Friday, January 24, 2014

Roast Figs Sugar Snow - Diana Henry (Again)

I've written about this book before back in July 2012 (it was a cold summer, certainly cold enough to make a wintery cookbook very attractive, and on a wet January evening that's not a happy thought) but to my shame I don't think I've really looked at it since. I guess for many of us with a serious cookbook habit buying them, looking at the pictures, and then routinely cooking the same old things is a common fault. In my case my eating habits are partly dictated to by my work pattern (late finishes followed by early starts encourage a love of sardines on toast and similar) and partly by living mostly alone. Cooking for one is - well everybody who does it knows exactly what it is - and sometimes it feels like to much effort. I love to cook but I far prefer to do it for a broadly appreciative audience (and that's at least half of my love of baking explained - cake is easy to share and generally enjoyed), anyway I got my audience last night. It was my mother's birthday this week and she wanted cooking for as her present which suited both of us.

Diana Henry has a new book coming out in March which not only looks great (I'm really very excited by the thought of having another cookbook top add to that collection) but is reminding me of just how much I like her food so 'Roast Figs and Sugar Snow' was an obvious place to look for inspiration. I didn't need to go any further finding a perfect recipe straight away - Danish roast pork with pickled prunes and sweet cucumber.

Unless somebody really hates it pork is my preferred meat to cook for guests, it's a particularly good tempered food in so many ways, especially when, as in this recipe, it's a cut like belly. Principally it's great because it seems all but impossible to overcook it, between the fat in the joint and the liquid it's cooked in it just gets softer and meltier in the mouth if you have to hold it back half an hour or more. I also appreciate that it behaves so well with wine, working with both red and white (depending on the seasoning and sauce of course) and I definitely don't mind that it tends to be cheaper/ better value than pretty much anything else I can think of.

This recipe sums up everything I love about this book and about Henry as a writer. I had everything to hand bar the pork and a cucumber but without this book this isn't how I would have used them. I feel like I've learnt something (always a bonus) as well as having an utterly satisfactory afternoon off in my kitchen and a lovely evening with family and friend - everything that makes cooking a pleasure to me in fact.

The pork itself is anointed in an aromatic mix of fennel and coriander seeds, salt, pepper, and oil, blasted at heat to get a good sizzle and then left to slowly get on and do it's thing at a reduced temperature whilst liberally bathed in white wine. The last time I use coriander and fennel seeds was to make a curry and I find it fascinating the way the same spices can be used to create such different results (and the fact that does fascinate me is why I'm so passionate about wine and food generally, and also fairy tales). We were perhaps all a bit doubtful about pickled prunes but they too were fantastic and are something I'll use again but the real revelation to us was the cucumber. That it was a revelation to all of us probably says a lot about my family's attitude to cucumber (we slice it into a salad and that's about it) here it us sweated with salt for a couple of hours before having a dressing of rice wine vinegar, sugar, and dill poured over it. It worked brilliantly with the sweet fatty pork and the sweet juicy prunes, and was also excellent with some smoked salmon. So basically it's good food that's perfect for sharing, not least because it doesn't demand much attention once it's under way so you can actually enjoy the people you're with.


  1. I've just bought this and have loved reading it and looking at the gorgeous photos so far. The pork was one of the recipes that caught my eye initially so I'm thrilled it went so well for you. Looking forward to A Change of Appetite now!

  2. Oh Sarah, I'm so pleased for you, it's a lovely book. Fun to read and great to cook from. We all loved the pork, even my sister who isn't generally a fan of my food choices (we have very different tastes).