Enjoy cover to cover reading and travel the culinary globe in How to Eat A Peach »

Take a culinary journey across the seasons and around the world

By Paula Wriedt
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<i>How to Eat a Peach</i> by Diana Henry

How to Eat a Peach by Diana Henry [©Octopus Publishing Group ]


Every now and then a cookbook comes along that demands to be read from cover to cover before preparing any of the recipes. This is one such book.

Diana Henry’s How to Eat a Peach takes readers on a journey across seasons and throughout the world. It’s a joy to just read, but an even bigger joy to cook up a storm from its wide variety of suggested menus.

Diana Henry is an acclaimed English food writer and has had a passion for putting together 'menu notebooks' since she was sixteen. Whilst she admits that often she didn’t get to cook many of these, it taught her the art of designing menus that would take diners on a culinary journey, and that also worked as a succession of flavours.

I couldn’t help but be impressed that the cover of this book had a quote from Nigella Lawson – “I couldn’t love anyone who didn’t love this book” she wrote. Given my well known 'girl crush' on the Domestic Goddess herself, I tried to put this quote out of my mind when reviewing this book for fear of it influencing me.

The first thing you can’t help but notice when you pick up How to Eat a Peach is the wonderful texture of the book’s cover. It really does feel like you are holding a peach. Probably yet another reason I surmised this was a book that was worthy of reading from beginning to end. So I snuggled up on a cold winter’s afternoon, with a steaming cup of tea and a piece of still-warm lemon cake, to fully appreciate everything this book had to offer.

The title How to Eat a Peach is mysterious for anyone browsing bookshop shelves. It was inspired by the author’s first trip to Italy where she encountered a simple approach to ending a meal. The locals at the table dining next to hers didn’t order a fancy dessert; instead they had a bowl of fresh peaches and a bottle of cold moscato.

Each guest peeled a peach and dropped it into their glass of wine. After a short while they drank the wine, beautifully flavoured with the peach, then afterwards enjoyed the wine-infused peach slices. She was struck by what a beautiful representation of simplicity this was and how “those peaches became a symbol of what good food is all about”.

Such is Diana Henry’s passion for creating 'menus' that the introduction alone inspires you to want to start planning your next dinner party immediately. Following Henry’s advice you would first design a menu of what you want to cook, and then decide who to invite based on who would appreciate that menu.

The book is organised into the two main chapters – Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter. Each contains a series of menus that relate to either a place that Henry visited, or flavours that she could never forget.

Each menu has an appropriately quirky title (such as “The Moon and the Bonfire” or “Crabs Walk Sideways”) and is prefaced with introductory remarks about its origin. As a result the book is peppered with childhood memories, travel adventures and memorable meals. It adds a personal touch to the book that endears you to the author after just a few pages. Her style is very much 'conversational', like that of Nigella Lawson, and her writing is beautiful.

Shortly before my 18 year-old heads off to University next year, my partner and I are travelling to Europe with the children for our last big family holiday. With many of Henry’s recipes originating in countries we are visiting –  including Spain, Italy and France – I found myself squealing with excitement at dishes centred around these countries. Even more so when I found dishes from some of the exact cities we will be visiting!

In fairness when reviewing a cookbook, I believe you can only do it justice by cooking some of its recipes, which makes the book come alive. And so, with our planned travels in mind, I embarked on a culinary adventure of my own inspired by the many tantalising menus.

Our first 'stop' was France with the “Cider and Gitanes” menu, starting with the classic dish of Leeks with Breton Vinaigrette (p 15). Served alone as an entrée, or as part of a grazing plate of charcuterie, radishes, hard-boiled eggs and other vegetables, this dish epitomises good food done simply and well. At first less-than-enthusiastic about being served leeks as a starter, my young adults couldn’t believe how delicious they were.

Whilst time, and admittedly a lack of patience, made me bypass making the Pork Rillettes on the following page, we couldn’t go past the mussels on page 19. Mouclade, originating on the west coast of France, is a flavoursome dish of mussels cooked in a curry-like sauce of saffron, cream and white wine.

Living in Tasmania we are fortunate to have access to superb blue lip mussels, which are large and juicy, and I thought looked superior to the smaller ones pictured with this recipe. But then again, as a born-and-bred Tasmanian I readily confess to being biased towards our excellent produce. They certainly tasted wonderful!

With two hungry young adults there was no way they were going to allow me to not cook the dessert accompanying this menu – Crepes Dentelles with Sauteed Apples and Caramel (p 20). Just the picture alone of the paper-thin crepes laden with delicate sliced apple, with a liberal topping of lightly salted caramel sauce and heavy cream, had me salivating. Thankfully my daughter took on the task of replicating the paper-thin crepes, an art she mastered in her early teens. So all that was left for me to do were the finishing touches. It was a simple but utterly delicious dish that really was a spectacular end to our French menu.

For our next culinary journey from this book, and in keeping with our upcoming trip, I’m looking forward to the “Darkness and Light” Menu inspired by the author’s travels in Spain. The Sherry and Orange Caramelized Fennel with Goat’s Cheese (p 172) is sure to be a hit. But I am most excited about the Spanish Chocolate and Pedro Ximenez Ice Cream (p 176). Thankfully the recipe’s introduction warns you to prepare it a day in advance as it’s quite a soft consistency.

For anyone who loves travel, good food, great stories and entertaining loved ones, this is a must-have book. Even if you never embark on creating any of the recipes, the wonderfully written stories will entertain you for hours.

So, it turns out that I do love this book – and this gives me hope that one day I will become firm friends with the Domestic Goddess who endorsed this book so glowingly on its cover.

How to Eat a Peach by Diana Henry is published by Octopus Publishing (Great Britain, Apr 2018; Hb; 256pp; RRP A$39.99)

Read more in the press release here »

About the reviewer:

Paula Wriedt is a self-confessed foodie. Whilst she loves her job running the small charity Cystic Fibrosis Tasmania, her real passion is food. She lives in Kingston with her two teenage children who have inherited her love of cooking so her house is always filled with the welcoming smells of delicious food.

As a former State Minister for Tourism, Paula is passionate about Tasmanian produce and our beautiful island state. Travelling is high on her agenda but she enjoys returning to Tasmania and sharing with friends and family the many recipes she discovers on her travels.



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September 12th, 2018
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