Our Verdict: “From the Oven to the Table”

For those of you not paying attention in the back, we loved this book. Every recipe was delicious, worked well and was relatively easy. Those truly are the Holy Grail in our pursuit of cookbooks.

We love Diana Henry’s style– don’t stress out too much about how it looks, just make sure it’s delicious. And they were.

We can see ourselves returning to this cookbook again and again and again.

“From the Oven to the Table”
Overall Grade (A- F): A (We’d give it an A* but we decided a long time ago to not engage in grade inflation.)
Grade for Photography (A-F): A. The photography was by one of Kirstin’s favourite photographers. Favourite Recipes: Hard to pick just one. We’ll have to get back to you.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Bookshelf. Bookshelf. Bookshelf.

Our Verdict: “From the Oven to the Table”

“Sausages & Lentils with Herb Relish” from “From the Oven to the Table”

I was stacking the deck by choosing to make this recipe. Tim loves lentils. We all love pork products. I knew it was going to be a winner even before I had bought the ingredients.

Once again, there’s a genius move, and this time it’s to cook the lentils in the oven. Usually when I make lentils it’s a bit of a faff with all the stirring on the hob, whereas this one you bang them in the oven (along with some stock) and then you can forget about them. That truly is my style of cooking.

The family had one note for me, however. I got Cumberland Sausages from our most excellent butcher, Dring’s (shoutout to the best butchers in London!) but they always have an amazing array, including monthly specials. Tim and Nicholas thought this would be better with Italian sausages, which is what I’ll get the next time.

Yet another winner from Diana Henry.

“Sausages & Lentils with Herb Relish” from “From the Oven to the Table”

“Stuffed Greek Chicken with Cayenne, Oregano and Orzo” from “From the Oven to the Table”

This is one of those magical recipes that makes you wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

It is undeniable that Roast Chicken is DA BOMB. (I could try to find a better way to describe it, but why should I when that perfectly captures how I feel about it.) I will never tire of it and frankly I will try every variation possible until the cows come home.

This version features double carbs. You read that right: DOUBLE CARBS. The bread stuffing with tomatoes and feta, and the orzo pasta that you add in the final 20 minutes. Diana Henry’s absolutely genius idea– the one I was sorry I didn’t think of first– was to add the orzo pasta to the roasting pan along with some chicken stock. The pasta then soaks up all the delicious chicken roasting juices. This idea, one that requires minimal intervention from the cook, is just brilliant.

You may have guessed by now that we loved it, and you are correct. In the introduction, Diana Henry recommends enjoying this dish for a spring Sunday lunch as you “contemplate the approaching summer.” We did the reverse and enjoyed it for an autumn lunch, where we reminisced about the now-gone summer. It was perfect.

“Stuffed Greek Chicken with Cayenne, Oregano and Orzo” from “From the Oven to the Table”

Our Verdict: How to Eat a Peach

Maureen: This is less of a cookbook and more a memoir about food.

Kirstin: It’s a lovely book to own about food, but it’s not a cookbook.

Maureen: I liked the way she organised things by menu, which is great if you’re planning a big multi-course meal for friends and family, but it’s less good when you’re looking to make something on a Wednesday night.

Kirstin: Preferably with fennel. She really loves fennel.

Maureen: She’s a beautiful writer, to be sure.

Kirstin: And the pictures were beaiutiful

Maureen: I liked the peach-like cover– that was pretty clever and it felt nice, too.

Kirstin: I loved the cover, too. The writing was good, but again it’s not a book you can cook from.

Maureen: We knew that going in, though. We didn’t think it would be a very useful book, but we thought it would be a nice one to have.

Kirstin: Exactly.

Maureen: She’s still one of my favourite food writers, I just don’t think this is a very useful book.

Kirstin: Completely.

“How to Eat a Peach”
Overall Grade (A- F):  C (Maureen) C (Kirstin)
Best recipes: Maureen: I’m not really sure it’s that kind of book, but I can’t think of one I would make again. Kirstin: The pork I made was really good.
Grade for Photography (A-F):  A. I love Laura Edwards.
Any disasters? Kirstin: No. Maureen: No disasters, but the broad bean crostini was huge faff.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: Bookshelf, for the photography. Maureen: Charity Shop Donation because I don’t see ever using it again.                                              Would You Give This Book to a Friend?: Unfortunately, no.

Our Verdict: How to Eat a Peach

A Summer Sunday Lunch from “How to Eat a Peach”

That’s not what the lovely Diana Henry called it, but that’s what I’m calling it because that’s what it was. On this particular Sunday, I made “Crostini with Crushed Broad Beans & Nduja” along with “Roast Sea Bass with Fennl & Anise Aïoli” and “Tomatoes Provençales aux Anchois.”

It’s been an unusually hot summer here in London, which has been lovely, for the most part. I mean, it did start to get a bit old when all of our grass died and I had to wake up every morning at 7 a.m. to walk our dog before the heat of the day set in. But by and large, it’s been nice. However, living in such unusual heat did have its fair share of cooking challenges because often I just couldn’t face cooking because that would only make me hotter.

As Kirstin said before, this cookbook is unusual in that it’s organised by menu rather than courses. This does make it difficult to find something to make for, say, a hot Wednesday night. But if you’re planning on spending some time on a meal, which is often the case for me on Sundays, this would be a good book for that. She also helpfully organises the book by “Spring and Summer” and “Autumn and Winter,” which meant I kept to the first half of the book this time of year.

Roasting a whole sea bass is certainly a treat because it’s definitely more expensive than our usual meals. But it looks impressive when you bring it to the table, and once it’s all said and done, it’s a pretty easy dish to make, which would be perfect for a dinner party. We loved the fish.

Half of the family liked the the tomatoes provençales– the half of the family that loves tomatoes. The other half wasn’t so keen, but I don’t think that was a failure of the recipe, but instead a failure of their taste buds (I am in the half of the family that LOVES tomatoes). For what it’s worth, I cut up one of the leftover ones and added it to scrambled eggs the next morning for breakfast and it was delicious too.

Unfortunately, given that everything else was so good, the crostini was a total faff and definitely more trouble than it was worth. Cooking, podding and mashing the beans took a ridiculously long time. Crostini, which is just fancy toast, really is delicious but I’m not going to spend an hour getting the ingredient that goes on top ready. Next time I’ll follow her alternative suggestion and use peas instead and use the time I saved reading a good book.

But all in all, a delicious summer Sunday lunch.

 

A Summer Sunday Lunch from “How to Eat a Peach”

“Spatchcocked Chicken” from “How to Eat a Peach”

The full title to this should be, “Spatchcocked Chicken with Chilli, Garlic, Parsley and Almond Pangrattato.” In the introduction, Diana Henry admits that there’s nothing more to this than roast chicken with yummy stuff scattered over the top when it’s done roasting.

That’s absolutely true, but it’s also absolutely delicious. And frankly, what’s wrong with a roast chicken with chilli, garlic, parsley and almond pangrattato scattered over the top? Nothing at all.

Also, here’s a top tip from our friendly butcher at Dring’s: while it is relatively easy to spatchcock a chicken yourself, it’s better to get someone else to do it because it might ruin your knives if you do it. Good to know. (Also, I’m pretty lazy and when any task can be done by my butcher– deboning, deskinning, de-anything– I’ll have them do it.)

This one was a winner. We’ve been having an unusually scorching summer in London, so this was also a good one to make in the heat because I could bang the chicken in the oven, and then leave the hot kitchen to go read out back. But this would work any time of year, frankly.

“Spatchcocked Chicken” from “How to Eat a Peach”

Our Verdict: Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavours

Maureen: I liked this book, almost everything we tried was good, but I feel bad that I didn’t have a chance to try more recipes.

Kirstin: Me too.

Maureen: The thing I liked about this cookbook is there were a lot of good dinners that could be made on a weeknight that were delicious but didn’t require a lot of effort. I can see going back to this book again and again.

Kirstin: She’s like the modern-day equivalent of Nigel Slater.

Maureen: I agree.

Kirstin:  I hate to say this, but I liked her other books more. This one had a lot of fruit with savory dishes, which I don’t like. That’s just me, but that also means there were a lot of recipes that didn’t interest me.

Maureen: I can see what you mean. I think I liked it better than you did, but I still don’t think it’s flawless.

Kirstin: I would like for her to do a fish book. That would be amazing.

Maureen: If she did a fish book, that would make Fish Fridays that much easier. We had lots of good fish out of this book. The salmon, in particular, was great.

Kirstin: I’m looking forward to her next book. She’s always a treat.

Maureen: Nigella said, “This is everything I want from a cookbook,” and I have to agree.

 

Overall Grade (A- F): A (Maureen) B (Kirstin)
Best recipes: (Maureen) Flourless chocolate cake.
Grade for Photography (A-F): B
Any disasters? (Kirstin) Goan fish curry. (Maureen) Orzo with lemon and parsley
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Bookshelf.
Would you give this to a friend? Yes. It’s got a good variety of recipes and they (mostly) all worked.

Our Verdict: Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavours