We like Anna Jones. No, not because she worked with Jamie Oliver, or because she seems like a nice person, or because her recipes are rather yum. Well, actually, that’s not true. We do like her because of her recipes. But what we really like is that she gets it.
She gets that life is busy. That many of us struggle to fit healthy cooking in around everything else. That we’re feeling a bit deluged by all the diet advice and talk about good foods and bad foods and superfoods, being told we should eat this and we definitely shouldn’t ever eat that.
“I am so thrilled that we are all putting more focus on what we put in our bodies… but I also think it’s important to remember that we are all individuals, each with our own completely separate nutritional needs. I can tell you what works for my body, but I honestly can’t tell you what’s going to work for yours. Nor in my opinion can any chef or, really, any nutritionist,” she writes in the introduction to A Modern Way to Cook, a follow up to her 2014 book, A Modern Way to Eat.
“It sometimes feels to me as though all this sometimes over-the-top focus on nutrition and ‘clean eating’ has almost become the new, more acceptable way to be on a diet. And in a weird way, that isn’t promoting a healthy attitude to food at all.”
Eating, she says, is simply about buying good ingredients, cooking at home, making most of what you eat plant-based (the book’s recipes are all vegetarian, and quite a few can be made vegan) and listening to your body.
She knows the cooking at home bit can be a challenge, no matter how much you love to cook, and that’s what this book is about: quick ways of cooking, smart cheats and recipes that only take what she calls “life-friendly time”. There’s also a chapter on “investment cooking” – things to make once a week, or once a week that will make life easier on busier days: think cooking and freezing pulses, baking a batch of Malted chocolate buckwheat granola, and making snacks to get you through the week, such as dips, oat and seed crackers, or carrot cake flapjack bars.
Cookability Is Anna’s quick cooking your quick cooking? Whether you can whip up meals in the 15, 20 or 40 minute time frames she gives will depend on whether you follow her instructions about being super-organised before you start. Most of us might need an extra 5 minutes. But aside from the tight timings, these are very achievable recipes.
Must-cook recipe A lot of the sweet stuff could make a claim – the salted almond butter chocolate bars, for example, or the summer rhubarb and strawberry crisp bars. So could frying pan squash and cavalo nero pie, a clever take on Greek spanakopita. But the winner just might be the smoky root tacos with green chilli salsa.
Best tip The kettle. “It’s my best friend in the kitchen and working with boiling water rather than cold water from the tap makes everything that bit quicker.”
Cook the book
Recipes and images from A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones (HarperCollins Publishers, $49.99, hbk).