COOK­BOOK CRITIC

How To Eat a Peach is proof that there is poetry in the art of menu plan­ning. By Priyanka El­hence

Epicure - - CONTENTS - How To Eat a Peach re­tails for S$32.79. Avail­able from bookde­pos­i­tory.com

How to Eat a Peach

At a glance

“Menus aren’t just groups of dishes that have to work on a prac­ti­cal level or meals that cooks can man­age, they also have to work as a suc­ces­sion of flavours. Per­haps what is most spe­cial about them is the way they can cre­ate very dif­fer­ent moods – menus can take you places, from an af­ter­noon at the sea­side in Brit­tany to a sul­try evening eat­ing mezze in Istanbul. They are a way of vis­it­ing places you’ve never seen, re­vis­it­ing places you love and cel­e­brat­ing par­tic­u­lar sea­sons,” says Bri­tish food writer, Diana Henry, in her open­ing monologue of How To Eat a Peach.

In­deed, How To Eat a Peach is nei­ther just a col­lec­tion of recipes cat­e­gorised into menus nor about the fuzzy fruit. The un­usual ti­tle of the cook­book ref­er­ences a dessert con­coc­tion of White Peaches in chilled Moscato that Henry dis­cov­ered at an al fresco restau­rant dur­ing her first trip to Italy. The simplicity of peach slices flavoured with wine re­flects the other recipes which em­pha­sise on the un­adorned beauty of sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents and hon­est cook­ing, a sim­i­lar ap­proach to cook­ing as Henry’s last cook­book, aptly ti­tled Sim­ple.

The menus, which are di­vided into two main sea­sons – Spring and Sum­mer or Au­tumn and Win­ter – work well as they of­fer a glimpse into Henry’s ex­pe­ri­ences in dif­fer­ent coun­tries. It’s a joy to turn the pages and dis­cover the sto­ries be­hind quirky recipe names like Be­fore The Passeg­giata, If You’re Go­ing to San Fran­cisco, My Span­ish Cup­board, Miss­ing New York and Take Me Back to Istanbul.

The road test

Henry’s knock­out Seville Or­ange Tart comes from her In My Own Back Yard menu. Granted, the tart isn’t quick or easy to make, but the ef­fort taken to ex­e­cute each com­po­nent is jus­ti­fied. The steps to per­fect the pas­try shell and or­ange fill­ing are straight­for­ward, but you may trip up try­ing to roast the or­ange slices, as it’s easy to burn or dry out the slices, rather than keep­ing them sticky and ten­der.

For a duck recipe that isn’t a con­fit or re­quire carv­ing, the Slow-roast Duck Legs with Sweet­sour Plums is one worth at­tempt­ing. Just make the ac­com­pa­ny­ing spiced plums ahead of time, so you only need to roast the duck legs on the day it­self. Add a side of po­ta­toes (sautéed in duck fat, of course) and it’s ready to be served. Bonus: the plums keep well in the fridge (up to six months), and are a great ac­com­pa­ni­ment to cold meats, ter­rines and pâtés and pork chops.

Com­ple­ment­ing Sin­ga­pore’s peren­nial sum­mer days is the sec­tion en­ti­tled Too Hot to Cook. The Roast Toma­toes, Fen­nel & Chick­peas with Pre­served Lemon & Honey dou­bles up as a salad and a main course with­out the need for any heavy fry­ing. Read­ing the recipe ini­tially, it did seem a tad cum­ber­some to roast the fen­nel and toma­toes separately, but each in­gre­di­ent man­ages to stay in­tact and keep its shape.

Ver­dict

How To Eat a Peach is thor­oughly en­gag­ing and lib­er­at­ing in the mes­sage that Henry brings across – that she doesn’t in­vite peo­ple around for a meal and then won­der what she’ll cook. In­stead, she puts a menu together and then con­sid­ers the guests who would ap­pre­ci­ate it the most. If you are look­ing for a cook­book that will trans­port you to dif­fer­ent des­ti­na­tions in one evening, this is it.

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