There is a quote of mine on the cover of Diana Henry’s tremendous new book saying “For bung-it-in-the-oven cooks everywhere, this is a must-have book.” That’s a message from the heart. And look, as far as I’m concerned, all of Henry’s books are must-haves. Not that I’m alone here: she holds, deservedly, a very special place in the hearts and the bookshelves of home cooks. Her writing is alive to the poetry of language and the practicality of the kitchen. This book is perfect for the everyday, harassed cook, concentrating on what I — erroneously — call traybakes, and what Americans call Sheet Pan Suppers. In other words, it’s a compendium of recipes which require you to no more than add ingredients to a roasting tin and shove in the oven. But a casual throw-it-in-the-oven is not enough, and every recipe is infused with Diana Henry’s particular genius for flavour. Yes, I want Baked Sausages, Apples & Blackberries with Mustard & Maple Syrup. Yes, too, to Thyme-Roast Lamb Chops with Tomatoes, Black Olives & Goat’s Cheese, to Chicken with Plums, Honey & Pomegranates, to Roast Autumn Vegetables with Walnut-Miso Sauce, to Melting Baked Onions with Parmesan Cheese & Cream. In fact, yes to every single recipe in this book, including some wonderful desserts (Chocolate & Red Wine Cake, anyone? I thought so). I can’t help but envisage this book in kitchens up and down the country, absolutely a-flutter with post-it notes, not just to signal those recipes earmarked for cooking in the future, but as a way of marking those already eaten with unflurried joy.
All of which hasn’t exactly made it easy for me to choose one, just one, recipe to share with you. But in the end, I plumped happily for the Chicken with Lemon, Capers & Thyme, with its combination of ingredients and flavours that speak to the very heart of me. But as I say, to choose just one recipe is not the perfect state of affairs: there will be many people getting From the Oven to Table: Simple Dishes that Look After Themselves as a present from me this Christmas. But why wait? Treat yourself now, if you can, I say!