When Nigella Lawson admits “I wish I had written this book” and Yotam Ottolenghi reveals “everything Diana Henry cooks I want to eat”, you know it can’t be bad. That, and the fact I’ve been following Diana (not literally – that would be weird) for some time now, reading her regular columns in The Telegraph’s supplement magazine for the best part of a decade. A couple of her previous books – Cook Simple and Salt Sugar Smoke – feature on my bookshelf, so I knew from experience that A Bird in the Hand would also be full of both dinner-in-a-jiffy meals and slow-cooked, simmering feasts. In fact, the chapters are handily labelled as such: from ‘dishes for every night of the week’ and ‘chicken salads’ to ‘Sunday lunches and posh dinners’ and ‘what to do with the rest of that bird’ – making it very easy to thumb through to the section that appeals.
For me, a good cookbook deserves the attention you would give a bestselling novel. So, rather than hastily flicking through it (while resting my elbows against the kitchen worktop as my four-year-old daughter runs between my legs singing ‘Let it Go’), I curl up in bed with mine, taking in the author’s description of dishes as I drift off into a world of culinary adventures. Diana’s words are written in her infectious, passionate, witty style, which made it hard to put down. I also tend to eat with my eyes when it comes to cookbooks, so was delighted to see that this one was rammed full of beautifully-styled, drool-worthy photos.
One in particular caught my eye: her ‘Turkish-spiced chicken with hot green relish’. It looked fresh and zingy, and was the perfect balance of simple-but-impressive; as well as being healthy and reasonably inexpensive (even though I tend to go for pricier meat options these days – I just eat it less often). The chicken called for a fragrant marinade of cinnamon, cayenne pepper, cumin and garlic, which I made the day before and left the thighs to soak in overnight (although you can do this for just a couple of hours if time is of the essence).
Just before I was ready to griddle the chicken, I turned my attention to the relish. There was plenty of fresh garlic in this too, along with half a jar of olives and a whole green and red chilli (I didn’t remove the seeds, as recommended, as I knew they weren’t of the hottest variety). Everything was bashed together in a mortar with plenty of coriander and mint, extra virgin olive oil, white balsamic vinegar and lemon juice.
A teaspoon to sample turned into a ladleful to scoff; I couldn’t keep my hands off the stuff, and was glad I had made enough for 4-6 for just the two of us. I served the browned chicken with a generous dollop of (what was left of) the relish and some aromatic rice; although Diana mentioned that it could all be stuffed into a wrap with salad – noted for next time.
The vibrant colours on the plate instantly made me forget it was a bitterly cold, grey February night and (always thinking ahead to the summer – even in October) I immediately envisaged serving it at a twilight barbecue on a balmy summer’s evening.
It would surely be the star of the show: the chicken was juicy and succulent, having absorbed all of the garlic-infused spice mix. And the salsa (can it be dubbed a ‘salsa’ without tomatoes?) was the epitome of ‘clean tasting’ – zesty, spicy, fresh – and sent my tastebuds into overdrive.
This book – an ode to the chicken – claims to have a recipe for every day and to suit every mood. I can certainly believe that. I’ve already got post-it notes earmarking several pages for different occasions: a warm salad of chipotle-griddled chicken, chorizo, quinoa and lime crème fraîche to make for a quick lunch; a ‘royal’ chicken korma ideal for a Friday night supper in front of the telly; and roast chicken with truffles (I’ll save this one for payday, I think). One thing’s for sure: Diana Henry’s treasure trove of deliciousness has helped rekindle my romance with chicken, leaving me clucking for more.
If you’ve been inspired to try the recipe for yourself then you can view Diana’s full recipe here: Turkish-Spiced Chicken with Hot Green Relish. Let us know how you get on in the comments box below.
Toni Waterfall – Cookery, Food & Drink A mum with a food-loving family and a part-time pescatarian lifestyle, I’m always searching for delicious and practical ideas to try in the kitchen. My all-time favourite chef is Gordon Ramsay, but I’ve never made a bad meal using a Jamie Oliver recipe. Spaghetti bolognaise is the go-to meal in my household, but I also enjoy cooking curries from scratch – especially seafood ones. I always say that balance and seasoning are crucial elements of getting a dish right. I’m constantly thinking ahead to the next meal and am an impulsive, daily supermarket shopper, as opposed to a weekly bulk buyer.