Diana Henry: Don't skimp on vegetables for your crudite

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Diana Henry is a food journalist based in London. She writes for the Sunday Telegraph and other publications.

In my mind's eye, I always see her heading to an airport; she's all over the planet. You can see how her recipes echo her travels when you flip through her books, which include Plenty.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: I want to compare notes. What's happening in the U.K.? What are people eating now?

Diana Henry: There has been a big move toward vegetables. I don't mean people are turning vegetarian, but they are cooking less meat. Meat and fish: maybe three times a week. Maybe you find a little bit of meat in a salad to start a meal, but then the main course is vegetarian. I've noticed it in restaurants and in what friends have been cooking for me at dinner parties. Vegetables are in.

LRK: Why do you think this is happening? Do you think it's the economy? Is it health?

DH: I think it's got a little bit to do with the recession. I think that people are having to pay a bit more attention. Because the other thing I've noticed is that I'm not eating so much Mediterranean stuff. When I'm going to people's houses I'm finding carrot soup with ginger. Carrots, not roasted peppers. I'm seeing them use a lot of our own vegetables -- northern vegetables -- even though they might be giving them a Mediterranean or a North African kind of spin.

LRK: What kinds of things are you cooking these days?

DH: This is my favorite time of year to cook because the pumpkin and the squash come in. I've got friends coming this weekend and I'm going to make a roast squash lasagna. Sometimes I put fennel in it; sometimes I put wild mushrooms in it. It takes me half a day to make, but when you put it on the table, there's a sigh of contentment.

With that, because I don't like mixing up cultures too much, I'll probably have a bagna cauda, which is a Piemontese dip. Anchovies and garlic and a little butter and olive oil, all kind of heated until the anchovies melt. Then I'll put a platter out of autumn vegetables: carrots and chicory and that kind of thing.

The thing that's important about this: Because some of it is so simple, you do have to have good stuff. For the crudite, I do not mean those dreadful things that you get in packs in the supermarket. You have to prepare [the vegetables] just before you're going to eat them, and they have to look beautiful, and you have to have chosen good things in the first place.

Or I could go a little bit North African spicy, but a little Eastern as well, and do roast squash with little tomatoes still on the vine. I'll roast those with star anise, chili, ginger and olive oil. Then I'll take them out before they are ready I will add a tin of chick peas that I've soaked just to warm them a bit. Put it back in the oven for 15 minutes, then scatter the whole thing with coriander. Coriander is a special little thing that doesn't take much time but makes all the difference.

I'm very fond of sauteing onions until they're quite dark -- almost kind of like tobacco-y -- and putting in a little chile and a little mint and a good squeeze of lime or lemon. Then I toss that all over the dish just before I serve it.

On the side of that, I might do a spinach and watercress salad, with maybe some kind of red leaf as well. I make a lovely dressing with pine nuts and garlic, lemon juice and olive oil in a blender. It's a light pesto that doesn't have any cheese in it.

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