I first met Anna earlier this year and was so drawn to how open and friendly she was, not only is she really awesome as a person but she’s doing seriously amazing things for making veggie food. Anna’s approach to food is amazing and she makes vegetarian dishes look so delicious and exciting, so I thought she would be inspiring to lots of you too! I’ve made a few of her recipes and they’re absolutely amazing, I’ll be sharing one on the blog later this week which I think you’re all going to love. Now, over to Anna…
Name: Anna Jones
Where do you live? In Hackney, East London.
What sparked your interest in health and wellness? After a few years as a chef and then working as a food writer and stylist I became a little jaded with food and realised my body wasn’t feeling the way I knew it could. As an experiment I decided to move to a vegetable centered way of eating for 6 weeks, giving up meat, fish and all but a little dairy. That was 7 years ago and I haven’t looked back. When I started eating this way two things happened.
The first was I felt amazing. My hair and skin were clear and shiny, my weight came into balance. I finally got it – the food we put in our mouth literally turns into the flesh and bones we walk around with each day. It was like I had been going though my life without ever reading the manual. It was a revelation. I worked out that the food I ate determined how my mind and body felt and this determined my whole outlook on the world. I realised that with every bite of food we take we are voting for how we want our mind and body to feel and how we want the world around us to be.
The second thing that happened was that a whole new world of cooking opened up. I had already been cooking for many years but when I took away the usual constraints’ of how I put a dish together around a piece of meat or fish I began cooking in a totally different way, focusing on flavour, texture, colour and layering flavours, citrus and spices to create amazing joyful satisfying food, led by the new amazing way I felt but also my deep love of food and the knowledge I’d gained through years in the kitchen.
How did you build your passion for healthy living into a career? When I made some changes in how I was eating I was working for Jamie Oliver who was at the beating heart of the food scene, but at the time 7 years ago eating a vegetable centered diet wasn’t something you wanted to admit to a room full of chefs. Vegetarianism had a bad write up and was associated with worthiness, brightly painted cafes or it was all about chefs piling cheese onto puff pastry tartlets, so although I was already spending my days cooking I knew that I was going to have to forge my own way. I made the very difficult decision to leave working in my dream job with Jamie and branch out on my own to tell my story in food so I quit my job, went freelance as a food stylist and recipe writer and within a year I was fortunate enough to have been spotted by my amazing publisher Louise Haines and was offered a book deal and from there my blog, newspaper and magazine columns all organically followed on. I believe passionately that if you do what you do with passion and dedication to the best of your ability and believe anything is possible you don’t have to do a hard sell, I have believed in gentleness and led my work with the joy of food and my love for cooking and everything else has fallen into place.
Who inspires you? I am inspired by lots of people and things. Often by the people I cook for, my family, the things they love as well as the people who cook from my books and blog. Twitter and Instagram has put me directly in touch with my readers and it means I can see what they respond to and what they love and that inspires me to adapt my cooking to help them in their kitchens. I have been lucky enough to work with countless chefs and cooks over my career and I’ve learnt something from all of them. I spent 7 years working for Jamie Oliver helping him develop his recipes, books, TV shows and campaigns and his approachable but uncompromising attitude to food stays with me to this day. He uses food as a force for change and that’s a big part of my work too. Other chefs and blogger I love are my dear friends Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks, Sarah Britton of My New Roots, as well as Yotam Ottolenghi, all of their groundbreaking books and blogs moved vegetable based cooking on leaps and bounds and they all lead with flavour over anything else which is how I love to cook.
Favourite quote? “We are food”
It’s what I named my company and my handle on social media. Its just 3 simple words but to me it means so much. It’s the simple premise that our bodies and minds are made up of the food we put into our mouth and it’s a constant reminder to me to be mindful of this. I think if we could all keep this in mind with every bite of food we took then the world would be a very different place.
What is your biggest achievement so far? I consider myself very lucky to have achieved a lot of the things I have set my mind to, I think that’s been down to a mixture of some very hard work and meeting some amazing people. I have cooked for the Royal family, for Barak Obama and the G20 leaders and taught cooking classes to world leading CEO’s at the TED talks but I think the things which are dearest to me are my books. My first book “A Modern Way to Eat” was acclaimed as cookbook of the year across the media and my next book “A Modern Way to Cook” comes out on July 16th. They feel like my babies. They are an expression of my life and my journey, and my heart and soul went into each one, I’ve been cooking for 12 years now so this food really feels part of who I am so to be able to share it in books is something I am incredibly proud of. It’s amazing to hear that people I have never met before are joyfully feeding their families with recipes I came up with in my kitchen is utterly mind blowing to me.
What’s your typical…
Breakfast: I try to eat a nourishing breakfast as it sets my intention for how I am going to treat my body for the rest of the day. If I am working on a shoot I often take a jar of chia overnight oats from my book “A Modern Way to Eat”, which I mix together in 2 minutes the night before. If I am writing at home in Hackney I usually make a juice or an energy packed smoothie when I get up. At the moment I am really into cherry smoothies. On weekends I love to make my nourishing version of eggs Benedict with my avocado hollandaise or Huevos Rancheros both from my book.
Lunch: I try to eat a substantial lunch and then a bit lighter in the evening. There are two recipes I just can’t stop making, one is a simple 5 minute avocado smash spiked with tahini, black olives and orange zest which I have on crisp rye toast or for something heartier my 10 minute sweet potato and quinoa bowls – both recipes are from my new book.
Snack: I’ll have a piece of rye or seeded sourdough toast or a rice cake with almond butter and a roasted rice green tea or an apple, I am a big fan of apples or at this time of year a handful of cherries which are my absolute favourite fruit.
Dinner: Dinner on weeknights is usually something pretty quick and relatively simple, my black bean tacos wrapped up in corn tortillas make an appearance at least once a week. I eat more salads in the evenings as the days get longer and lighter, my current favourites are my kale, sumac and crispy brown rice salad and my green goddess salad.
What’s your favourite dessert? I make a chocolate cake – rich, bouncy and well rounded, with a chewy brownie outside, cloud-light chocolate icing and a dreamy chocolate glaze to top everything off. This cake is not only really tasty but really good for you too: no butter, refined sugar or white flour, but still OTT and delicious. I let people take a couple of big chocolatey bites and then tell them just how good for them it actually is.
What’s the best recipe you’ve ever made? This is a very tough one. I always think of my favourite recipe as the one I’m making the most at the moment as my tastes and desires change so much throughout the year and as I learn new things. I can tell you what I keep making now? In my new book – A Modern Way To Cook – there is a banana bread with oats and pecan nuts. It tastes amazing, and is so satisfying. It’s lovely with a little bit of honey spread on top. There’s an option to also scatter a few bits of chocolate through it as well which elevates it to something very special.
Where do you get the inspiration from to create so many awesome recipes? Writing and devising recipes is something I have been doing for the last 10 years for other famous chefs so its part of my make up now. I find inspiration everywhere I go, be it in an amazing restaurant, just last night I had a meal which in 3 courses gave me ideas for 5 or 6 recipes. But I am also inspired by more mundane things too, I love a challenge and I know most people don’t have lots of time for cooking, but I really believe that we can eat well and cook well in very little time. My next book is all about that so inspiration comes in lots of different shapes and sizes. I think more than anything though I am inspired by food itself, by the amazingness of the sherbety spritz you get when you zest a lemon, or the first strawberries of the year showing up in the garden.
What are the ingredients you can’t live without? Lemons. They show up in almost all of my recipes and I actually use them as kind of a third seasoning. I use lemon in almost all of my dishes because I think it gives an extra freshness. You can use the zest, which has that bit more lemon oil in it, which gives that really almost sherbet sweet flavour, and then you can use the juice, which gives that sharpness and adds another dimension to cooking. I don’t think I could really cook without lemons.
Where are your favourite places to eat? There are so many places I really love that its hard to narrow it down.
I love Italian food and for my money Trullo does the bast pasta in London, I don’t eat pasta that often so when I do I want the best, I dream of their pici.
Lyles in shoreditch and Spring Restaurants in London are doing some of the best and most original simple British cooking at the moment, they are always generous to vegetarians and their dining rooms while very different are both calm and so beautiful.
For an amazing vegetarian curry, Rasa in Stoke Newington. This all-veg Indian is painted in lurid saccharine pink, you are greeted by colourful bowls of fennel and sweet digestive spices for chewing after a meal. I always order the beetroot curry!
My favourite place ever for brunch is a place called Sqirl in LA. Their breakfast menu is nothing like anything I have ever seen before. Incredible brioche French toast and rice bowls, my favourite one is with sorrel and meyer lemon pesto.
A new place on my radar is Sitka and Spruce in Seattle, an amazing neighborhood restaurant with some of the best ever vegetable cooking I have come across in years, last night I ate charred broad beans in their pods with tahini, dates and alleppo chilli and it blew my mind.
What do you do to stay active? I love the sea so when I can I go surfing, but living in London, that’s not always possible so I settle for a swim in the lido near where I live in London fields. In the summer, I’ll swim at the ponds on Hampstead Heath. I also love tempo pilates, dynamic pilates done on a reformer machine to great music. It’s hardcore. But I am pregnant at the moment so its not as easy to work out, so lots of swimming, long walks and pregnancy yoga.
What is your beauty routine? I am quite relaxed when it comes to beauty. In the mornings I wash my face with Burts Bees cleanser and then I use a great all purpose moisturiser from Charlotte Tilbury magic cream and an old favourite the gentle eye make up remover from The Body Shop. I also use the Welleda body oil, particularly important at the moment as I am pregnant and an organic almond oil on slightly wet skin in the shower as I find it absorbs better to keep my skin hydrated. I do kriya yoga everyday, which I learnt at the Isha foundation and I try to drink lots of herbal tea and water and I think this works a million times better then any product ever could. And I smile a lot, which is the best beauty trick of all time.
Do you have any favourite natural skin care products or awesome beauty recipes? When I am feeling under the weather I have a salt and pepper bath, lots of Epsom or sea salts and a few drops of black pepper essential oil which clears the nose and soothes. I also love to have baths with herbs, rosemary in a hot bath is great for aches and pains. In terms of products I love Charlotte Tilburys magic cream, Aesop damask rose oil and shampoos and conditioner and body creams by Ren.
Where’s your favourite place in the world? I have a lot of favourite places but Big Sur in Califronia takes the top spot, I grew up in San Francisco so it was where I spent a lot of happy childhood weekends. Its one of the most stunning places I have been and the water is unbelievably deep greeny blue, and there is some amazing food. It’s also where John and I got engaged which makes it even more special.
What makes you happy? It might sound cheesy but I am always happy. Everyday is a new adventure and a total gift and opportunity, sure some days things don’t go right, or I have to work really hard, or I get rained on but I don’t let that be the focus. Life to me is a miracle and a blessing and I try to soak up every single moment. I feel incredibly blessed to be doing what I love and what’s meaningful to me. The daily meditation I do helps me a lot keep on track when things don’t go quite to plan. Here is a video of a simpler version of my daily meditation
Describe your perfect day – My perfect day would be on the beach with my fiancé John, we’d drive out the little campervan down to one of my favourite beaches in Cornwall of north Wales, go for a surf in the sea first thing then come back and make breakfast outside, then spend the day dipping in and out of water and soaking up the sun and going for long coastal walks. My family would all join us for a big beach picnic at the end of the day and we’d go to bed full, tired and sun kissed.
Do you have any favourite tips and tricks to stay healthy and happy everyday? I think we need to look at our culture of treating, calorie counting and general guilt around food and I include myself in that. A treat should be something, which feeds our bodies, minds and energy. That isn’t to say it need be a handful kale chips. There is a time and place for a snap of chocolate or a pizza, as long as it’s eaten joyfully with no guilt. I want to focus on the joy of food and our natural intuition and intelligence about what our bodies need. Let’s get away from the rules of what we should and shouldn’t eat and focus on the joy of sharing meal times and eating delicious food.