Monday, November 12, 2012

Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry

A new cookery book out called Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry is subtitled how to preserve fruit, vegetables, meat and fish and as as you venture inside you will see that is exactly what it does teach you, in a gorgeous way. Published by Octopus Books it is beautifully bound and packed with attractive tasty-looking photographs.

Chatting with me at the Fallon and Byrne Christmas Extravaganza where she was promoting her new book, she explained how she grew up amongst jam makers and preservers but had not been able to find a book that filled that gap between the WI jam maker books and the other extreme of 'man-guts-and-smokes-a-whole-animal.' There was no book about how she wanted to approach preserving and felt it was something for experts with rules. And so she set about rectifying this. Diana spent three years in her kitchen trying out different recipes and drawing on her food experiences on her travels to France and Sweden.  Also commenting on the desire to make jams with different ingredients and using less sugar to produce a looser texture as in France and even more so in Sweden, Diana is enthusiastic about the subject and confident resulting from her wealth of knowledge. She has produced from this time spent a really beautiful book. Easy to chat with and possessing a warm friendly personality she was generous with her time to talk about her new project. This book will be a useful addition to any home cooks library of cookbooks.

The book has eight chapters: jam; jellies, curds + fruit cheeses; sauces, pastes, mustards + vinegars; under oil; smoked; cordials, alcohols, fruits + spoon sweets; salted, cured + potted and chutney, relishes + pickles, with each chapter introduced with a chat about the subject. Setting out the basic equipment she bought in the introduction, Diana mentions that one piece was a storage box bought from IKEA for brining!
Some of the most useful tips are the ways Diana suggests ways in which to eat what might be an unfamiliar recipe. The first example of this is the delicious sounding purple fig and pomegranate jam as seen on the cover, which Diana suggests you put on top of toast with Labneh, a middle eastern yogurt cheese ,which I'm sure we could find a similar product to or you could make yourself from another of Diana's recipes here in the book.
The scarlet pepper and chilli jam recipe accompanies a tasty photo of lamb chops where Diana suggests its use at summer barbecues- yum! New York sweet cranberry mustard, those curious red berries that arrive at Christmas that we don't really know what to do with, is photographed alongside a few carved slices of a luscious looking roast chicken.

There are antipasti recipes galore and at the smoking section where you may speed up Diana assured me that it wasn't difficult and didn't need loads of equipment-she has used a wok before.
The aperitif section certainly caught my eye; vin d'orange, apricot liqueur and damson gin amongst others. I loved the idea of sweet-tea brined chicken as I have brined a turkey successfully one Christmas, and the beautiful photograph of the red beetroot-cured gravlax had my mouth calling out for the clean salmon and grated beetroot flavours. The Zuni Cafe's red onion pickles, adorning a beef burger in toasted ciabbata looked too good for words.
Coming towards the close is the beautiful photograph of bobbing pink pickled turnips. Yes, you read that right- Middle Eastern pickled turnips or torstoi which Diana tells us is "one of the most popular Middle Eastern pickles and much more delicious than it sounds." Using a wedge of raw beetroot and baby white turnips they become pink from the juice.

This book couldn't fail to encourage you to get launched into one of these projects, even if you start with some of the simpler antipasti recipes. Launch yourself into Diana's world of Salt Sugar Smoke.

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