” 

During the series, you also send professional chefs Sam Holland, Aldo Zilli, April Jackson, Thuy Pham and Paul A Young out and about in search of the flavours that inspire their own cooking…  

AH: “Yes, some of my favourite chefs visit food producers and do a little cooking from their kitchen. What I love about our guest chefs is they cook food you want to know about. Sam Holland [brother of Spider-man star Tom Holland] makes a mac and cheese in Cheesy week and another week Thuy Pham does a lovely chicken pho. It’s comfort food.” 

What do you cook during the series?

AH: “In the opening episode, a beautiful ras-el-hanout shakshuka and Mexican chilli cottage Pie with spicy green beans and corn. In later episodes, my pan fried pork chop and apples with a miso-cider sauce, mini Basque cheesecakes with an orange compote, and treacle tart with stem ginger. In our Herby episode I go back to my roots with a Trini-style fish sandwich with a tamarind mayo.”

Do you have any advice for anyone starting out on their culinary journey?

AH: “The whole world of food is about flavours from different places. Once you learn the basic skills — how to chop an onion or julienne — go for a cuisine that inspires you. Also, you learn from making mistakes in the kitchen. Whether that's burning something or cutting yourself. Whatever you do, you ain't going to do that again!”

And finally — do you prefer online recipes or cookbooks?!

AH: “Personally I like a cookbook. I love turning the pages and being inspired. I’ve got my mum’s cookbooks and they’ve got her little notes and scribbles about adding a half a teaspoon of something. I love that. It’s a personal experience. And a cookbook doesn't cut out every 20 seconds and have to be opened back up again!”

How to watch Ainsley’s Fantastic Flavours

Ainsley’s Fantastic Flavours airs on ITV1 on Saturday mornings at 11.35 am, starting on Saturday, January 28. See our TV Guide for listings.

Elaine Reilly
Writer for TV Times, What’s On TV, TV & Satellite Week and What To Watch

With twenty years of experience as an entertainment journalist, Elaine writes for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and (opens in new tab)www.whattowatch.com (opens in new tab) covering a variety of programs from gardening and wildlife to documentaries and drama.

 

As well as active involvement in the WTW family’s social media accounts, she has been known to get chatty on the red carpet and wander into the odd podcast. 


After a day of previewing TV, writing about TV and interviewing TV stars, Elaine likes nothing than to relax… by watching TV.