Book Review: A Change of Appetite – Where Healthy Meets Delicious by Diana Henry

IMG_9314 I’ve been wanting this book for about a year; pretty much since it was published in 2014, but I was trying to be good and not spend £25 on a new cookbook when I already have about 200 on my shelves. Then I looked at it again in a bookshop recently, fell in love all over again, and discovered I could buy it for £15 from Amazon. Deal done. My order went in and it arrived yesterday. My good friend Linda bought Diana Henry’s Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons for me about three years ago and it has become one of my favourite books. Shortlisted for the Glenfiddich Cookbook Award when it was first published in 2002, I have the revised 2012 edition. (My family’s favourite ice cream – Lemon and Basil Ice Cream – is one of the most-used recipes in it.) Henry is a cook after my own heart and this new book confirms that first impression. Firstly because, like me, her great love is the food of the Middle East, the Mediterranean and North Africa and these influences dominate the new book but with a bit of Georgia, Scandinavia and the Far East thrown in too. Also, her attitude towards healthy eating is one I connect with: ‘I can’t think of meals as sets of nutrients. A meal is a colourful assembly of foods … that should be, first and foremost, enjoyable,’ she writes. I remember the rather grim advent of ‘health food restaurants’ in the 1970s with their nut roasts, lentil rissoles and bean casseroles; carob instead of chocolate and margarine instead of butter. Henry talks about the change in attitude we see now, that eggs have turned out to be good for us after all and butter is much healthier than low-fat margarine. Like me, her emphasis on healthy eating is a balanced diet. ‘The main thing you can do for good health’, she writes, ‘is to eat proper home-cooked food, limit anything processed … (and ) refined carbohydrates … and up your vegetable intake.’ A Change of Appetite reflects the changes Henry has made to her own diet: a move towards a lighter, fresher way of eating. She started by deciding to eat foods that were ‘accidentally healthy’ – foods that were delicious but healthiness was an added bonus. She also researched current advice about what’s healthy and cut back on the things that were ‘less healthy’, saving them for treats. She followed her common sense and experience and in the end, while initially thinking this new way of eating was for midweek and she’d revert to less healthy eating at the weekend, she found instead that it was so delicious that it was food for all days of the week and entertaining as well. One thing of crucial importance to healthy eating, I think, is going with what’s in season. There is often a ‘right’ time to eat certain foods, not just because they are at their best (English strawberries in June, for instance) but because it seems to suit the body better too. Henry has organised the book into seasons. In Spring, she says, ‘we find we want different foods: greener, cleaner, sprightlier flavours.’ Summer is the easiest season to be healthy when you don’t have to do much cooking and meals can be assembly jobs of fresh ingredients, enhanced by the ‘scented quality’ of summer herbs. ‘Autumn is the best season for the cook,’ she declares, while winter still brings much needed splashes of colour with crimson blood oranges and jewelled pomegranates. ‘Everything Diana Henry cooks I want to eat,’ is a Yotam Ottolenghi quote on the front cover, and I share his view. The book is a treasure trove of bright, colourful, exciting recipes full of deep flavours and freshness. I made a couple of things today to try out before writing the review. The book is already gathering those little sticky markers of recipes I want to try but today I went for Roast Tomatoes and Lentils with Dukka-crumbed Eggs. IMG_9336 This is actually an autumn recipe but I thought it would make a nice simple supper and it was really delicious. I cheated by using ready-made dukkah that I bought in Waitrose but sometime it would be great to try out her recipe.  I also made Greek Yogurt and Apricot Ice Cream. IMG_9342 This recipe is in the Spring section and uses dried apricots. I love apricots and fresh ones are starting to come into the shops, though it has to be said it’s quite difficult getting really good fresh ones in London. However, the dried apricots in Henry’s recipe give the ice cream a full, deep flavour; the Greek yogurt is healthier than cream and the result is really good. I see another family favourite coming on! It’s a really wonderful book and I know I’m going to enjoy trying out lots more recipes from it over the coming weeks. (A Change of Appetite by Diana Henry is published by Mitchell Beazley at £25.)

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

9 thoughts on “Book Review: A Change of Appetite – Where Healthy Meets Delicious by Diana Henry

  1. I loved this one and as someone who thinks she always ‘needs’ another cookbook I bought this one, plus her ‘Change of Appetite’ and ‘A Bird in the Hand’ to take with me to France this year. I am not a fan of ‘cheffy’ cookery books but Diana Henry is a cook’s cook which means everything works in the home kitchen.
    Right now I’m disappearing under the weight of cherries and apricots I can’t resist buying in our local market in Burgundy and her recipes are a really delightful and profitable way of dealing with such abundance.
    Thanks for giving her such well-deserved praise.

  2. Sorry I meant to say I bought her other two books ‘Food from Plenty’ and ‘A Bird in the Hand’ at the same time as “Change of Appetite’.

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