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The art of bunging it in the oven


By Features Reporter


One of the greatest things about the change in seasons – that bright heat of summer shifting into the golden warmth of autumn – is the fact you can use your oven again without feeling bad about it. But what to put in it?

For this, food columnist and cookbook author Diana Henry (55) has concocted her latest recipe collection, From The Oven To The Table.

Diana Henry. Picture: PA Photo/Chris Terry
Diana Henry. Picture: PA Photo/Chris Terry

It is part of a culinary lineage, which started when she had children. The former TV producer said she “found it impossible to stand and brown meat for casseroles or stir risottos,” and needed new methods for making dinner.

She added: “My first child cried constantly, so I had to find a way of cooking with one hand while I carried him round on my hip. That meant bunging things in the oven.”

Diana began amassing recipes focused purely on ingredients that could be roasted or baked, eventually slipping them helpfully into her cookbooks – and now she’s dedicated an entire tome to them.

“I pretty much cook like this from Monday to Thursday,” explained the Northern Ireland-born cook. “I do more demanding dishes at the weekend when I have more time, but the rest of the week, I am very much a ‘bung it in the oven’ cook.”

She added: “The cook doesn’t have to do much, except shop well and have a few ideas for dishes. The food usually looks pretty unpromising when you put it in the oven, but then you pull out a golden, burnished dish 45 minutes later.

Diana finds putting chicken thighs on the table really works. In fact, the woman is a chicken fiend – historically her books have been largely devoted to the queen of poultry, and From The Oven To The Table is no different – there’s a whole chapter on them.

She pairs them with everything from plums, honey and pomegranate, to lemon, capers and thyme, and cauliflower, potatoes and n’juda.

When she’s not cooking, or writing her Telegraph recipe column, Diana is often travelling, picking up ideas and immersing herself in cookbooks.

Diana Henry. Picture: PA Photo/Chris Terry
Diana Henry. Picture: PA Photo/Chris Terry

She noted: “I think we’re in a golden age of food writing because we have come to appreciate narrative. Americans have always been much keener on writers who offer personal stories and explored the cultural context of food.

“The British were less keen on that – perhaps the American style was too ‘unreserved’ for us. But that’s changed now.

“The drawback with this, though, is that you have to have something worth saying – this kind of food writing can be very self-indulgent and clichéd.

“Too many cookbooks don’t have an approach, or a ‘take’, or a strong voice.”

That’s not something she need worry about with this one.

From the Oven to the Table: Simple dishes that look after themselves by Diana Henry. Published by Mitchell Beazley priced £25 (octopusbooks.co.uk). Available now.
From the Oven to the Table: Simple dishes that look after themselves by Diana Henry. Published by Mitchell Beazley priced £25 (octopusbooks.co.uk). Available now.


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