Diana Henry on the book she “was always going to write”

Diana HenryDiana Henry’s award-winning cookbooks never fail to delight EYB Members. She has just released another book, A Bird in the Hand, which will no doubt please her many fans. Enter our contest for your chance to win one of five copies of the book, US only. Diana is supporting the book with a tour; find details on our World Cookbook Calendar of Events. And don’t forget we have a complete index of every recipe that Diana has had published – more than 3,200 recipes.

In her online journal, Diana explains how she knew she would one day write a cookbook about chicken. What follows is an excerpt from her journal (see below for a link to the full article.)



My books never come about because I think ‘I want to write something else now, what will it be?’ I don’t sit and try to come up with ideas. Usually they’ve been percolating for quite a few years, or they may even have been there from before I started to write about food at all (as was the case with my first book, Crazy Water Pickled Lemons). My newest book, A Bird in the Hand, was always going to be written, it was just a question of when. My grandfather was a farmer, primarily of dairy and poultry, and we were brought up to think that the chicken was important as well as being good to eat. From an early age we were taught to pick every morsel of meat off the bones – right down to those juicy little ‘oysters’ on the underside – to appreciate the crispy, salty skin of a roast and to understand how economical chicken could be. A roast chicken provided at least three meals in our house: the original dish; one made with the leftovers; then my mum’s chicken soup. Throwing out the carcass was absolutely unthinkable. The smell of simmering stock, and the parsley stalks and celery that went into it, often filled our kitchen and hallway.

Chicken Maryland, a big chunk of golden-skinned bird served with fried bananas and bacon, was what my siblings and I ordered when we went out to supper as kids. Sitting on modish chairs with scratchy seats, our feet barely touching the ground, we tackled plates of this in the local ‘grill room’ (such things existed in the 1970s). As teenagers, picnics weren’t based on sandwiches, but on a whole cold roast chicken whose meat we would tear apart and stuff into soft white rolls. Chicken curry (the old-fashioned British kind made with curry paste, raisins and the remains of the roast) was the exotic accompaniment to Sunday night telly. When I was taken to supper by a boy I really fancied – only to have him tell me that he was really interested in my best friend – I was eating chicken (and that was one of the few times I didn’t finish my plate of it). And the first meal I ever cooked for my partner, at his request, was a braise of chicken, leeks and apples (that recipe is in the new book).

At the end of a filming day with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (I was a TV producer before I was a food writer), we were finishing dinner when Hugh looked at the remains of the chicken on my plate. It was hard to tell from the clean little bones what I had eaten, but Hugh knew. ‘What did you do to that chicken?’ he asked, laughing. ‘I stripped it to its bones,’ I said, a little proudly, ‘Just as I was taught.’

Read the full article on Diana Henry’s website.

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One Comment

  • Foodycat  on  April 26, 2015

    It is, predictably, a great book. Very approachable.

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