Hello Canada: Sunday Telegraph Food Columnist Diana Henry

Meals to Write Home About with Sunday Telegraph Food Columnist Diana Henry

by Tania Leah Haas

Published May 2011

Diana Henry lives by the motto “Waste not, want not.” The award-winning British food columnist for the Sunday Telegraph – who has six cookbooks under her belt and is a frequent guest on the BBC – considers it a personal mission to show home cooks how to stretch food budgets by using every last scrap on hand. Cooking with leftovers, or les delicieux petits restes as they’re glamorously called in France, is a lost art – one that Diana is intent on reviving.

“As I was growing up I learned the art of dovetailing meals: always using leftovers,” the London-based gourmet, 48, reflects in her latest book, Plenty: Good, Uncomplicated Food for the Sustainable Kitchen. “My favourite kind of cooking is not the show-off sort, which takes days of planning and shopping, but the puttering ‘I wonder what’s in the fridge’ kind.” As such, a roast chicken or a pack of chorizo sausage can be the foundation for a whole week’s meals, transformed night after night by adding grains, fresh herbs, farmers’ market vegetables – and a touch of ingenuity.

This passion for creative cooking is one that has been with Diana most of her life. Her childhood memories centre around her family’s cozy kitchen in the small farming community of Portstewart in northern Ireland, where her mother served simple meals inspired by the seasons. “My earliest memory is sitting on the kitchen counter, at probably three years old,” Diana tells Hello! Canada. “My mother made her own bread, and my aunt made lovely jam. Early on, I associated good food with good times.”

Diana’s parents hosted frequent parties, where Frank Sinatra would be playing on the stereo and one could hear the clink of ice cubes in glasses. “It was terribly glamorous,” Diana reflects. “It could have been Manhattan, even though I was in this provincial town.”

The aspiring foodie threw her own first dinner party at 16, kicking off a lifelong love affair with entertaining. “Food seems to open up an entire other world,” she says. And, although Diana studied English at Oxford and became a television producer, it was always cooking that gave her the most pleasure.

So when her first child was born and she wanted to stick closer to home, she decided to try her hand at food writing. Newspaper and magazine articles led to cookbooks and a regular column in the Telegraph, and Diana soon became an authority in the world of food. Throughout her career, she has remained focused on humble home cooking. “My favourite thing is home food. I don’t really like things that are complicated.”

This philosophy has taken Diana around the world in search of recipes. “In Marrakech, for example, I didn’t want to go to the Michelin- starred restaurants,” she says. “I wanted to eat real Moroccan food.”

While travelling, Diana takes tips from taxi drivers, and on countless occasions has found herself cooking in strangers’ kitchens. “Sometimes it is serendipitous – you bump into someone and they say, ‘You must go and cook with her.’”

She has visited a mountain lodge in Norway, where she hunted and fished with a local farmer, and in Massachusetts, she drove three hours to a roadside stall to sample its highly-praised doughnuts. “I love to meet other people who are enthusiastic about food,” she says.

Food has also served as a solace to Diana, who found comfort in cooking as she coped with an illness in her 20s, and later, a divorce.

These days, cooking is helping the mother of two merge a blended family, and she’s intent on winning over her fiancé’s three children – one meal at a time. “I doubt they would have taken to me quite so well if I had been a rubbish cook,” she says with a laugh. Wednesday night dinners have become a weekly ritual for her and her partner, Ben, to sit down with their clan: Diana’s sons, Ted, 12, and six-year-old Gilles; and Ben’s children, Hugo, 18, Emily, 16, and Celia, 8. “Food has been quite a bonding thing,” Diana says.

Book Review

Plenty: Good, Uncomplicated Food for the Sustainable Kitchen is British food writer Diana Henry’s labour of love. The 320-page tome contains her most cherished recipes from her career in food, and is focused on putting leftovers to use – to fuel creative cooking, to reduce global waste and to keep family food costs low. Drawn from Diana’s globetrotting adventures, the recipes in this beautifully illustrated book are both fresh and inventive. The cookbook is sure to help home chefs whip up sumptuous, satisfying meals on the fly.

For delicious recipes, download the PDF below:

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