Tea with Diana Henry

Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry

Published by Mitchell Beazley

 September 2012 – £20.00

The worst party invitation I’ve ever been sent said: ‘Come to a Pimm’s Party in Regent’s Park. Please bring Pimm’s, cucumber and lemonade. We will provide ice and paper cups.’ It was alien in every way to the invitation I’ve just received to have tea at food writer Diana Henry’s house. I now understand the true meaning of the phrase ‘what a spread’. Diana’s exquisite tea staged a proprietorial land-grab for the table, spreading from north to south and east to west. Now I come to think of it, I have a better understanding of the phrase ‘High tea’ too. Diana’s tea was lofty in all the best ways – generous in spirit, high on calories and monumental in scale. I was torn between photographing my tea and tucking in to it, but as you can see, good manners prevailed and I captured it on camera first.

The tea, to mark the publication of Diana’s new book on preserving and curing, Salt Sugar Smoke, featured many of her new recipes: perfumed fig and pomegranate jam, home-cured gravadlax, an exquisite crispy salad of apples and onions marinated in rice wine vinegar, passion fruit curd sponge cake and whitecurrant jelly.

Many books on preserving are too hearty and briskly efficient for my taste. I like a little poetry with my pectin and Diana Henry provides it.  Salt Sugar Smoke combines both supreme practicality with a creative imagination – rather like Diana Henry herself. This is a book that will teach you how to get the perfect set on your jam, while reminding you of Simone de Beauvoir’s wonderful evocation of the art of jam-making: ‘…the housewife has caught duration in the snare of sugar, she has enclosed life in jars.’

I left Diana’s house with chubby cheeks and a grin. Not only had I eaten one of the best teas of my life, I’d had one of Diana’s cheering pep talks about life and jam. This woman and her books should be made available on the NHS.



  1. You lucky thing. Diana Henry is my favourite cookery writer and she deserves to be better known. Her preserves books is gorgeous and practical.

    1. As is this one, Sue. You’d love it. There are a fantastic range of recipes, including five for quince.

  2. I’m so jealous! The food and photos look amazing, and I LOVE Diana Henry! Have a lot of her books, definitely considering getting this one now after seeing some of the recipes (sort of) in the flesh!

  3. A knockout post in every way. Your photos catch the ambience of tea with Diana Henry perfectly. Her book sounds wonderful.

  4. I love the Simone de B quote, the close-up of the tea cup making it look edible ,even in the rather strange stormy feeling light and the idea of getting the NHS to issue the book as alternative medication is superb. In fact, the whole review is that, superb.
    As someone who’s grown white currants and then composted the bush in frustration having made such terrible jelly with its berries I feel the need to go and buy the book to now start over!

    1. I can vouch for the deliciousness of the whitecurrant jelly. Thanks so much for leaving a comment – always a treat for me to see your reactions.

  5. I have never in my life read book reviews as poetic, as enticing, as beautiful as yours. Each review I read here makes me want to buy, no makes it imperative that I own the book you have reviewed. This is a particularly fascinating write up. Your gorgeous words, perfect, evocative descriptions have breathed life into this book. Your lovely tea and meeting Diana Henry add to the marvel of this book. I have never been one to consider making jam or gravlax but now I want to try.

    1. Jamie, you are so generous in your praise – a wonderfully warm-hearted response that has really given me a lift. I do hope you try some of the recipes. I’m aiming to make the fig and pomegranate jam today.

  6. Reading your post was a lovely vicarious experience in every way, the writing, the photos, the sentiment….and calorie-free!
    I am a keen preserver and this book definitely looks like one for me.

    1. If you’re a keen preserver, this is certainly a book for you. I’m so glad you enjoyed my review – it was great fun to write and of course came with the added benefit of a delicious tea to boot.

  7. Oh how completely fabulous. I love Diana’s poetic writing and I adore the lovely crockery spread around the table. The fig and pomegranate jam I’ve already made, but the rest I shall just have to dream about 😉

  8. I love your blog! Taking a moment out from the coal-face to check the latest post never fails to delight. Tea with Diana Henry is as good as anything you’ve ever done. And my favourite photo? The bottle labelled with a single word: poire.
    Keep up the good work Eggs on the Roof!

  9. So love the poetry in the preserving. I’ve never read Diana Henry before, but you make me want to, especially since I’ve been making strawberry jam all afternoon. That Simone de Beauvoir quote elevates it to an art… my jars have an extra glow about them now.
    Great to discover your blog – came here via Cooksister’s #ff on Twitter today.

    1. I’ve certainly got a lot to thank Cooksister for, then! Thank you so much for your wonderful comment. I love the thought that your jam jars now have an extra glow, courtesy of Simone de Beauvoir.

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