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Diana is a British food writer and columnist, and the author of ten books, including the James Beard Award-winning ‘A Bird in the Hand’. She gathers inspiration from all over the world and loves home cooking more than any other kind.
Everybody is very quite, Lindsay-Jean. I hope they're just waiting for 12 o'clock!
Hi Diana! Sorry I missed the window for questions! Just wanted to say I love your books. They are a joy to read. I made your roasted carrots for Easter and everyone raved about them. Also, I made your raspberry yogurt cake and found the batter to be very very thick. Should it be so? I got scared and added a smidgen more yogurt. It was so delicious.
Good afternoon! I just read about your Simple cookbook this morning on food52.com and immediately placed an order - it sounds like a great read! I noticed on one of the postings that you used preserved lemon in one of the recipes. I love the IDEA of preserved lemon and actually have a jar in my fridge - but I have little experience with it. What other kind of dishes do you like throwing preserved lemon into action? Thank you!
HI Carey, Initially I just used them in Moroccan dishes but gradually I have introduced them into other things too. This evening, for example, I am having salmon fillets with grains, roast beets and greens and I am serving a 'sauce' - made of creme fraiche (you could also use sour cream) with chopped up preserved lemon and a little grated garlic in it. It's my favourite new - and very easy - sauce at the minute.
Preserved lemons are also very good in dressing for baked fish or roasted vegetables, especially if you are using hot ingredients (such as chilli or harissa paste) in it too. I use the juice from the preserved lemon jar to 'heighten' flavours in braised dishes where I might usually employ fresh lemon. Finally chop some preserved lemon, mash it with soft butter, add chopped chilli and coriander leaves and stuff this under the skin of a chicken before roasting - delicious
Great suggestions - thank you!! I love a quick yogurt sauce on so many things - I will definitely be trying it with preserved lemon now!!
Recipes requesting red and green chilis have been an interesting adventure for some of us outside of the U.K. 🙂Could you give us the specific variety of chilis you use or, barring that, a flavor and heat profile that you're going for so that we can know what to look for in trying to make substitutions?
Ah! I've heard this has been a problem! We have a much smaller range of fresh chillis available to us here. Usually I mean a medium-low heat chilli, such as jalapeño (either green or red). If I mean someone to use birds eye I will say that. Basically, here we get jalapeños (though they are often not labelled as such), Scotch bonnets, birds eye and sometimes serrano. Our dried chillis are generally labelled with a variety but the fresh ones not so often. I hope you haven't had a bad experience!
Hi Diana, thank you for sharing your lovely book with us. I'd love to know the backstory of the enchanting face drawn on the egg at the start of the Egg chapter!
That's a good question! We were basically goofing around with eggs, and wondering what to shoot for the opener for this chapter and the photographer, Laura Edwards, just drew this face. We all loved it so it went in. One of the things I love about working with a team - and I've had the same team for the last five books - is that things like this happen. Laura also drew the template for the pastry chicken on top of the chicken pie in my book A Bird in the Hand. So, she isn't just a great photographer, she's pretty good at drawing too.
We do put a lot of thought into things like this - we try not to offer anything boring. And we do like a bit of humour and warmth in the books
The unexpected in the creative process is always fascinating. And in this case -- enchanting! Thanks for it all.
I'm sharing some questions people asked on Facebook:
Kara Howard: I absolutely love this cookbook and will make many more recipes and a lot of them will be in my regular rotation. Question, the book Plenty that is on Amazon coming out in June 2017 is this a reprint or a new cookbook?
It's a reprint - with a new cover - of an old book. We thought it was a good time to re-issue it though it has never been out of print either there or in the UK. It is a proper cook's book (if that makes sense). There are lots of recipes in it for leftovers, and for using inexpensive cuts of meat. I use the book a lot myself. I'm so glad you'e enjoyed using Simple
Thank you so much for Simple! The past month, I have truly experienced what it is to eat well: I have thoroughly enjoyed the dishes I made, tried new ingredients, techniques and flavour combinations and that all without too much fuss.
Discussion and different interpretations of what constitutes 'simple' and 'good' food might lead to mixed expectations about a cook book titled Simple. Who do you consider the audience of your books? How do you think they should be best approached to get most out of them and the 'simple, yet good food' idea behind them?
Thank you again and all the best, Eva
Hi Eva, ah, this is interesting. I called the book Simple because no difficult techniques are used. This is not cheffy food. And I really do think the recipes in here are 'simple'. But there has been some hostility because some recipes require unusual ingredients. I don't mind that - in fact I think if you want to eat food that truly is simple but also interesting you have to have a good store cupboard. One early commentator on amazon said that simple food was just a piece of fish with lemon squeezed over it. He's right, of course, but you don't need a recipe for that. I think my job is to bring you recipes for dishes that can be cooked midweek for your family, or at the weekend when you have friends over, but that don't require you to be in the kitchen all day long. I cook complicated stuff - I am a keen cook and can spend whole days in the kitchen at the weekend - but mostly I just have to get stuff on the table for my family. I often do just roast fish and offer a bowl of lemon wedges with it - there's nothing wrong with that - but I don't want to eat that every day.
I do quite a lot of traveling and I am always looking out for dishes that are unfamiliar but that are easy to make and are interesting.
I think the best way to get the most out of Simple is to be prepared to perhaps check on some of the more unusual ingredients in the book - and very few of them are perishable - order them all from one online source (so you just pay one delivery cost ) or go to one really good food store and buy some of the more unusual ingredients all at once. That is what I do. I do sympathize with anyone who finds it hard to get everything. I grew up in a small town in Ireland - my parents are still there - and lots of thing weren't available. But now there is very little that we can't buy off the internet. I hope you haven't found the ingredients too challenging
I agree with you that simple food does not have to mean boring or bland ingredients. By combining unusual ingredients in ways that aren't too difficult, simple food can become really interesting. Your book is the perfect example of that. I generally manage to find most of the ingredients. If not, substitutions are usually possible for which you often give useful suggestions. What I did find a bit tricky was stocking up for one person, not yet having a family to feed as a student. But this has been the perfect opportunity/excuse to expand my cupboard with (indeed few perishable) ingredients for which Simple gives various options to use them. Just today, I could provide a house mate with some missing ingredients, which a few years ago I might have found unusual and now consider basic. Thanks for sharing your tips on how you go about getting your ingredients!
Amy Chen: Would love to know the backstory of the enchanting face drawn on the egg at the start of the Egg chapter!
HI Amy, goofing around is that answer! See a fuller explanation above. I'm glad you like it!
Thank you so much! That's very helpful to know what to look for in choosing chilis. I made the Burmese Chicken dipping sauce with Thai Bird chiles. Let's just say it was a bit warm. :-)
Yes, I did hear about that - oops! Just medium heat chillis is best. I will be very careful of this in future books, in fact I just have acquired a new US editor (one of the best in the business) to take charge of the US editions for the books. It's very important to me that they translate and that you get good results there too. There aren't that many areas where we different wildly, but I always have to look at cuts of meat, whether you can actually get some ingredients at all and, now, chillis!
Thanks for clearing up the confusion! I have other books by U.K. authors, and I've run into this in their books as well. It's good to finally understand what you have available in your market. I had a long chat with the produce guy at my local foods yesterday, and he said they almost never get red chilis with heat, only a smattering of the green ones like jalapeños and serranos and sweet bell peppers.