Review: One Pot, Pan, Planet by Anna Jones

I have awaited Anna Jones’ One: Pot, Pan, Planet very eagerly. Originally due out in April 2020, its launch was delayed due to Covid, which in my mind only helped build the anticipation! It’s first and foremost a beautiful book, jam-packed with ideas, and Issy Croker’s photography is simply stunning.

The premise is bold, and as a whole it’s a sensitive, thoughtfully written book that goes beyond recipes to look at how we eat as a whole, with a strong focus on sustainability. It covers a lot of ground, which leaves me with a lot I want to say about it!

It’s brimming with helpful information. Not just recipes: how to prepare and cook veg and what goes well with them, advice on eating more sustainably, tips for saving energy in the kitchen, how to support biodiversity and soil health – it’s overflowing with ideas. I particularly enjoyed the section with tips on how to reduce food waste depending on what kind of cook you are (I’m a weekly planner, if you were interested). Most of the recipes also include swaps to make them vegan. These are written into the recipe method itself – a nice detail, though one that’s not always executed as clearly as it could be (see below for more on this).

Anna also addresses the inclusion of recipes and ingredients from other cultures and traditions, which to my eye she does elegantly, acknowledging where she’s come across recipes and speaking with people from those cultures to develop them. Though of course, as a white British woman I am certainly not best placed to comment on this, so I’ll be interested to see how it’s received.

I am confused, however, by the title of the book itself. I understand the One: Planet part, but, while Anna writes that ingredients and equipment used have been simplified as much as possible, it’s important to note that most of the recipes are not one-pot dishes, which seems a bit at odds with the title, and a little misleading. The Green pepper risotto, for example, uses two pans and also requires charring peppers over a gas hob first. The Almond butter swirl brownies, while baked in one tin, require 5 different bowls to make (the non-vegan version uses 3).

Anna Jones' book, One

Green Pepper & Pistachio Risotto (page 35)
Starting on a high – this was my favourite of all the recipes we’ve tried so far. I’m not usually a huge green pepper fan but here they take on a smokiness from the charring, and their slight bitterness is offset by the aromatic basil and zingy lemon, resulting in what I can only call a beautifully balanced dish. It’s very fresh for a risotto, too, and not stodgy despite sitting firmly in the comfort food bracket. The chopped pistachios on top are a great addition too, providing textural difference in a dish that might otherwise have lacked texture. I feel driven to share how good this is, and am planning to making it for friends once lockdown is lifted.

Crispy Tofu & Broccoli Pad Thai (page 90)
At first glace this recipe initially reminded me of Meera Sodha’s Peanut Butter & Purple Sprouting Broccoli Pad Thai, but in terms of flavour they are two very different dishes. Anna’s Pad Thai sauce contains 4 tbsp tamarind paste which, unfortunately, to my mind dominated the whole dish, leaving it incredible sweet and lacking in freshness. I know some people prefer their Pad Thai on the sweeter side though, so if this is you you may love it!

My other criticism is the way the recipe is written. Step one instructs you to soak the rice noodles for 10 minutes, then tells you to press the tofu for 30 minutes – so why doesn’t the tofu instruction come first? Once you’ve cooked the tofu, the end of step 3 instructs you to keep it warm in a low oven… but the recipe never mentions it again. We’ve all been guilty of forgetting something’s in the oven, but for a recipe with tofu in the name it feels like a vital component to remember!

Quick Squash Lasagne (page 240)
This was a revelation. A lasagne where the sauce is made in a jug with no pre-cooking? It didn’t disappoint flavour-wise, either. I was initially worried it might be quite salty with the olives, capers and salt added to the sauce as well, but I needn’t have worried. Although the sauce doesn’t have the depth of a slow-cooked ragu, it was delicious in its own right. It had a surprising fruitiness from the olives and lemon, which together with the squash actually left it a little on the sweet side. Anna suggests serving it with a sharply-dressed salad, which I think would complement it wonderfully. Another we’ll be making again!

Chocolate & Almond Butter Swirl Brownies (page 293)
The flavour of these is astonishingly good, and everything I want in a brownie. They have a softly gooey middle and a thin, crisp crust. The scatter of sea salt flakes on top gives a lovely finish, too (even if it’s not listed in the ingredients): little salty-savoury hits that temper the sweetness from the chocolate.

My main gripe is the texture. Although delicious to eat – and certainly not dry – they’re so crumbly that they fall apart as you eat them. Not a problem if you’re serving them in a bowl with ice cream, but a little less helpful as a tea-break treat. I suspect this issue may be unique to the vegan version, and in future I’ll try increasing the amount of flaxseed to see if that helps (I’ll report back here if it does!).

The other thing to note is the way the recipe is written. The method is split into ‘for the non-vegan brownies’ and ‘for the vegan brownies’, with more instruction above and below. The trouble is, the order of doing things is not the same for both versions. The vegan version starts ‘Follow the steps above, replacing the eggs with the flaxseed’ – so off you go to melt your chocolate and measure your flour. It’s not until the end of this step that it mentions the flaxseed mix should be left for 15 minutes to thicken before using. Perhaps not a problem if you’re a seasoned vegan baker and already know that flaxseed mix needs to be left for a while, but frustrating if you’re not.

Overall, I have some mixed feelings about One. I love the premise of cooking and eating with the plant in mind and there are so many lovely-looking recipes, but they’re not always written as clearly as they could be, especially for less confident home cooks. If you already have a bit of culinary know-how you’ll find the recipes easier to follow – though the tips and advice are brilliant for everyone, and definitely well worth a read.

I’ve bookmarked so much of the book I had to start marking some pages at the bottom too, to denote the ones I really wanted to try. Some of those include the Cashew pakoras with green dipping sauce, Green olive & herb Welsh cakes, Pine & Crane Peanut cucumber noodles, Lemongrass & tofu larb, and the Chocolate, olive oil & rosemary cake. If you like the sound of any of these, you can buy One: Pot, Pan, Planet here. You can check out Anna’s website here, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram for more brilliant recipes and tips.

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