Darina Allen: Lip-smackingly good recipes from Diana’s Henry’s latest book

Shaved fennel, celery and apple salad with pomegranates and hazelnuts; onglet with roast beets and horseradish cream; blood oranges and aperol jelly; rhubarb, marmalade and rosemary cake….

Darina Allen: Lip-smackingly good recipes from Diana’s Henry’s latest book

Shaved fennel, celery and apple salad with pomegranates and hazelnuts; onglet with roast beets and horseradish cream; blood oranges and aperol jelly; rhubarb, marmalade and rosemary cake….

How tempting and lip-smackingly good does that sound? Well it all comes from Diana’s Henry’s latest book How To Eat a Peach.

Diana is fast shaping up to be many people’s favourite cookery writer. Not only has she a particularly wonderful way with words but she has a natural gift for creating beautiful balanced menus that delight rather than merely ‘stuff’ the diner.

Diana has been intrigued by menus since she was in her mid-teens. At 16 she bought an exercise copybook, covered it carefully with brown paper and began to transcribe menu ideas — she still has the book.

I loved the stories in her introduction to How To Eat a Peach. Her parents didn’t have dinner parties but regularly had people in for “good food and craic”, dancing to Nancy Sinatra and a shot or two of Bushmills or Vat 69.

Diana threw her first “dinner party” in her late teens, and planned carefully the menu, inviting her school friends who were intrigued by the candlelight in the room: “Are we going to celebrate Mass” and thought she was going well over the top when she served pineapple ice.

Diana continued to pour over food magazines and books, cook, travel and put lots of effort into edible research, even pouring longingly over the menu displayed in the glass cases outside restaurants when she couldn’t afford to eat there.

I particularly loved the story about Sally Clarke’s restaurant — “I used to get the tube on a Monday night to go and see what Sally had planned for the week. I’d stand there, sometimes in the rain, with a little torch, writing down her menus in a notebook. I rarely ate at Clarke’s (I was in my first job and it was expensive), but I felt as if I ate there all the time.”

Diana and I share many influences, she too, admires and is inspired by Alice Waters and her philosophy of beautiful fresh produce simply served.

Diana’s research has taken her from Belfast to France, the Breton Coast, Bordeaux and on to Manhattan and Morocco.

Her menus reflects her travels – beautiful simple food.

There are so many things I’m tempted to cook from How to Eat a Peach, check it out but here are a few tasters to whet your appetite…

Diana Henry’s Salad of Fennel, Celery and Apple Salad with Pomegranates and Hazelnuts

This might seem very humble before a resplendent pasta dish, but that’s the point. It’s clean and plain and a real appetite opener. Don’t make it too far in advance, though, as the fennel and apples lose their freshness.

Serves 6

2 small fennel bulbs

2 small eating apples

Juice of 1 lemon

2 celery sticks, with leaves if possible, washed and trimmed.

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar

¼ tsp Dijon mustard

Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Seeds from ½ pomegranate

15g (½oz) halved hazelnuts, toasted

Quarter the fennel, trim the tops and the bases and remove any coarse outer leaves. If there are any little fronds, remove and reserve them.

Quarter and core the apples. Don’t leave any of this sitting around to discolour: prepare and assemble the salad quickly.

Using a mandoline — or a very sharp, thin bladed knife — slice the fennel very thinly and put it into a large bowl with the lemon juice. Slice the celery finely on an angle, reserving any leaves. Change the setting on your mandoline and slice the apples into slightly thicker pieces. Toss the celery and apples in the lemon juice, too. Add any fennel fronds and celery leaves you reserved.

Mix the extra virgin olive oil with the white balsamic vinegar, mustard and salt and pepper. Add this to the bowl, mixing it with the other contents. Taste the salad for seasoning. Just before serving, scatter the pomegranate seeds and hazelnuts on top.

- From How To Eat a Peach by Diana Henry (published by Mitchell Beazley)

Diana Henry’s Spatchcocked Chicken with Chilli, Garlic, Parsley and Almond Pangrattato

I know, this is barely a recipe, it’s just flattened roast chicken with chopped almonds and herbs thrown on top, but I really crave this kind of food: charred, juicy meat, a contrasting crunchy texture and big, strong flavours. It’s great for one of those balmy late-summer evening meals.

Serves 6

For the chicken

1.8kg (4lb) chicken

3 garlic cloves, finely grated

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

8 red onions, cut into wedges

For the pangrattato

80ml (2¾fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

100g (3½oz) stale sourdough bread, made into breadcrumbs

2 tbsp chopped blanched almonds

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tsp chilli flakes leaves from a small bunch of

Flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

Set the bird on your work surface, breast-side down, legs towards you.

Using good kitchen scissors or poultry shears, cut through the flesh and bone along each side of the backbone. Remove the backbone and keep it for stock (freeze it until you’ve gathered other bones to cook along with it).

Open out the chicken, turn it over so it is skin side up, then flatten it by pressing hard on the breastbone with the heel of your hand. Remove any big globules of fat and neaten any ragged bits of skin. Now you have a spatchcocked bird.

Gently lift the skin on the breast of the bird so that you can put your hand in between the skin and the flesh (try not to tear the skin). Mix the garlic with 1 tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil and some seasoning and carefully push this under the skin. Cover with cling film and put in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and take the chicken out of the fridge. Put the onions into a roasting tin and pour on the remaining 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Set the chicken on top, breast side up, season the outside and roast for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the pangrattato. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and sauté the breadcrumbs for about 4 minutes. Add the almonds, garlic and chilli and cook for another minute or so. Remove from the heat and mix with the parsley and lemon zest, chopping everything together.

Cut the chicken into serving pieces and put it on to a warmed platter, on top of the red onions. Pour any extra cooking juices over the top, scatter on the pangrattato and serve.

Diana Henry’s Onglet With Roast Beets and Horseradish Cream

Pictures: Laura Edwards
Pictures: Laura Edwards

An onglet steak — also known as hanger steak — is usually about 3cm (1¼in) thick and shaped like a small, fat snake. It is slightly chewy — but only slightly — and has a good gamey flavour. London-based chef Neil Rankin taught me how to cook steak (the instructions for all cuts are in his book, Low and Slow) and it works every time. Sautéed potatoes and watercress are good on the side.

Serves 4

500g (1lb 2oz) small raw beetroots

Regular olive oil

Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

125ml (4fl oz) double cream

1 tbsp wholegrain mustard, or to taste, 3 tbsp freshly grated horseradish

A splash of white wine vinegar (optional)

A pinch of caster sugar (optional)

4 x 250g (9oz) onglet steaks (keep them in the fridge)

Flavourless oil or beef dripping, to fry

Preheat the oven to 210C/410F/gas mark 6½.

Trim the beetroots and wrap in foil, moistening with a little regular olive oil and seasoning before you seal the packet. Don’t wrap it too tightly, you want there to be space around the beets. Place in a roasting tin and cook until tender; it should take 30–35 minutes, though the time can vary. Test with the point of a knife, it should pass through with no resistance. When the beetroots are cool enough to handle, peel, quarter and season. These can be served at room temperature.

Reduce the oven temperature to 140C/275F/gas mark 1. Put in an empty roasting tin or baking sheet large enough to hold all the steaks.

Whip the cream and add the mustard and horseradish. Taste; you may want a little more mustard. Some people add a tiny splash of white wine vinegar (or, conversely, a pinch of sugar). Add whichever of those you think you would like.

Onglet steaks don’t have flat surfaces, so flatten each steak a bit by bashing it with the base of a saucepan, putting baking parchment over it first. Don’t overdo it, you just need to make them a bit less round.

Heat 2 frying pans, preferably cast iron, 7–10 minutes ahead of when you want to cook them, setting the heat dial about three-quarters of the way round. To check whether the pan is hot enough to cook in, add a tiny bit of flavourless oil or dripping. If it smokes, the pan is ready. Heat a little oil or beef dripping in the pan, add 2 steaks to each pan and press down with tongs to get the surfaces in touch with the base of the pan. Move the steaks around all the time, seasoning and making sure each steak is getting browned all over. Listen for the sizzle: when the steak is quiet, you need to move it. If the pan gets too hot and the meat is getting too dark (you don’t want it to be black), reduce the heat; if it’s not getting dark enough, increase the heat.

Transfer the steaks to the hot tin or sheet in the oven and continue to cook for about 5 minutes for medium-rare (onglet is best served medium-rare).

Using a really sharp knife, slice each steak against the grain. Neil Rankin (see recipe introduction) doesn’t rest his steak. Serve with the roast beets and the horseradish cream. A handful of green leaves is good on the side.

- From How To Eat a Peach by Diana Henry (published by Mitchell Beazley)

Diana Henry’s Elderflower Gin and Tonic

This drink is local and seasonal to me, in Britain, in early summer, so it seems a perfect way to start a meal that honours this philosophy.

Makes 500ml (18fl oz) gin

For the elderflower gin

20 just-picked elderflower heads

500ml (18fl oz) gin

5 tbsp caster sugar

To serve

Tonic water, lime slices and mint sprigs

Shake the elderflowers gently to dislodge any little bugs that might be hiding in them. Pour the gin into a big preserving jar and add the flowers and the sugar. Close the jar and shake it every day for 1 week.

Strain the mixture through a sieve lined with some muslin or a brand new J-cloth, then bottle.

Put some of the elderflower gin in glasses with ice. Top up with tonic and add lime slices and mint sprigs.

Hot tips

The Garden Café at Ballymaloe Cookery School reopens this weekend. Open Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 5.30pm, 021 4646785.

Elderflowers are in full bloom in the hedgerows all around us here – we’re picking crate-loads at present to make elderflower cordial and elderflower champagne.

Schull Agricultural Show takes place on Sunday, July 29, from 12pm to 5pm at Schull Town Park. A date for your diary but if you’d like to participate entries should be sent to Siobhan O’Donovan, Secretary, Gortnamona, Schull. Livestock entries close on July 20, and Hall Entries will be taken on the day. For more information 086 5573951 or 028 281121, www.irishshows.org.

- www.cookingisfun.ie

- darinaallen.blogspot.ie

More in this section

Lifestyle
Newsletter

The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up