Saturday 30 August 2014

Diana Henry's A Change of Appetite

We've been doing quite well on winning stuff, lately. First that Eat Your Books membership, which I don't think I will ever stop raving about, and then Paul's lottery ticket won £25. And I won a copy of Diana Henry's new book through Ren Behan's site. Which was pretty exciting, since I was planning to buy it anyway (and indeed, I have and gave it to my mother for her birthday).

I first became acquainted with Diana's writing in late 2002, when I was sent a copy of Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons to review for Good Reading. At the time I said her writing was enchanting, and the enchantment has held: only one of her books doesn't have a prominent place on my shelf (The Gastropub book - I gave it to a charity cookbook sale last year). Her dishes combine ingredients in unexpected and alluring ways, drawing on flavours from all over the world, without being inaccessible. And her books always look so beautiful. I'm a shallow creature: pretty counts for quite a lot with me.

A Change of Appetite is about changing your approach to food. Not a diet cookbook, but a book of plant, wholegrain and pulse-focused recipes that tend to be lower or slower carb and contain less animal protein. A book for a sustainable, healthy way of eating (probably... dietary advice seems to change so frequently! but all this advice is well-researched and signposted for further reading).

Anyway, when I get a new cookbook, I like to put it through its paces. We've been eating a lot of dishes from this one! I've enjoyed every dish we've tried so far and would definitely make them all again. The only problem I've had was figuring out portion sizes - some of the recipes say "serves 4 as a main course" and others say "serves 6" without being so blatantly obvious whether that was in the context of a four course supper or a one-bowl meal. As I was serving two, I ended up mix-and-matching to suit our appetites. For example, making a full quantity of gremolata but halving the amounts of other ingredients, or making a full quantity of salad but halving the grain and protein with it, or serving three eggs between us.

The goat's cheese and cherry salad with almond and basil gremolata (p.98 for those playing at home) has already made an appearance on this blog. It was an excellent use for beautifully fresh cherries! The combination of creamy cheese, sweet, juicy fruit and the nutty, herby, garlicky gremolata made an excellent meal-in-a-bowl. I think this one will adapt well to pears or chunks of persimmon later in the year. Maybe even dried figs, when fresh local produce gets more scarce.

For the Israeli chicken with moghrabieh, harissa-griddled peaches and mint (p.136) I just used some regular couscous rather than trying to source wholemeal moghrabieh. Paul had a thing for couscous a few months ago and we ended up with quite a lot of it, so I'm trying to reduce the stockpile before buying new and exciting starches. We don't have a griddle pan so my peaches didn't get those very attractive charred stripes. However, the flavour was excellent. Even with that large quantity of hot English mustard, it only had a mellow mustard flavour.
I adore salade Niçoise, so the salad of smoked anchovies, green beans and egg (p.111) caught my eye. The green beans that I was convinced I had in the fridge turned out to be sugar snap peas, and I added an avocado that needed using. It was all delicious. Paul announced that radishes are one of his favourite things and he didn't know why I didn't put them in all salads. Do use good eggs for this, even if you don't normally worry about free-range or organic produce. Although you should - a good quality egg is one of life's greatest pleasures.

When I tweeted this picture of the Japanese ginger and garlic chicken with smashed cucumber (p.63), Diana responded that my smashed cucumber was insufficiently smashed. So do give it a thorough, stress-releasing whacking. I used red shredded pickled ginger rather than pink because that is what we always seem to have on hand. I made the edamame and sugar snap salad that's a suggested accompaniment, and it was excellent - the miso and ginger dressing is definitely something to keep in mind.
I'd had a very large lunch, hence this uncharacteristically dainty portion
It's a little early in the year for pumpkin, so I used butternut squash for the roast pumpkin, labneh, walnut gremolata and pomegranate (p.254). I used calamondin zest and juice (the calamondin bonsai has a lot of fruit on it at the moment) instead of lemon. This was so delicious! Sweet and savoury, hot and cool, mealy and juicy and creamy and deliciously garlicky. Just wonderful.

I had a bit of trouble getting the dukka to stick to the eggs for the roast tomatoes and lentils with dukka-crumbed eggs (p.164) - which I think is mostly down to taking shortcuts and not crushing it finely enough. The flavours were absolutely wonderful though, so just sprinkling the dukka on top worked fine. I used basil instead of coriander leaves (the basil that we bought at the beginning of summer is doing well), and cherry tomatoes instead of roma. The dish ended up reminiscent of a fairly refined ful medames; very satisfying.

I was very happy with the shawarma chicken with warm chickpea puree and sumac onions (p.217), although when I reheated it, the chickpea puree split and oozed quite a lot of oil. I'm not sure if that was due to the quantity of oil or the fact that I used rapeseed instead of olive oil. Next time I think I'd make the puree more like my usual hummus recipe, with more tahini, less oil and a good slosh of boiling water to bring it together. We had it with some roasted peppers and aubergines. An excellent use for the sumac that I bought and then couldn't remember why.

Sadly, I suspect that a lot of people will be put off the Japanese rice bowl (p.43) because of the raw fish. Which is a shame because it really is delicious. Again, I used red pickled ginger instead of pink, and I used white sesame seeds instead of black. It's so pretty and such a vibrant tasting bowl of food. It's a very good introduction to raw fish if you are squeamish.

While I was working my way through these recipes, I stuck pretty closely to them. As far as these things go with me. But with the radicchio and red onions on white bean puree (p.288), I couldn't help myself. Diana suggests a lentil, roast grape and red chicory salad with it, which sounded so good, but we didn't need that much food. The notion of roast grapes stuck with me though, so I tossed a bunch of red grapes in the pan with the radicchio and red onions. She also mentions that "if you choose the right plate to serve it on, it even looks rather painterly", which made me think of the reds and whites of Carpaccio paintings and of my other favourite red and white food: good cured pork. I laid some slices of proscuitto in silky folds on top. So my dish looks much messier than the original, but it tasted absolutely superb. And I added a sprig of fresh rosemary, finely chopped, to the bean puree, in memory of the rosemary and tuna skewers on white bean puree, which were all the rage about 15 years ago in Sydney.


Unknown said...

That all looks absolutely fabulous. I'm off to order the book!

Unknown said...

This all looks fab! Off to buy the book now.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Jude - there are even things in it that Chris will probably eat!

Unknown said...

I want the book too.

Unknown said...

I am going to get the book too!

Pam said...

It all looks great. Sounds like a good book to check out.

Kavey said...

What an array you've already cooked from it! impressed!

Alicia Foodycat said...

Sue - I am sure you will like it!

Pam - her books are always good but this is brilliant.

Kavey - and a lot more I want to make!

Deb in Hawaii said...

Everything looks amazing. I just have her Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons book but Diana Henry is one of the female chefs we are putting up in the poll on Sunday at I Heart Cooking Clubs. I have my fingers crossed even more after seeing your post that she wins as I would love to spend six months cooking with her. ;-)

Angie's Recipes said...

I need to get the book too! All those dishes look droolworthy!

grace said...

those are far and away some of the most colorful and delicious-looking dishes i've seen lately! i'm most definitely interested. :)

Alicia Foodycat said...

Deb - I hope she wins the poll! It's hard to go wrong with her dishes.

Angie - it's a lovely way to eat.

Grace - aren't they so pretty? The book is even more beautiful.


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