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Where healthy meets delicious - superb book by a great food writer
on 18 March 2014
I have been a fan of Diana Henry for a long time, but she really has surpassed herself with this book. In the introduction she outlines her approach to eating and how it had changed over the years. She lists her bibliography at the end of the book and I wasn't too surprised to see that I have shared much of the research she has undertaken - like Diana Henry, I avoid sugar and processed foods. She says 'the best thing you can do for good health is to eat proper home-cooked food, limit anything processed, really keep an eye on refined carbohydrates (especially sugar), switch to whole grains for at least some meals and up your vegetable intake.'
However, the key thing is that she's put together a book of recipes where the food naturally follows these principles and that food is completely delicious. As she says, this is not a book of deprivation or crankiness. These are dishes that are perhaps 'accidentally healthy' whilst being delicious. Diana Henry says that she has been heavily influenced by Middle Eastern food and also plundered the cuisines of Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.
I had this book on pre-order as I am such as fan of Diana Henry's other books and I see that the copy I was sent has its sub title inverted - mine says 'where healthy meets delicious' and the link takes you to one saying 'where delicious meets healthy' - both are correct, however you want to say it!
If there is a criticism I have of the book is that the recipes and menus aren't listed in the table of contents - yes they're in the index and, yes, I like the seasonal themed approach, but it would have been nice to be able to run your eyes down the list of spring recipes, for example, now that the sun has come out and I fancy something light and flavourful.
I have enjoyed exploring the book's recipes and will post an update when I have made more. Each seasonal section includes 3 menus of starter, main course and pudding. Much of the book follows my preferred layout of recipe with photo on the facing page but there are a number of recipes without photos and some bonus recipes where she builds on a soup, say, with an alternative. Dispersed throughout the book are some thoughts on diets, a list of breakfasts and of lunches - directing you to recipes within the book - but again these pages aren't highlighted in the contents list.
In addition to some lovely fresh salads and fresh dishes such as crab with chilli and garlic and teriyaki salmon with pickled vegetables and sesame seeds, spring menus are:
- feta and orange salad with honeyed almonds/ persian saffron and mint chicken with couscous/greek yoghurt and apricot ice cream
- rice paper rolls with nuoc chan / Japanese rice bowl /fruits with mint and ros-Shave vegetables with lemon / salmon with bay leeks / blueberry and gin jellies
summer menus are:
- sicilian artichoke and broad bean sale with saffron dressing / espresso granita
- white beans with roast peppers eggs and hilbeh / persian spice bread / berry and hibiscus sorbet
- grilled summer herb mackerel / poached white peaches with rosé wine jelly
autumn menus are:
roast veg with agresto / cavolo pilaf with figs /watercress salad / blackberry-apple rye galette
Persimmon and avocado salad / burmese chilli fish / citrus compote with ginger snow
lentil, roast tomato and saffron soup / indian spiced beetroot, pumpkin and spinach / mangoes
winter menus are:
red lentil kofte / spiced quail with blood orange and date salad / yoghurt and apricot compote
mandaly carrot salad / spiced haddock stew / blood orange and cardamon sorbet
bagna cauda / georgian chicken with walnut sauce / orange and pomegranate cake
These full menus are one of the things I appreciate about Dian Henry as a food writer - she picks a menu where you can rely on the flavours working together and I look forward to trying these out.
All of the recipes I've tried so far have been great and straightforward to cook. You do need a wide range of spices but since I cook from the Ottolenghi: The Cookbook a great deal, my store cupboard was already furnished with these.
For my recent book group I made the carrot and ginger soup with cucumber raita and the orange and pomegranate cake - both winners. For a mid-week supper I made the chicken with yoghurt and pomegranates which was easy and delicious. When a friend came over I tried the Japanese ginger and garlic chicken with smashed cucumber and was praised to the skies. I've also had success with the teriyaki salmon with pickled vegetables and sesame seeds - my first time pickling vegetables. I have also made the Ballymaloe bread and the borlotti beans with anchovy and rosemary sauce - both quick and delicious.
I can tell that I'll be cooking from this all year.