Cookbook Review: One by Anna Jones (part one)
With the exception of Rukmini Iyer and her incredible Roasting Tin books, Anna Jones is my favourite ever cookbook author. Her books A Modern Way to Eat and A Modern Way to Cook are probably my two desert-island books. Many of her recipes are in my all-time favourites category, with her lemon and kale spaghetti being a particularly important meal to us - I've cooked it for pretty much everyone I know and it was the first thing I ever cooked in our house.
I've written multiple times about how much I love her and her books, including last year in my blog post on my favourite vegetarian recipe books and way way back in 2015, as well as reviewing The Modern Cook's Year in 2017 (however, if I'm honest, this is the book of hers I turn to least). I also adore her Guardian column and read every single one.
Anna's recipes always have something new and inspiring to try. There's always something new and exciting, a new flavour combination I haven't tried, or a new ingredient combination, or even something as simple as an extra garnish or topping (I'm thinking especially here of her dhal with roasted sweet potato chunks on top - a recipe I've made dozens and dozens of times). Her recipes are tasty and fresh, always with an extra sprig of greenery and additional squeeze of lemon. They are wholesome but substantial, without an emphasis on "clean-eating" or "health" disguising restriction.
I found out about her fourth book, One, back in 2019, and preordered it right away. I can't find my original pre-order, but I estimate it was definitely in mid-to-late 2019. With COVID, the launch date was pushed back from April 2020 to autumn 2020, and finally, March 2021. I have been waiting over 18 months to get this book in my hands.
I cannot explain how excited I was to finally read it. Anna hasn't had a new book out in nearly 4 years, and I knew this was going to be a favourite. I knew it would develop on the simplicity of her early books, plus include the season focus on The Modern Cook's Year, and I knew it had over 200 recipes inside. I was so excited.
One is also more than just a recipe book. Its full title is One: Pot Pan Planet, and it features essays and tips on how to be more aware of how your food choices impact the environment and how to make better decisions when it comes to protecting the planet. I am painfully unaware of the impact of my food choices on the environment and I am both overwhelmed and interested to understand more, so I knew this book would be a great start.
And, friends, it was more than worth the wait. Anna has said that the time between publication dates allowed her to reassess the book in light of COVID, with more recommendations for substitutions and easy cooking when we're all trying to shop less and are generally low energy and exhausted after a year in a pandemic.
Here's what I thought...
It's also definitely part recipe book, part advice book, with the essays and tips on the environment representing several chapters in the book. Anna Jones is careful here to make this accessible without being preachy, and she is very aware of her privilege and references it constantly. I found these sections incredibly useful but also pretty humbling - as a vegetarian I often feel like my environmental work is done (how often do you read about the impact of the meat industry on the planet?) and this made me feel much more aware of what I buy and where I buy it from. I love the idea of making small changes and they feel very realistic and easy to implement rather than an enormous behavioural change.
In reference to the environmental side, I really loved a section in the middle where Anna Jones details the most commonly thrown-away vegetables in the UK, from potatoes to tomatoes, and not only give us advice on how to cook and use each one, but also 10 recipes for each one. Each recipe is only a few lines long but it's incredibly helpful for quick reference.
Another thing I like about this book is it's very main-meal focused. As much I love, say, Ottolenghi, I sometimes hate having to make multiple dishes in order to constitute a full meal. That is definitely not the case here, and even when it's not clear, there is usually a reference to serving with bread or rice or salad, which I found incredibly useful. There's also a lot more midweek recipes, not many things that take over an hour or multiple pans or appliances (hence the title), but at the back of each section there are a few more time-consuming recipes for the weekend. I like this mix because I love a Sunday slow meal but most of the week I want something speedy on the table after a day at work.
I also expected a few more "weird" ingredients, and thought I'd be adding to my £40 Sous Chef basket with some unusual chillies or spices, but apart from a few exceptions, I think this is a very accessible book. Of course you'll still need a spoonful of miso or jar of harissa at the ready, but I would say you could get the majority of ingredients from a large supermarket. Also every recipe is vegetarian and nearly every single one has a vegan alternative.
I've spent a lot of time just flicking through this book as I've had it lying around (it's not made it onto the shelf yet) and every time I do I just find it utterly exciting and inspiring, as well as being a beautiful book. It's also a recipe book that encourages you to not follow a recipe, to learn what you like and how to adapt for your needs, which is good for me as I'm trying to rely less on recipes and be more of an instinctive cook!
I managed to narrow down my 90 recipe to try to 21 (there will definitely be a part 2 of this blog!), so here's what I made...