This week sees the publication of a book of delicious vegetarian and vegan recipes from the hugely successful catering company No Bones Jones. No Bones Jones: Festival Cookbook shines a spotlight on the authentic, wholesome vegetarian and vegan food that the company supplies to festivalgoers across the UK.
No Bones Jones started after Hugh Jones returned from a long period driving an overland tourist bus around India, Nepal and Turkey in the 1980s.
“When he left, he knew little about food or catering, and cared even less. When he came back, he was a man transformed! He seemed to have gone food-mad and enthused at length about the exotic salads, magical spices and fabulous flavours he had discovered in far-flung lands. He seemed to have set his heart on crafting here at home these same delicious, mainly veggie dishes of vibrant colour and fragrance,” says Mark Jones, friend, translator and co-author of the book.
In the meantime, Hugh’s former girlfriend from his school days had started a vegetarian and wholefood café in their home town. With Jill’s cooking experience and Hugh’s new-found love of exotic vegetarian food, together they developed what is now No Bones Jones, a catering company that feeds thousands of happy customers at a host of festivals over the summer months every year – from Glastonbury to the National Eisteddfod of Wales to numerous folk festivals.
“Our aim was to provide a mixed, nutritious vegetarian meal. This was something most unusual in those early days, but it was what we ourselves wanted to eat. We started with two dishes: lentil stew and chickpea curry with brown rice and salad. In 1995 this was considered off piste, but we knew we were on the right track and we’ve never looked back,” says Hugh, who is nowadays a frequent guest on BBC Radio Wales, where he cooks live on air for a following of regular listeners.
No Bones Jones: Festival Cookbook is more than a recipe book as it also discusses the company’s ethos and ideas. The work tirelessly to keep their carbon footprint as low as possible, which has won them the coveted Green Trader Gold Award at Glastonbury (awarded by Greenpeace, the Soil Association, the Fairtrade Foundation and the Nationwide Caterers Association to one out of 400 on-site food traders). Their vehicles run on bio diesel, their lighting is solar-powered, and packaging is kept to a minimum by staples in 20kg sacks, spices by the kilo and all vegetables in returnable crates.
Hugh Jones cites two people as being the main influencers of the company’s approach. The first was his mother:
“Like all mothers of that era, she knew how to prepare a nutritious meal from very little and how to make do and mend. It's nothing new to recycle, reuse and repair. People back then had grown up during the war with very little, so their whole ‘3Rs’ approach was not so much a virtue as a necessity, and at the time was simply called good housekeeping.”
The second was a young Nepalese woman who cooked her dal-bhat (Nepalese lentil and rice dish) on a dried cow dung-fuelled stove in a little shack on the side of the Rajpath, the road leading to Kathmandu, for 3 rupees.
“Barefoot she was with her two young children, but nevertheless successfully eking out a humble living. In her hut I was dining in the original ‘lean start-up’, the antithesis of a modern restaurant and for me far more exciting,” says Hugh.
The book recounts the fascinating and often highly amusing anecdotes behind the discovery and development of their recipes. It also tells the story of a man who got out of his rut and chose a path less trodden. Throughout the book, Hugh’s enthusiasm for distant locations, and his passion for not impacting the planet and for vegetarian food is infectious. Hugh states “you don’t have to be a vegetarian to eat veggie food! You’re not a pigeon, so don’t pigeonhole yourself.”
Hugh and Jill Jones live in Montgomery in Powys, where they were well known in the local community.
Hugh’s lifelong friend Mark Jones is a freelance writer and translator based in Avignon in France.
No Bones Jones: Festival Cookbook by Hugh and Jill Jones with Mark Jones (£12.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.