Cooking the Books: Diana Henry’s ‘A Change of Appetite’

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I found Diana Henry’s ‘A Change of Appetite’ knocking around at a friend’s house and had a little nosy.  I was quickly transfixed as the theme of the book is Diana’s own personal quest to discover beautiful inspiring food that is coincidentally healthy too. I liked her writing style – it was honest, funny and elegant.  Diana wrote it at a time when she herself had been told by her doctor to lose weight and lower her blood pressure so she’s not preachy at all.  Her writing remains inquisitive and passionate throughout – she just wants to educate herself as to how to eat incredible food that is good for her, and she is generous and charming in sharing her journey.

So I bought myself a copy and this book is an absolute cracker! The dishes are inspired by many cuisines, but the Middle East, Far East and Scandanavia feature regularly. Every dish felt like a food education in delicate flavours and quite different to anything I’ve ever eaten before.

But as per usual, reluctantly I will have to divide the meals into ‘favourites’ and ‘extremely goods’, so here goes:

Favourites

  1. Pilaf of mixed grains, sweet potato and fennel with avocado ‘cream’.  A sophisticated, subtle and uplifting dish.  You really don’t miss having meat with this dish, there’s so much going on.
  2. Shawarma chicken with warm chickpea puree and sumac onions.  This was an indulgent and exotic plate of food and the chickpea puree was the star player – beautifully rich, nutty and flavourful.
  3. Burmese chilli fish with hot and sour salad. The fish was excellent and spicy, but the salad just blew our minds – the sweet and sour was so fresh and just right.  I loved the way Diana has taken very common English ingredients (savoy cabbage, radishes and cod) and created a Burmese dish!
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Pilaf of mixed grains, sweet potato and fennel with avocado ‘cream’
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Shawarma chicken with warm chickpea puree and sumac onions
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Burmese chilli fish with hot and sour salad

The Also Extremely Goods

  1. Smoked haddock with Indian scented lentils. Inspired by kedgeree but made healthier by using lentils – a creamy, spicy, hearty and wonderfully warming dish for a chilly autumnal evening.
  2. Mackerel with hazelnut picada.  Basically a croutony, hazelnutty, orangey topping on fried mackerel.  Yum!
  3. Skewered chicken, with lime, chilli and mint salad.  Gorgeously fresh and zesty with Thai flavours.
  4. Chicken and squash with soy and star anise. A lovely Asian style dish, I loved the sweetness of the star anise and the orange zest.  It was a warming, comforting dish and the chicken was super tender.  Shame we managed to under cook the squash which was rather hard!
  5. Scandi salmon burgers with dill and tomato sauce.  A fresh and tangy dinner – the delicious yoghurt, dill and tomato sauce enhanced the flavours of the salmon burger.
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Smoked haddock and Indian scented lentils
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Mackerel with hazelnut picada, scandi salmon burgers with dill and tomato sauce, chicken and squash with soy and star anise, skewered chicken, with lime, chilli and mint salad

I recently reviewed Jamie Oliver’s Everyday Super Food which I raved about, but Diana Henry’s ‘A Change of Appetite’ took healthy eating to another level for me. The food I experienced during this book was exotic, intriguing, surprising and incredibly delicious.  I felt I learnt a lot about different flavour combinations from this book – particularly the joy and subtlety of sweet and sour. I found the recipes a little intimidating on initial browsing – they sounded very grown up and sophisticated and a little out of reach.  But once you actually looked at the ingredients properly and read the recipes, they were very straight-forward.  Do buy this book and cook from it – it will make you happy and accidentally healthy.

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