Cookbooks: May – June 2019

Hello my fellow bookworms and foodies, as the weather has (on the whole) continued to warm up, I have enjoyed trying these easy, lighter recipes:

Easy Cheesy Leek Risotto
The Co-operative Magazine

Having previously enjoyed four of the Co-op’s rice based recipes, I thought I would try another: this comforting baked risotto, that I had cut out and saved; which really is as easy as the name suggests! Soften leeks in a oven-proof dish, then add risotto rice and stock, and pop in the oven for half an hour. Once done, stir in cheese and enjoy! I served with some fresh, baby leaf spinach on the side. Delicious and simple! Great recipe.

Roasted Cod Basa with Spicy Lentils
The Co-operative Magazine

Another Co-op recipe I cut out and saved some time ago now, was this rich dish that had me roasting cod – although I used the more sustainable basa fillets and I think you could use any firm, white fish – on a bed of spicy lentils, tomatoes and spinach. Another simple and tasty recipe, but I did have to serve it with some seasonal Jersey Royal new potatoes, because this wouldn’t have been filling enough for my family’s appetites otherwise! Good recipe.

Easy Crispy Chicken
The Hairy Dieters (1) by Si King & Dave Myers
Grills & Roasts – Page 70

Love some finger-licking, crispy chicken? Well this recipe bakes chicken breast fillets with a delicious coating of breadcrumbs, garlic and herbs, cutting the calories considerably but to taste you would never know! It could be versatile too: with the warmer weather I served it with potato salad and seasonal asparagus, but I think in colder weather it will be equally good with chips or mash, and a variety of veg or baked beans. Yum! Great recipe.

Poached Chicken and Tarragon Sauce
The Hairy Dieters (6) Make It Easy by Si King & Dave Myers
Half-Dozen Winners – Page 87

Finally I tried this dieter’s version of the French classic of gently poached chicken with a creamy tarragon sauce, however no naughty cream here but half-fat crème fraiche instead. With only six ingredients this was a super simple and economical dish to make – Perfect served with seasonal Jersey Royal new potatoes and green veg. My only niggle is the sauce was too thin for my liking, that could be easily fixed with more reduction and perhaps some cornflour though. Good recipe.

So altogether that’s four delicious new recipes. I also remade Jamie Oliver’s garlic, sage and honey Pork Chops (30 Min Meals) with his Garlicky Green Beans, and Jool’s Sweet Pea & Prawn Pasta (Save With Jamie). As well as The Hairy Biker’s Coconut Prawn Curry, but substituting the prawn for Quorn, (Hairy Dieters 1) and their White Bean and Tuna Fishcakes (Hairy Dieters 4). What a month or so of great spring cooking, however now I look forward to more sun, trying some new salad recipes and eating al fresco on the patio.

Do you fancy any of these recipes?

What cookbooks are you reading? Have you tried any new recipes?


New Read: Howards End

After watching the BBC’s delightful 2017 adaptation, starring the brilliant Hayley Atwell and Matthew MacFadyen, I was inspired to put E. M. Forster’s turn-of-the-century classic, Howards End onto my new list for The Classics Club. Then in March, I picked this up thinking it would be perfect for spring.

Howards End is considered by many to be Forster’s masterpiece, in which the author explores the slowly changing landscape, social conventions, codes of conduct and relationships in turn-of-the-century England. He does this with humour and pathos through the lives and interactions of three very different London families: the bohemian Schlegels; the rich, capitalist Wilcoxes and the impoverished Basts. The meeting of individuals with such polarised social status, world outlook and economic situation makes for some positive effects, comical blunders but also some disastrous consequences.

What, or should I saw who, really made this novel for me was the engaging Margaret Schlegel, an intelligent, idealistic and independent woman, with a love of the Arts, nature, travelling and social justice. Who, in a time when there were still many constrictions on women, is courageous enough to live the life and be who she wants to be, whilst also lovingly accepting others for who they are. Highlighted in her unwavering love for her rather irritating younger siblings: the flighty Helen and the pompously philosophical Tibby.

Similar it is with her love and compassion that Margaret draws many of the other main characters into the story and drives the plot along. First she befriends Ruth Wilcox, the matriarch of the Wilcox family, who is sick and alone, and in Margaret, Ruth believes she has met a kindred spirit. This later leads to the blossoming romance between Margaret and the widowed Henry Wilcox, who is a kind, practical and unsentimental businessman. Margaret also encourages and tries to help Leonard Bast, a poor Bank clerk with a passion for literature and music, after Helen accidentally takes his umbrella.

A lot of the story takes place in London, a little on the coast and in the country, however in the air always hangs Howards End… This house was the prized possession of Ruth Wilcox, which she wished to bequeath to Margaret, however even though her family don’t feel the same about the place, yet they can’t bare to part with it either. I could so easily picture the old, rambling house set in its semi-wild gardens, surrounded by fields out in the suburbs; that have yet to be swallowed up by London’s gradual expansion. For much of the book the house lies empty and it is Margaret who unintentionally brings life back to it. Forster creates a beautiful symmetry: beginning and ending the story with Howards End.

Oh I could go on, but I will stop. Overall I thought Howards End was a touching, humorous and masterful tale of family, society and change in the early 20th century, with vibrant characters and vivid descriptions of place. This did turn out to be a perfect read for Spring. Great read.

Have you read this? Or anything else by E. M. Forster?

This is book 8/50 for my Classics Club II reading challenge.

Adaptations: May 2019

Hello my fellow bookworms and adaptation lovers, here is what I watched in May:

Game of Thrones (Series 8)
Not Read (Yet)     TV Series     Television

The 8th and final series of this epic fantasy drama, based on George R R Martin’s books, that has had millions of us hooked on its scintillating political intrigue, family rivalry, back-stabbing, bloody battles, dragons and the dead! There has been much criticism of this final series, however other than the story and character arcs felt a little sped up and one disappointing death I don’t generally agree. I thought it was a breath-taking, heart-breaking and ultimately fitting end. With such a long-running series though I don’t think you could have pleased everyone! Great watch.

That’s only one new-to-me adaptations watched, but what a watch?! I also enjoyed comforting re-watches of Practical Magic (1998) and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001). Which brings my grand total up to three adaptations watched over the month. I have also continued watching American fantasy drama Once Upon a Time (Series 1) and the German war drama Das Boot (2018).

As for non-adaptations, I watched the charming, historical drama Victoria (Series 3) on ITV and I watched, back-to-back, the very amusing Ghosts, a new comedy series from some of the hilarious makers of Horrible Histories (2009-2013), on the BBC iPlayer.

Have you watched any of these? What have you been watching recently?

Goodbye May, Hello June 2019

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? May has absolutely flown by for me in a blur of four friends and family birthdays (including my baby brother’s 21st!), a lovely bank holiday weekend, buying a new car, and a short term at work which led to another week break. Even though it flew by, it was a quieter, more relaxing month, which left me plenty of time for some great reading. Here’s what I read:

Fiction: 3          Non-Fiction: 1

First, I finished reading the engaging, turn-of-the-century classic, Howards End by E. M. Forster off of my Classics Club list, which I was inspired to add to my list after watching the BBC’s delightful 2017 adaptation. I found the book to be an equal delight and the perfect spring read as I had hoped. Then I travelled further back to 16th century Scotland and France, in By Sword and Storm by Margaret Skea, the gripping and eagerly anticipated conclusion to Skea’s brilliant Munro Scottish Saga trilogy. It was great to catch up with well loved characters and see some conclusions for them… although I think teasingly left open enough for the possibility of more.

Finally, for something completely different, I indulged in a short, fun read of Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist by M. C. Beaton, the sixth full-length mystery from Beaton’s long-running cosy crime series. The premise for which was so familiar I thought this was a re-read, but the further I got into the twists and turns I had no idea what was coming, so either my memory is worse than I thought or I never actually read/finished this before.

Alongside these fictions, I also finished my continued read of the fascinating biography, Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley. Started back in January, I took my time over this in-depth and enthusiastic look into this beloved author’s life through the places and spaces that mattered to her.

Pick of the Month: I can’t choose!

Altogether that is a brilliant four books read – not only does that make this my best month numbers wise this year, it was all top-notch quality too. At the end of the month, I also started reading my first book off my 10 Books of Summer 2019 Reading Challenge: Runemarks by Joanne M. Harris; my book club‘s next read, Undivided by Vicky Beeching; and my Classics Club Spin result: The Time Machine by H. G. Wells.

In June, I look forward to a trip to a local Film and Comic Con; a special ‘Vision Evening’ at my church; celebrating Father’s Day and a trip to the theatre to see The Lady Vanishes. It is shaping up to be a busy month – Here’s hoping there is still plenty of time for reading!

What did you do and read in May? What are your plans for June?

New Books: April & May 2019

Hello my fellow bookworms, it has been a while since I did one of these posts, because I have been resisting the urge to buy any new books. However I have received a few review copies, which are free…so totally okay, right? Here’s the goodies I’ve got over the last two months:

Her Kind by Niamh Boyce

Radioactive Evolution by Richard Hummel

Back in April, I received two new books from two new authors. First, I was kindly sent a copy of the new historical fiction, Her Kind from the publisher Penguin. It is said to be a ‘vivid re-imagining of the events leading up to the Kilkenny Witch Trial’, so I am super excited about it!

Then I also happily accepted a review copy of Radioactive Evolution, a new science fiction and fantasy cross-genre, from the publicist, after it was described as a collision of Hunger Games, Ready Player One and Game of Thrones.

Caitlin’s Son by John A. Heldt

The Comedy Club by Peter Bartram

While in May, I received two review copies from authors I have enjoyed before. First Heldt’s new time-travel novel, Caitlin’s Son, which is the fourth book in his Carson Chronicles series. I have previously enjoyed several books from Heldt’s earlier American Journey series, so I look forward to trying more.

Then The Comedy Club is the third book in Bartram’s nostalgic, murder mystery series. Having already enjoyed Headline Murder and Stop Press Murder from the series, I am looking forward to more adventures with ace crime reporter, Colin Crampton in 1960’s Brighton.

Do you fancy any of these? What new books have you got recently?

New Read: Guards! Guards!

If you are a regular reader, you will know that I have been working my way through Terry Pratchett’s epic Discworld series: reading the books we already own or as we get our hands on them. Recently, my dad picked up a copy of Guards! Guards!, the eighth instalment in Pratchett’s fantastical Discworld series, but I had to wait patiently for him to slowly read it, before I could get my hands on it in mid-April.

In Guards! Guards!, we return to Pratchett’s magic, weird and fantastical Discworld, as the denizens of the ancient, sprawling, stinking twin-city of Ankh-Morpork are plagued by the reappearance of a fine specimen of the, long believed extinct, draco nobilis (“noble dragon” for those of us, who don’t understand italics). However not only does this unwelcome visitor have a nasty habit of charbroiling, indiscriminately people, buildings and anything else that gets in its path, it soon sets its sights on becoming king, hoarding the great city’s wealth in one giant pile and eating virgins…

To the unlikely rescue comes the drunken Captain Samuel Vimes, the new and overenthusiastic Constable Carrot, and the rest of the incompetent Night Watch. Who, along with the Unseen University’s orangutan librarian, the formidable Lady Sybil Ramkin and a small swamp dragon, risk everything –  including a good roasting – to try to stop this flying menace and restore order to the city, before it and them are burned to a crisp! What unfolds is a riotous adventure, with magic, a secret society, a dangerous theft, a couple of bar brawls, mysterious goings-on, incompetent policing and dragons… really, what is there not to love?!

This has got to be one of my new favourites from the series, although not quite great enough to topple the madcap, Macbeth parody, Wyrd Sisters from its top spot, but maybe equal to the wacky, Egyptian-inspired Pyramids. I have now read eleven of Pratchett’s Discworld novels, of which this is the eighth instalment published back in 1989. However this is a series I don’t feel you necessarily have to read in order, as the stories often follow various different groups of characters. In this case, this is the first book following Captain Vimes and the Night’s Watch, who I know are favourite characters for many. This is my first adventure with them and I look forward to more.

Overall, I thought Guards! Guards! was another excellent slice of fun and adventure, that shows how even the smallest, stupidest or commonest man or creature can make a difference, and it had me laughing-out-loud. The next instalment we currently own is Reaper Man. Great read.

Have you read this? What other Discworld novels have you read?

Challenge: 10 Books of Summer 2019

The sun is shining and we seem to be hurtling towards summer! So it is with much pleasure that I announce Cathy is hosting her brilliant 20 Books of Summer challenge (with the option of 15 or 10 levels too) again this year. As usual I am aiming for the lower goal and here are the 10 books I hope to read:

  1. Cold Fire by Dean Koontz
  2. The Dragon’s Blade: The Last Guardian by Michael R. Miller
  3. Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott
  4. The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory
  5. The Moor by Laurie R. King
  6. Queen of the North by Anne O’Brien
  7. Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett
  8. River Rising by John A. Heldt
  9. Runemarks by Joanne M. Harris
  10. Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

The challenge runs from the 3rd June to the 3rd September, so just after that I will check back in with you all to discuss what I manage to read!

Are you taking part in this summer challenge? Are there any of these books you think I should read first?