Matches made in food heaven
Cookbook writer Diana Henry, from Portstewart, tells Ella Walker how, after repeated requests from pals for ideas, she decided to base her latest work on her love of combining ingredients and planning meals
Menus are usually things you quickly scan before discarding, that you spill red wine on, or fold up to stabilise a wobbly table leg. For food writer Diana Henry, though, menus are so much more than that — and not purely the domain of restaurants either.
“At the weekend, I’ve always got friends calling me asking, ‘Di, what can I do for a starter that’s really quick?’,” she explains.
“Or they’ll have decided on the main course but will say, ‘What can I do for a pudding?’
“I’m always telling people what goes with what. I love the challenge of standing in the greengrocer’s and putting things together.”
The Sunday Telegraph and Waitrose Weekend writer’s new book, How To Eat A Peach, combines her love of matching ingredients with planning meals.
“I love putting menus together for no reason whatsoever,” she says, remembering how she’d jot down food plans as a teenager, filling a fantasy notebook with meals she’d cook in an ideal world.
She began having people round for supper when she was about 16 (her parents had parties, not dinner parties), and the menu planning never ceased. “I do it now still,” Diana admits. “I think of a menu and then I think about who would like to eat it.”
How To Eat A Peach is woven through with a sense of place, with each chapter grounded by a moment in time, a memory of a place, and as a single or set of ingredients.
“Each menu is its own little world,” says Henry, flipping through evocatively titled examples like, ‘Drunk on olive oil’, ‘Take me back to Istanbul’, and ‘Monsieur Matuchet plays the piano’. “One of the main reasons I cook is to go back to places, or go to places,” she explains.
Henry, now London-based with two sons of her own, travels a lot (Russia is a current