If you follow Northern Ireland-born food writer Diana Henry on social media, you’ll know that when she travels, what’s to eat is top of the agenda.

Whether she’s on a book tour of America or exploring the Isle of Skye, you’re going to want to take note of every restaurant, coffee shop and market she stops at, and recreate the trip yourself.

On the release of her latest cookbook, From The Oven To The Table, we grilled her on adventures, and the food she will never forget.

Diana Henry (Chris Terry/PA)
Diana Henry (Chris Terry/PA)

Where are you off to next on your culinary travels?

“I’m going back to Russia. You could spend your life looking at the various regions of Russia, but I am particularly interested in the new Russian food – I love the White Rabbit restaurant in Moscow, even though I am usually not much of a fan of fine dining – and also how most Russians still cling to Soviet food (it’s nostalgia). Russia has been influenced by the food of every country that used to be part of the USSR and that, combined with the imposed industrialised diet (after the Revolution) and the efforts to create a ‘new Russian cuisine’ makes it a unique place to eat and to travel.”

What’s your earliest memory of being on holiday as a child – and what did you eat?

“Having smoked salmon and wheaten bread as soon as we arrived in Dublin. It was usually our first meal when we got there, eaten in the Wicklow Hotel just off Grafton Street.”

What’s the ultimate bucket-list destination you’re yet to visit?

“Australia. I’ve been buying Australian food magazines for the last 25 years and I’d love to get to the restaurants I’ve been reading about for a long time. I also think they have some great food writers, notably Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer.”

Which is your favourite continent and why?

“America. There are so many areas of it that I love, and the food – contrary to popular thinking – is superb if you know where to find it (America is not all about McDonald’s). It also has absorbed so many influences brought by immigrants – it makes its cuisine very rich. New York is my favourite city. I couldn’t live there – at least not for more than a couple of years – but I adore its energy.”

What destination would you love to return to?

“I love going back to lots of places I’ve visited, but the one I am really longing to get more of is Portland, Oregon. I was totally smitten with it. The quality of the produce – the berries and salad leaves and fish – were amazing. I went there on a publicity trip for my last book and three days weren’t nearly enough.

“I also want to get to the coast nearby. It’s beautiful. I think the Pacific Northwest is a fantastic area. I could live there.”

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Last meal in Portland was at Ava Gene’s, one of the restaurants owned by Joshua McFadden (who wrote a wonderful book about vegetables last year). Yes, we stayed late and were the last to leave – I hope the picture, though empty of diners, gives you some idea of how lovely the interior is. Ava Gene’s is Italian – the fritti and gnocchi were superb – but I was most in awe of the salads. Combinations that were surprising (sugar snaps with tiny chunks of strawberry) but that worked, and each with a different dressing. Very sorry to leave Portland – absolutely love the place. It has such a reputation for hipsters (and then there’s its portrayal in Portlandia) but it feels both old-fashioned (gracious, warm, more like a big town than a city) with a forward-thinking ‘can do’ attitude. The food is phenomenal, the local ingredients among the best I’ve ever tasted (greens to die for). I could live here (maybe I will). I’m definitely coming back. What more can I tell you? VISIT PORTLAND!

A post shared by Diana Henry (@dianahenryfood) on

Which global cuisines would you like to explore further?

“I am not a fan of trends, but a cuisine which I am drawn to now is Burmese. I’ve never been to Burma, I just cook it from the few Burmese books I have. I can’t get enough of it. I’d love to visit.”

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 (octopusbooks.co.uk).

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