About Jo Fairley

JO FAIRLEY is co-author (with Sarah Stacey) of the world’s bestselling series of beauty books, The Beauty Bible (most recent title: The Anti-Ageing Beauty Bible. She edits (with Sarah Stacey) the accompanying website, www.beautybible.com. A former magazine editor (Look Now, Honey), she has freelanced for everyone from The Times to YOU Magazine where for nine years she was Beauty Editor. (And has written about everything from Romanian orphans to sumo wrestling, via interviews with Yul Brynner and Bette Davis.) In 1991, Jo also co-founded Green & Black’s with her husband Craig Sams, and – in a continuing spirit of enterprise – opened an 11-room boutique wellbeing centre, The Wellington Centre, in their home town of Hastings. For fun (and reflecting her enduring love of fragrance), Jo – several times winner in The Jasmine Awards (the fragrance industry’s ‘Oscars’) - writes a scent blog, www.thescentcritic.com.

Posts by Jo Fairley

The Food Of Love

A row of carrots long ways cut in halfand resting on dirt

If ever I write a cookery book – and I guess with 25 books of varying kinds under my belt, it’s not entirely beyond the realms of possibility – then it will be called ‘Dried Onions & Donald Trump’. I realise that this may not be the catchiest title for a cookbook ever, um cooked up, but those are the two key reasons why I have truly embraced the kitchen, relatively late in life. And am experiencing the greatest, most unexpected joy, as a result.

First up, I have an allergy to chopping onions. Not the usual tear or two, but a Niagara of them which completely obscures my vision, sluices my mascara into my socks and puts me at risk of cutting my finger off, at any given moment. And since most savoury dishes have onions somewhere in their foundations, this used to be a real problem when it came to making everything from soups to casseroles via good old gravy. So I just didn’t. I mostly delegated making dinner to my husband, who has the ability to look in the fridge and rustle up a three-course meal when I look in the same fridge and the only thing I can think to make is a restaurant reservation.

But one life-changing (and marriage-changing) day surfing the internet, he found a source for organic dried onions (Just Ingredients, if you’re interested). OK, so they’re not going to cut the Dijon when it comes to recipes that require that lovely caramelly, slithery-finished, sweet type of onions – but a soup, a stock, a risotto, a casserole? Perfectly adequate for adding the right amount of onioniness. (I think I may just have invented a word there.) We buy them a kilo at a time, and I now make dinner more than he does.

Because the other factor in sending me scurrying into my bunker, sorry, kitchen, was Donald Trump. Basically, I decided that it was the only place I felt safe after he moved into the White House, like a sort of Smeg-equipped air raid shelter for the 21st Century. I have barely emerged since. Or at least, if I’m not in the office, I’m probably in the kitchen. No sooner are my eyes open on a Saturday morning than I’m downstairs making a batch of ‘Crackola’ (as the family have dubbed my can’t-stop-eating-it granola – or rather, Samin Nosrat’s granola recipe, from the excellent Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.) Out comes the state-of-the-art Titanium Kenwood mixer, a generous gift from a beloved friend (and right up there in my Best-Ever Pressies Hall of Fame). Into the oven go two trays of Crackola. 45 minutes later, we’re burning our fingers picking out caramelised pecans from those foil-lined trays, and everyone’s happy.

Each week, actually I have to make more and more, by popular request from family and friends. Ditto: fennel pickles. Ditto the newest addition to my repertoire, home-made ricotta – a culinary conjuring trick worthy of certification by The Magic Circle, yet so, so, soooooo easy. So easy that I’m actually going to share it with you here. Take two litres of whole milk and a bit of salt. Heat to 85 degrees (using a jam thermometer to measure – and don’t let the milk get hotter). Add 50 ml of white wine vinegar, stir for one minute, and hey, presto! ACTUAL CURDS. Three hours later, strain the lot into a colander (I just use a linen drying-up cloth), squeeze out the last of the whey, add more salt to taste as you fluff it up with a fork. That’s it. And I cannot tell you how blown away everyone will be.

The ultimate joy of cooking for me, though, is making food to make other people feel better. Bone broth for the poorly. Tempting, easy to digest dishes for the shell-shocked bereaved that they can pop in the oven and feed everyone with no more effort than turning a knob. Ditto food for people who’ve just moved house and can’t even find the kettle. (It happens.) And in the case of a young woman in my life who’s as close to a daughter as I’m ever going to get, who had a baby late last year and whose husband travels a lot for work, ‘A Year of Pie’. Comfort food is her favourite type of food. And is any hot dish more comforting than a potato- or pastry-topped pie…?

So that was Lily’s Christmas present – I designed an actual scroll on my computer and tied it with a ribbon – and I’m proud to say I’ve barely missed a week. And that way she knows, and I know, that there’ll be at least one good, hot, nutritious, organic, (and gluten and dairy-free) meal, made from scratch with fresh ingredients each week. And I honestly get the kind of pleasure from making that pie for her family each Saturday that once upon a time, long, long ago, I used to get from a Saturday morning of clothes-shopping in the boutiques of Brompton Cross.

I bought a great cookbook recently, with the rather wonderful name Extra Helping. (The title’s a play on words.) Its author, Janet Reich Eslbach – who I instantly deemed a kindred spirit – believes that through food, we can rebuild community. As she observes: ‘Growing and welcoming babies, nursing them through insults, moving house, suffering losses of near and dear ones, and all the other facts of lives… the things we survive have one common thread: if we got through it, we must have eaten something. The only thing that compares to the satisfaction of eating what’s just right for you in a particular moment of need is… the relief of not needing lift a finger to make it appear. How good it feels to be fed!’

Funnily enough, though, I wasn’t so good at feeding myself until very recently, when I stumbled upon another book I’m going to recommend, Signe Johannson’s Solo: The Joy of Cooking for One, which is filled with recipes for one person that are way, way more interesting (but not that much more hassle) than my go-to solo dinner halved-and-herbed tomato, baked potato and lashings of salty butter. It’s definitely pimped meals on nights when I’m home alone, with Signe’s great recipes for (among other dishes) miso ramen, Cuban-inspired rice and beans or courgette and ricotta fritter. (I happen to have a handy source of great ricotta…) Because if you are going to devote any time to cooking (and thereby caring) for others, you’ve really got to fuel yourself, too. ‘To secure another person’s oxygen mask, you must first apply your own,’ observes Janet Reich Elsbach. Well, quite.

The bottom line? If Donald Trump does hang on in the White House in 2020, I’m armed. With my rolling pin, my whisk, my Nutribullet, my Titanium mixer. And an arsenal of dried onions…

How To Save Yourself

Pile of Clothes on the floor

Life, I’ve decided, is too short to spend dithering over what to wear. And so I post the question: how long did it take you to get dressed this morning? Two minutes? Ten minutes? Half an hour…? Over a lifetime, dithering over clothes all scarily adds up, so it seems. A couple of years ago I was almost struck dumb by a survey which totted up that women on average spend almost a year – yes, a whole, precious year of our lives – deciding on our outfits. Read More…

Actions For A Better World

actions-for-a-better-world

Around the time that Donald Trump got elected, an old saying from Barbara Bush – the white-haired, be-pearled wife of George Bush Sr. – started doing the rounds. It couldn’t have come at a better time for those who, like me, felt shell-shocked by what felt like a seismic and entirely unexpected world event. (Even if my very wise American husband not only predicted a Trump win, but put enough money on that outcome to pay for Christmas that year. I still haven’t dared tell my stepchildren that The Donald paid for our turkey and their presents.) Read More…

Owning The Room

Golden three tiered stage with lights and confetti

If you’d told me as a young woman that one day, I would be able to stand in front of an audience of 14,500 women, deliver a keynote speech and love every single minute of the experience, I’d have laughed in your face.

Public speaking? I’d honestly rather have run a 10k – in the opposite direction (away from that podium), at that point. And anyone who knows me, knows how much I hate running… Like most people, I found the idea of standing in front of any kind of audience heart-stoppingly terrifying. I was that creature with palpitations, clammy hands, a lump in my throat, suffering stage fright at having to stand up in front of any kind of audience beyond my nearest and dearest. Read More…

Why JOMO Is The New FOMO

jomo-is-the-new-fomo-by-jo-fairly

There’s much talk of FOMO, nowadays. Fear Of Missing Out. I blame Instagram (and other social media, to a lesser extent): when we scrawl through pictures of yummy dinners in fancy restaurants, once-in-a-lifetime finds in a posh department store’s Blue Flag sale, or see pictures of perfectly-manicured toes in front of an azure horizon on a sun-drenched beach, it’s easy to feel that we are indeed missing out. On life, bargains, exotic cocktails with paper umbrellas in them, whatever. So the other day, my heart did a little dance when I heard about FOMO’s (much saner) close relation, JOMO. It’s short for ‘Joy Of Missing Out’ – and I realise, I’ve pretty much been embracing this my whole life. Only now it’s got a name. (Or rather, an acronym.) Read More…

A Woman’s Right To Shoes

legs in the air with colourful high heeled shoes

Get any bunch of women in a room and it is not long before talk turns to shoes. Honestly, any bunch of women you could name. But among my circle, the conversation’s shifted, somewhat. These days, we’re not debating the gorgeous mauve suede of a pair of kitten heels vs the lustworthiness of a pair of red-soled Louboutins, but which makes of shoes are the comfiest on the planet. Because when you’re aiming for 10,000 steps a day for optimum health, you want to stride, not teeter. (This is even more important if, like me, you’ve managed to fall over twice and break a wrist. Even though once that happened slipping on a greengage on my own lawn wearing flats, I still want to minimise the chance of falling from any kind of height onto a hard surface.) Read More…