Q&A: Anna Jones

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Anna Jones, cook, food writer, stylist


The cookbook that has most influenced your cooking

Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries

Most memorable food you ate in childhood

Much of my dad’s side of the family worked at Cadbury’s when I was growing up. My uncles and aunts would come home with big bags of chocolate – always the slightly misshapen bars that didn’t make the final cut. I liked them all the more for their wonkiness. Dinners at my nan’s were merely killing time until we were allowed into the old teak sideboard and let loose on the chocolate stash.

Your favourite food shop

Leila’s shop in Shoreditch is always a delight to go to.

Most memorable meal in film/literature/painting

At the risk of going with a chocolate theme, the bit when the children are let loose on the chocolate in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory never fails to make me smile.

Your worst kitchen disaster

This one’s easy – when I was cooking for Prince Charles and we realized the oven didn’t work. It was so stressful. We had to grill absolutely everything, but somehow we pulled it off.

The first thing you taught your children to cook/ or were taught yourself

The first thing I learned at home was a fruit salad.

What would you like your final meal to be?

I’m torn. It’s between a proper South Indian thali with multiple little dishes, lashings of cold beer and mango lassis to go around, or some really simple freshly rolled tagliatelle with a  killer tomato sauce with basil and a little bit of butter, with  lots of parmesan and a bitter salad to offset the sweetness of the tomatoes.

What is your secret talent [in or out of the kitchen]?

Physically, I’m much stronger than you’d expect me to be.

What did you eat for breakfast today?

 I try to eat a nourishing breakfast as it sets my intention for how I am going to treat my body for the rest of the day. If I am working on a shoot I often take a jar of rye, vanilla malt and peach overnight oats.  Breakfast these days is usually put together the night before and this simple bircher muesli is gently pepped with lemon, apples and sweetness before an overnight soak. In the morning, the recipe only calls for some sliced peaches over the top, a dollop of Greek yoghurt and some chopped almonds. If I am writing at home in Hackney I usually make a juice or an energy packed smoothie when I get up. On weekends I love to make my nourishing version of eggs Benedict with my avocado hollandaise or Huevos Rancheros both from my book.

Which seasonal food do you most look forward to?

I love how abundant and fresh everything is in summer. Apricots, nectarines, peaches – gorgeous.  In spring, it’s tiny sweet peas and broad beans, wild garlic, and eggplants.  In autumn, it’s squashes and mushrooms (though they have to be cooked properly), and in winter, it’s bitter radicchio, candy shop-coloured beets, and every type of kale I can get my hands on.

Over-rated/ under-rated food/seasoning/gadget

The trusty speed peeler is a very underestimated gadget – you can use it for so many things. Not just peeling veg, but making them into delicate thin strips for blanching or delicious raw salads. I use mine for cheese and chocolate, too.

A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones is published by Fourth Estate £25 (www.4thestate.co.uk). Anna Jones will be  appearing at this year’s Port Eliot Festival, 28-31 July porteliotfestival.com/info