Sunday sit down with… Jane Lovett
The expert cook talks to HLN about shopping local, North East eateries and her new book, Just One Pan
Jane Lovett is known for creating delicious, fool-proof recipes that anyone can make and enjoy.
Her dishes always look seriously impressive, but are deceptively straightforward – her philosophy being that cooking should be a pleasure rather than a chore, or something that feels intimidating.
The cook, food stylist, recipe developer and author has over 40 years of experience in the biz, first training at the Cordon Bleu, before teaching at Leith’s School of Food and Wine and going on to run her own catering company. Pre-pandemic, Jane ran interactive demonstrations from her home in Northumberland, which are now available online – and aimed at all abilities. And her cook books, Make It Easy and The Get-Ahead Cook, perfectly encompass Jane’s signature inviting approach to cooking, each emphasising that everyone can produce tasty, stress-free food for themselves, families and guests.
Jane’s hotly anticipated new book, Just One Pan (Headline Home, £25) is available now. And whether you’re a seasoned maker or new to cooking, these no-fuss recipes are breath of fresh air. There’s no need for hard-to-find ingredients or unnecessary hassle here – Jane’s flavourful, one-pan delights are quick and achievable, yet look and taste sublime.
Just One Pan is filled with over 100 exciting ideas for everything from sumptuous speedy dinners to tempting weekend lunches. The cookbook is bursting with bakes, gratins, dhals, frittatas, casseroles and hearty salads of every description, interspersed with Jane’s expert tips throughout; a must-have for everyone’s kitchen shelves.
As well as sharing three tantalising recipes from Just One Pan, Jane chatted to HLN about her life and career, her favourite North East eateries and much more…
Did you always know that you wanted to work with food?
I’ve always enjoyed cooking and even shopping for food! I knew I wanted to work with food from the outset. It’s the only field I’ve ever worked in – private cooking, catering, teaching, food styling, recipe testing, demonstrating and writing. I haven’t worked in a restaurant kitchen, which is something I’d love to experience to understand how it works, but I could probably only take the pressure for a week or two!
Which fellow female chefs inspire you?
I would call myself a (home) cook rather than a chef, so I wasn’t as inspired by chefs and their style of cooking. Elizabeth David was an early influence, as were Simone Beck and Julia Child (Mastering The Art of French Cooking) as well as Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cookbook. I am full of admiration for, and inspired by North East chef and restaurateur Anna Hedworth of Cook House in Newcastle. What she has achieved and continues to achieve is quite incredible – she goes from strength to strength.
What is it that you love about living and working in the North East?
I love everything about the North East – the beautiful and varied landscapes, the countryside, coast, the vibrancy. I love the eclecticity of Newcastle, the natural food larder from land and sea, the history and particularly the friendliness of North Easterners. I consider myself very lucky to live here, and shop locally as much as I can. The Good Life Shop in Wooler is my favourite for wonderful cheeses and deli-style ingredients. I get my bread from Bread & Roses bakery in Alnwick, and fabulous mixed salad leaves from Northumberland Green a few miles away.
Fenwick’s Food Hall is wonderful for harder-to-find ingredients. My favourite restaurants (if we can get a table!) are The Potted Lobster in Bamburgh and Cook House in Newcastle. I’m also a mad keen gardener and Cowells Garden Centre is my go-to. It’s family owned, beautifully laid out and has helpful, knowledgeable staff.
How do you come up with your flavour combinations and recipes?
I think it comes down to being greedy, really! I’m rarely not thinking about food and combinations. Growing my own fruit and veg, I take inspiration from what’s ready to eat, which is often the starting point of many of my recipes – it keeps things fresh and seasonal, too. I like eating simple but delicious, fresh food, and have more of a savoury than a sweet tooth. I wouldn’t dream of picking up a chocolate bar by the till at a petrol station – but if they sold mini-packs of cheese, that’s what I’d fall upon for snacking!
Tell us about your new book, Just One Pan.
It’s a collection of over 100 recipes cooked in one pan, whatever that pan may be –ranging from saucepans, sauté pans, frying pans and woks to roasting, tart and cake tins, baking sheets and ovenproof dishes. The recipes are easy, suitable for all cooking abilities and stylish, using simple-to-attain ingredients. The added bonus is there are masses of photos too; in fact, very few recipes aren’t photographed. There are recipes for every occasion, from snacking to quick suppers and entertaining, plus lots in between.
Has there been a highlight of your career so far?
The publication of my first book, Make It Easy, has to be a stand-out career moment. Having had a hand in producing cookery books for other people over the years (in varying roles), and spending a cooking lifetime scribbling recipes, it was quite overwhelming and thrilling to be commissioned to write a book of my own — a dream come true, in fact! However, the excitement and anticipation is just the same for every book and the publication of subsequent books has been no less thrilling. In fact, I’m still pinching myself! Also, I’ve been honoured to cook for some very high profile people, which is definitely another highlight.
What would we be surprised to know you did a lot of behind the scenes?
Endless recipe testing (so I can guarantee all my recipes work — which they do!), a huge amount of tasting (and picking!), and photographing of food as an aide memoire or for my Instagram page! My long-suffering husband is quite used to eating food that’s almost cold.
Do you have any rituals when cooking?
I have to begin with a tidy, uncluttered worktop before embarking on any type of cooking. And I always wash up as I go along. It’s a good discipline for stress-free cooking, and one of my top tips to folk that struggle with cooking. There’s nothing more dispiriting than a sink full of unwashed pots and pans. My mantra is never to put a dirty pan in the sink – don’t let go of the handle, just wash it straight away. I always clear up having finished one recipe, before starting on the next.
Radio 4 has been my constant kitchen companion for as long as I can remember, but when Brexit and COVID came along I had to switch off. Now I listen to Podcasts and my Spotify playlists, which are mostly made up of classical music and oldies that I sing along to (badly!).
Are there any must-have tools budding cooks should stock at home?
Good quality pans are worth the outlay in the end, for quality and longevity, and I wouldn’t be without my Magimix. Silicone paper saves a lot of washing up – one sheet lasts a lifetime, food simply slides off it and it only needs wiping clean. Anything to save washing up, I say!
What’s next for you?
Pre-pandemic, I gave cookery demonstrations from home here in north Northumberland, as well as around the UK. COVID has changed all that, so I’ve taken to the screen and I’m giving live-streamed demonstrations via Zoom for the time being. The last one I did recently, people joined from Spain, Jersey and Hong Kong, so it’s exciting to be reaching a wider (and international!) audience. Time will tell what next year will bring on that front. But, I have got an idea for another book…Check out Jane's Book
Photography throughout: Tony Briscoe