Anna Jones is a goddess. She turned me into a vegetarian in March this year and I’ve never looked back. So, having lived on the recipes from her first book ‘A Modern Way to Eat‘, I was sooooo excited for the July release of her second book ‘A Modern Way to Cook‘.
The book breaks recipes down by time taken to make them, which is so handy for those nights (what feel like every night) when you just want something quick, easy and healthy in 10 minutes.
But the book is about more than that – it’s about ‘the clever secrets that chefs and cooks use, quick ways of cooking, smart cheats and ways of cooking logically…in a calm and well-choreographed manner that won’t leave your kitchen looking like a bombsite and having used every pan in the cupboard.’
This interests me greatly as although a half-decent cook who really loves to pull a meal together for others, I am definitely at the high-faff end of the spectrum in the kitchen. With very little counter space in ours, it very quickly descends into total chaos. But since I’ve adopted these simple tips from Jones – paraphrased below – things have become markedly calmer.
I thought these might be worth sharing with you ahead of the cooking marathon that faces most of us at the end of next month. While my other half has offered to cook Christmas dinner this year – we will see about that – we still have back-to-back house guests from Boxing Day to New Year’s Day, so I’m going to be cooking a LOT, and will need to keep calm without resorting to getting blotto while peeling spuds.
Here are the tips. So simple, probably fairly obvious-sounding, but sanity-saving nonetheless.
- Clear enough space to cook in. Like most people’s Anna’s kitchen counters get cluttered, but she clears an area big enough to cook comfortably in.
- Have the basic equipment – it really speeds things up. The basic basics are fine, but invest in a food processor if you’re a very slow chopper; if things are consistently burning or sticking, it’s time to invest in new pans.
- Read the recipe through from top to bottom before you start doing anything. You need to know what happens when, and how things should be chopped and cooked. [I am shocking at this, I read as I go so my cooking method ends up quite flappy].
- Get all your ingredients together by your chopping board, so that you have everything to hand before you start chopping. This way of cooking is about simplifying the process and so often when Anna asks people what went wrong, they say they burnt the onions while digging around in a cupboard for the coriander seeds (that could literally be me).
- When you come to gathering, you want to do this with ease, not with half an hour spent clearing out the spice shelf. Anna has put all her spices in little labelled glass jars by the cooker, for example. If, like me, you do a lot of baking, do as I do and put big markered masking tape labels on all the different flours to show their type/name so you can grab each one in an instant.
- Place a mixing bowl on the work surface for peelings and trimmings. This avoids having to run back and forth to the bin, as well as making sure that the area you’re working in is close to the stove, so you can do a few jobs at once. [This and the gathering ingredients (and, come to think of it, the reading the recipe one) is my favourite tip, it has literally calmed my cooking process right down since I adopted it].
Good tips, eh?
Disclosure: I am a firm fan of Anna Jones’s books and these tips really spoke to me when I started using her second tome. The tips are the intellectual property of Anna Jones, even though they’re paraphrased and adapted so they’re not in the first person. I received no compensation, financial or otherwise, for the writing of this post. It contains affiliate links should any of my readers like to buy the books, and as stated here, commission from these sales will be donated to The UN Refugee Agency.
All images (sorry they’re so dark) taken are of pages from ‘A Modern Way to Cook‘. Images within the images are copyright Anna Jones.
If you’d like to donate to The UN Refugee Agency, please do so here.
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