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?


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?

New Read: The House on the Strand

After loving My Cousin Rachel last summer, it felt right, back in June, to start this summer of reading with another of Daphne du Maurier’s wonderfully atmospheric novels. Taking recommendations from my fellow bloggers, I decided to read du Maurier’s 1969 novel, The House on the Strand next.

When Dick Young’s old friend, Magnus, offers him an escape to his country-pile of Kilmarth, on the Cornish coast for the summer holidays, Dick jumps at the chance. However there is a catch… Magnus also wants him to trial a new drug, a drug which transports Dick back to the wild, bleak Cornwall of the troublesome fourteenth century. Where Dick witnesses the intrigues of the local gentry, and becomes fixated on a horseman named Roger and the captivating Lady Isolde Carminowe. But soon Dick’s repeated trips see him withdrawing from the modern world and his family, and lead to some worrying and dangerous repercussions in the present.

After having previously only read novels by du Maurier set in the 1930s or earlier, it was a little disconcerting when I started reading this to hear mention of televisions and dishwashers! However this more modern, safe, comfortable setting is used to great effect as a clear juxtaposition to the wild, dangerous past that Dick travels back to. I must admit time travel was not something I would have ever linked with the gothic queen, du Maurier, but in fact she does it very well! Creating two gripping time lines which I was equally invested in – a precursor/inspiration perhaps for those newer dual narrative novels by Susanna Kearsley and others that I enjoy so much.

That being said, Dick is not the most likeable of characters, especially with the indifference and sometimes even contempt he treats his wife and stepsons with. As the terrible consequences of Dick’s addiction start to unfold it was them I truly felt for and Magnus: Dick’s long-lasting friendship with whom is about his only endearing feature. Like Dick though I did feel for and found myself rooting for Roger and Isolde in the past. Which made for double tension! Hauntingly I watched as Dick was powerless to help them as their fate was revealed, while I myself was powerless to stop him.

Now this wouldn’t be a review of a du Maurier novel without mentioning her ever vivid and realistic portrayal of the Cornish coast, that, like in many of her novels, is as important as a character in its own right. In the modern day, I was able to immerse myself in long summer days of sailing, fishing and picnics. While, in stark contrast, in the fourteenth century we go through all the seasons: from Isolde’s children riding on a sunny day, to a ship floundering in a storm and deep snow trapping everyone indoors. Although some of the houses have come and gone, the only big (ominous) change to the landscape is the railway cutting through the land in the present day.

All in all, I thought The House on the Strand was a superb, time-travelling horror, that had me gripped from beginning to end. Not as great as Rebecca but definitely a contender for my top ten reads of this year. I look forward to reading even more from du Maurier – I have Frenchman’s Creek and The Loving Spirit on my shelf to choose from next. Great read.

Have you read this? What do you think I should read next?

This is book 1/10 for my 10 Books of Summer 2018 reading challenge.

Cookbooks: June & July 2018

Hello my fellow bookworms and foodies, over the last month and a half these are the new recipes I have tried:

Sag Aloo Korma
Super Food Family Classics by Jamie Oliver
Curries & Stews – Page 128

Just before the mad heat arrived, I had my vegetarian friend come round for dinner, giving me the perfect opportunity to try out this veggie korma recipe. A mixture of regular potatoes, sweet potatoes and spring onions are fried off in korma paste, then simmered with chard, spinach and chickpeas in milk, and as the potatoes naturally thicken the sauce – no naughty cream is needed! A rich, ‘creamy’ curry, which is packed with all the good stuff. Win, win! Great recipe.

Tuna and Sweetcorn Wraps
The Hairy Dieters (2) Eat For Life by Si King & Dave Myers
Meals On The Move – Page 140

After enjoying the fresh, juicy Ham Salad Wraps in May, I decided to try this tuna version. Like the ham wraps, these are simply large tortillas generously filled with lettuce, sliced pepper, cucumber and carrot, but this time with a mixture of tuna, sweetcorn and mayonnaise. Again these made for lovely, satisfying lunches without too much stodge, which I enjoyed even more than the ham ones! Definitely be making these again. Great recipe.

Chilli Salad Bowls
The Hairy Dieters (1) by Si King & Dave Myers
Vegetable & Salads – Page 116-117

Then the heat wave hit and eating our regular chilli favourite became pretty much out of the question, so I decided to give this a go instead. A real gutsy salad of lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and spring onions; tossed in lime juice; served in baked tortilla bowls and topped with chilli mince, cheese, salsa and crème fraiche. While a little messy to eat, this was delicious and easy to make, especially as I used ready-made tortilla bowls. Great recipe.

Summer Veg Pilaf
The Co-operative Magazine

After enjoying two of the Co-op’s light, summery risotto recipes, I thought I would try this alternative rice recipe, that I had also cut out and saved. I have never made a pilaf before, but this was super simple to make in just 35 minutes. A rich, spicy one-pan rice dish with peas, green beans and courgettes, which was perfect served with crunchy, salad leaves for an easy mid-week meal. Great recipe.

That’s four fabulous new recipes tried altogether. I also re-made The Hairy Dieters’ yummy Chicken Stir-Fry, although I think I might need to give up on the crispy coating on the chicken: it just won’t stick!

Do you fancy any of these recipes?

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

New Read: Vanishing Grace

As a practicing Christian, I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and I am very lucky that my church has it’s own book club to help me with this. In May, we read and discussed the classic Christian memoir, God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew. Next up, for our June meeting, was Vanishing Grace by best-selling evangelical author Philip Yancey.

Yancey’s international best-seller What’s So Amazing About Grace? explored Christianity’s great distinctive element from all other faiths: grace. Now in Vanishing Grace he returns to this theme and vigorously questions what exactly the church has to offer the broken world of today, and why, to outsiders, Christians often seem the bearers of bad rather than the good news! (I haven’t read the previous book, but I didn’t find this a problem as I found this book didn’t refer back to it or presume you had knowledge from it.)

Yancey discusses this whilst reflecting on the current, depressing state of the evangelical church in the USA. Honestly, I found this first half of the book slow and pretty hard going. Mainly because I found it difficult to relate to as – while the Church of England church I attend is evangelical in style – I am not an American evangelical and thankfully, I have never faced such negative and angry views against my faith.

Fortunately, Yancey then moves on to explain how it doesn’t need to be this way and draws our attention to modern-day pilgrims, activists and artists as examples of how to communicate the gospel to a world that thinks it is less and less relevant to them. Most importantly he suggests that Christians need to remind themselves about the good news at the heart of their own faith. This second half of the book was a lot easier going for me and I read it in less than half the time than the first half took me! Which means I finished this book just in time for my church’s book club meeting in mid-June.

At the meeting, I was relieved to find I wasn’t the only one who struggled a little with the structure of this book, in particular the first half. We all agreed we much preferred the second half, where Yancey highlighted inspiring individuals who live out and share the good news in simple, fresh ways, even though we felt the final chapter was superfluous as it added nothing new. Several members shared that they had read and enjoyed other books by this author, and that this was perhaps not his best. So I am definitely keeping an open mind about reading more by Yancey.

Overall, I thought Vanishing Grace was a challenging read and sometimes we need to be challenged, especially about our faith. Whilst I didn’t feel this had the best structure and style, I did think it had some real gems of wisdom, advice and inspiration within. Good read.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Philip Yancey?

Goodbye June, Hello July 2018

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are well? Surprisingly, here in the UK, we have been in a blistering heat-wave for the last week or so. As well as the scorching temperatures, I have been far too busy for reading out on the patio. With three school trips; the busy wind-down to the end of term, and applying for new jobs. Plus I enjoyed an Olly Murs tribute & curry night and booked my summer holiday! During all that this is what I managed to read:

Fiction: 1          Non-Fiction: 1

First this month, I finished reading Christian non-fiction Vanishing Grace by best-selling evangelical author, Philip Yancey. A thought-provoking and sometimes challenging read, which made for a very interesting discussion at my church’s June book club meeting. Then I got my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge started with the gripping, gothic suspense The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier, which had me time-travelling back to the wild, dangerous Cornwall of the 1300s. So while a slow start in numbers, it was a cracking start for quality. I’m afraid I am really behind on my reviews though, so you will have to wait for my full thoughts on both of these.

Pick of the Month: The House on the Strand

Altogether that is just two books finished, which makes this my new, lowest month of the year! Clearly I have just been too busy! However through out June, I have been reading non-fiction Charles II, Biography of an Infamous King by John Miller and the swashbuckling classic Sandokan, The Pirates of Malaysia by Emilio Salgari. Then at the end of the month, I started reading Eleanor of Aquitaine by Christopher Nicole and The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen (for my church’s next book club meeting).

In July, I look forward, bitter-sweetly, to the end of term, the summer holidays and hopefully reading more!

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

Adaptations: June 2018

Hello my fellow bookworms and adaptation lovers, it is time for an update on the adaptations I have been watching over the last month:

A Very English Scandal (2018)
Not Read     TV Series     Television

On the BBC iPlayer, my dad and I binged watched this new British three-part drama, based on John Preston’s book, which dramatizes the political scandal that rocked Britain in the 1970s. In which Jeremy Thorpe (Hugh Grant), the leader of the Liberal Democrats, was tried and acquitted of conspiring to murder his former lover, Norman Scott (Ben Wishaw). With a gay love-affair, a bungled murder plot and a dead dog… this really has all the ingredients for a very funny yet chilling English scandal! Great watch.

That is one new-to-me adaptation and as I have not re-watched any adaptations either, that’s just one adaptation finished over the whole month! However I am also still watching The Handmaid’s Tale (Series 2) and Poldark (Series 4), so will hopefully have more to share with you next month.

As for non-adaptations, after finishing the gripping final series of The Tunnel, I thought I would go back to check out the original Scandinavian series, The Bridge (Series 1). Even with the subtitles this was just as gripping and I can now see how well The Tunnel’s makers transposed the original story and characters. I also went to the cinema to see the super fun Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018). Then right at the end of the month, I finished watching the often brilliant but also baffling and bonkers Westworld (Series 2).

Have you watched any of these? What did you watch in June?