FOOD WRITER Diana Henry is back with yet another collection of easy-to-put-together recipes - this time championing the oven.


A side dish of contrasts.

"Cooking is often about balance and contrast, and I particularly like dishes where the contrast is extreme," says food writer Diana Henry. "Hot, spicy tomatoes with cold, sharp yoghurt is especially hard to resist.

"You can change the herbs here: Dill, mint, chervil and coriander all work. Using chopped walnuts instead of pistachios makes quite a difference, too.

"It's definitely time to get out your favourite extra virgin olive oil. A Ligurian oil makes this buttery, a Greek oil a bit more robust: Your choice will really change the character of the dish."


(Serves 4 as a side dish, or as part of a spread of dishes)

750g plum tomatoes, halved lengthways

4tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3tsp chilli flakes

2tsp fennel seeds

Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

4tsp runny honey

225g Greek yoghurt, or more, depending on the size of your serving plate

150g feta cheese, crumbled

1 garlic clove, finely grated

5g dill, chopped, any coarse stalks removed

10g mint leaves

10g shelled unsalted pistachio nuts, chopped


1. Preheat the oven to 190°C fan (400°F), Gas Mark 6.

2. Put all the tomatoes into a roasting tin in which they can lie in a single layer; if they are too close to each other, they will just steam instead of roasting. Spoon three tablespoons of the oil over them, then turn them over with your hands so they get well coated. Leave them cut sides up.

3. Put the chilli flakes and fennel seeds into a mortar and bash them. You won't break the fennel seeds down, but you'll crush them a bit. Sprinkle these over the tomatoes and season. Mix the honey with the remaining olive oil and spoon a little over each tomato.

4. Cook for 30 minutes, but keep an eye on them: You may find they need a little longer, but don't overcook them. They get to a point when they completely collapse and - even though they're delicious at this stage - they've lost all their shape and you don't want that here.

5. Stir the yoghurt, feta and garlic together and season. Put the yogurt on a serving plate and pile the roast tomatoes on top. Sprinkle the herbs and pistachios all over the dish and serve.


Can you get any more autumnal?

"If the butter is an effort too far, leave it out, it's still a good dish," notes Diana Henry, food writer extraordinaire.

"This is also lovely with a generous handful of grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese sprinkled on top, 15 minutes before the end of the cooking time. You don't have to use only chicken thighs, you can use a mixture of thighs and drumsticks, if you prefer."


(Serves 4)

For the chicken and rice:

15g dried wild mushrooms

500ml chicken stock

170g basmati rice

1 onion, roughly chopped

125g chestnut mushrooms, trimmed and thickly sliced

8 good-sized skin-on bone-in chicken thighs, excess skin neatly trimmed

345g pumpkin or butternut squash, deseeded and chopped into big chunks or wedges (prepared weight)

A little extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

For the sage butter:

75g unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 sage leaves, finely chopped

1 small garlic clove, finely grated


1. Preheat the oven to 190°C fan (400°F), Gas Mark 6.

2. Soak the wild mushrooms in 75ml just-boiled water for 15 minutes.

3. To make the sage butter, mash the butter with the sage and garlic and set it aside (I only chill this if I'm going to keep it for a while).

4. Drain the wild mushrooms, adding their soaking liquid to the chicken stock.

5. Wash the rice in a sieve under the cold tap, until the water runs clear, to remove the excess starch.

6. Put the onion and both the chestnut and dried mushrooms into a 30cm saute pan or shallow casserole (the width is very important) and sprinkle on the rice (it may not look like much, but it expands, don't worry). Put the chicken thighs, skin side up, and the pumpkin on top. Sprinkle a little olive oil over the vegetables and chicken and season well. Bring the stock mixture to

the boil, then carefully pour it around the chicken thighs.

7. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, by which time the chicken will be lovely and golden and the stock will have been absorbed. Put knobs of the sage butter over the chicken thighs, allow it to melt, then serve.


Bread and butter with a difference.

"I apologise. I nearly always include a recipe for bread pudding in my books, because I keep making new versions and am always in love with the latest incarnation," explains food writer Diana Henry.

"Get good, fat, dried sour cherries for this (and make it with fresh cherries when in season). The combination of cardamom and rose water is heaven, but don't overdo the spice. It should feel as if cardamom has 'walked through' a dish, leaving its perfume behind; it should never dominate."


(Serves 8)

125g dried sour cherries

About 100ml unsweetened pomegranate juice

300ml double cream

300ml whole milk

Pinch of sea salt

Seeds from 2 cardamom pods, ground

3 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk

150g caster sugar

250g brioche loaf

35g unsalted butter, softened

1tsp rose water, or to taste

Squeeze of lemon or lime juice

Icing sugar, to dust


1. Put the dried cherries in a small saucepan and add enough pomegranate juice to just cover. Bring to the boil, then take off the heat and leave the cherries to sit and plump up (they need at least 30 minutes, but longer is fine).

2. Bring the cream, milk and salt to the boil in a heavy-based saucepan with the cardamom, then leave for 15 minutes off the heat. Beat the eggs, egg yolk and sugar together. Pour the warm milk mixture on to this, stirring constantly.

3. Slice the brioche, butter it and layer it in a two-litre (3.5 pint) ovenproof dish, scattering the soaked cherries and any leftover pomegranate juice on as you layer the bread (try to get most of the cherries under the bread, or they might burn). Add some rose water to the egg and cream mixture - not too much - and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, then taste it. You should be able to detect the rose water, but it shouldn't be too strong. Brands differ in strength, so you have to taste and decide if you need a little more.

4. Pour the egg and milk mixture evenly over the layers of bread. Leave the pudding to sit for 30 minutes; this will make it lighter.

5. Preheat the oven to 180°C fan (375°F), Gas Mark 5.

6. Put the dish into a roasting tin and carefully pour enough boiling water into the tin to come about one-third of the way up the sides of the dish. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until puffy, golden and just set on the top. Leave to cool slightly - the pudding will continue to cook in the residual heat for a while - then dust with icing sugar before serving.

* From The Oven To The Table: Simple Dishes That Look After Themselves by Diana Henry, photography by Laura Edwards, is published by Mitchell Beazley, priced £25 ( Available now.