Monday, 3 August 2015

My favourite recipe books

If you've been anywhere near my Instagram over the last few months you would have struggled to miss my incessant posts about Anna Jones and her recipe books. I first heard about A Modern Way to Eat back in April when my friend Louise posted about it on her blog. I was instantly sucked in when she said it was not only a vegetarian book, but one she adored as a meat-eater.

Now to put this into perspective, I buy a lot of cookbooks. I own a lot of cookbooks. I leave them on the coffee table and flick through them, reading them like novels. But a lot of the time I'm enticed by the hundreds of food blogs I read and their regular recipes. The truth is I often get bored of recipe books because I like to try new things too often.

I've been hearing a lot lately about how often people eat the same thing for dinner. My friend Michelle posted about it on her blog a few months ago, and when I asked on Twitter I was surprised by the number of people who ate the same thing for dinner once a week or once a fortnight. I very rarely cook the same thing more than once every three to six months, and if I do cook the same thing regularly, it's never more than once every month or two.

But  when it comes to Anna's books I'm finding myself choosing the same recipes every few weeks. I'm eating things for dinner and straight away figuring out when I can schedule them in again. I'm finding recipes that are not just "okay" for midweek dinners, but really truly delicious. I'm finding meals that Phil calls "one of the best things you've ever cooked."

Anna Jones makes good food. Tasty food. All her food is healthy and vegetarian, but she isn't afraid of some feta here, or some pasta there, and she's certainly not afraid of olive oil. It's so refreshing to eat food from a cook who is truly passionate about good, tasty food, and isn't obsessed with how "clean" or low-carb her meals are.

I also like to think she's made me a better cook. The truth is as much as I love to cook, I'm not very confident when it comes to stepping away from recipes. Anna has made me feel confident enough to use kale instead of swiss chard, to swap cumin seeds for dried, to replace ingredients altogether. She's always offering an alternative, and even if she doesn't I trust her flavours enough to know that I could add make a few adaptations and know the end result will still be amazing.

Sometimes she does use more unusual ingredients. Sometimes I'll skip them, adapt them or try to find them in my local health food shop. But she doesn't pressure you to use coconut oil or curry leaves or mustard seeds. The majority of her ingredients I can find in my local Aldi, where I do 90% of my food shopping.

I love her second book, A Modern way to Cook, even more than its predecessor. One of my few complaints with A Modern way to Eat was it's lack of timings. I once found myself taking two hours to make dinner midweek because I massively misjudged how long it would take me to cut up 750g of mushrooms. It was as though she heard my prayers when she released A Modern way to Cook, where every chapter is divided by the time it takes to cook each meal - from 15 minutes and under to 40 minutes (which is still pretty do-able midweek). Of course, she used to work with Jamie Oliver so take her 15 minute meals in the same way you take his - they might take a little longer unless you've got some crazy knife skills! I consider an evening meal I can pull together in 30 minutes a success, even if the recipe says 15, but bear that in mind.

Finally, she makes recipes that anybody would love, not just vegetarians. I'm quite happy to chomp through a dinner that I don't really love or one that's just okay, but I hate serving something that isn't great to Phil, especially as he is a meat eater. He's never once complained about anything I've ever cooked, but I do feel a sense of trying to "prove" how great vegetarian food can be, and I think this is where Anna's books really come into their own. I haven't made anything from either of her books I wouldn't make for a dinner party for meat-eating friends, which is quite a big deal for me as I often feel apologetic when I have meat-eaters for dinner (but that's a whole other issue!). 

In case you missed my Instagrams, here are some of my favourite things I've made (I've provided the link if the recipes are online, but if you like what you see please buy her books! PS. not an ad!) :

The Really Hungry Burger  - from A modern way to eat

Dhal with crispy sweet potatoes (minus the coconut chutney - swapped for classic mango!)
- from A modern way to eat

Tomato and coconut cassoulet (before it went in the oven) - from A modern way to eat

Charred corn, scrunched kale and sweet potato salad - from A modern way to eat

Ricotta, thyme and sweet potato bake - from A modern way to eat

Mushroom and parsnip rosti pie (pre-oven) - from A modern way to eat

Sweet potato quesadillas - from A modern way to eat

Spiced sweet potato and quinoa bowls - from A modern way to cook

Smoky beans and sweet potato hash browns - from A modern way to cook

Black beans with chard and green herb smash (I used kale instead) - from A modern way to cook

What are your favourite recipe books? (Or maybe don't tell me that - they'll be in my Amazon basket before you can say "knife"!). How often do you eat the same things for dinner?

Charlotte x

PS. If you're intrigued by my sticky notes and colour-coding system, I'm planning a series of blog posts on my meal planning to stay tuned! 

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