Jane Grover is a well known Australian chef who presents Jane COOKs cookery classes, leads popular tours of farmers markets in Sydney, and writes a blog and monthly e-newsletter. She has compiled years of expertise and a passion for food and cooking in Naked Food, a collection of dishes based on seasonal produce and fresh ingredients prepared 'the way food was meant to be'.
Naked Food is a big, delicious book and a credit to its author and the team who worked on it with her. Jane says that after spending two years telling her cooking class attendees that she would soon write a cookbook, she decided it 'was time to make it happen'. After first approaching a couple of publishers (disappointingly, neither of whom were willing to take her on) she embarked on the project of self publishing 'with absolutely no idea of the hard work involved'. Twelve 'exciting and exhausting' months later, Naked Food arrived from the printer.
There's much to cook from here, and the recipes suit experienced cooks and beginners alike. Chapters cover basics (stocks, sauces and dips made from scratch); a selection of breakfasts (such as eggs, muffins and cereals); fresh and tasty salads and sides; barbecue dishes; fast food, that is, quick and easy meals; comforting slow cooked food; and desserts, including cakes, crumbles, cookies and puddings (anyone for some ancient grain rice pudding with caramelised figs and almond biscotti?!). Between the chapters, readers learn more about Jane: her background, her cookery classes, her love of food and cooking, and her experience with growing vegetables, raising chickens, touring farmer's markets and meeting food producers across Australia (my dream!). Readers are also introduced to food producers in 'Meet the People' pages scattered throughout the book. Jane also highlights farmer's and growers markets in Sydney and regional New South Wales.
As she begins a three month tour to promote the book, Jane kindly took the time to answer a range of questions for me:
First, congratulations on Naked Food. It is a beautiful book, Jane, you have shared so many delicious recipes, and I just love the philosophy behind it all. Would you please briefly explain the meaning of 'naked food':
Naked Food for me is food ‘undressed’, food in its natural state, designed to add to your body and help you maintain life and growth. It is food that is not hidden, not covered or compromised by much processing and adding of artificial additives, flavourings and preservatives. Naked Food is letting the produce speak for itself, so you can enjoy the incredible flavours, colours and textures that occur naturally in food. Using only fresh herbs, spices, pure oils etc. combined with simple recipes and cooking methods, to present food that tastes good and is also good for you. To me it is the way food was meant to be.
What is the key message that you would like to share with readers of Naked Food?
Anyone can cook tasty, healthy food with a simple recipe and fresh produce! Food and the preparation and cooking of food doesn’t need to be complicated! Many people don’t enjoy cooking, because they lack confidence. My recipes and tips have been thoroughly tested and they will work for anyone. I am hoping this book will encourage, inspire, equip and empower people to cook with pleasure and confidence for generations to come.
Please share your thoughts on the principles of 'You are what you eat'
It seems to me that we have become way more concerned with the outward appearance of everything in life, rather than being aware of what is going on, on the inside. Often our food is selected by how it appears, whether that be the waxing of an apple causing it to shine or the fancy packaging that attracts our eye to the product, however we need to be asking what is in the food, to allow it to shine or sit for long periods of time on a supermarket shelf.
Our body is our most precious asset, our health our most valuable currency. Over time your body will either thrive or suffer from what you put in your mouth daily. Ultimately our focus needs to shift from short term convenience and focus on how something appears, to rather considering that your long term health will be affected good or bad by what you eat.
When did you start your web site, Jane COOKS?
I began Jane COOKS in May 2009, after doing a couple of cooking demos earlier that year, to raise money for kids on the street and also for a friend whose 20 year old daughter had been diagnosed with Leukemia. I really enjoyed teaching people to cook and so Jane COOKS began. Initially it was just cooking classes and a website where I posted a recipe of the week, it later developed into a food and travel blog, farmers market tours, demos at larger events and now the cookbook.
I see that you have a cooking school. Where is the school located and please tell me a little about the classes.
The cooking school has been located in my home on Sydney’s Northern Beaches for the past three years, I provide demonstration only classes for up to 12 people. The classes are 2 and ½ hours long and provide five dishes with tasters and a glass of organic wine and recipes to take home.
I offer a variety of classes such as: Summer BBQ, Autumn Harvest, Nourishing Breakfast and Brunch, Vegetarian Tastes, Winter Warmers, Spring Flavours, The Healthy Lunch Box, Fast Food-Dinner in Sixty Minutes, Mediterranean BBQ and Celebrate Christmas. Menus for each class are available on my website. I also do Corporate Classes, which conclude with a sit down lunch. These are becoming very popular.
You also have live cooking shows, called Jane COOKS LIVE. Where and when are these events held?
These events are held at various locations and times throughout the year. Some are booked by schools or local councils requiring educational workshops. Other bookings are at larger community events, such as Women’s Expos or Health Expos. The next major event I am booked for, which is open to the public, is the MIND BODY SPIRIT FESTIVAL at Darling Harbour Exhibition Centre in Sydney on 8-11 November. I am presenting at 11.30am each day of the festival on the Soul Kitchen Cooking Stage.
You and I share a genuine love of food producers and markets. How often do you hold market tours and where are they held?
How I love the people who work so hard to grow and sell us fresh produce and how I love to show the average supermarket shopper the colourful, passionate market experience! I run market tours to Eveleigh Farmers Market in Sydney, the first Saturday of each month between 8am – 11.30am. Groups of four and myself go and visit, meet and taste from the variety of produce stalls, we enjoy breakfast from Kylie Kwong’s Billy Kwong stall and go home with red trolleys brimming with ‘Naked Food’! Details and bookings are also available on my website.
Please explain Rapadura sugar (and what is the difference between rapadura and brown sugar)? And where can people source it?
Rapadura Sugar is a whole sugar that undergoes minimum processing and is not heated to high temperatures or separated from the molasses. This allows it to retain a higher nutrient, vitamin and mineral content than white and brown sugar, which when refined to create crystals loses much of its nutrients. Brown Sugar is white sugar with the molasses added back in, it is still highly heated and processed destroying much of its nutrient value. Here's a great description I found on a web forum:
Rapadura is the pure juice extracted from the sugar cane (using a press), which is then evaporated over low heats,
whilst being stirred with paddles, then seive ground to produce a grainy sugar. It has not been cooked at high heats, and spun to change it into crystals, and the molasses has not been separated from the sugar. It is produced organically, and does not contain chemicals or anti-caking agents.' People can buy Rapadura sugar at most health food shops and organic food stores. There is a list of such places towards the end of my book.
In regard to putting nourishing 'naked food' on the table, what is the best advice you can give to time-poor working parents in this busy world we live in?
Time is money in everyone’s language. Be realistic about both your budget and your time available. Prioritise: Be prepared to spend money on decent food for long term health. Here are a few helpful tips:
Where can readers buy a copy of Naked Food?
People can buy the book online via Jane COOKS and Naked Food. If they live on the Northern beaches of Sydney they can buy the book at Frenchs Forest Organic Markets at The Parkway Hotel, 35 Frenchs Forest Road East, Frenchs Forest on a Sunday from 8am – 1pm and The Beaches Market at Pittwater Rugby Park, 1472 Pittwater Road, Warriewood on a Friday from 8am – 2pm. There is also a growing list of retail stockists in NSW (Health Food shops, Organic Stores and Fine Food Stores) which they can access also on my website.
What's next for Jane COOKS?
Self-publishing my first cookbook was a mammoth task and it is not over yet! The book is here and now I am launching, marketing and distributing sales of the book too! This weekend is the launch of my cookbook with an event in Sydney on Saturday, afternoon (invite only) and then an event open to the public in my garden on Sunday, 14 October afternoon 2pm - 5pm. Address details are available for this event by rsvp.
Then the next three months I will be doing countless cooking demonstrations, cooking classes, market tours and selling my book on a stall at local farmers markets at the Beaches Market in Warriewood on Fridays 8am – 2pm and at the Frenchs Forest Organic Market on Sundays 8am – 1pm. As well as taking care of online orders. After that a well-deserved summer break and then we will take on 2013 and all that it may hold for Jane COOKS!
NB: A percentage of the profits from book sales will be donated to Aussie Helpers, a non profit registered charity that helps farmers who are suffering. The charity is operated by volunteers and their work builds and strengthens the families and farming communities in the bush.
Naked Food by Jane Grover (hardcover) $49.95. Sincere thanks to Jane Grover for giving me the opportunity to interview her and review this delightful book.
Cookbook reviews and interviews with food writers and chefs.