Saturday, April 30, 2016

April Roundup


  • 30th: Sweet Potato & Spinach Gratin, Lamb Steaks
  • 29th: Tartiflette Pizza
  • 28th: Everyone fend for yourself
  • 27th: Plaice, Potatoes, Peas
  • 26th: Mixed Bean Goulash (Alex cooking)
  • 25th: Dumplings, Stir Fry Veg (Sarah cooking)
  • 24th: Chicken with Creme Fraiche & Mustard
  • 23rd: Roasted Cauliflower & Chickpeas
  • 22nd: Potato & Carrot Tart
  • 21st; Everyone find your own dinner
  • 20th: Pasta with Bolognese Sauce
  • 19th: Spaghetti with Courgettes
  • 18th: Minty Lamb Flatbreads, Salad
  • 17th: Cauliflower Fritters, Roast Cauliflower leaves
  • 16th: Chicken Jalfrezi
  • 15th: Thai Style Mince
  • 14th: Brussels sprouts and blue cheese pizza
  • 13th: Baked Risotto Primavera
  • 12th: Leftover Chicken, Potatoes, salad
  • 11th: Chickpea & Chorizo Stew
  • 10th: Roast Chicken, roast potatoes, cabbage
  • 9th: Away
  • 8th: Away
  • 7th: Away (Sweden)
  • 6th: Macaroni Cheese
  • 5th: Pea and New Potato Curry
  • 4th: Tofu and Spring Veg Stir Fry
  • 3rd: Austrian Hash
  • 2nd: Ham, Potatoes, Broccoli
  • 1st: Penne all' Arrabiata

Dinner, 30/4/16: Sweet Potato and Spinach Gratin (Good Food) with Lamb Steaks

Not bad, though not so thrilling I'd rush right out and have it again next week (until last night's dinner). The gratin was cooked nicely, it just lacked zing. I put a lot more spinach in than the recipe called for as well; the amount in the recipe would barely have covered the bottom layer of sweet potatoes.

Book Plan Update - April 2016

Continuing in 2016 to make inroads on the books I own (un-read) and not buy too many new ones. Progress to date:
  1. January: books removed from list: 7,  books added: 2; net result -5
  2. February: books removed from list: 4, books added: 0; net result -4 (total YTD: -9)
  3. March: books removed from list: 8, books added:8; net result 0 (total YTD: -9)
In April:
  • I  read 5 titles from my list (Howards End by E M Forster, The Bees by Laline Paull, Lisette's List by Susan Vreeland, The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas, The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer)
  • I re-read seven books we owned already (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J K Rowling, Summer of the Dragon by Elizabeth Peters, Last Act by Jane Aiken Hodge, Tregaron's Daughter by Madeleine Brent, Whose BodyClouds of Witness and Unnatural Death by  Dorothy L Sayers)
  • I tried & abandoned one title from my list, which I just couldn't get into (Brighton Rock by Graham Greene)
  • I read one book which is in the read-and-sent-to-the-charity-shop pile; apparently I've read this before, if I believe my own reading lists (in 2008), but I don't remember it at all, not even that sort of vague familiarity you get with something you read in the dim & distant past. (Bloodlines, Jan Burke)
  • I bought one book in a bookshop in Lund while visiting Sweden and read it almost right away, so it didn't really get added to The List (Wolf Winter by Ceclia Ecback)
April's tally is therefore...
books read: 14
books removed from list: 6,  books added: 0; net result -6
[Goal (no more than 1 book in for every two books removed)  achieved/exceeded this month.]

Here's the updated list of Books to Read in 2016.  There were 55 books at the beginning of January, and now there are 40 - of those, only 5 are left from before 2015. [Books with an asterisk]. 
  1. Kate Atkinson, A God in Ruins (Waterstones Kingston, January 2016)
  2. Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone (AbeBooks, March 2016)
  3. Philip Baruth, The Brothers Boswell (Waterstones Canterbury bargain bin, July 2015)
  4. Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead (AbeBooks, October 2015)
  5. Wilkie Collins, The Haunted Hotel (birthday present, November 2015)
  6. Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (Waterstones Kingston, Boxing Day 2015)
  7. Arthur Conan Doyle, Adventure of Sherlock Holmes (World of Books, October 2015)
  8. Rene Denfield, The Enchanted (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)
  9. Jean-Paul Didierlaurente, The Reader on the 6.27 (Waterstones Piccadilly, March 2016)
  10. Hans Fallada, Alone in Berlin (car boot sale, Bristol, Sept 2015)
  11. Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend (Waterstones Piccadilly, March 2016)
  12. 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...) *
  13. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (would be a re-read, bought shortly after his death - spring 2014 - as I was reminded how much I enjoyed it and I didn't seem to own a copy - think my old one fell apart, probably...) *
  14. Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South (2014)*
  15. Kate Grenville, The Lieutenant (charity shop, December 2015)
  16. Frances Hardinge, A Face Like Glass (Mother's Day present, March 2016)
  17. Melissa Harrison, At Hawthorn Time (Waterstones Piccadilly, March 2016)
  18. Georgette Heyer, A Christmas Party (from my mother, December 2015)
  19. Anthony Horowitz, Moriarty (Waterstones Kingston, Boxing Day 2015)
  20. Andrew Michael Hurley, The Loney (Waterstones Piccadilly, March 2016)
  21. Donna Leon, Doctored Evidence (charity shop, December 2015)
  22. Maria McCain, The Wilding (charity shop, December 2015)
  23. Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian (charity table, Wetland Centre, May 2015)
  24. Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men (charity shop, December 2015)
  25. John McGregor, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (charity shop, April 2015 - will be a re-read as have read it in (apparently) October 2004 for a book group)
  26. Tom McNeal, Far Far Away (AbeBooks, January 2016)
  27. Philipp Meyer, American Rust (charity shop, December 2015)
  28. Alice Munro, Runaway (Waterstones Piccadilly, March 2016)
  29. Kim Newman, An English Ghost Story (The Last Bookshop, Brisol, Sept 2015)
  30. Flannery O'Connor, Complete Stories (charity shop, December 2015)
  31. Elizabeth Redfern, The Music of the Spheres  (charity shop, December 2015)
  32. Peter Robinson, Bad Boy  (charity shop, December 2015)
  33. Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Prisoner of Heaven (charity shop, August 2015)
  34. Sunjeev Sahota, The Year of the Runaways  (Mother's Day present, March 2016)
  35. Jane Smiley, Some Luck (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)
  36. Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Barnes & Noble (in MD), Summer 2013 - a re-read, as I read it when a teen) *
  37. Matthew Thomas, We Are Not Ourselves (Waterstones Kingston, Boxing Day 2015)
  38. Rose Tremain, Tresspass (charity shop, December 2015)
  39. Barry Unsworth, The Ruby in her Navel (2014) *
  40. William Wharton, Birdy (The Last Bookshop, Bristol, Sept 2016

Friday, April 29, 2016

Dinner, 29/4/16: Tartiflette Pizza (Woman & Home)

Smashing. Though as Geoff so rightly says, what's not to like, with cheese, shallots & bacon together? The cheese was Reblochon, so it does duplicate a tartiflette in as much as you can on a pizza, and it was really extremely tasty. The recipe made two and we ate one and a slice from the second, so there's leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Yum.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Dinner, 27/4/16: Plaice, Potatoes, Beans & Peas

No recipe on this one, just fish, veg and potatoes (mine exploded in the oven - can you tell?). Olivia was out at dinner time at a rehearsal for her drama exam, so it seemed a good time to have fish (she's not crazy about it). 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Dinner, 26/4/16: Mixed Bean Goulash (Good Food Mag) (Alex cooking)

This is a meal we've had before and honestly requires more assembly than cooking - it's largely tins of beans (and one of sweetcorn, which wasn't in the original recipe, but which I added to get some more veg in), with a chopped onion and some spices. But it's a good meal for a 13YO boy to put together on a busy night and it's tasty, healthy and cheap. We added some garlic bread on the side for interest. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Book 40: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

An excellent read, which I won't describe too much, as I don't want to give anything away. It deals with mental health, loss, family, grieving and I found it very moving. 

Dinner, 24/4/16: Chicken Traybake with Mustard & Creme Fraiche (Good Food)

Nice, easy, one dish meal - everything goes in together and cooks. One we've had before and will no doubt have again. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Dinner, 23/4/16: Roasted Cauliflower with Chickpeas and Harissa (Family Style Food)

I've made this recipe before, but I changed it up a little this time, adding some chopped fresh spinach to the onion mixture and also, chopping up the leaves & stems (not the really thick central stem) of the cauliflower and roasting that separately as well before adding in to the mix. It was excellent, even better than last time. And if you left off the feta cheese sprinkle at the end, suitable for any dining vegans.

Book 39: Unnatural Death, Dorothy L Sayers (re-read)

This one I think I've only read once before, and though I remembered more or less how it was done (and by whom, though I think that's fairly evident from early on; it's more the how and why which are the issues) it was still an excellent read. Sayers always weaves a nice story and it's great fun to watch it unfold. Next up in re-reading this series is a collection of short stories, so I will probably intersperse with something else, though first, another book entirely!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Dinner, 22/4/16: Potato & Carrot Tart (Texas Coop Power Magazine)

My friend Sharon pointed this gem out to me some years ago, and we've made it a number of times - we all like it.  The recipe is here, though I've changed it - I make it bigger, basically, using 4 carrots or so - large ones - and more potatoes, however many I need to fill the tart dish. I adjust the rest of the ingredients up as necessary to go with the increased amount of filling. 

Book 38: Bloodlines by Jan Burke

I always enjoy the books in this series (the Irene Kelly series), and indeed, have read the early ones more than once. According to my reading logs/Goodread/etc, I have read this before (in 2008) but I didn't remember it at all - not even that sort of vague recognition you get when you know you've read something before but don't really remember how it all fits together. Which is fine; it feels like a brand new book, so that's ok.   There are only a few more of them, I think - I have two on my shelf to read before finishing off the series - and as far as I know, that's it.  This one was a little different than some as it tracks a very old mystery at different stages of life in some of the main characters (like Irene's mentor O'Connor, who we never actually meet, as he dies in the first book of the series). I really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Dinner, 20/4/16: Pasta with Bolognese Sauce (Geoff cooking)

No recipe, just his usual (extremely tasty) ragu. With wholewheat pasta, though you wouldn't bet on it from this photo!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Dinner, 19/4/16: Spaghetti with Courgettes and Lemon (Good Food)

A very quick recipe, which doesn't even involve cooking the courgettes - you just grate them. Tasty and healthy. And I used my obsessive food blogging today to prove a point to my husband who said we'd just had this dish "a few weeks ago" - last occurance was indeed in March - 2015. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dinner, 18/4/16: Minty Lamb Flatbreads (Good Food), Salad

A very quick mid week meal - I think it took about 20 minutes start to finish. We are lucky to have a local shop with loads of Middle Eastern goods, so the flatbreads are always available, but you could use pita breads or tortillas or something instead if you didn't have access to Khobez flatbreads.  Served with salad, not pictured...

Book 37: Clouds of Witness, Dorothy L Sayers (re-read)

As I mentioned, I'm re-reading this series in order. Trying not to simply whiz through them all, though the temptation is strong. Such an excellent series of detective stories. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Dinner, 17/4/16: Cauliflower Fritters, Roast Cauliflower Leaves (delicious. magazine)

We had these a while back and thought them excellent, and in light of a recent conversation on Facebook about cauliflower leaves, I have been thinking about cauliflower lately and so decided to do them again.

Cauliflower leaves (and the thicker stem part of the leaves) are all perfectly edible, yet many of us throw them away without even thinking about it. I've used them before in a curry, and a friend recently used them in soup, but this time, I just (after some Googling by Geoff) washed them, trimmed off the really thick ends, sliced them up, tossed them in some olive oil with dill and garlic powder & seasoning and roasted them in the oven for about 20 minutes. They were really nice; next time I might try them with sesame oil and soy sauce, another suggestion. Cauliflower is an amazingly versatile vegetable and so many people never eat it in any other way than with cheese sauce (which, don't get me wrong, is also excellent).

Book 36: Whose Body, Dorothy L Sayers (re-read)

For some reason, I've had it in the back of my mind lately that I want to re-read the Lord Peter Wimsey detective novels; finally decided to act on this thought. Going to do them all in order, and I think I might hunt out the short stories (which I don't own) and slot them in place as well as I go through the series. I don't think I've read most of the stories (though I have read some), so that should be fun. I may, in my old (ok, middle) age, be coming around to short stories, which I never used to like much. Read most of this one last night in a single sitting, only the last chapter or so to finish off this morning. Think I will go to the next one straight away!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Dinner, 16/4/16: Chicken Jalfrezi (Hairy Bikers/Dieters)

A curry we've had several times before - we really like the contrast between the main curry and the large vegetable chunks, which are only cooked a little at the end before adding to the main curry. And it's from one of the diet cookbooks by the Hairy Bikers, which means it's fairly good for you! Win-win.

Book 35: The Illusionists, Rosie Thomas

A good solid, historical novel. I was slightly worried from the blurb and subject matter that it would be a little too pot-boiler-y, but it wasn't at all, which was a relief. A story of life among some rather temperamental theatre players in the Victorian age, with interesting bits of magic, and some insight (perhaps) into middle-class life, but mainly a story of the characters, their personalities, loves, etc. Enjoyable!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Dinner, 15/4/16: Thai Style Spicy Rice (Ainsley Harriot)

This is a dish we've had lots of times, sometimes with turkey mince, more often with pork mince. This time, I added both bamboo shoots and bean sprouts to the dish to bulk it out a bit, and to avoid having to do some sort of veg on the side. Both worked well, I think; I may include them in future, too. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Dinner, 14/4/16: Brussels sprouts and blue cheese pizza (Good Food)

As odd as this may sound, it was actually excellent. The sprouts weren't too strong (though I like sprouts anyway) as they were shredded before topping the pizza, so only cooked lightly. I added a leek as well, as I had one which wanted using up.  I made two pizzas, as we are hungry (some might say greedy) and with the second, I used other cheese than blue, as the kids aren't huge blue cheese fans (though I think it went really well with the sprouts). 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Dinner, 13/4/16: Baked Risotto Primavera (Good Food)

Although we are back to school after the Easter Holidays, most of the activities which the kids have in the evenings (and indeed, my own yoga class, a Thursday evening item) are not back until next week, which means time to cook a little bit more time-consuming meals than usual. Usually, it's a very tight time window between when I finish doing my after-school tutoring and when someone has to be out of the house for something. Hence all the quick meals and other people cooking and what not. It's nice to get back into the swing of things a little more slowly.   

Normal risotto isn't a dish which takes very long, to be sure, but a little too long for many weekdays. This one is done largely in the oven and it was nice to have a little bit of time in the oven when it didn't require attention, rather than the usual deal with risotto, which is constant stirring. I think I cooked this a bit too long, as the rice was a little more al dente than ideal, but on the whole, a successful approach.

I've tagged this as a vegetarian meal; as it happens, I used chicken stock in mine, because I had the carcass from last weekend's chicken to use, but you could easily make it vegetarian...

Monday, April 11, 2016

Book 34: Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback

Picked this up recently while in Sweden; it's by a Swedish author (well, from Sweden, although writing in English originally) and set in the far north in 1717. Lots of superstition, religion and magic entwined with the real-feeling portrayal of ekeing out a survival in a wild, brutal land. Very compelling and atmospheric. A winner.

Dinner, 11/4/16: Chickpea & Chorizo Stew (Good Food)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Dinner, 10/4/16: Roast chicken, potatoes, cabbage

Home from travelling about, back to a very traditional English kind of Sunday meal...  with a second chicken cooked for leftovers in the week.

Book 33: Lisette's List by Susan Vreeland

This is a book I'd been waiting eagerly for, as I've enjoyed her other books very much; I'm not that sure about this one. The style is somewhat different (focusing on a completely fictional character rather than a real artist or person, though it's still highly steeped in real/realistic art) and I found the character of Lisette a little hard to get inside; she seemed quite naive and childlike, though perhaps she was just a woman of her time and I'm too far away from that time and place to really understand her (Vichy France). There were still many things I liked about the story and I did find it compelling, seeing if she would manage to find her paintings (hidden during the war to prevent the Nazis stealing/destroying them). 

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Standing at the standing stones

In Ales Stenar, Skane, Sweden. More photos from a great day out, here

Friday, April 08, 2016

Velkommen til København

Spent the day browsing all around Copenhagen; lots of photos in an album on Facebook...

Thursday, April 07, 2016

An afternoon in Lund

A few sights around Lund.  I never know these days whether to blog my trips and visits or simply put photos on Facebook, so I kind of do both. Confusing, perhaps. Hence the collage!

Book 32: The Bees by Laline Paull

This was an extraordinary book. A little unusual--who am I kidding, a LOT unusual--but very well conceived and executed. Definitely the most original idea I've encountered in quite a while.

Book in

I hadn't intended to even go inside the bookshop while here in Lund, but Geoff dragged me in, so it's not really my fault I ended up with a book...

Book 31: Howards End by E M Forster

Not sure about this. I know I would have liked it quite a bit when I was younger, but I found myself a bit annoyed at many of the characters and how they behaved; perhaps I've just moved away from being interested in this sort of person, unless it's done with more humour and lightness of touch. I know it's supposed to be his masterpiece and I won't deny the writing is very good; I know it addresses issues of social convention and personal relationships and intellectualism and whatnot, but I just couldn't really make myself care all that much about any of the people involved. 

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Book 30: Tregaron's Daughter by Madeleine Brent (re-read)

And the final one (for now) in this comfort binge. I read all the Madeleine Brent books when I was younger - and I think they are probably aimed at a slightly younger audience than some of the other stories of this type - but I still find them nice to retreat to when your brain just wants a bit of a break.

Dinner, 6/4/16: Macaroni Cheese & Salad

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Book 29: Last Act by Jane Aiken Hodge (re-read)

As predicted: something else familiar, easy, comforting. Jane Aiken Hodge is excellent for historical (and contemporary to mid 20th century) romances. On a par I think with Georgette Heyer.

Dinner, 5/4/16: Pea and New Potato Curry (delicious. magazine)

Thai yellow curry with peas and new potatoes. Served with sticky rice. Yum.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Book 28: Summer of the Dragon by Elizabeth Peters (re-read)

Having got a bit bogged down in my current book (Howards End) I decided I needed to revisit some old favourites - the reading equivalent of watching a really good rom-com, I guess. So, my favourite Elizabeth Peters (well, one of them). And I adore the kitch cover, which is actually the cover my own ex-library copy has. One of these sorts of relaxing comfort books in a row isn't usually enough, so watch this space for a few more in the days to come!

Dinner, 4/4/16: Tofu and Spring Veg Stir Fry (unknown source*)

* might be Cook Vegetarian magazine - it's not a style I recognise readily, meaning it's not a magazine I buy often, but its logo has a big green V...

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Dinner, 3/4/16: Austrian Hash (Good Food)

Modified - this was to use up the extra ham; I added shredded brussels sprouts to the mix of mainly ham, potatoes and onions. Tasty.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Book 27: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J K Rowling (re-read)

I'm re-reading my way through Harry Potter this year, and am really enjoying the extra complexity of the books (compared to the films). I haven't read these in a while, and I'd forgotten just how good they actually are. Might re-read the Hunger Games trilogy this year as well, now that I've seen all the films. I reckon those books are better as well... (Don't get me wrong; I think they've done a good job with both film series.)

Dinner, 2/4/16: Ham, Potatoes, Broccoli