Sunday, 7 October 2012

an afternoon tea from diana henry's salt sugar smoke

salt sugar smoke signed for me
i discovered the world of food writing in the late nineties but it wasn’t until nigel slater’s toast that i seriously started drawing up lists of food writing that i wanted to read. over the last few years my food book rolls have come to include cookery books as well. this is because cookery books today are as much a pleasure to read, as they are to cook from. their prologues and prefaces hold much promise and often reveal the personality of the chef. 

my first introduction to salt sugar smoke was from the foodie bugle. i was already familiar with diana henry’s recipes from her writing in the telegraph but was very drawn to the premise of the book as making preserving, smoking and curing accessible to home cooks. so it was with much delight that i accepted an invite to tea in honour of ‘salt sugar smoke’ how to preserve fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. 

vintage tea service
afternoon tea
champagne tipples
cheese plate with figs and white currants
my thoughts from that afternoon are really a series of images of diana’s kitchen and her warm and welcoming person. it is obvious that she subscribes to the school of thought that sees the kitchen as the heart of the house. hers is an expansive space flanked by a wall of books on food and plentiful natural light. the island on one side is home to the stove as well as an assortment of jars and bottles. it doubles as the bar for the afternoon. we start with flutes of champagne laced with damson gin, sloe gin or quince syrup. the bright sunlight gave the crockery (an assortment of vintage teacups and flatware) sharp shadows. shallow bowls of jams, jellies and chutneys in jewel like colours were vivid in the sun and against the white. a beetroot stained gravadlax flecked with dill and carved in generous slices took pride of place. its buttery and generous slices were freshened by a fennel salad with thin moons of red onion and more dill. 

a side of sunlight with jams, chutneys and passion fruit curd
out of the jams it was the purple fig and pomegranate that stole my heart - fig halves plumped with juice and made tart with pomegranate molasses. this is the kind of jam you could serve for dessert folded into ricotta or curd. the mango, passion fruit and lime jam was more of the lines of chutney. i would add it to mayonnaise to bind left over chicken and eat it in a sandwich. there was a white currant jelly to pair with pungent cheeses. 

the sweet conclusions for the tea were dainty rounds of hazelnut meringues crowned with cream and late summer berries and a passion fruit cake. i must confess that i was much more interested in eating the very lush passion fruit curd with a spoon as it was the perfect composition of lip puckering tartness and velvet. 
hazelnut meringues with cream and late summer berries
passion fruit curd
passion fruit cake
it was an afternoon well spent. there is something so pleasurable about the act of sharing food with others especially strangers with mutual appreciation. it is only apt to conclude with diana’s own words - ‘but for me, one of the constituents of a good life is the ability to find pleasure in small things. a good jam for your toast in the morning. a chutney that is made from apples you gather last autumn. cutting salt beef that you’ve made yourself and can feed to a dozen friends. these are seemingly unimportant things, and they won’t change the world, but the sum of happiness in one’s life is often make up of such details.’ 


  1. It was a lovely afternoon, and I was so relieved to meet somebody on the doorstep! Your pictures are fantastic - wasn't it the most wonderful kitchen?

  2. The kitchen was fantastic but like you I had just as much book envy as I had kitchen envy. It's my dream to have a room whose walls are flanked with books!

  3. Those bookshelves do look wonderful. And from reading Diana's books and a phone conversation with her, can imagine the warm welcome - and the fabulous food! Your description and pics are lovely.

  4. Thank you Andrea. And yes Diana is very warm hearted!