2 minutes with Diana Henry – who loves anchovies and will not give up on puff pastry

December 2, 2019 9:30:46 AM

Known as the queen of chicken related recipes (just check any of her many recipe books), Diana Henry is an expert when it comes to putting together simple dinners that don’t result in an anxiety headache.

Her latest cookbook, From The Oven To The Table, is no different. It features a collection of dishes that rely on the burnishing, “transformative” powers of chucking ingredients into a tin and then – full of hope – into the oven.

We caught up with the cook and writer about how and what she eats day-to-day…

Your death row meal would be…
“If I was really on death row I probably wouldn’t care, but if I had to choose; a good roast chicken, potatoes roasted in olive oil and rosemary, a well dressed green salad and a pot of Dijon mustard.”

The thing you still can’t make is…
“Bloody puff pastry! All that rolling and turning and resting. I try every so often but I have warm hands so it’s difficult. It was the one thing I really didn’t master when I was at cookery school. I hate being defeated, which is why I keep trying. Also, there’s good commercial stuff available which sort of renders making your own redundant. But still, I keep trying.”

Your favourite store-cupboard essential has to be…
“Anchovies and capers. I love salty flavours and use both of these a lot.”

The kitchen utensil you couldn’t live without is…
“If you’re talking about machinery then a food processor. If something substantial then great knives (I like Opinel and Sabatier). If you mean something small then a Microplane zester.”

Your late night snack of choice has to be…
“Almost too many too mention. Cheese on toast, plain dark chocolate with dried apricots or hazelnuts, anchovies on good bread.”

Your signature dish is…
“I cook so many dishes it’s hard to pick one, but the two I really love are whisky cured gravlax with a fennel and apple relish, and leg of lamb marinated in yoghurt and spices with aubergine puree. The aubergine puree is actually mixed into a thick bechamel (I add feta too). It’s a Turkish dish and there they have it with meatballs, but I love it with spiced roast lamb.”

You like your eggs…
“I adore eggs and will eat them any way – boiled, scrambled, poached, fried – but particularly like devilled eggs and eggs Benedict (it’s impossible for me not to order eggs Benedict if they are on a menu).”

Your childhood dinners featured a lot of…
“Roast chicken with stuffing.”

Last night you ate…
“Chicken joints roasted with cherry tomatoes and chilli, with mozzarella and parmesan added at the end and the whole thing bunged under the grill. Fresh basil on top. Kind of like a margarita but for chicken.”

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I do use my own books – one of the best things about writing cookbooks is that you have your favourite recipes organised into collections – but From the Oven to the Table is proving to be the one I use most (because the dishes are, for the most part, pretty lazy. I was using the proofs way before the book was published). Can’t I remember my own recipes? No, not really. I don’t usually have to read the method but I need to check quantities. I’m always right out of energy on Sunday nights so I want a low effort dish and to sit with a glass of wine while it cooks. I bought chicken thighs yesterday so I just had to decide what to do with them. It’s going to be chicken and sweet potatoes with miso, honey and spring onions. There’ll just be some stir-fried cabbage on the side. I’m opening the wine…Picture by @laurajayneedwards

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If you’re ordering takeout, it has to be…
“We have an Indian takeaway once every couple of weeks, usually when I’m too tired to cook. I love dal and Indian vegetable dishes.”

Your ultimate hangover cure is…
“Very dull but litres of black coffee and water. Works a treat.”

You really cannot stomach…
“Kidneys. I really can’t understand why people like them. I have had to hide them under mashed potato in the past.”

From The Oven To The Table: Simple Dishes That Look After Themselves by Diana Henry, photography by Laura Edwards, is published by Mitchell Beazley, priced £25 (octopusbooks.co.uk). Available now.

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