Anna Jones is a cook, food stylist and writer who has just written her first solo book, a vegetarian cookbook called A Modern Way To Eat, out now. Not only is it one of Grazia Daily's favourite new books, but it has all the signs of becoming a bestseller. Sophie Dahl said she 'brings a fresh ease to vegetarian cookery' while Gizzi Erskine tweeted 'THIS is an excellent book. It's bloody brilliant.' But the biggest praise has come from Jamie Oliver, who has written the intro: 'It gives me great pleasure and pride to write this foreword for dear Anna, one of my first year students at Fifteen London. Here she is, eleven years later, publishing her very own, beautiful, well-thought-out cookbook. I’m super proud.’
“Jamie has been one of my biggest influences in my career,’ explains Anna, who went on to work with Jamie as a food stylist after Fifteen. ‘He’s got such a realistic, down-to-earth approach to cooking that I’ve tried to emulate in my book. Many chefs aren’t so in tune with how people eat. It wouldn't occur to them that people don't have the time, or huge shopping budgets.’
Anna went vegetarian six years ago. ‘When I started, I did it for an experiment for a few weeks. I realized that I suddenly felt lighter and brighter and more energetic. I’ll never be a size 8 and I’m fine with that, but I found a couple of annoying extra pounds dropped away. I found that this way of eating suits me and suits my body. And it’s opened up a whole new world of food.’
In the past vegetarian cookbooks have tended to be either too simplistic, too complicated and ingredient-heavy or too homespun. Anna’s book is the complete opposite. She caters for the busy modern urban girl who doesn't want to a slave to the stove and her recipes - from fun Popcorn Tacos (made with real popcorn) to achingly-simple Avocado and Lemon Zest Spaghetti – reflect this. Her dishes push people's taste expectations of veggie food so much so that even meat-eaters won't feel they're missing out.
‘Ten years ago, if you said you were vegetarian everyone asked you why. Nowadays if you mention it, people say things like, ‘oh I try not to eat meat and fish every day now’. People are definitely more open to the idea than they used to be. They are more aware about health and nutrition, and also the importance of provenance, of knowing where things come from.’
She is keen not to sound worthy. “I’m not about to get on my soapbox and tell people not to eat meat, but I hope to go some way in opening people’s eyes to becoming more conscious of what they eat.’
And Anna’s two favourite recipes, are by no means ‘worthy’ either. “I love breakfast so my Banana, Blueberry and Pecan pancakes are a fave. They’re so much lighter than traditional heavy american pancakes and super-healthy. And the Salted Caramel Crack Brownies - just delicious! I’ve got a killer sweet tooth and could eat them all day long!’
BANANA, BLUEBERRY AND PECAN PANCAKES
'The reason I became an expert on banana pancakes is a bleak but ultimately happy story. During an enthusiastic surfing lesson on the first day of a holiday in Bali I got burnt to a crisp, and in order to stay out of the sun I spent the rest of the holiday swathed in sarongs perfecting banana pancakes. This is the result, though they are some way from the honey-drenched Indonesian ones that we ate on holiday. These have something of a banana bread feel to them, and are vegan and gluten free, thanks to using pecans and oats instead of four and mashed bananas in place of butter. A note on coconut milk: most supermarkets sell a ready-to-drink coconut milk, which comes in a carton and lives next to the soya and rice milk. Look out for the KoKo brand. It works in most recipes instead of milk and lies somewhere between thick tinned coconut milk and cloudy coconut water. I have it on my morning cereal and in tea. This is the coconut milk I use in most of my cooking, as it is lighter in fat and calories than the heavier tinned version. If you can’t get your hands on it, dilute tinned coconut milk 50/50 with water or just use your normal milk.'
Makes 8 little pancakes
For the batter:
A good handful of pecan nuts (about 50g), roughly chopped
1 teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of sea salt
1 ripe banana, peeled and mashed
150ml coconut milk or almond milk (see note above)
A 200g punnet of blueberries
2 bananas, peeled and cut into thin slices
A little coconut oil or butter
A few pecan nuts, crumbled
Honey or agave syrup
- First turn the oven to 120°C/fan 100°C/gas ½ to keep everything warm.
- Blitz the oats until you have a scruffy oat four. Add to a bowl with the pecans and throw in the baking powder and salt.
- Mix the mashed banana with the milk (you can do this by blitzing them together in the food processor, if you like). Beat the banana mixture into the four and leave the batter to sit for a few minutes.
- Heat a non-stick pan on a medium heat, then add the banana slices and fry on both sides in the dry pan until brown and caramelised. Keep warm in the oven.
- Put the pan back on a medium heat and add a little coconut oil or butter.
- Drop in a healthy tablespoonful of batter for each pancake. Once the sides are cooked and bubbles have risen to the top, scatter over a handful of blueberries and fip the pancake over. Cook for another couple of minutes on the other side. The pancakes will stay a little moist in the middle because of the banana, so don’t worry. Keep them warm in the oven while you cook the rest.
- Serve the pancakes piled with the banana slices. Add some crumbled pecans and a squeeze of lime, and, if you like, a little touch of honey, agave or maple syrup.
- A scoop of coconut and banana ice cream turns these into a feel-good pudding too
SALTED CARAMEL CRACK BROWNIES
'Find me someone who doesn’t like these and I’ll deliver you a batch myself. Deeply chocolatey brownies with a burst of melting salted caramel. I make a super-simple and speedy caramel that cools quickly, and gets chopped up and sunk into the top of the brownie mixture. The caramel melts into the brownie as it cooks and leaves little pools of chewy warm fudgy caramel throughout the perfectly crusted brownies. Sounds delicious … and I can assure you they are. The first time I made these I had to make a second batch the same afternoon, as they were eaten in a flash (not all by me). We all have a vice. These are mine. I have tried to keep these a little lighter loaded here by using rye four and suggesting coconut oil as an alternative to butter – it will give a slight coconut taste, which I like. I use unrefined sugar, either light brown muscovado for a dense super-fudgy effect, or coconut sugar (see page 275), which works too, though not for the caramel. But let’s not pretend, these are the treat they should be.'
Makes 12 good-sized brownies
For the salted caramel:
50g unsalted butter or coconut oil, plus a little for greasing
100g unrefined golden caster sugar
A hearty pinch of flaky sea salt (about ¼ teaspoon)
3 tablespoons milk (I use coconut or almond)
For the brownies:
150g dark chocolate (70%)
150g unsalted butter or coconut oil
250g unrefined golden caster sugar
or light muscovado sugar
3 organic or free-range eggs
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract or the seeds from 1 vanilla pod
100g rye flour, or light spelt or plain flour
- First make the caramel. Lay a piece of baking paper over a shallow tray and rub the upper surface of the paper with oil. Put the sugar into a pan and place on a medium heat.
- Watching it carefully, let it heat and melt until almost all the sugar grains have gone. Then quickly pull the pan off the heat, add your butter or coconut oil, and beat off the heat for a minute or so. Add the salt and coconut milk and beat again.
- Pop back on the heat for 2–3 minutes and beat vigorously until the mixture has darkened and thickened and any sugary lumps have gone. Pour on to the greased paper and place in the freezer to harden for 30 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4, and butter and line a small brownie tin with baking paper (mine is 20 × 20 cm but anything around that will do).
- While the caramel is chilling, make your brownie mix. Place a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Add the chocolate and the butter or coconut oil and let them melt, stirring from time to time.
- Once melted, take the bowl off the heat and stir in the sugar, followed by the eggs, one by one, and finally the vanilla and the four.
- Once your caramel has hardened, take it out of the fridge. Chop a third of it into small pieces and stir into the brownie mix. Chop the rest into chunky 1cm pieces.
- Pour the brownie mix into the lined tin and scatter over the larger chunks of salted caramel. Bake for 25 minutes, until just cooked – a crust will have formed on top and the caramel will have melted into deep amber pools.
- Leave to cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting. I know this will be hard, but the caramel will be very hot.
- These will keep for 4 days in an airtight tin. I dare you to make them last an afternoon.