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...

First Impressions

After an initial flick through of the 200 recipes in this book with a notebook and pen, I discovered wanted to make 90 recipes. 90! How is that for a ratio? (Don't worry I will not be reviewing 90 recipes in this post, though this is definitely going to be a two-part review). Everything I wanted to try sounded so fresh and unique (Saag aloo shepherd's pie? Olive and herb shakshuka? Muhammara chickpea stew?). Honestly I knew this book would be great but even I didn't expect there to be so many things I wanted to make.

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...

What I made

Greek olive and herb shakshuka

Shakshuka is my favourite brunch. I still drool thinking about the best one I ever had which was in Berlin and it's my favourite thing to make on a Saturday morning after a run. I've made at least a dozen different versions and while I have a few I really love, I've never found my perfect one (like that one in Berlin).

This is slightly different to most recipes as you boil the eggs separately to maintain a runny yolk (my egg yolks always end up hard in my shakshuka so I appreciated this) and it also includes olive, herbs and feta (I always like to add feta to mine).

I love the addition of the olives (though mine were bog-standard ones from a jar, not Kalamata as recommended) but the herb addition I didn't love (I used mint, which is one of the ones suggested). While I loved the runny egg yolks, I had a nightmare peeling the soft, hot eggs and in the end it wasn't worth it for me as I was covered in egg shell.

I would definitely make this again though using the traditional egg method and take a risk on a solid yolk.

Tomato and tamarind bhel puri

I love bhel puri - it's one of those things I always order if I see it on the menu, especially at Bundobust, my favourite place in Manchester.

It's not clear if this is a side dish with only 200g of potatoes for four people, so I served it alongside Nigella's utterly amazing Fish Finger Bhorta (with fishless fingers for me from Aldi). 

I'm still not sure why but mine ended up very watery and therefore needed to be eaten very quickly to maintain structural integrity! We ended up eating all 4 portions as I knew it wouldn't keep. It was tasty but messy and I think for tamarind-y yoghurt-y potato-ey goodness I much prefer Ottolenghi's chaat masala potatoes from Flavour.

Baked dal with tamarind-glazed sweet potatoes

As I mentioned in the intro, Anna Jones' dal with sweet potatoes is one of my favourite ever recipes. We eat it probably once every month or two and it is a firm favourite. So this was the recipe in the book I was most excited for. Anna also says it is her favourite recipe in the book.

But for me this went horribly, horribly wrong.

I'd watched Anna make this on Instagram a few days before, and I wish I'd rewatched the video before I started making this. First of all I now know I definitely cut the potatoes too thick (they completely sunk into the dal) which meant they didn't form a protective layer over the lentils to be able to steam them. I'm always nervous cooking lentils in the oven but I've had good experiences with the baked dal from The Green Roasting Tin, which is one of my favourite Roasting Tin recipes.

After the required 40 minutes in the oven, my sweet potatoes were as rock-hard as they had been before the oven and the lentils were completely solid. I put some foil on top and cooked the dish for another 40 minutes in total, checking, with disappointment, every 10 minutes.

I realised during this palaver that I might have missed a step  and revisited the video where I saw Anna mention simmering her lentils for 10 minutes at the start. This is in the book as "bring to a simmer for a few minutes" and I definitely did not do this, which probably explains the undercooked lentils.

By the end, the lentils were cooked and we ate around hard chunks of sweet potato which definitely were not crispy and as they had sunk and the tamarind was most mixed in with the dal rather than on the sweet potatoes. And the thing was, it was delicious! I really want to give this another go! But I am slightly scared now. Next time I will cut the sweet potatoes much thinner (maybe using the food processor?!), remember the simmer phase and maybe switch to a different pan. I definitely want to give this another go cause it was delicious when it was finally cooked.

Crispy caper and slow-roasted tomato pappardelle

We are a caper household. We are also a tomatoey pasta with capers household. So as you can imagine I was pretty excited to make this.

This is a weekend meal, with the tomatoes taking 90 minutes in the oven to roast. After that it's all a bit faffy and hands-on, but I don't think it helped I was also making garlic bread and salad and working around Phil who was making brownies at the same time.

I used tagliatelle instead of parpadelle (I nearly always make this switch) and the dish was tasty, but not quite as tasty as I expected, with the ricotta kind of dulling the flavour of the tomatoes. I'm sure it didn't help making this in March with maybe not the most flavourful tomatoes. I also need to note that I couldn't get fresh marjoram and did try to get fresh thyme instead, then got to the till in Sainsburys and realised I'd picked up sage by mistake and did not want to go back and swap it. So I reckon the fresh herbs would have given this a fresh kick.

I think the main reason this wasn't my favourite was because it reminded me of probably one of my all-time favourite pasta dishes, Ottolenghi's parpadelle with rose harissa, black olives and capers and I think I just really wanted it to be that instead. It was nice, but I don't think I'd make it again.

Saag Aloo Shepherd's Pie

I've been seeing this around a lot lately and I was very excited to try it. It's definitely another weekend dish, with about an hour of prep before 40 minutes in the oven.

The filling is made with beans which I loved although it contained no seasoning (I checked multiple times!) which I thought was a bit strange so added some extra salt. It was lovely and bright and spicy though.

I planned to serve this with carrots but mine had gone a bit gross so I served it with peas and mango chutney, which went perfectly. Of course being heavily spiced this was even better the next day.

A bit faffy but a good weekend dish. I think I'll probably make this again.

Lemon, tomato and cardamom dal

I told you guys, I love dal.

This a lovely, quick and straightforward dal. I initially forgot the turmeric and couldn't work out why it looked like porridge, but a splash of the yellow stuff and it was the right colour again. I wasn't sure about adding the tomatoes because I don't normally love tomatoes in my dal, but this turned out to be a delicious addition.

I didn't fancy chopping up cashews by hand so I made the lemon/coriander/cashew topping in the food processor and woweeee is that not incredible?!

The dal itself is beautiful and that topping just puts it completely over the edge. This is my favourite recipe in the book so far and one I know I'll be returning to again and again.

Quick squash lasagne

I've been obsessed with the idea of making a lasagne lately, especially because as I've written before, I am not so good at it. I really fancied a proper messy one with a thick bechamel sauce, but I really liked the idea of this quick version.

I was a bit nervous about whether the sheets would cook enough as I've definitely pulled many a rock-hard lasagne out of the oven, especially as the sauce had no other liquid other than passata.

My squash was  a bit small (not sure where she is getting these 1.2kg butternut squashes!) and I needed to save half for the butternut stew I was making on Monday so I just used half of the small squash I had. Also 690g of passata was annoying when mine comes in 500g cartons. But other than these small inconveniences, this was in fact super quick - mix passata into a jug with the other fillings ingredients (OH! I forgot about another small inconvenience - Anna Jones must have VERY large jugs cause mine was spilling around everywhere once I added squash and lentils), which included a lot of my favourite things - olives, capers, garlic, lemon zest and lentils. Then simply layer up with the lasagne sheets, mozzarella and fresh basil, and then into the oven it goes!

And guys, THIS WAS AMAZING. It was so fresh-tasting with the lemon zest and basil and the gorgeous salty chunks of olive and capers in each bite. The lasagne was slightly al dente but definitely cooked, and the mozzarella between the layers was the piece de resistance - chewy and stringy and delightful. 

I already cannot wait to make this again, and like all lasagnes, it was beautiful reheated a few days later. This is destined to be a Sunday staple in our house. A real winner.

Quinoa, lime and jalapeno pilaf

I made this on a Monday night so I could eat leftovers for lunch for a few days - it looked like it would make a fantastic cold salad.

It comes together quickly which is perfect for midweek - it's pretty hands-on, but only for a do-able 30 minutes or so.

The combination of quinoa, feta, lime and tomatoes makes it taste like a deliciously fresh burrito bowl (some avocado would definitely have been welcome here!) and also reminds me of the Leon superfood salad which is another favourite we make a lot in the summer. This is the kind of meal I can't wait to eat outside in a few month's time.

Oh and yes it makes a lovely salad cold!

Sweet potato, coconut and ginger stew

This is the kind of recipe that appears a lot in vegetarian books but which I am always drawn to - a coconut-based curry-style stew with lots of root vegetables.

As aforementioned, my squash was a bit small than Anna Jones' recommendation so I added a few more sweet potatoes to equal the weight of veg required. 

It's pretty straightforward and after the initial prep it's one you can leave for 30 minutes or so without needing to babysit.

I couldn't get hold of a scotch bonnet chilli, which I know was essential for the requisite flavour and colour, so used a green chilli and some sriracha, which is why I think I found this nice, but not amazing. However, it did improve as leftovers a few days later, but it probably really missed the heat of the scotch bonnet. Not one I'll make again, but mostly because I know better versions of a similar dish.

Muhammara chickpea stew

I love anything middle eastern and that includes Muhammara, though I've never made my own. This takes a muhammara dip and turns it into a stew with chickpeas and kale.

I definitely missed a step early on and didn't blend my nuts to a paste first, which I think was why I struggled to get the sauce completely smooth. 

When this all went into the pan it looked very liquid-y, and that was after draining my chickpeas but also being unclear whether I was supposed to or not?!

I love the technique of cooking kale on top for the last few minutes of cooking, but I decided to stir mine into the sauce.

We had this with a mountain of brown rice and it was really tasty but I wish I'd added some extra lemon, salt and pomegranate molasses as the gorgeous muhammara-y ness was lost a bit when it was turned into a stew.

This was tasty but I'm not sure I'd make it again - I think there are plenty of other recipes in this book I'm more excited about!

To be continued!

And that's the end of part one - I'll be back with part two in a few weeks!

Charlotte x


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