More cookbooks! Disaster. The latest addition to my collection has not yet been added to the shelf. It lives on my sofa and I open it at random for inspiration. Let’s see:
“Beluga lentil, roast grape and red chicory salad.” Intriguing, roast grapes. An Autumn recipe in hues of violet and red. Let’s aim for Spring:
“Butterflied leg of lamb with sekenjabin.” With what? Oooh, a “Persian mint syrup.” Best with flatbread or couscous and broadbeans. Mmm. Turn the page:
“Chocolate and rosemary sorbet” on the same leaf as “Grapefruit and mint sorbet.” All of my favourite flavours!
A Change of Appetite: where healthy meets delicious is an adventure in flavour, an exploration of healthy food without austerity or preaching. It is a fresh and beautiful cookbook. There are whole seasons full of recipes, with intermittent pages of musings on grains, proper lunches, the Japanese philosophy in food. I’m afraid to say the piece on calories rang unfortunately true: eat 500 calories chocolate, skip dinner. Works out even right? Not really.
As a pastry chef, I find it hard to condone dieting. (I’d be out of a job.) And I don’t believe abstention or detoxes work long-term. But too much sugar does have an effect on my body and my mood.
Henry doesn’t ask you to diet either. Just to take a little more care, add a few more green leaves and prepare meals with tons of flavour, inspired by Japan or Iran or Bulgaria. The healthy aspect works because the recipes really pique my appetite. And Ottolenghi’s apparently; his stamp of approval is on the front cover.
The ginger and garlic chicken I served at a dinner the other day was sharp and savoury and mouthwatering. Even with the chicken all eaten, the sauce was so good my guests took more wild rice just to soak it up. The cucumber with ginger has real character too, the rare occasion when cucumber has a starring role. It was all light and fresh and just enough. Satisfying.
I have to admit that we did have a first course of eggs and spinach, and later a cheese course with three cheeses and fresh salted butter then dessert. But, France. We had modest portions of each and still didn’t feel like we had to roll home afterwards.
The garlic-ginger chicken is going into regular rotation. (Using the grated and frozen ginger leftover from my homemade ginger juice.) In fact I am going to marinate individual portions in zip-lock bags and freeze them. Then in the morning I can defrost one bag or several in the fridge, ready to bake at suppertime. Virtuous ready-meals!
Next on the list: “Spelt and oat porridge with pomegranates and pistachios.” Wish it was breakfast time already.
Diana Henry’s Japanese Garlic and Ginger Chicken with smashed cucumber
from A Change of Appetite
8 chicken thighs (bone-in) or 4 whole chicken legs
3 1/2 tbs soy sauce
3 tbs sake or dry sherry (or in a pinch, white wine)
3 tbs dark brown sugar
1/2 tbs brown/red miso
60g fresh ginger, peeled and grated
4 garlic cloves, crushed or grated
1 tsp togarashi seasoning (or 1/2 tsp chili powder)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp sea salt
2 tbs pink pickled ginger, finely chopped
handful of shiso leaves, torn up (or mint)
Mix together marinade ingredients. If baking that day, preheat oven to 200C, arrange chicken in a baking dish in a single layer and pour over marinade. Let sit for at least 20 minutes while oven preheats (or a few hours in the fridge). If not, put chicken pieces in a zip-lock bag (or several), divide the marinade between them and freeze.
Bake chicken for 30-40 minutes depending on size of pieces, basting with marinade halfway. To check if the chicken legs are fully cooked, stab with a sharp knife and see if the juices run clear. If they are a little pink, carry on cooking.
Meanwhile, peel and de-seed the cucumber. Chop roughly. Put cucumber, garlic and salt in a zip-lock bag and bash it a few times with a rolling pin. This step can be done on a chopping board but is much more messy. Refrigerate until chicken is ready. Drain of any liquid and serve the cucumber topped with finely sliced pickled ginger and shiso (or mint).