Too often “healthy” eating means deprivation and sacrifice, where food becomes the enemy and every mouthful of bland, sad diet food is a form of punishment in the name of whittled waistlines. A Change of Appetite completely upturns those notions with its bright, fresh, abundantly delicious and satisfying dishes that just happen to be good for you too. Celebrated British food writer and cookbook author Diana Henry, who shares her weakness for French pastries and really fantastic crusty bread, is a true food lover who believes that cooking should be full of joy, pleasure, and care, never suffering. In A Change of Appetite, she shows us what healthy eating really means, in which deliciousness is key, and healthiness is just a happy bonus—no fanaticism in sight.
To start, it’s not about what you can’t eat, but the incredible abundance of what you can eat. Henry, who proclaims in the book’s introduction that she is “more into living life to the full” than she is “into thinking of [her] body as a temple,” sought out dishes that are so good that you would never think you were missing out. Organized by seasons and beautifully photographed and designed, A Change of Appetite features recipes that are loaded with vegetables, legumes, whole grains, olive oil, fish, and just a bit of red meat and sugar too, because no food should be forbidden and overall balance is what we should strive for. These are lighter, fresher takes on the classics, but in no way boring. Inspired by the “accidentally healthy” cuisines of the Middle East, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam, her dishes are full of what she calls “big front-of-mouth flavors”—think chiles, ginger, lime, bright herbs, and lively spices. And what does she suggest if you do indulge in that perfectly rich and buttery golden croissant? Really love it and enjoy yourself.
CUCUMBER AND YOGURT SOUP WITH WALNUTS AND ROSE PETALS
I always love the look—and the idea—of Middle Eastern cucumber soups, but have never tasted one that actually has enough depth of flavor (not for me, anyway). So this isn’t purely Middle Eastern, because I’ve used some stock, which they wouldn’t do, but it has the right spirit: light, healthy, and “green” tasting. I actually prefer it without the dried fruit garnish, but that is traditional.
For the soup
2 cucumbers, peeled and chopped, plus matchsticks of cucumber to serve
1 CUP walnuts, plus extra chopped walnuts to serve
4 garlic cloves, chopped
6 scallions, chopped
3 TB chopped mint leaves
3 TB chopped dill leaves, plus extra to serve
pinch of dried red pepper flakes
leaves from 5 sprigs of tarragon
1 3/4 slices stale white country-style bread, crusts removed, torn
1 CUP strong chicken stock
1 CUP Turkish yogurt (or Greek, Turkish is thinner)
2⁄3 CUP extra virgin olive oil, or to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste
2 TB white balsamic vinegar, or to taste
salt and black pepper
handful of raisins (optional)
pink or red rose petals
If you will be serving the soup with raisins, put them in a small bowl and cover with just-boiled water. Let stand for 30 minutes to plump them up, then drain.
Put all the ingredients for the soup into a blender, in batches if necessary, and process. You will have to stop every so often and move the ingredients around so that all of them get to be near the blade. Taste for seasoning; this soup needs really careful adjusting. You may find you need a drop more lemon juice or white balsamic or extra virgin oil instead of salt or black pepper.
Chill well, then serve in small bowls, with the raisins (if using), chopped walnuts, cucumber matchsticks, dill, and rose petals.
Try a heartier version Cucumber soup is wonderfully adapatable and can be dressed in all kinds of ways. Instead of rose petals and walnuts, top this with spoonfuls of Salmon tartare or flaked hot-smoked salmon, or even with chopped, still-warm hard-boiled egg and sautéed shrimp. You could also try replacing the dill in the recipe with basil, and the walnuts with almonds, to make a more Italian soup. Top with finely chopped tomatoes and torn basil leaves mixed into a vinaigrette, or Almond and basil gremolata.
A Change of Appetite by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley 2014. Photos: Laura Edwards
See more of the formula for throwing a fabulous summer bbq in our 16 Summer Fare