Jo Pratt is an acclaimed food stylist, writer and presenter. She has written for Elle, Weekend, Sainsbury’s Magazine, Olive, BBC Good Food and Glamour, for which she was Food Editor, as well as the BBC Food, Good Food Channel and Good To Know websites. She regularly appears on UK TV, including Saturday Kitchen and Daily Cooks Challenge, and works with many food brands.
Can you describe your book? What should the reader expect from it?
This book is for anyone and everyone who enjoys eating good food and wants to feel great once they’ve eaten it. There’s no eliminating, calorie counting or detoxing. They don’t have to be a fantastic cook or have lots of time on their hands, in fact it’s ideal for those with busy lifestyles (most of us then!) that need ideas and inspiration handed to them on a plate (so to speak). My aim is to inspire and increase the readers repertoire of healthy good-for-you recipes they can turn to, not only when they are in the mood for healthy food but anytime of the week.
If the mood to eat healthily takes over, no matter what the reason or occasion, then you can find well-balanced recipes to cook that are packed with fresh, nutritious ingredients, from breakfasts and brunch dishes, light lunches and sumptuous salads, main meals, desserts and baking goodies. All recipes use easily obtainable, everyday ingredients that won’t break the bank or take you hours to locate, simple cooking methods and great looking results. Where possible I have substituted less healthy ingredients for more healthy ones such as butter for oils, increasing veggies in a dish or bulking a dish out with wholegrains, and healthier cooking methods such as baking, steaming or poaching.
What inspired you to start writing?
To me writing goes hand in hand with developing recipes. I wanted to share my thoughts and ideas with people so started to put pen to paper every time I was cooking.
I also sort of fell into it from all of the work I was doing with some big named chefs. They would often need restaurant recipes scaling down to work for people to cook at home. Then I was asked to do some ghost writing so I was getting experience along the way. My first break into writing my own recipes being published was when ELLE magazine approached me to regularly write recipes for different occasions and scenarios (i.e girls night in, pre partying food etc). I jumped at the chance and this then led on to an idea for my first cookbook …In the Mood for Food.
When did your passion for cooking begin?
As a child I always loved cooking, possibly due to the fact that both grandma’s and my Mum were very keen and adventurous cooks. I would enjoy helping in the kitchen and they would always encourage me to get involved. I saw my primary school cook not so long ago who reminded me that I used to ask her for recipes after lunchtime. I also used to pretend to be Delia Smith on tv as a child, so I clearly had a passion from a young age. I decided to do a degree in Home Economics to turn my passion into a career. I knew there were many avenues when it came to working in the food industry.
Can you tell a bit about your experience with The Gorgeous Kitchen?
The Gorgeous Kitchen is a really exciting project for me. It’s a contemporary restaurant specialising in beautiful global cuisine at Heathrow’s Terminal 2: The Queens Terminal. I have spend plenty of time in the past working for restaurant chefs and of course eating in many restaurants but this time round I’ve collaborated with three other female chefs, Sophie Michell, Gee Charman and Caroline Mili Artiss, to launch The Gorgeous Kitchen. We create the menu’s and train our team of fantastic chefs to recreate them on a daily basis. We opened just over a year ago and it’s a wonderful place to go for delicious food and drink, to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings before you fly.
What was the biggest challenge in writing In the mood for healthy food?
Not eating everything whist I was testing and creating the recipes. I couldn’t write a healthy cookbook and go up a couple of dress sizes in the process really could I?! I’d obviously try everything but my friends and neighbours are always happy when I am writing a book as they get to sample plenty as well.
What was the first dish that you mastered?
I remember when I was doing Food and Nutrition as a GCSE I made hot water crust pastry, which can be quite difficult to get perfect. I used it to make a classic Pork Pie. I’m from Melton Mowbray originally, which is famous for Pork Pies so it had to be the first dish to master really!
Can you tell us 3 kitchen hacks for the hot summer days?
Chilled flavoured water. It’s simple but very tasty and refreshing. Rather than just a glass of plain cold water, infuse a jug of water with pieces of ginger (handy to use up those tiny knobbly bits), slices of lemon, lime, lemon, orange, sliced apple or mint. Use a single ingredient or combine a few. The longer it infuses throughout the day better it tastes. Just keep topped up and chilling in the fridge.
Chilled Soups. I’m a massive fan of gazpacho soup but many soups can be served chilled such as pea, red pepper or tomato. Serve with a couple of ice cubes floating on top to keep it nice and cold while you eat it.
Avoid using your oven and hob too much as it will heat up your kitchen even more. If you have to do any baking try and do it first thing before your kitchen heats up throughout the day. Make the most of salads for lunch and dinner. I’ve plenty of great salad ideas in my book, which wont get you hot and bothered on hot summer days.
In the Mood for Healthy Food
Available from Nourish Books in July 2015