“Women can spin very well; but they cannot make a good book of cookery” – Samuel Johnson
Just as I was really beginning to flounder with this whole healthy eating thing, a new cookbook clattered through the letterbox. An Amazon pre-order that I had forgotten I’d placed. AND IT QUITE SIMPLY CHANGED EVERYTHING. The book is A Change of Appetite by the Sunday Telegraph food writer Diana Henry and it turns out that it is precisely the book I have been waiting for since I embarked on this healthy eating “adventure” last year.
A collection of lighter recipes – wholegrains, fish and vegetables but with some gorgeous breads, meat and puddings thrown in for good measure. The concept of “accidentally healthy” that guided Diana’s compilation of the recipes completely struck a chord with me – she looked to the cuisines of Scandinavia, the Middle East, Japan, Cambodia and Burma for food that was fantastic, but which also happened to be healthy. Tinkering with great British, French and Italian food to make ‘healthier’ things that are instrinsically (and rightly) rich and delicious treats has always feels rather joyless to me – who really wants to eat a dauphinoise made with skimmed milk and low fat cheddar? Just EAT SOMETHING DIFFERENT. So much delicious food from the rest of the world is healthy in its pure unadulterated form: Japanese and Thai food is always where I (and lots of people I know) turn when in need of some sort of food repentance (e.g. post-christmas-vacation-pastry cookery course). But now I can move beyond basic stir fries and take away sushi.
I have been cooking my way through this pretty much since it arrived and my copy is absolutely littered with post-it notes with more things to try. I already want to start campaigning for her to write a sequel and I doubt I will at the front of that queue. Particular highlights so far have been the Chicken and Pumpkin with Soy & Star Anise (which made a great Sunday night supper with kale & mixed grains with lots of lime and coriander), Spiced Pork Chop with Ginger and Mango Relish (the relish alone being worth the price of the book) and Poached Rhubard with Star Anise (which I made with coconut palm sugar in place of caster and ate for breakfast with greek yoghurt and granola daily until it was gone). Pictures of all of these are above (or maybe below, HTML code and I are not best friends at the moment). These are all from the autumn or winter section of the book but that just means you’ll have to go out immediately and get the book and get cooking. I have also played with a few of the salads when the sun poked its head out a few weeks ago but the weather this morning has made me sullen and I am going to keep these to myself until Spring has finally arrived.
The photographs are exquisite, the writing very engaging (it’s a bedside table sort of book) and she has, from my generally skeptical perspective at least, cut through and distilled an enormous amount of the conflicting ‘nutrition’ advice out there into some really sensible, and sustainable, pointers on healthier eating. And there is a whole page on what to eat for lunch!
It is undoubtably a book for cooks who love cooking and eating and a basic level of culinary competence is definitely required to get really into the book. The ‘speciality’ ingredient quota is pretty low – not a chia seed or an algae extract in sight – and while you will need some basic Japanese/Middle Eastern/Indian store cupboard ingredients, most are available in big supermarkets and keep well and there is enough variety that you could plump for one of these regions only and still eat really well. Plus, there are loads of suggestions on alternative ingredients and a comprehensive online stockists guide. Most recipes require that you have at least a passing acquaintance with your greengrocer or the vegetable section of your supermarket, but that’s sort of the point isn’t it?
We ate the radicchio, red onion & cannellini bean purée from the book last night and (child and WordPress willing) that post should be up later today.
Kitchen Song of the Day: Miles Davis & The Cool – The Gaslight Anthem (The 59′ Sound)