Anna Jones is one of those foodie insiders who other chefs and cookbook writers have known about (and relied upon) for years. (She worked for Jamie Oliver for seven years as his food stylist, writer and food creative, as well as for lots of other chefs and food writers). A Modern Way to Eat is her book, though. It’s her recipes, written in her voice and it definitely heralds a new star onto the blocks. Jones is vegetarian (though hasn’t always been) and so obviously this is a book filled with vegetarian recipes. But that’s one of the reasons we love it so much, even though we are meat-eaters ourselves. It’s just full of delicious looking things that are straightforward to cook and have the added bonus of giving you lots of energy and making you feel great. Jones isn’t on a health mission as such, but is inspired – as we should all be – by Michael Pollen’s perfect dictum: ‘eat food, not too much, mostly plants’. She also realised that vegetarian cooking was missing a bit of a trick, either being too much of a substitution for meat (all that stodgy, cheesy stuff) or too nutrition obsessed (all that green juice). What Jones’ cares about most is flavour. She is particularly good on texture (she uses seeds and nuts in really unexpected ways and combos), as well as on finishing touches – those things which can elevate a dish so much: a slick of yoghurt say, or a drizzle of herbed oil. All these things are evident in the recipe below, which we cooked the other night and loved and which works throughout the year with different seasonal veg. But because Jones isn’t interested in is denial, there are also good chapters on cakes, puddings and bread, including a stand-out recipe for salted caramel brownies (beyond). We love this book – its approach to food and eating, its recipes, and the original way it encourages you to go off piste – to which end Jones has included helpful charts in the book, which teach you how to build your own salad, cook roots and grains or use under-dog veg such as turnips and swedes in all kinds of tasty ways.
Sweet and salty tahini crunch greens
This is a recipe that changes as the seasons roll by. I like to have a plate of greens on the table most evenings. Ordinarily they are quickly blanched and simply dressed with lemon zest, olive oil, salt and pepper. Here, spritely greens are bright, sweet and salty, nuts and seeds bring layers of favour and crunch, while the dressing is a happy blend of deep earthy tahini, zippy lemon and warm woody maple sweetness. This is a dish that delivers on every level. I often make a double batch of the seeds and keep some for snacking on throughout the day, they are so good. Below I’ve suggested greens to use through the year, but feel free to freestyle. I like to keep my greens vivid green with a bit of crunch – to me, cooking them for longer than a minute spoils their character. This way fewer of the nutrients seep into the water too. Follow the timings given below for different greens.
For the greens
- 4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
4 tablespoons pistachio nuts
1 tablespoon maple syrup
sea salt and freshly ground
500g mixed seasonal green veg (see list below)
For the tahini dressing
- 2 tablespoons tahini
juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Winter · purple sprouting broccoli (40 seconds) and kale (30 seconds)
Spring · purple sprouting broccoli (40 seconds) and asparagus (60 seconds)
Summer · green beans (40 seconds) and broccoli (40 seconds)
Autumn · shredded sprouts (30 seconds) and winter greens (30 seconds)
Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6.
Put the seeds and nuts on a baking tray, pour over the maple syrup and season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Toss so that everything is coated in the syrup, then roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and allow to cool a little. While the seeds and nuts are roasting, make your dressing by mixing all the ingredients together in a little bowl or jug with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Next, blanch your greens in a big pot of boiling water. See the timings below for each one. Once your greens are blanched, drain them and place in a serving bowl or on a platter. Pour over the dressing and toss everything to coat, then top with the roasted seeds and nuts and serve straight away.