Sunday, 31 January 2016

A Modern way to Cook by Anna Jones

Always last to jump on a bandwagon (or anything for that matter - I didn't realise I had to do anything with my eyebrows until I was well into my 20s, and dealing with bushy eyebrows is no bandwagon issue), I have only recently come across Anna Jones. Friend and erstwhile employee of Jamie Oliver; Slender of leg, blonde of hair, vegetarian wholefood enthusiast...

Anna Jones A Modern Way to Cook

You might have thought I'd be more than a little dismissive. I am, after all the person who sent Deliciously Ella back whence it came (my mum) a few short months ago for reasons too numerous to mention (oh, OK then - I found it irritatingly smug, couldn't connect to the writing style or the writer, there was, frankly, far too much quinoa in the first few pages for her to be credible, and what I really wanted was Diana Henry's 'A Bird in the Hand' but obviously I hadn't been hinting hard enough.)

But we're not talking about Deliciously Ella or A Bird in the Hand (although I will return to Diana Henry in a later blog). We're talking about Anna Jones and A Modern Way to Cook and, swoon, my latest food crush.

I'm never going to be a vegetarian but I flirt with reducing the amount of meat in our diet for numerous reasons. I am conscious that there are calories and there are calories and I need to make them count. A Modern Way to Cook seems to tick both boxes. There are many vegetarian cookery books that I've tried and enjoyed but are very cream and cheese laden, thus defeating the object of my latest quest to make my calories count in the right way. Anna Jones' approach to food seems to be easy and straightforward. Ditch the refined sugar, choose alternatives to dairy, cut out the meat. Yes, my cupboards now groan with a wider selection of pulses and unrefined sugar options (Agave syrup, anyone) but get your head around that and you're laughing. And feeling lighter and generally more energetic. Really. Couple this shift in culinary preferences with a surprisingly successful Dry January and I'm feeling perkier than I can ever remember for this time of year which usually drags me right down. To top it all - and probably crucial to this feeling of well being - is that I don't feel like I've been hard done by in the food department. AND I'm half a stone lighter than I was at the end of December.

So what have I cooked? Admittedly, I've majored on the baking section in A Modern Way to Eat - I am after all trying to lose a bit of weight, but I love a treat, so if I can make the contents of my cake tins healthier, that's got to be a good thing. There's a totally divine 'Ultimate Pecan Banana Bread' combining bananas, oats, pecans, maple syrup - as a connoisseur of banana loaf this comes in very close to the top of my list of banana loaves to bake; 

A Modern Way to Cook Banana Bread

A Carrot Cake Flapjack which somehow combines the best of both carrot cake and flapjack without eggs, flour or refined sugar; 

Dark Chocolate Goodness Cookies - who would have believed you could use cannellini beans to such amazing effect?! If you've read any of my blog before, you'll know how much of a cake fan I am. Of course, these don't taste the same as my usual bakes, but different is good, and I am converted.

I served up celeriac, bay and mushroom ragu the other evening - it disappeared. And if comfort food is what you need, rhubarb apple and maple pan crumble is a revelation - scrummy crumble topping with none of the heaviness to leave you groaning afterwards for hours...

Rhubarb Apple Maple Pan Crumble Anna Jones

Honeyed rye loaf

Honeyed rye bread was delicious (despite a slightly over-enthusiastic crust - it's a few months since I've baked bread and I need to get my mojo back) especially topped with avocado and roasted tomatoes with a cheeky fried egg on the side.

Honeyed Rye Bread Avocado and roast tomatoes

And if this is all seeming like it's too good to be true, well, I have had one disaster. I made some lush kale pesto (inspired by lunch in a local cafe, of which more another time) and decided to 'knock up' some chick pea pasta - from A Modern Way to Cook - to serve it with. The very idea of 'knocking up' fresh pasta, chickpea or otherwise, on a week night when I was tried from work and had hungry mouths to feed, shows just how much confidence Ms Jones had instilled in me. Of course I ended up with a sticky unworkable disaster that I had to chuck away before reaching for the dried pasta. But I feel this was probably more down to user error than anything else. My chickpea flour was somewhat old, and I didn't have ground flax seed as required, so tried to whizz up ordinary flax seed in a food processor to use instead. Disaster, disaster, but I will try it again another day.

There are still plenty of the recipes in A Modern Way to Cook that feel a little too worthy for me, a step too far down the road to kale oblivion, but I'm getting over that. Anna Jones puts together really delicious flavour combinations, and her useful charts suggesting combinations for salads and the like are worth digesting (pun intended). My meal plan for this week includes lentils with roast tomatoes and horseradish, and I can't wait to try frying pan Turkish flatbreads with spoon salad. Some of the ingredients are something of a challenge to locate here in very rural West Wales, but there are ways around that. In the same way that Nigella seems to instil the confidence to experiment, so I feel I can enter our local health food shop, Go Mango in Cardigan, with my head held high and ask if they might possibly stock freekeh...

So, in conclusion, A Modern Way to Eat - definitely worth a read. Certainly worth an experiment. A worthy addition to any shelf of cookery books. But you probably already knew that, didn't you...


  1. I must admit that I've not come across Anna Jones but it does sound as though I should look out for her. (Let's face it, apart from charity shop purchases and gifts, I haven't acquired a new cookery book in many years, so I'm out of the loop.) I'm especially impressed by the banana loaf. I haven't made a banana loaf for a while - in fact (to my shame), not since the local café began making it.

  2. Liking the sound of that book, and loving the sound of that bread. For language reasons I booked a doula for the baby's arrival. She would turn up with these amazing chia/peanut butter protein bars. I need to find that recipe, I know you would like it! :)

  3. I've just come across this by googling 'Anna Jones + chickpea pasta + disaster' to see if it was just me. Seems that it wasn't. I chucked mine in the bin too.

  4. Ah this made me chuckle to myself. I was not keen on Ella's cookbooks either, and Anna is okay - but I'd rather borrow the book from the library than have it permanently on my bookshelf. I think there are other cookbooks out there that I rate more.


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