Cooking The Books
Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavours
According to cookbook author Diana Henry, “what we mostly lack are ideas.” Generally, I think ideas are easy and executing them well is hard. But when it comes to dinner, I’m with her. I have been searching for a cookbook with dinner recipes that are uncomplicated but inspiring. A New Way to Dinner by Food52 is one. But this month I decided to write about Simple.
Diana Henry is a successful food writer from the U.K. She has written nine cookbooks. Simple is a follow up to Cook Simple from 2004, both intended for people who don’t have a lot of time to stand over a hot stove.
The recipes are inspired by an array of global cuisines. The books starts with a chapter on eggs. Who doesn’t like breakfast for dinner? But this is different. Henry takes a trip around the world with offerings such as Egg & Salmon Donburi, a Japanese dish of scrambled eggs with salmon, avocado and soy served on rice. And Huevos Rotos, a salty, spicy, smoky comfort dish with potatoes, onion, eggs and smoked paprika.
Salads include rich Grilled Zucchini, Burrata and Fregola (similar to Israeli couscous) and Cool Greens with Hot Asian Dressing made with edamame, cucumber, daikon, spinach and avocado with a spicy dressing of ginger, chili, lime and fish sauce. I also like Burmese Chicken with Tart-Sweet Chile Sauce, Simple Goan Fish Curry and Honeyed Sausages with Blackberry & Caraway Slaw.
When I tried the recipes, what I liked most are the big flavours. I made Roast Cauliflower with Pomegranates, Green Olives and Chickpea Puree, which I turned into a vegetarian main course by tossing it with bulgur. The dish hits you with the flavours of cumin and cayenne but it’s nicely balanced with sour pomegranate, crunchy walnuts and briny olives. I also made Harissa Roast Carrots with White Beans and Dill, which was excellent. We loved the spicy sweet carrots and they were delicious with creamy garlicky cannellini beans and cool yogurt, served with bread on the side. My Moroccan-Spiced Chicken with Dates and Eggplant was not fabulous, but that was a failure of execution. The idea is to toss everything into a dish and bake without cooking any of the components first. I overcrowded the ingredients and my chicken, rice and onion were undercooked. I would be more careful with proportions and sauté the vegetables first if I made it again.
“Simple” does not necessarily mean quick. Some recipes are fast to make but others require some time in the oven. Some recipes will work for weeknights and others are better on the weekend. The key is that there is not a lot of fuss in the preparation.
I have looked at many cookbooks over the past couple of years. This one inspired me to get cooking, which has to be a good thing.
Naomi Bussin is a lawyer, mother of three and an accomplished cook. Food is her favourite subject and she reads cookbooks in her spare time.