On Tuesday 11th August we launched our fantastic My Holiday Dish series, which will explore a selection of local recipes from some of our favourite James Villa Holiday destinations, with the help of chef and author Jo Pratt. In today’s instalment, we have some insight into chef Jo Pratt’s life and love of cooking, a bit about her latest cookery book, and we will reveal our fantastic #MyHolidayDish competition.
Here is what we found out about Jo Pratt herself when we caught-up with her for a little Q & A:
When did you first start cooking? What’s your first cooking memory?
‘As a child I loved cooking, possibly due to the fact that both Grandmas 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.’
Where (and from whom) did you learn about cooking?
‘It started at home, and then moved onto school – I loved GCSE Food and Nutrition, and had fantastic teachers who encouraged me to be creative early on. After learning even more skills at Liverpool John Moores University doing a Home Economics degree, I went on to work in the food industry. Here I met the very talented Michelin star chef Gary Rhodes. I owe a great deal of my knowledge and skill to him as he is a total perfectionist. I worked with him on and off for about 10 years on his books, TV shows and live cookery demonstrations.’
What’s your favourite ingredient or food to cook with? What’s your favourite dish to make?
‘The beauty about food is that there is so much to choose from, so I don’t have an all-time favourite ingredient or dish to cook. Every day is different and I really do believe we cook and/or eat what we are in the mood for, and moods change all the time.
One day I might be in the mood to really go over board and make a more complicated or time consuming dish such as seafood bisque or macaroons, then another day I might want something healthy, so I’ll make an Asian noodle broth.’
What inspires and motivates you in the kitchen?
‘We need to eat to survive and I don’t see the point in eating just for the sake of it. I love being creative and playing with flavours so if time is on my side I will feel very motivated. Reading foodie magazines, eating out and just wandering around markets or food shops gives me inspiration.’
Can you tell us five things you always have in your kitchen?
‘Gosh – just 5! These are in no particular order:
– Olive oil
– Tinned tomatoes
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to someone just starting to cook?
‘Don’t feel scared about making mistakes. Cooking is all about feeling comfortable and confident with trying new things and not panicking about getting perfect results. Start with a couple of good sharp knives, and try some simple recipes to get your confidence up. Then move onto recipes that push your skills a little bit more. Most importantly have fun! Cooking shouldn’t be a chore; it should be something to look forward to.’
What do you hope people will gain from your cooking series with James Villas?
‘Inspiration and confidence to cook simple yet great tasting food whilst on holiday, using locally sourced ingredients. I hope it will open people’s eyes up to what they can buy when they’re in a different country and how sociable the shopping and cooking can be. Also though, the recipes are just as easy to prepare when back at home, so they can have constant reminders of their holidays all year round.’
As a chef, do you find yourself drawn to new foods in new countries and places?
‘Yes – there are so many ingredients available to us in the UK which is great, however there’s far more variety in the countries where they originate from. I love knowing that when I go away somewhere there will be opportunities to buy and try ingredients I may not know. Or if I do know them – they will always taste so much better when eaten in the place where they’re from.’
What do you like to eat after a long day with the kids?
‘A real family favourite is classic spaghetti Bolognese. I’ll make up a big batch and freeze plenty so it’s there just to heat through. The kids love it, my husband and I love it… so we’re all happy. No moaning from anyone and very little washing up! We will often finish with an ice-cream sundae, and make our own toffee or chocolate sauce.’
Which chefs and / or restaurants would you recommend from around the world?
‘I would love to personally try more than I’m able to, so I could give you a really good account. However I don’t travel around the world as much as I’d like to!
Noma – Copenhagen. I’ve not personally been but people I know who have done nothing but rave about it. Chef Rene Redzepi is a genius with flavour and technique. The restaurant is hailed for being one of the most influential in this century.
Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner restaurant in London has to be where I’ve eaten the best meal ever. Such a treat.
Kaiku – Barcelona. A wonderful beachside location with amazing paellas, yet in the city. I really love Barcelona. It is a city that seems to have it all. Buzzing atmosphere, amazing restaurants, exceptional food market (Boqueria) and a beach!
Polpetto and Polpo. Italian tapas-style restaurants in London, offering simple food with amazing flavour. You could easily think you are in Italy when sharing amazing plates of well put together dishes, but really you’re in London’s Soho. The prices are not too silly, and the cocktails are pretty special too! Chef Florence Knight is a very talented young lady.
Of course, I have to mention my own restaurant The Gorgeous Kitchen. If you are jet setting off on holiday or even business trip form London’s Heathrow Terminal 2 then it’s well worth a visit, whether for breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon tea, coffee or a cocktail. We have the best view of the runway and a global menu specialising in locally-sourced ingredients. Myself and three other female chefs have devised a seasonally changing menu and regularly host events and promotions onsite.’
Jo’s latest cookery book ‘In the mood for healthy food’
Sometimes you have those days where you just feel like a little bit of healthy food, especially in the lead up to your villa holiday, Jo Pratt’s latest cookery book, ‘In the mood for healthy food’, published by Nourish Books, showcases her collection of simply delicious recipes that are easy to make and highly nutritious. The book highlights and explains some key ingredients that you wouldn’t necessary use and explains why they are so good for you and how you can cook with them, such as nuts, sprouting beans & seeds, kale, and chia seeds. From moreish ginger berry muffins and mouth-watering beetroot gnocchi with walnut & watercress pesto to tasty dairy-free vanilla & blueberry cheesecake or sumptuous chocolate pumpkin brownies, there are numerous wholesome recipes to help the everyday cook create fantastic healthy, yet scrumptious, dishes.
Our #MyHolidayDish competition
Would you like a chance to win 1 of 5 of Jo Pratt’s latest cookery books ‘In the mood for healthy food’?
How to enter
To enter all you need to do is share a photo of a dish you have cooked or eaten which was inspired by a holiday via Twitter using the hashtag #MyHolidayDish and tag us in it using @JamesVillasUK.
Terms & Conditions –
1. To enter you need to share a photo of a dish you have cooked or eaten which was inspired by a holiday via Twitter using the hashtag #MyHolidayDish and tagging James Villas using @JamesVillasUK
2. The winners will be determined by a panel of judges at James Villas, from all eligible entries.
3. The competition runs between 14th August and 30th September 2015.
4. The prize consists of a copy of Jo Pratt’s cookbook, In The Mood For Healthy Food. We have 5 copies to give away.
5. The prize is non-refundable, non-transferable, has no cash alternative and has no cancellation value once booked.
6. The prize draw is open to UK residents aged 16 years and over, except anyone professionally associated with the competition.
7. These terms and conditions are correct at time of being published but may be subject to change without notice.
Last week Jo Pratt gave us a fantastic recipe from Puglia, Italy. If you want to try making it yourself, check out our blog and remember to share it with us using #MyHolidayDish. Next week, we’ll be travelling to Almeria, in Spain, to continue our inspiring #MyHolidayDish Series.