Simple by Diana Henry

Simple: effortless food, big flavours
Diana Henry
Published by Octopus, Mitchell Beazley
A recipe book that provides home cooks with meals that are disproportionately good, compared to the effort they put in. Masterful tenth tome by Diana Henry.
Buy now on

This is Diana Henry’s tenth book, and her expertise is apparent in that it hits the all too rare sweet spot of offering totally achievable recipes that people are likely to cook, whilst remaining interesting and creative.

Diana aims straight at those cooks who feel strapped for time, but still want to eat good, wholesome, flavourful food. She recognises the rushed life we all live, and pushes recipes upon us which are either hands-free bung in the oven jobs; or simple, basic but effective.

Chapter titles ranges from ‘eggs’, through ‘pulses’, ‘roasts’, ‘chops and sausages’, ‘fruit puddings’ and plenty more in between. Essentially, all bases are covered. On the face of it, that might put the book in the generic, ‘seen it all before’ category, but I do feel like the food she’s suggesting is always tasty, always easy, and never dumbed down. This is rare.

The recipes are eclectic and influenced by global cuisine. Whether that’s pappardelle with cavolo nero, chilli and hazelnuts; eastern black rice, mango and tomatoes with coconut; Persian-inspired eggs with dates and chilli; or a sauté pan laden with pork chops, mustard, cream and capers.

The recipe titles tempt, and the ingredient lists and methodology reassure. There are some cracking ideas in there and, as the title suggests, everything is simple. Advanced cooks may be looking for something else, something new. But I have a feeling Simple will go down as a modern classic – I wish I’d written it.

This goes straight into my ‘Must Haves’. If you’re already a fan, but a late convert, then head to Diana’s other books – in particular A Bird in the Hand; A Change of Appetite; and Salt, Sugar, Smoke.

Format and design

Classic crown quarto format; matt uncoated paper with tempting, calming, natural photography for about two thirds of the recipes. It’s an appealing look.

Recipes that tempt

Honeyed pork loin with plum and lavender relish; Moroccan-spiced chicken with dates and aubergines; bitter flourless chocolate cake with coffee cream.

Who is it for?

Suitable for all standards of home cook, but particularly beginner to moderate skills, and people interested in food but not spending all day on it.