Saturday, January 31, 2015

Dinner, 31/1/15: Paprika baked fish with chorizo, lemon & thyme; new potatoes; cavolo nero

This is a recipe from Lorraine Pascal's book Home Cooking Made Easy, which has some nice, quick, simple things in it. We chose to have this with haddock, because the haddock was reduced to £9/kilo in the supermarket (and still looked lovely and fresh - not sure why it was reduced, but who am I to argue with that kind of price?).  I'm trying to cook a bit more fish - we all like it (though Geoff, Alex and I are the most fond of it) but sometimes it's hard (not to mention expensive) to cook fish for 5 people, so I often avoid it. This year I'm looking for a lot more ways to do it either in the oven or like we did with the salmon recently in a sauce in a pan, to avoid the logistics of trying to grill or fry that much fish. 

Anyway. This was lovely, and the chorizo and paprika really complemented the fish without overpowering it. Definitely a keeper. You can see the recipe online here.

Book Plan Update - January

At the start of the year, I made a plan (I don't really like the word "resolution" - adds too much pressure to my life!) to try to read through books I owned, and not buy any new books until I'd made a substantial reduction in the books I owned. I did, however, allow myself library books (both those I order in because they are part of a series I'm reading and those which I happen to see which take my fancy) and a few gifts, e.g. birthday and Mother's Day. (My birthday's not until November, so I don't see that helping a lot, but Mother's Day here is in March, so I know I've already asked for one book - I might allow myself a second if there's something I really want).

So, first month gone, how'd I do?

  • I didn't buy any new (to me) books, either from book shops or charity shops, so that's a good first step.
  • I did read some library books - three ordered in series that I'm reading (Ben Aaronovitch, Foxglove Summer; Louise Penny, The Long Way Home; Charlaine Harris, Dead Reckoning), and two that I saw on the shelf and fancied (Katharine Webb, The Night Falling; Patrick Ness/Siobhan Dowd, A Monster Calls (this one I've been meaning to read for a while after reading very good things about it)).  In two of these series, I am now caught up to as many books as the authors have written (and one just came out in December) so it's going to be a while before I can get my hands on another unless they WRITE FASTER. 
  • There were a couple of re-reads from the books I own, including the book that Alex and I were reading aloud as a bedtime book. (Georgette Heyer, Arabella; Richard Adams, Watership Down)
  • I managed to read two titles from my list. (Barbara Trapido, Frankie and Stankie; Samantha Hunt, The Seas)
So, although I only crossed two titles off my list of books I own but haven't read, I didn't add any (and actually, I'm over half way through another one, but I won't finish it today, so it will count as a February book).  Perhaps not quite as many off the list as I'd like, but so far, so good. And it's likely there won't be as many library books next month, as the only thing I've ordered recently are a couple of combine cookbook/memoirs.

So, here's the updated list of Books to Read in 2015. Yep, there are still 55 books on this list, and 11 months to go. That's 5 books from the shelf each month. Is that going to happen? Probably not, but if I can get through 3 or 4 each month, I'll be pretty happy.  And you never know.  One thing that will help is if I just don't go inside the library, so I don't get distracted by books on the "new books" shelf!
  1. Karin Altenberg, Island of Wings
  2. James Anderson, The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy
  3. Gerhand Bakker, The Twin
  4. The Small Hours, Susie Boyt
  5. Bill Bryson, One Summer: America 1927
  6. Michael Collins, The Resurrectionists
  7. Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (this one would be a re-read)
  8. Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
  9. Jim Crace, Harvest
  10. Esi Edugyan, Half Blood Blues
  11. Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex
  12. Jim Fergus, One Thousand White Women (Summer 2013)
  13. Anne Fine, All Bones and Lies
  14. Ford Maddox Ford, Parade's End (Nov 2012 - birthday present - bought after the BBC adaptation - but I knew I wouldn't read it straight away as I wanted to let time pass from the adaptation.  Enough time has probably passed now...)
  15. E M Forster, Howards End
  16. Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Christmas 2014)
  17. Miles Franklin, My Brilliant Career
  18. Robert Galbraith, The Cuckoo's Calling
  19. Patrick Gale, Rough Music
  20. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (re-read, bought shortly after his death - spring 2014 - as I was reminded how much I enjoyed it)
  21. Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South
  22. Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm
  23. Rumer Godden, Kingfishers Catch Fire
  24. Laurie Graham, A Humble Companion
  25. Graham Greene, Brighton Rock
  26. Nicholas Griffin, The House of Sight and Shadow
  27. Jane Haddam, Glass Houses
  28. Laurell K Hamilton, Bloody Bones
  29. Jennifer Johnston, Foolish Mortals (Autumn 2014 - charity shop find)
  30. Anjali Joseph, Sarasawati Park
  31. Jim Lynch, The Highest Tide
  32. W Somerset Maugham, The Magician
  33. Lorrie Moore, A Gate at the Stairs
  34. Kate Morton, The Distant Hours
  35. Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran
  36. Kate O'Brien, The Land of Spices
  37. Regina O'Melveny, The Book of Madness and Cures
  38. Michael Ondaatje, The Cat's Table
  39. Anuradha Roy, An Atlas of Impossible Longing (Winter 2013, bought in a cheap shop in Oxford)
  40. Kathy Reichs, Spider Bones
  41. Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Watcher in the Shadows (Christmas 2014)
  42. Richard Russo, Straight Man
  43. Simon Sebag Montefiore, One Night in Winter
  44. Muriel Spark, Memento Mori
  45. Mark Slouka, The Visible World
  46. Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Summer 2013 - a re-read, as I read it when a teen)
  47. Magda Szabo, The Door
  48. Amy Tan, The Valley of Amazement
  49. Scarlett Thomas, Pop Co
  50. Rose Tremaine, Merivel
  51. Rose Tremaine, Music & Silence
  52. Barry Unsworth, Losing Nelson
  53. Barry Unsworth, The Ruby in her Navel
  54. Ayelet Waldman, Love and Treasure (new in December 2014)
  55. December, Elizabeth Winthrop

Friday, January 30, 2015

Dinner, 30/1/15: Butter Chicken; Okra & Tomato; Flatbreads

We had this a little while back and all loved it; I had a specific request for it, so here it is again. Yummy again. Served with rice, and some curried okra & tomato. And the lovely flatbreads from our local shop. Mmm.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Book 9: The Night Falling, Katherine Webb


This is a historical novel, set in 1921 in Italy, and deals with a lot of issues between the peasants and the landowners, some of it pretty brutal, and some of it based on actual events. It's also the story of a young Englishwoman, her much older architect husband & her teenage stepson, spending time at the home of one of these landowners.  Parts of the story were a little slow going, I thought, and although I am generally a fan of mixed point of view novels, I'm not sure it always worked here. That said, it was definitely a good read, and had a lot to say about that time period, in a part of world I didn't know a lot of specific history of - including the rise of fascism, etc.

Dinner, 28/1/15: Bacon and Artichoke Pasta

A dish I've made before a number of times, with different types of pasta, and which we always enjoy. Nice & quick - only takes as long as it takes to cook the pasta!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dinner, 27/1/15: Ham, Vegetable & Barley Soup

Leftover Ham = Soup. No recipe, just carrots, celery, onion and broth, with barley and some chopped leftover ham. Mmm, tasty.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Dinner, 26/1/15: Ham & Tomato Stromboli; salad

We've decided that one stromboli isn't really enough for us. Two would be more than we need, but it's nice leftover in lunches, too, so I think next time, I'll make double the amount of dough...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Apple and Blackberry Crumble

Dinner, 25/1/15: Roast Ham, potatoes, carrots

The ham I forgot to put in the slow-cooker yesterday, but done in the oven (since I wasn't out all day); plus there's lots more - a bit for lunch and the rest for soup later in the week. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dinner, 24/1/15: Fish & Chips & Saveloy

I confess, I didn't cook this - we decided to get fish &chips on the way home after our day out at the theatre - it was late and although I had originally intended to put some ham in the slow-cooker, with all the chaos of moving children around from one place to another in time to make the theatre (and the added complication of no trains thrown in) I forgot.  It seemed like a nicer option than some sort of pasta dish, which is what I would have thrown together otherwise.  We don't get takeaway often, but it sure is nice from time to time!

Grimm Tales

Went to a really interesting theatre experience today, Grimm Tales at the Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf. I'm very familiar with the area as I used to work right next to the Oxo Tower, but when I was there they were just beginning to redevelop the Tower and other buildings and I don't think the Bargehouse was in use yet.  It's an old warehouse (originally a bargehouse), and they have transformed the space into an immersive theatre set. There are a number of different large rooms, over 5 floors or so, connected by a large central hall with stairwell and two other stairwells - one  at either end of the building. The performance consists of six separate "tales" from the Philip Pullman re-telling of Grimm's Tales, of which you get to watch five.  There were three different groups of audience members watching at any one time, in the different spaces, and between the tales, you moved around through the building to the next space.  Some of the spaces were used more than once, with the set altered somewhat between. The players worked in groups of 5 or 6 per tale, sharing the narration and acting between them, sometimes with puppets as well.  No photography was allowed during the performances, but afterwards, they let everyone roam around and explore the whole space; if I'd known, I'd have taken my camera. Instead, some pretty bad photos from my phone. 

All of the spaces were pretty dimly lit - many with loads of dangly lightbulbs from the ceiling - but some with other things. Everything seemed only sort of half built, and the props were both really creative and quite minimal at the same time. 

This was taken in one of the stairwells, which was covered with different size mirrors - the dresses shown are reflected in the mirror, and are hanging in the centre well of the stairwell. 

There were several areas set up as bars, for the pre-show time and the interval, and they had lots of hidden goodies - like loads of these bright red apples hidden about. 

I quilt spotted a couple of pieces in one of the sets - you actually sat on benches along the sides of the rooms, but were very close to the action. 

Here's Alex having his picture taken in the cage from the Hansel and Gretel story...

...these bird cages, some with dolls in, were also from the Hansel and Gretel set. 

This picture frame was from the set of the one story we didn't get to see, but we did see a different story in this room, when the set was arranged a little differently. 

The moon and birch trees were in one of the bar areas. 

The stairwells were covered in interesting old pictures, many of them altered in some way, like the snake added into this drawing of two fashionable ladies.

We then walked back to Waterloo station along the river (we went to the matinee, but by the time it finished, it was full dark), admiring the London lights.

I do love London...

Friday, January 23, 2015

Book 8: A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness

Yes, I admit, I did read this in one afternoon/evening, but in addition to being a YA title, it's also more of a novella than a novel, so it's not too surprising. I've been meaning to check it out for a while, and happened to see it on the shelf in the library the other week, so grabbed it while I had the chance. I have to say, it was excellent. Compelling and affecting and with fabulous illustrations. They really add something - I won't go so far as to say they make the book, but they certainly take the story to a whole other level than the already excellent text does. Yes, it's dark and serious, but don't let that stop you.

Dinner, 23/1/15: Salmon with greens and creme fraiche, mashed potato

This is a little hard to see, but was a lovely dish of salmon fillets cooked with peas and broad beans in a creme-fraiche (and other things) sauce.  The salmon was moist and lovely, and the sauce was great over the mashed potatoes. We all liked this.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Book 7: Dead Reckoning

A quick read, nearing the end of this series (Sookie Stackhouse, Southern Vampire series).  It's not serious fiction perhaps, but it's quite a fun series (I don't really like the TV show which is based on it, though I know it's popular) when you want something light. I do think it needs to come to a resolution soon, though, or the charm will wear off!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dinner, 21/1/15: Green Pesto Tagliatelle with courgettes and pancetta

This was great - the flavours worked really well together. You can see I used paparadelle instead of tagliatelle (I had some in the house), but that didn't matter - and anyway, we like the big, flat noodles. Definitely going into our quick weeknight pasta supper rotation.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dinner, 20/1/15: Mexican Bean and Tortilla Bake, Salad

We had this before and really liked it, so here it is again. I altered the recipe a little - added a second tin of kidney beans, and this time, as I had some leftover cooked chicken in the fridge, threw that in as well. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Book 6: Frankie & Stankie, Barbara Trapido

I've read a number of Barbara Trapido books before (Brother of the More Famous Jack, Travelling Horn Player, Noah's Ark to name a few) and this one is very different - it's a story of sisters growing up in South Africa, and while I enjoyed it (and learned lots about South Africa's history), I think I like the style of the other books of hers which I've read, better. This read more like a memoir, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, just different. 

Dinner, 19/1/15: Leek, Potato and Rocket Soup

Modified a little - I added the rest of the bag of rocket to the soup while cooking, so it was more rockety. And increased the quantities a bit. We had bread as well, of course...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dinner, 18/1/15: Macaroni Cheese & Salad

After a long day out up in town, we wanted something easy and tasty - mac and cheese it is!  And I made loads, so there should be some leftovers for lunch for at least one day - maybe two or three...

A Day in London with some friends