Jon Lewin

BART Ingredients COOK UP

Jon Lewin
BART Ingredients COOK UP


Such a pleasure to be invited to do a cook up with The Bart Ingredients company. Here's the write up and interview from the day. Thanks for having me guys!

The Bart Ingredients Company are all about sharing the local knowledge, flavour and passion of ingredients from around the world.

The team regularly travel to suppliers and meet the farmers who harvest our exotic crops but our hunger to learn has recently led us to look closer to home; seeking out chefs and other local foodies who have submerged themselves in communities, absorbing the passion and adopting the recipes from the countries they have visited.  In celebration of these inspirational culinary-adventurers, we are hosting a series of cook-ups.

At our first session, we welcomed Jon Lewin, author of The Locals Cookbook, inspired by his travels to Sri Lanka. Read on to find out what we got up to.


Bart Ingredients were first introduced to Jon Lewin’s work through our partnership with a local Bristol based company, Sustainable Kitchens. Jon is a chef, writer and photographer and his enthusiasm for authentic recipes, travel, photography and surfing is evident in both his work and by how he describes his experiences. His passion for exotic cuisine has seen him undertake projects, such as the Travel Kitchen (recipe testing from a van off the coast of New Zealand), and also living and working extensively in Sri Lanka over the last 10 years. During this time he created the brilliant documentary style cookbook Sri Lanka, The Locals Cookbook first in a series of what Jon hopes eventually will be a collection of insights into cuisines from the countries he has spent time in around the world.


Jon chose to cook up the West Coast Beetroot Curry from his book. Not only delicious but exquisitely colourful and uplifting, the beetroot making the sauce a fantastic fuchsia pink! The dish was simple and easy to make and we even extracted our own coconut milk using an amazing coconut grinding devise which will be soon be available from Jon’s range. It has the added benefit of being gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian.  


Coconut milk is extracted from the white flesh of a coconut. With many of us purchasing pre-extracted coconut milk from a tin in the shops, it’s great to remember where this product comes from and how you can extract the milk yourself using a very simple tool. Jon demonstrated the process of extracting the coconut milk, including it in an authentic way in his Sri Lankan recipe. Once we removed all the flesh we added water to the bowl and squeezed the flesh over a sieve to extract the milk. We did this a couple of times over, (the first extraction being the creamiest) and added the different extractions at different stages in the cooking process to enhance the dish. Photos below from Jon’s demo.


Here’s a bit more about Jon; where it all began, his experiences and what we can expect from him next – enjoy!

How did you get into cooking / where did your journey begin?

I started cooking when I was about 5 years old in the kitchen, making cakes with my mum. She used to make this stilton dip at dinner parties which I used to love, so I used to help make that. When I was about 17 I went to do work experience at Raymond Blanc’s place in Oxford for about 3 weeks. Even though a big commercial kitchen wasn’t for me, it did fuel my fire for cooking.

I started surfing a couple of years before that which is where the travelling comes in, I went to Costa Rica, Central American, Mexico and then when I was 21 I went to Sri Lanka.

I built up a relationship with Sri Lanka and their culture. I experience the Tsunami whilst living there and following that, my relationship with the community solidified and I was determined to help. I came home and raised a load of money and returned to rebuilt their guest house. The people there are so friendly. They have nothing but they are willing to give everything. I’d be cruising around on the motorbike, get invited in for a cup of tea and end up staying for 2 weeks cooking recipes with the grandma.

When did you decide that a cookbook was going to come out of this passion

Following a photojournalism degree at university, I started a surfing magazine where I was editor, designer, photographer and writer and that’s where I learnt to put together books and magazines. When I was travelling, I worked in different kitchens, not high pressure Michelin star places just echo retreats where I ran the kitchen. I was just trying to figure out how I could do everything I love and make it my job. I love cooking, I love travelling, I love photographing and experiencing different cultures so I wanted to make that into a job and help people at the same time. So, that’s where the book started.

Do you know how many you want to do? 

Until I can’t do anymore. I’ve got a product range coming out in the next few months – which includes curry kits, chopping boards, aprons, tea towels. I’m launching a new website in about 3 weeks, when the products come out. It’s been a journey.

So how many times did you visit Sri Lanka for this book

Probably about 8, but I didn’t realise I was doing a book until the fourth time then I went to spend 6 months there to finish it off. I thought I’d shot all the recipes and it was all done but I came home and re shot bits in my caravan in wales and re shot again and again and again and continued to test the recipes!

I did further testing on the recipes while in New Zealand. I was living in a van surfing 3 times a day and would cook massive curries for lunch. I would feed loads of surfers and did a questionnaire where I got them to give their spice rating. It worked out perfectly because there were so many nationalities that I got a good demographic of the world.

I built that kitchen out of materials from skips and building sites and I want to do another one now that’s the plan.

What’s the most important thing that you do in your work

Travelling around collecting recipes, testing recipes and hanging out in local communities and adapting to their way of life. I think it’s important to live that way of life to understand the people and understand their process and cooking style. They are always quite relaxed in the kitchen, whilst over here the pressures of western life mean we don’t have time, however all my recipes are easy and simple so everyone has time to try them.  

Tell us about the process of the curry powder? (Jon makes his own curry powder, with the recipe in his cookbook)

I got the recipe from my sri Lankan family. Their curries are amazing because of these blends, so I started playing about with it at home; making my own, tweaking little bits of it. It’s a great addition to the book and makes a perfect gift.

Tell us about your signature dish / if your hosting a dinner party. 

Just a big spread! A meat curry, a fish curry, a dahl and coconut chilli sambal, coconut flatbread, poppadum's and a veggie curry! That’s how they eat in Sri Lanka every meal is a big spread. It’s amazing!

What kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without? 

My coconut grinder, pasta machine and knifes especially my big one for splitting coconuts – its massive and heavy but it’s the best tool for the job.

Where’s next

Indonesia is the next book. Mainly because I go there surfing a lot and I have a lot of connections there already as well.