Jo Thomas

I’m delighted that my latest book, Late Summer in the Vineyard, is now out in paperback and ebook here! You can see some photos of my important wine-based ‘research’ in France here with my fellow authors and friends Judy Astley and Katie Fforde.

To celebrate publication we’ve teamed up with Woman & Home magazine for a competition (closing date 31.08.2016) to join me in London for a special wine-tasting event. There are just 10 pairs of tickets available but I’d love to meet you so get your entry in here.

If you’ve read Late Summer in the Vineyard I’d love to hear what you think. Find me on Twitter and #SummerVineyard or on Facebook

I find it goes down well with a glass of rose or two… Happy reading.



Le petit rose


I’ll be at Crickhowell Literary Festival on the 8th October, come and join me for afternoon tea at 4pm with Katie Fforde.

Find ticket details and more information here.

The Olive Branch Jo Thomas

Tucked away in Southern Italy is a gorgeous little restaurant called Entroterra, after which I named the town in The Olive Branch.

 The Thomas Family Christmas Tree

It really wouldn’t be Christmas without Brussels sprouts! What I love most about sprouts is the way they bring my family together. I love the fact that my husband has one sprout, once a year – it’s tradition. I love remembering the time my daughter thought she was being really cool and loaded her plate with them and, like the Vicar of Dibley on her third Christmas dinner, ate them all. I love the fact that my Labrador will eat all the leftovers, but leave the sprouts.One Christmas, when the children were younger and chaos was breaking out all over the house as presents were opened and paper strewn everywhere, I have a clear memory of walking into the kitchen where my brother stood by the sink trimming the sprouts, and singing along to Robbie Williams’ ‘Mr Bojangles’.‘Do you remember this? It was one of Dad’s favourites.’He handed me a glass of bucks fizz and a knife and the two of us stood side by side, listening to the song, trimming the sprouts’ outer leaves, cutting crosses in the bottom and remembering our Dad on Christmas morning. It was a moment of happy contemplation away from the madness.  It is one of my really happy Christmas memories, and that’s why sprouts will always have a place at my Christmas table.

The Red Sky at Night Jo Thomas

Well, the clocks have gone back. The evenings are darker and autumn is slowly but surely showing us her true colours – red, orange, yellow and gold. I love this time of year; love it! I love the early evening mist as it rolls in through my village, mixing with the smell of wood smoke as log burners are woken and brought back to life after their long summer break.
I love getting wrapped up in big thick sweaters, gloves and hats and getting out in the fresh air. This is the time of year I love to walk my dogs the most and as I walk, the more I find stories start to play out in my head.
And more than any other time of year, it’s the autumn when I find myself drawn to the sea. There’s a beach I go to near us, where dogs aren’t allowed in the summer months. I look forward to the autumn when I can drive over there in my camper van, take the dogs and let them charge around on the soft sand, dipping in and out of the rock pools, chasing seagulls that land. I love the bracing fresh air, watching the dogs run in figures of eight and bound in and out of the little waves. And then what I really love is to cook outdoors, sizzling, spitting sausages on barbeques on the beach or jacket potatoes in the embers of a wood fire, hot juicy hotdogs held in hands covered by fingerless gloves, cheeks glowing from glasses of well-deserved red wine after the exertions of a good walk. I just love it!

This is how I came to the idea of A RED SKY AT NIGHT.  I wanted to write about being by the sea as autumn rolls in on a wave, like Aphrodite riding ashore on her giant shell, on the backs of galloping white horses.
As a child I used to holiday in West Wales, the same two summer weeks, the same long drive and the same campsite every summer. It was wonderful. We loved the freedom we had as kids there, telling our parents we’d be back at teatime. We spent hours crabbing in the rock pools, jumping off the rocks into the deep water and mackerel fishing. They were happy carefree days.
Then last year, I bought Dorothy the camper van and we took it back to that same campsite, where my three children enjoyed the same things I used to as we watched the sun set over the sea. They loved it just as much as I had.
So with the clocks going back, make the most of glorious autumn days. Why not take a walk to the beach and watch the white horses or catch leaves in the woods and make a wish. Sometimes we need to go back to the things we loved as a child to find our way again as an adult.

This weekend is my daughter’s birthday. We have family and friends coming to stay. We’ll be wrapping up warm, taking the dogs along the beach and then lighting a fire in the back garden and eating hotdogs and chilli by the fireside.

Everything changes in the autumn. It may be the end of the summer, but for me, it feels more like a new beginning, like something exciting is waiting just around the corner.

The Oyster Catcher

If you want to visit where I first got the inspiration for The Oyster Catcher, pop along to O’Grady’s on the Pier in Galway for some gorgeous local seafood.

Olive Branch

If you’ve ever been tempted to try your hand at shucking an oyster or dabbling in some wine tasting, do have a look at some of these food courses which I’ve taken as part of my research.


Research in Italy

The olive tree is part of the fabric of family life in Puglia. And family life is at the heart of everything.

One of my favourite places to go in Ceglie Messapica is a restaurant called Entroterra. My brother and his wife first took me there and every time I return I am welcomed warmly, like an old friend, by its owner Giuseppe and his family. This place to me is the very essence of rural country living in Puglia.

It was its name Entroterra, that gave me the idea for the setting in my book The Olive Branch; but it was its owner, Giuseppe, that sparked the idea for the heart of story.

You enter Entroterra through a stone archway and stretching out in front of you is the restaurant’s own olive grove. Downstairs in the cool cellar restaurant in summer, and cosy in the autumn when the deep recessed fires are lit, we ate fabulous antipasto; cured meats, cherry tomatoes with strong ricotta cheese, fresh vegetables in fruity olive oil; just thinking about this is making my mouth water. Then Giuseppe, alongside his family, cooks on the forno, the open fire upstairs. All the vegetables are home grown, ‘entro terra’, from the earth. But the star of the show for me was the peppers; simple red and yellow peppers, grilled, topped with breadcrumbs and generously drizzled in deep green olive oil. Just phenomenal. I asked Giuseppe what he did to the peppers to make them taste so good. He told me, nothing. Just grill them, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and then olive oil, ‘solo’, meaning only. His description of that, ‘solo’ stayed with me and an idea began to form. A town where the olive oil meant everything, ‘solo’.

I knew then that olive oil was the Simon Cowell of Puglia, it turned talented potential into superstars.

At the end of the meal, Giuseppe brought over a bottle of homemade limoncello, set out glasses infront of us, poured the yellow liquid and then sat with us. He told me that life here was all about ‘Il tavolo’, the table. He put his hand on the table and patted it. It was about ‘la famiglia’ he went on to say, the family. It was about the food we grow and the food we cook to put on the table for ‘la famiglia’ he explained, looking me in the eye. And then he placed his hand on his heart and despite him not speaking a word of English, or me Italian, I knew exactly what he meant and knew I felt the same. And from there, The Olive Branch was born. A story about family, food and love. It was about ‘Il tavolo’.

I had tasted local olive oil adorning home grown vegetables and meat in restaurants and agritourism dining rooms, on local farms, but it was time to meet the leading lady in her own right; to taste the olive oil ‘solo’. Olive oil tasting is much like wine tasting, taking in air to allow the oil to reach the different taste points in your mouth. You start to learn what you like and don’t like and how the different regions vary in flavour.

Actually raising a small tasting cup of oil to your mouth for the first time can be a strange experience. I went to the local frantoio, the press. I saw where the olives were weighed, washed, crushed and pressed and where the oil eventually poured from a small metal pipe. Then I saw the big steel vats where the oil was stored and I began to taste. At first I had to put aside the idea I was about to drink cooking oil. I held it to my nose and smelt it, then to my lips and then finally I tipped it into my mouth letting the fruity, slightly bitter, thick, peppery oil slide into all parts of my mouth. I wasn’t drinking cooking oil that we buy in supermarket’s back home! This was part of Puglia, this was from the earth and everything good that goes with it. You only have to look at the colour of that deep red earth to know that.

Like Puglia itself, its olive oil feeds my mind, body and soul and spirit. I feel energised, nourished and reinvigorated there. Oh, and I was also told, a spoonful of olive oil at bedtime can help to stop snoring. You see, olive oil has a cure for almost everything! Try it, cook with it, share it with the ones you love because life is all about Il tavolo.’

The Oyster Catcher Jo Thomas


‘It was a brave man who first ate an oyster’ wrote Jonathon Swift.

I remember my first oyster clearly. I think most people do. I wonder why that is? It was New Year’s Eve. The children were young and tucked up in bed. My brother, who’s a chef, had been to the fish market in Cardiff at the end of the day and bought all kinds of wonderful shellfish. There were prawns, mussels, crab claws and…oysters. They looked knarled and knobbly and didn’t seem to promise the wonderful experience that everyone talked about. How could they, looking like that?

We prepared all the seafood, opened the cava. The budget wouldn’t run to champagne. And we sat down to eat. I devoured the mussels, pinching the orange nuggets from their shells. I cracked and sucked at the prawns and crab claws but I wasn’t going to try the oysters. In truth, I was scared. But scared of what? Scared something bad would happen if I ate it.

I picked up the half shell and held it under my nose. I sniffed at it and baulked at it. I was cajoled and encouraged. I watched the others squeeze lemon and tabasco on them then hold them to their lips, tip back their heads and let the oysters slide down and the happy look on their faces. Nothing bad had happened to them.

I picked it up again, sniffed and this time put the shell to my lips, still not convinced that this slimy blob could be that wonderful. There was gritty shell on my lips that I brushed away, now convinced for sure that this was going to be a dreadful experience. But I’d come too far to back out now. The others waited expectantly, staring at me. I had to just get it over and done with.

I tipped my head back, closed my eyes and poured the oyster into my mouth. It slid in and I swallowed quickly and hard. And then I waited….for something bad to happen. It was cold, salty and a bit slimy and I’m not sure what else. I thought about it. And then I realised, nothing bad happened. So…I tried another. This time slower. It was cold, and tasted of the sea, in a good way. And I still haven’t keeled over. I took a third and this time, I tipped….. and chewed. It was like a head explosion, a blast of the ocean reaching into the corners of my mouth and then a minerally taste. It was so fresh and invigorating. Finally I swallowed and it slipped down. Now I knew why people smiled when they ate oysters. I felt like a surfer who’d caught an amazing wave and ridden it’s crest. ‘Whoo’ I wanted to shout and I was smiling too. Nothing bad happened, in fact, something wonderful happened, I discovered I loved oysters. The oyster and I had come out of our shell.

It was this tentative trying, tasting and loving it that gave me the idea for THE OYSTER CATCHER. Sometimes in life we need to feel the fear to feel alive. Go on, try one. You might find yourself falling in love.”