by Diana Henry


At the beginning of this year I started using Instagram (to which I’m now slightly addicted…).  I ended up following Diana Henry’s Instagram feed although I’d never heard of her at that point; now that I do know more about her I’m amazed that I didn’t know her before!  Not to mention the fact that she owns more than 4000 cookbooks (makes my collection of 200 look embarrassingly modest; I was sure to let my husband know that!) she was also a winner at the 2016 James Beard Awards.  I’m happy to report that I am now the proud owner of two of Diana Henry’s books – “Salt, Sugar, Smoke” which is a book on preserving (I haven’t used this book yet) and “Simple” which she published just last month.

The first recipe I cooked from “Simple” is Lamb with Preserved Lemon, Dates & Cumin Butter…and yes, it does taste as good as it sounds.  The lamb is stuffed with a mixture of kale, chili, dates and preserved lemon before being slathered in cumin butter and roasted until it has a gorgeous crust.

Straight out of the oven looking gorgeous in it’s golden pool of butter and lambiness

I don’t often make a stuffed roast but it looks amazing when it’s sliced; I was very happy to see that the lamb had retained some pinkness (phew!)  One very sad error I made was forgetting to pour the cooking juices over it at the end – what a mistake!  The greens are out of the garden and dressed in butter, lemon juice and shaved parmesan.

If only the cooking juices were on that lamb…

I’m always a sucker for Spanish flavours and anything with chorizo and beans, so I couldn’t resist making Diana’s recipe for Spanish Rice with Chorizo, Beans & Pumpkin.  This is a good one for a weeknight because it doesn’t take too long and it doesn’t require lots of stirring.  Saffron is used to add an earthy flavour to the rice…I have to admit to cutting back substantially on the number of chorizo – the recipe calls for 10-12 chorizo! I used half that. I also had to use quite a bit of extra stock to get my rice to cook through (so actually…when I say it’s a good weeknight meal, it did end up being quite a late one!).  Other than the laborious task of cutting up the pumpkin everything else is quick to prepare and it all gets cooked in the same pan which is great for those on washing up!

I had some leftover roasted red peppers in the fridge so I added those to the pan as well…great decision 🙂

Probably my favourite of the recipes I’ve made from this book so far is Chicken Piccata with Lemon & Parsley Orzo.  The chicken is cooked in oil and butter over a high heat so that it becomes crisp and golden and then a quick sauce is made with vermouth, lemon juice, capers and herbs.  I made some slight adjustments to my sauce – instead of capers I used nasturtium capers that I made from the nasturtium berries in our garden last summer and I added a few green peppercorns (so good!).  The orzo with lemon and parsley is a great side dish to the chicken as it contains similar flavours, is quick to make and has a satisfying texture.

It doesn’t look very impressive…but trust me, it’s good

The most recent recipe I’ve made from this book is Persian Inspired Eggs with Dates & Chilli.  Mine doesn’t look anywhere near as good as Diana Henry’s version (which my husband kindly pointed out to me) but it still tasted amazing.  It’s basically fancy scrambled eggs with cumin, spinach and dates added (among other things).  It makes me realise that while basic scrambled eggs are definitely a winner there are so many other possibilities! For this particular recipe I didn’t have fresh dates so I used some gorgeous black dried figs instead…too good.


So I’m very happy to know of Diana Henry now that I’ve cooked some of her recipes. I’m looking forward to working my way through more of her recipes in this and her other books.  I’ve also discovered another cookbook author through Diana Henry’s Instagram – Naomi Duguid – I now own two of her books as well…but hey, as long as I own less than 4000 cookbooks then I think I’m doing ok 🙂

Eating Through the Days

My standard breakfast fare consists of untoasted, unfruited muesli and to be honest I’m quite happy to eat that every day.  Even when I go out for breakfast I’m quite often tempted to get the muesli (except usually the muesli is a bit too elaborate for my taste).  However, lately I’ve been trying some alternatives to muesli in an attempt to vary my diet and nutrition and I’ve been enjoying them very much.  Below are some images of the breakfasts I have partaken recently…

Steel cut oats topped with banana, activated sunflower seeds, cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup (inspiration from the Deliciously Ella Everyday cookbook)
Chia Breakfast Pudding topped with…yes…untoasted, unfruited muesli!  Very tasty, from the Deliciously Ella cookbook
Apple Pie Smoothie Bowl topped with…toasted and fruited muesli (I’m really branching out now!).  From the Simplicious cookbook by Sarah Wilson.  It wasn’t quite thick enough initially so I added some rolled oats and chia seeds.
Go-to-Green-Smoothie from the Hemsley & Hemsley cookbook.  Very zingy and full of goodness (almonds activating in the background!).

I’ve been cooking a few more healthy snacks as well for my morning tea…

Cinnamon and Raisin Cookies from the Hemsley & Hemsley cookbook.  These are gluten free with very little sweetener (other than the raisins).  They taste really good but have a very crumbly texture from the almond meal.
Broc Bites from Sarah Wilson’s Simplicious cookbook.  These are little savoury bakes filled with broccoli and tons of cheese.  I added a sprinkling of cayenne pepper and parmesan cheese on top which give them a lovely heat and crispy outside with a gooey cheesiness to the dough.

I’ve been making more interesting salads for my work lunches too and trying to get the ingredients organised in the weekend so they don’t take so long to put together.  This consists of cooking grains in advance, boiling eggs, rinsing and drying lettuce etc…

This was my own concoction inspired by the various healthy cookbooks I’ve been reading lately.  This salad consists of quinoa, butter crunch lettuce, avocado, green sicilian olives, red cabbage and green peas.  After this photo was taken I also added sauerkraut, home made japanese-style pickled beetroot (from the Momofuku cookbook) and some powerhouse dressing (from the Simplicious cookbook).
This salad was really good.  It’s also out of Simplicious and is called Puttanesca Festival Abundance Bowl.  Julienne carrots, radish leaves (instead of rocket), leftover chargrilled courgette, tomato, olives, tuna and powerhouse dressing.  It was supposed to have pesto in it but I already had powerhouse dressing made up in the fridge.  I heated it up a little bit which was very pleasant.
These are Power Up Salad Bowls from Anabelle Langbein’s Endless Summer book.  Beans, roasted kumara, kale, cranberries, grapes, seeds and nuts and a chia seed dressing.

Following on from all these lovely salads I need a good hearty dinner.  Recently I’ve been trying to use up all the white rice and pasta that we have in the cupboard…as part of my healthier eating I want to change over to wholemeal pasta but in the meantime I have to make do with white…

Pasta with Lamb Ragu from the Nigellissima cookbook.  We had leftover roast lamb in the freezer so I used that instead of lamb mince.  It’s flavoured with Worcester sauce, chilli, oregano and dried mint which gave it a wonderful tang/heat/freshness.
I’ve had a box of half-used pasta sheets in the cupboard for more than a year now so I decided to be really clever and made the same ragu sauce but this time layered it into a tin with the lasagna sheets and grated cheese…so delicious and some might say improvisational!
While I was in an improvising mood I decided to get a bit intuitive as well (see goals)! I produced this meal by combining onion, tinned tomatoes, grated courgette, leftover roast kumara, chickpeas, cumin, and chilli flakes all served on a bed of barley.  I’m not sure how I achieved it but it had a lovely tang almost as though it had lemon juice in it…really tasty.

And to finish…a pudding…rice pudding to be exact to try and use up some of the rather large quantities of short grain rice I have in the cupboard.  This was a very quick and easy recipe to make (compared to some recipes).  It is a Nigel Slater recipe that we found online…grease the dish, bung everything in, stick it in a hot oven for an hour and Bob’s your uncle!

I don’t need to tell you how good this was…(soooo good!).

Roast Lamb and a Week of Leftovers!

A couple of weekends ago I cooked up a huge roast leg of lamb (4.5kg!) for Sunday’s dinner. I knew it was going to supply us with leftovers for most of the following week so I cooked it with flavours that would blend well into a multitude of other meals.  I poked plenty of holes into the leg and stuffed these with anchovies and garlic cloves; I then rubbed salt and pepper into the outside of the leg before putting it into a low oven to cook for a few hours.  Towards the end of cooking I cranked up the heat to get a nice crispy outside while retaining the pink, juicy meat in the middle.  The anchovies provided a gorgeous savoury umami flavour along with the caramelisation on the outside of the meat.  I made a pan gravy from Annabel Langbein’s book called “Cooking to Impress without Stress” which was a lovely accompaniment – it contains red current jelly, balsamic vinegar and Marsala wine. This book was sitting in a pile of cookbooks that I had decided to get rid of…it’s now back in the bookcase!


On Monday I made Lamb with Couscous, Lemon and Mint from “River Cottage Everyday”.  This was super quick to make and very tasty – the lemon and mint gave it a beautiful fresh flavour while the dried apricots provided a hit of sweetness with some crunch from the toasted almonds.  I probably should have served this with some greens but…I didn’t!


Tuesday I made Lamb Souvlaki with Pita from “The Great New Zealand Cookbook”.  For this I served up a platter of fresh veges including lettuce, capsicum, tomato, sprouts, red onion and coriander and made up a bowl of Tzatziki.  I chargrilled the wholemeal pita breads and gave the lamb chunks a quick fry with some olive oil and oregano.  Such a wonderful summer dinner.


Wednesday night I made Couscous, Lamb and Courgettes from “Hugh’s Three Good Things”.  This was another nice quick dinner that was packed with flavour and a great way to use some of the glut of courgettes from our garden!


And finally on Thursday I made Punchy Crunchy Lamb Noodle Salad from “Save with Jamie”.  This was another lovely fresh meal made up of salad veg, carrot ribbons, rice noodles, crisped up leftover lamb and a spicy dressing of ginger, chilli, vinegar and soy sauce…and of course the requisite fresh mint!


So a fantastic weeks meals from a single roast.  They were quick, easy, fresh and tasty – what more could you want?!  And it was a great exercise in using up leftovers.

Lamb Shoulder 3 Ways

A couple of weeks ago we bought a lamb from some friends (not a fluffy cute one but one all ready for the freezer!).  That weekend I decided to cook a shoulder roast but it was so big (almost 4kg without the bone) that I ended up cutting it in half and cooking it as two separate roasts.  Both recipes came from a new acquisition called “Whole Foods Slow Cooked” by Olivia Andrews.  The first recipe was for Middle Eastern Pulled Lamb and was very quick and easy.  Just cut the lamb into large chunks, smother it in a sauce of pomegranate molasses and other spices, add water and cook slowly in the oven for a few hours…can’t get much easier than that!


To go with the pulled lamb I made some flatbreads from a recipe that a family member gave me, and served it with lettuce, mint, yoghurt, cucumber, pomegranate seeds and lemon wedges…the lamb had such a good flavour, a lovely tang from the pomegranate molasses and a satisfying saltiness…very difficult not to scoff the lot!


I made additional flatbreads so that we could use them as pizza bases the next day with leftover lamb.  We used a variety of toppings putting different combinations on each pizza: tomato paste, lamb, rocket, roasted peppers, Camembert cheese, blue cheese, toasted slivered almonds and a mint yoghurt dressing out of “What Katie Ate” by Katie Quinn Davies.  These were really nice and a great use of the left-over lamb.  One thing I noticed is that the flatbreads were a bit dry as pizza bases because they were pre-cooked.  If I do it again I’ll leave the dough raw.  But other than that…delicious!


The second roast recipe I made was Northern Chinese Lamb.  This officially should have had the bone in but instead I re-rolled part of the lamb shoulder meat and put the butchers elastic back around it to hold it tight. This was a much more elaborate roast to prepare because I was required to toast spices such as Sichuan peppercorns, cumin and fennel seeds and make them into a paste with other spices, vinegar and sugar before rubbing this all over (and inside) the meat.  The meat was cooked in a roasting tray on a bed of chopped onions and capsicums but unfortunately these vegetables became wasted because of the volume of fat that come out of the lamb.  Again the lamb was cooked slowly for a few hours and while it doesn’t look entirely appealing in the image below it was also very nice and flavoursome.  Interestingly, the two roasts had completely different colours and textures, the first one being dark and easy to shred whereas the second one was lighter in colour and firmer for slicing.


As well as putting some of this Chinese lamb on the pizzas and some of it in the freezer, I also used it to make a Lamb Biryani from Jamie Oliver’s book “Save with Jamie”.  This was a really nice dish, it far exceeded my expectations.  The recipe required a home made lamb stock using the bones from the roast but I didn’t have any bones so I just used beef stock instead which seemed to work out fine.  The lamb is simmered in a gravy made from the beef stock, curry powder, mango chutney and other spices before being drained.  The biryani is assembled by layering rice, spinach, the drained lamb, more rice and then topped with chopped almonds before being baked in the oven until hot.  The rice comes out lovely and crispy around the sides of the pie dish and it’s served with the reserved gravy and yoghurt…super scrummy!



The gravy looks a bit gross but it tastes really good!

So two roasts and three delicious ways of eating it.  We’re cooking lamb for Christmas this year so I’m really looking forward to those leftovers!!

Online recipes

Despite the fact that I own more than 150 cookbooks I still had to resort to finding recipes on the internet this week!  Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, in fact it’s probably a good way to discover new food writers.

I made an Al Brown recipe for lamb backstraps called Roasted Lamb Backstraps with Baby Beetroot, Watercress and Feta Salad.  You can find it here if you’d like to try it, I highly recommend it.  Usually I prefer to cook everything myself for a recipe but we were pushed for time the day I made this so I used pre-cooked beetroot from the supermarket which made it an extremely quick and easy meal to throw together.  I also had to use a mix of watercress and lettuce because I couldn’t get watercress on its own.  The instructions for cooking the lamb were perfect, it was lovely and caramelised on the outside and pink in the middle and the simple dressing combined with the feta, beetroot and watercress was a delicious combination.  A beautiful spring recipe.


Another online recipe I made this week was one I found through the Eat Your Books website, a great site for indexing and searching your cookbooks as well as magazines and online recipes…I love it, very efficient for finding recipes when you have a lot of cookbooks!  The recipe I made is from a book called One-Dish Dinners by Penny Oliver.  I don’t own the book but this recipe can be found online if you follow this link. This was another quick easy meal called Sausages with Tomatoes and Cannellini Beans, great for a week night.  I probably should have served it with some greens but I was feeling a bit lazy.  I have to say that my dish didn’t look anything like the photo on the recipe but it was still very tasty.  If I make it again I will reduce the red wine vinegar a bit – I only put in 1 tsp [the recipe suggests 1-2 tsps] but it tasted a bit too strong.

The sourdough croutons on the top add a lovely crunchy element

The recipe below is from my Peter Gordon Everyday cookbook called Lamb, Chickpea and Mushroom Stew with Minted Olive Salsa.  This was supposed to use lamb neck off the bone but I had lamb neck chops which worked just as well for this recipe.  It was a nice recipe to cook because each task flowed easily from one to the next with plenty of time to do other things in between.  I wasn’t really in the mood for cooking on the night I made this but in the end it was very enjoyable.  The flavour of the olive salsa was lovely and fresh with the mint and lemon zest which added some extra life to what could have been just a typical stew.