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Harrods Chef Of The Season: Anna Jones

Kicking off another year of Food Halls collaborations, Harrods welcomes Anna Jones - cook, stylist and writer - as our Chef of the Season for January and February 2017.

Healthy-eating aficionado and keen wellness devotee, Anna cut her teeth at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen in London, going on to chef at the capital’s Le Caprice, and has spent time cooking in foodie hotspots Spain and Tuscany.            

With an array of TV appearances, TED Talk cooking classes and food campaigns under her belt, not to mention two books, Anna Jones is an advocate of helping people commit to a healthier way of living and eating, and believes that with the right ingredients and recipes, healthy eating can be one of life’s pleasures.

Anna joins Harrods as part of It’s All Good, our new-year-new-start store takeover that celebrates all things health and wellbeing; she’s created a range of vegetarian dishes that can be enjoyed in our famous Food Halls from Tuesday 3rd January 2017 until Tuesday 28th February 2017.

We talk to Anna as she shares her food memories, where she finds inspiration and the ingredient that will be in everyone’s kitchens for 2017, plus, discover two of Anna's delicious recipes below...

When did you realise you wanted to work in the food industry?
One grey, late-for-work day, I decided to quit my office job after reading an article about following your passion by which bit of the newspaper you read first. I had always turned to the restaurant section – and within days I had a place on the training programme at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen in London.

What are your earliest memories of food?
One of my earliest memories is of dinners at my nan’s, which were merely killing time until we were allowed into the old teak sideboard and let loose on the chocolate stash. Of my dad’s 11 brothers and sisters, at least six of them worked at Cadbury’s, so we were never short of a few squares.

While training to be a chef, what are some of the most valuable things you’ve learnt?
I think the main thing I came away with from my year at Fifteen was a really strong work ethic. Things can get pretty full-on in a kitchen, and having a strong backbone was amazing preparation for my professional life moving forward.

What are your favourite ingredients to work with?
Lemons; they show up in almost all of my recipes and I actually use them as kind of a third seasoning because I think it gives an extra freshness. You can use the zest, which has that bit more lemon oil in it and 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.

Coconut is another favourite; it’s amazing for the sheer variety of products derived from it – the milk adds such a richness to curries. I bake a lot with the flour; desiccated flakes make wonderful chutney; and I’ll have a splash of the lighter milk in my tea.

Are there any food trends that you can foresee for 2017?
I think fresh turmeric is going to become pretty popular; you can do so much with it and it’s such a distinctive flavour. I’ve noticed a few turmeric lattes appearing on coffee shop menus this winter. Dragon fruit is big in the US at the moment so I think it’s a safe bet for 2017 here.  

Where do you find inspiration for your recipes?
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 have 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. Other chefs and bloggers 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.  

Do you have a favourite from your recipe collection?
My favourite recipe is always the one I’m cooking at the moment. My mac and greens has been making a few appearances of late – my version of beloved mac and cheese. I make a creamy pesto of cherry tomatoes, toasted almonds and basil, inspired by the Sicilian pesto alla trapanese, which coats the squash-studded macaroni. Sometimes I
 add a little cheese to the tomato mixture before I stir in the pasta and then a broccoli crumb adds crunch and interest.

What will be on your menu this Christmas?
I’m such a last-minute person that I’m sure I will decide a couple of days before, but it’s likely to be a standout delicious flaky pastry pie, packed with celeriac, roast garlic, crumbly cheese and thyme, and served with all the trimmings.

What do you have coming up in 2017?
I’m currently writing my third book which is really exciting.

Cook up a storm for guests with these two mouth-watering recipes from Anna below...

The Really Hungry Burger (Makes 8 Burgers)
Olive oil
6 big portobello mushrooms, roughly chopped into little bits
A few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 × 400g tin of white beans, haricot or cannellini, well drained
4 fat medjool dates, pitted
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
A small bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
200g cooked and cooled brown rice (100g raw weight)
50g breadcrumbs or oats
Grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

To serve:
1–2 avocados, peeled and sliced
Tomato relish or ketchup
Pickled cucumber (see above)
A few handfuls of spinach leaves
8 seeded burger buns (I use wholemeal ones)

I’ve played around with a lot of recipes before settling on this one, some full of bright herb freshness and grated veg, some packed with protein-rich tofu, and all were good, but what I look for in a burger is a deep moreish favour, savoury and complex, so this is the one. I use brown rice here, but any cooked grain you have will do – quinoa, pearl barley and farro all work well.

  • I like to make a quick pickled cucumber to top these with. Thinly slice a quarter of a cucumber and pop it into a bowl with a pinch of salt, a squeeze of honey and a good tablespoon of white wine vinegar, then scrunch together and leave to sit while you make your burgers. A homemade quick pickle that beats a gherkin any day.
  • Get a large pan on a medium heat and add a splash of olive oil. Once the pan is good and hot, add the mushrooms and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Fry on a good heat until the mushrooms have dried out and are slightly browned, then set to one side and leave to cool.
  • Next, drain the white beans and put them into a food processor with the dates, garlic, parsley, tahini and soy sauce. Pulse until you have a smoothish mixture, then transfer to a bowl and add the rice, breadcrumbs, lemon zest and the cooled mushrooms. Mix well, then put into the fridge for 10 minutes or so to firm up.

Sweet And Salty Tahini Crunch Greens (Serves 4)
For the greens:
4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
4 tablespoons pistachio nuts
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g mixed seasonal green veg (see list below):

Winter: purple sprouting broccoli (40 seconds) and kale (30 seconds)
Spring: purple sprouting broccoli (40 seconds) and asparagus (60 seconds)
Summer: green beans (40 seconds) and broccoli (40 seconds)
Autumn: shredded sprouts (30 seconds) and winter greens (30 seconds)

For the tahini dressing:
2 tablespoons tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

This is a recipe that changes as the seasons roll by. I like to have a plate of greens on the table most evenings. Ordinarily they are quickly blanched and simply dressed with lemon zest, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Here, spritely greens are bright, sweet and salty, nuts and seeds bring layers of favour and crunch, while the dressing is a happy blend of deep earthy tahini, zippy lemon and warm woody maple sweetness. This is a dish that delivers on every level. I often make a double batch of the seeds and keep some for snacking on throughout the day, they are so good.

Above, I’ve suggested greens to use through the year, but feel free to freestyle. I like to keep my greens vivid green with a bit of crunch – to me, cooking them for longer than a minute spoils their character. This way fewer of the nutrients seep into the water too. Follow the timings given abovefor different greens.

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6.
  • Put the seeds and nuts on a baking tray, pour over the maple syrup and season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Toss so that everything is coated in the syrup, then roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and allow to cool a little.
  • While the seeds and nuts are roasting, make your dressing by mixing all the ingredients together in a little bowl or jug with a good pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Next, blanch your greens in a big pot of boiling water. See the timings above for each one.
  • Once your greens are blanched, drain them and place in a serving bowl or on a platter. Pour over the dressing and toss everything to coat, then top with the roasted seeds and nuts and serve straight away.

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