Cooking from Diana Henry’s ‘Salt Sugar Smoke’

Weekends are for baking, slow cooking and now, it would seem, jam-making, preserving and curing. I’ve had some great successes making recipes from Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry, a new book by one of Britain’s best-loved cookery writers. 

The first recipe I turned to, from the opening chapter, was Purple Fig and Pomegranate Jam. Handy, as figs were on special offer, meaning I could make twice as much! I also tried making the Georgian Plum Sauce, with in-season English plums, which made an unusual addition to our Sunday roast. And lastly, I cured my first wild salmon, with beetroot, salt, sugar, vodka and dill. With only one extra cookery book addition to the shelf, that’s quite a few new skills acquired!

English Plums

I am not usually one who preserves, but as soon as it arrived, Diana’s book really inspired me to get out my biggest pan, jam thermometer and some big empty jars. In Salt Sugar Smoke, Diana writes that jam-making is like capturing time, holding on to a season, a particular mood.

It actually isn’t all that hard once you know the basics, such as how certain fruits behave in different recipes and how to heat-sterilise the jars and equipment you’ll need. There are plenty of tips for the beginner in Diana’s book and once you’ve had a go at making a simple jam, you can follow Diana’s inventive and charming recipes or start experimenting with your own flavours. Raspberries meet violet syrup, pears come together with chestnuts, warm French croissants can be smothered in jams of apricot and lavender. Even mixed-coloured melons are given the flavour boosts of fresh root ginger and lime. Salt, Sugar, Smoke also explores creating marmalades of pink grapefruit, “lovely jars of jewelled colours” jellies to partner cold cuts and cheeses, and reveals the secrets behind making the perfect curd. 

Jam Jars

And this is only the very start of the adventure. Diana goes on to demystify sauces, pastes, mustard and vinegars, chutneys, relishes and pickles, and teaches us how to smoke food at home without having to convert the potting shed into a smokehouse. You can also try your hand at making homemade cordials, alcohols (my favourite is the cinnamon-spiced Polish vodka Krupnik!) and the beautifully named ‘spoon sweets’ echoing the Greek and Middle Eastern tradition of serving jams and fruits by the spoonful.

The purple fig and pomegranate jam (made in three easy steps) is as good on a buttered slab of sourdough toast for breakfast as it is mid-afternoon with a mild-tasting cheese such as Labneh. You can find the recipes here at Diana’s column for The Telegraph’s Stella Magazine.

My first solo adventure in jam making!

 Beautiful purple figs, lemons, zest, cooking apples, apple juice, pomegranate juice, sugar, pomegranate molasses  

Purple Fig Jam

Heat-sterilised jam jars – a very important step in jam-making – you can do this by boiling them, placing them into a warm (170 degrees Celsius) oven or even by putting them through a dishwasher cycle

Georgian Plum Sauce

Georgian Plum Sauce made with English plums, brown sugar, garlic, Hungarian paprika, lemon, mint and herbs – a striking addition to the dinner table!

Beetroot Cured Salmon

And finally…Beetroot Gravlax, simple curing, to feed a crowd at my sister’s birthday party.

There is a short mention of Salt Sugar Smoke here, the winner of the giveaway was Michelle G.

Next week, I’ll be writing all about afternoon tea at Diana’s home to celebrate the launch of Salt Sugar Smoke.

You can also read my interview with Diana at her home here.

Who is inspiring you to pull out your pans at the moment?


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  1. I really want this book now! I used to do a lot of preserving but only took it up again this year.
    Lovely pictures Ren, just amazing!

    1. Thank you Regula, that means a lot to me. :-)) Happy preserving x

  2. This looks utterly gorgeous, Ren! Diana’s latest book is on my list of books to get, and I am going to an evening with Diana at Toppings in Bath in a couple of weeks, so I hope to get a signed copy then, and get cooking!

    I am currently inspired to preserve thanks to spending a day with Vivien Lloyd at her Somerset home.

    1. Ooh how did the evening with Diana go? I missed out on the Vivian Lloyd day, but she is an inspiring lady, too x

  3. Oooh now I wish I had made that fig jam. I opted for the harrissa and labneh which I’m writing up later today. Also planning the beetroot salmon for dinner tomorrow so am so glad to see your pics above and apple and lavender jelly with the stash of apples from a friend’s house! Lovely pics too.

    1. There’s always another time, the fig jam is really easy to make. The harrissa sounds lovlely and I have tried making my own labneh before and that’s a great activity, too! Let me know how your beetroot salmon turns out, mine is taking on a fantastic colour! x

  4. I have always loved Diana Henry’s approach and writing, and your review certainly makes me want to add this to my Amazon list! Every recipe you mention is one I would love to make. I have been preserving for many years, but there is always a new combination to try, and more to learn. Lovely images too.

    1. Thank you Kellie, lovely comment once more, you always make me smile. There is certainly a lot to try in this book and I am sure you would enjoy it, even as a preserving expert yourself! x

  5. I’ve been enjoying this book so much – I’ve been stuck into the pickle section. Your beautiful pictures have made me want to make jam

    1. I’m not a big fan of pickles but I will give one or two of them a shot, I think they’d go well with cold cuts at Christmas. Glad you are enjoying it, too x

  6. MOUTH WATERING Ren!!!… simply my most favourite ingredients ever… figs… plums… beetroot…. and this may sound crazy but how about all three together!

    1. I don’t think I can imagine all three together, but there might be a chocolate cake in the somewhere to disguise the beetroot…!

  7. What a fantastic review, sounds like a wonderful book. That fig jam is calling me! Hope all goes well with your sister’s party and I am sure the beetroot cured salmon will be delicious. Lovely photos make me want to jump in and eat the goodies :)x

    1. Thank you Laura, must go and check the salmon and turn it actually. Replying to the comments is a good reminder!

  8. Wow, that Fig jam really appeals to me! I’m currently very much ON figs, having had so many superb examples during our recent holiday in Turkey. The Pomegranates probably go exceptionally well with figs – we saw them growing side-by-side, so they obviously thrive in the same conditions (my gardener’s interest was raised here…)

    1. Oh I can imagine how wonderful the figs and pomegranates must have been in Turkey. Figs, I’ve heard can do OK here, but no where near as close on taste I imagine. I’m guessing you very quickly scrolled over the final shot with salmon and dill!

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