Saturday, December 14, 2019

From the Oven to the Table by Diana Henry and Wine to Cook With

I wasn’t going to include this in my Christmas recommendations purely because of all the books I’ve loved this year this one has been the biggest release. It was on tables in Waterstones, (who have an exclusive edition with extra recipes) available in supermarkets, and widely talked about. I can’t really imagine anybody waiting any longer than I did to buy it (which was literally as it was being unpacked in my local bookshop). Still, I could be wrong and as it was this book that saved the day for me yesterday I’m here to tell you how good it is. 

It’s very good. Buy it.

I had used it a bit, mostly for chicken thigh recipes because I share Diana Henry’s enthusiasm for them (they get a whole chapter) and the simple suppers, but yesterday I needed something a bit more. It was my birthday and the original plan was to go to mum’s, but she had to cancel last minute. The whole point of ‘From the Oven to the Table’ is that it’s simple dishes that more or less look after themselves - which is really what you want when you’re unexpectedly cooking dinner for everyone on a day you had earmarked for not slaving over a hot stove. 

The Weekends, High days and Holidays chapter came through for me with Slow Cooked Leg Of Lamb With Sherry and Autumn Vegetables. It was very little effort and completely delicious. Had I wanted to make a cake there’s a Chocolate and Red Wine Cake recipe that is on my to do list, but the lamb sounded rich enough to make chocolate cake seem too much for this occasion. 

All of Diana Henry’s books are good, ‘Salt, Sugar, Smoke’ (the preserving one) is probably my favourite and ‘Roast Figs, Sugar Snow’ is a brilliant wintery themed book from her back list if you’re relatively new to her writing. Her style is big on flavour, low on fuss, and a whole world of different influences - it’s a combination I find irresistible.

What wine to cook with is something I used to get asked about a lot, and there’s one simple rule. Always use something you would be happy to drink. I’ll admit that’s easier said then done with the Amontillado sherry I needed for the lamb. There was nowhere near me that sold a decent selection so I ended up with Sainsbury’s own label. The wine snob in me would have preferred something better to drink*, but it was decent to cook with and that’s what I’ll use the rest for.

If you’re buying wine for something like a beef bourguignon, or any other regional dish, it helps to know the grape associated with the local wine. In this case it would be Pinot Noir, and as even the most basic Red Burgundy costs quite a bit it makes much more sense to go for a decent, but much cheaper Romanian Pinot as an alternative. For that chocolate cake I’ll definitely be using a good value (around the £7-£8 mark) Australian Cabernet.

It’s normally possible to find a really decent Portuguese red for around £6-£7 which makes for great everyday drinking as well as cooking. It also genuinely makes sense to keep a wine rack full of wine (not next to a heater, an oven, on top of a fridge, or in direct sun) with a mix of good, better, and best wines on it. Remember which is which though.

Never, ever, be tempted to cook with corked wine, or something that’s been hanging around and has oxidised beyond good drinking - it will spoil your dinner. 

*Sherry is something I love, but because it doesn’t keep well I’m much more interested in quality than quantity and much more fussy about it then wine. There’s nothing wrong with Sainsbury’s own label, it’s just not that exciting.


  1. Interesting that ou love this book; I got it with high hopes and expectations but after looking through it and thinking that everything looked burned or just boring, I left it for the local Library's book sale. I endorse the concept but wish that it wasn't quite so, well, crisp and burned looking.

  2. I love this book, it's very much food that appeals to me - but that's always a bit subjective. I have never really got on with Nigel Slater's writing or had much luck with his food (which I actually feel a bit uncomfortable admitting) which on the face of it isn't very different. It's so disappointing when a book you anticipate doesn't do it for you, but at least we can pass them on!

  3. I am a great fan of Diana Henry and have several of her books. I haven't investigated this latest book as yet but I feel that you have prompted me to do so.

    I do like Nigel's writing and find his ideas inspiring for the most part.

    1. I feel like I should love him, but am always a bit indifferent. It makes no sense! I like this book a lot, I would also really love it if she’d write a book of solo recipes - a lot of the things I really want to cook in this feed 6-8 and a I rarely have that many people to feed. Hence not having made the chocolate cake yet. Obviously I need to do more entertaining.