I can’t quite remember how I first stumbled across Diana Henry, but she very quickly became one of my favourite food writers. Even better, I don’t have to confine myself to reading her work, as she is a regular contributor to Radio 4’s The Food Programme, which is one of my favourite things to listen to whilst washing up.
While I was planning our trip to the Aldeburgh Food Festival, I browsed through the list of workshops, and spotted a talk followed by a lunch with Diana Henry herself! I dropped a few not-so-subtle hints to my lovely husband, and he kindly bought me a ticket for my birthday present.
The lunch was held on the top floor of the concert hall at Snape Maltings. The views were quite amazing, but the wonderfully large flat skies somehow seem to defy being captured on camera. I did try, but you just don’t get the impression of the vastness of it all.
I was greeted with a glass of prosecco, and managed to find a seat in the front row. It was a really interesting talk, more of a conversation really, about where she gets her inspiration for recipes from, how she eats at home, why handing on recipes is important to her…all fascinating, and I found myself nod nod nodding along.
The lunch was superb, three courses cooked from three of her books. The starter was one I have been meaning to cook, but the fairly length list for the dukka spice mix had put me off. Having eaten it, I’ll definitely be making it! It was a bed of lentils topped with thick slices of roasted tomato, and finished with a shelled boiled egg with a slightly runny yolk which had been rolled in the dukka spice mix.
Next came chicken roasted with wedges of squash and studded with feta, served with a spelt salad. Dessert was heavenly – a peach roasted in rose wine and served with creme fraiche. The meal managed to be very light but very filling all at the same time.
While we were eating, Diana came to each table to talk with us. I had not thought to bring any of my books with me, so she kindly signed some book plates instead.
I came away full of ideas and inspiration and feeling really pleased that I had gone along. Years ago going to something like that alone would have intimidated me, but it was nice being just alone. Of course it would have been lovley to have had Carl with me, but he was at a beer tasting workshop, and also I would have known he was there for me rather than because he wanted to be there for the talk and lunch. It was nice to sit together later on and compare notes!
If you have the opportunity to go, the food festival is unfailingly delightful to visit. This year I also got to sit in on a cooking demonstration by Olia Hercules, and tried some of the most richly divine hot chocolate ever. See you there next year?