Fiction Friday

I can’t believe it’s raining again. Oh for a bit of frost, or snow or sun or something to relieve the monotony of damp greyness that’s permeating everything at the moment!

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

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Who would have thought Norse mythology could be so much fun?

To be honest, to begin with I thought “oh no, we’re in Tolkein -esque territory here” , what with lists of the sons of Buri, and those of Ymir, and Middle World and whatnot. Having ploughed my way painfully through the first of the Lord of The Rings trilogy – The Fellowship of the Ring, skipped the Two Towers and read the last chapter of the Return of the King just to check it all turned out ok in the end, I felt a sense of doom, doom and gloom, on reading the first chapter of The Gospel of Loki.

I nearly gave up.

But I am SO GLAD I persevered with this. It is a hoot and a joy to read. Loki, the demon with wit and attitude, is a wonderful character, an appealing anti-hero. The gods, with all their faults and foibles, behaving like a bunch of truculent teenagers, are portrayed with humour but also empathy and an obvious fondness by Harris. This is good fun.

I can’t comment on how true to the original sources this book is. My knowledge of Norse Mythology is limited to a vague awareness of Thor from Marvel comics (I know). But this was executed with such a fondness and fluency that I feel that Harris must be well acquainted with the stories, and the reviews I have read suggest that she has remained largely true to the origins.

Whatever. Read it. Enjoy it. 🙂

This Week I Have also been reading

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I snuck this in during tea breaks at work.

I know, coals to Newcastle.

This is brilliant.

And I’m not just saying that because I’m a Librarian.

I know that the idea of one long monologue, one long ranting monologue, is a little off-putting. But this really is a very funny, pithy work.

And it can be read in just an hour or so.

And you don’t have to be a librarian to get the humour.

Or French. 🙂

Next Week I Shall Mostly Be Reading

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From Norse mythology to Grimms Fairy Tales.

Not such a huge leap?

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Hey Macaron-a

Sorry.

There is a fab French cafe in Leamington.

It’s called Comme Ci Comme Ca

The kids are rapidly becoming addicted to their macarons.

Which is not necessarily a Bad Thing, giving, as it does, the impression that they appreciate fine food and French culture.

As opposed to their normal state of being which involves being glued to Minecraft and greeting every meal with a “urgh, what IS it?”

However, as the Macarons, the “two bites and they’re gone” Macarons, come in at a pound a shot, this is turning into a bit of a costly addiction.

How hard can it be to make your own?

Erm, well, they are quite tricky as it turns out.

Our first batch, a couple of weeks ago, was firmly in cow pat territory.

Again.

But today…

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Oh my god, these are absolutely amazing.

I have no idea if they are authentic or not. We’ve only ever eaten Macarons in Comme Ci Comme Ca, and these are certainly quite different to those.

But they are delicious.

You will need

200g of icing sugar and 100g of ground almonds. Put them in a food processor and blitz them together.

Take 125g of egg whites (about 3 large eggs) and in a very clean and dry mixing bowl whisk, adding a pinch of salt, until they form stiff peaks.

Not just soft peaks mind, or you too will be heading into cow pat territory. Stiff peaks.

Take 3 tablespoons of caster sugar and add it to the whites a little at a time, mixing well all the while. The mixture should be very thick, white and glossy, like a thick paste.

Add any food colouring if you want to mimic the scary jewel tones of commercially available Macarons

Now fold in the sugar/almond mixture.

Fill an icing bag with mixture and pipe into evenly sized rounds. If you want to be anal about this then use a 5cm round biscuit cutter and draw circles on grease proof paper first to act as templates.

Or just go free form like we did. It all tastes good.

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Tap the tray once, sharply, on the kitchen surface to get rid of any large air bubbles.

I don’t know how well that works but it is very satisfying.

If you want to add sprinkly things now is the time to do it.

Leave the Macarons alone for 15-60 minutes to form a skin.

Preheat the oven to gas 3.

Place the Macarons on the middle shelf and bake for 10 mins.

Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

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Once cool sandwich together with the filling of your choice. We went for strawberry jam

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With a creme anglaise layer

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Make sure you check that the custard is up to scratch

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Squidge it all together and then pop it into your mouth. Preferably whole 🙂

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Yum.

Fiction Friday

No yoga today, as I do feel that dragging two children along to the class might be slightly frowned upon.

I have, however, ordered a yoga DVD, which I am looking forward to watching whilst curled up on the sofa with a nice cup of tea.

I feel bendier already 🙂

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

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Well, it took me a while but I got there in the end.

This is a good book. The writing is beautifully crafted, the characters are well developed with an attention to detail that may be verging on the obsessive.

I remember sitting in a cafe last year, shamelessly eavesdropping on a conversation at the next table where one of the women was saying “but my dears, since I read Hilary Mantel I have been ruined for reading anything else, ruined. The writing is just so superb”

I wouldn’t go so far, but I can recognise A list writing when I read it 🙂

My only, very minor, criticism would be that I didn’t find the story in Bring Up The Bodies as compelling as that of Wolf Hall. That may be because she is describing a court and a King who were becoming more jaded and that is reflected in the writing? A feeling almost of weariness throughout much of the book, that meant I didn’t feel that compunction to sit up reading well into the night gripped by the story.

Read it and feel worthy 🙂

Next Week I Shall Be Reading

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A re-telling of stories from Norse Mythology by the author of Chocolat? That’s got to be intriguing. Right?

Everything is Awesome

I remember, way back in the mists of time, when I was a student in Newcastle, going to see all the latest independent and art house films.

Aa ah, Tyneside Cinema the weird and wonderful films I watched in your battered seats.

Delicatessen

Naked Lunch

Anything by David Lynch or David Cronenberg.

And what did I go and see today?

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Even more worryingly, I actually quite enjoyed it.

Never mind that that this is umpty squillion pound company Lego making a movie about the evils of big business.

No, never mind that.

This film is good fun. A good natured film, that pokes gentle fun at Lego with all it’s merchandising tie ins and the films they link to.

I even managed to keep my popcorn down through the inevitable touchy feely bit near the end of the film .

Result!

All together now

“Everything is Awesome, everything is cool when you’re part of a team”

Fiction Friday

Due to unforseen circumstances today was my first yoga class without the solidarity and moral support of fellow creaky and unlithe person, Tracey.

This was, frankly, terrifying.

Yoga triumph of the day…managing to do the weird “pirouette from lotus position” move without landing on my bum with a loud and slightly humiliating “ooof”.

Never mind that I ended up facing the opposite way to the rest of the class.  At least dignity was somewhat intact.

Yoga humiliating moment of the day…my take on an unaided headstand which involved being on all fours with bum waving wildly in the air, feebly kicking one leg up at a time being too chicken to do any more for fear of landing on my bum with a loud and slightly humiliating “ooof”.

Anyway, with that mental image at the forefront of the mind

This Week I have Mostly Been Reading

Well, I have mostly been reading Bring Up The Bodies, but as that is still a work in progress I will mention something that I allowed myself to get slightly sidetracked with (thank you Jean 🙂 )

now I must admit that I have never read any Dorothy L Sayers, so I have no idea how true to the original author this is.  I am also not a huge fan of detective fiction having overdosed on Agatha Christies when I was about 16.  I will say however that I really enjoyed this book.  It is gentle, it is old fashioned (in a good way), it is a cosy way of spending a winter’s evening.

It also has some very exciting ways of doing away with Academics.

Not that I’m storing that information away or anything. 🙂

This Week Oldest Child Has Mostly Been Reading

Wonder

I just wanted to mention Wonder by RJ Palacio as oldest child and I have been reading this together and it is just one of the loveliest pre/young teen books I’ve come across.  The pair of us bawled our way through the last chapter and were left in the predicament of not knowing what book to start on next that could possibly match how good this story is.

In brief it is the tale of how a boy (August)  with a severely disfigured face copes with starting school after being homeschooled and protected by his family.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and if you are anything like oldest child you will feel compelled to hurl insults at some of the characters that August has to deal with.  Ultimately uplifting and heart-warming.  Read it – even if you haven’t got a convenient child to share it with!

 

Crisis

In my pantry I have 5 different types of herbal tea.

Not counting the green chai tea which barely counts as an edible foodstuff.

I’ve started yoga.

And on Tuesday I bought Cat Stevens greatest hits.

Which only brings me to conclude that in a metamorphosis on a par with Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, I am turning into Neil from The Young Ones.

Man.

Shoo fly

This weekend saw the start of the great deconstruction.

This my friends is where a dividing wall and a reassuringly large bookcase used to be

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At some point in the not too distant future it will be a lovely open plan kitchen/diner with island unit and range cooker, butler sink and new, French style, painted cupboards.

That’s the plan, anyway.

So this weekend we had a welcome visit from the in-laws to help with the deconstructing.

And extended family came for Sunday lunch. Because obviously that was a good idea when I suggested it several weeks ago, not quite appreciating how, um, challenging it can be trying to cook a traditional Sunday lunch when there are bits of plaster and wood flying everywhere and half of your kitchen has disappeared.

So of course I thought a good thing to do would be to try baking a pie for pudding.

A pie that involves my arch nemesis, pastry (gasp, horror).

A pie, moreover that I have never attempted before and chose simply because I liked the name.

And it happened to be one of the few recipes that I actually had all the ingredients for.

No pressure then…

Shoo Fly Pie

This is a recipe that has it’s roots in the Pennsylvanian Dutch community. Of course to most Brits, the mention of fly in conjunction with pie would bring to mind Garibaldi aka “squashed fly” biscuits and the liberal use of currants and raisins. I am happy to report that not a single dried fruit is harmed in the making of this recipe.

Much to the family’s delight.

I was working from this little American book that I found on Amazon, but as it works in cups, and includes ingredients that aren’t so easy to find in the UK I did a little tweaking.

tweaking that is, by the way. Nothing Miley Cyrus related here. Dear me no.

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For the pie crust you will need:

110g cold butter, cubed rubbed into 110g plain flour to resemble breadcrumbs.

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Add 80g caster sugar and mix well.Stir in 1large egg and mix to form a dough. Do not over mix. Put in the fridge to rest for 30 mins. After the dough has rested, roll it out and line your chosen pie dish with it. Rest in the fridge for another 20 mins. Feel free to knock down a few bits of wall whilst waiting if the urge so takes you.

Preheat the oven to Gas 3. Line the crust with baking parchment and fill the dish with baking beans. Bake blind for 10 mins then remove the beans and parchment and bake for another 20 mins till lightly golden.

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Yes it does look a little homely, I know. But believe me, for someone who is pastryly challenged, this is a pie crust of triumph.

Now get on with the crumbs.
Mix 30g of butter with 150g plain flour. Stir in 110g brown sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp ginger and a pinch of salt. Combine all to resemble breadcrumbs.

For the filling you will need
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda which you mix with 190ml of boiling water. If you can get it, the American recipe calls for 1/2cup of molasses, I have never owned such a thing in the past and as, for some reason, the sound of it brings back memories of a malt and cod liver oil health supplement I was fed as a child, I suspect I will never own such a thing in the future either. Anyway, I used a mixture of golden syrup and black treacle, making the combined weight up to 200g. Mix this in with the bicarbonate and water and then add 1 large egg and 1tsp of vanilla extract. Mix well.

Add most of the crumbs to the liquid and mix well.

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Pour into the, now slightly cooled, pie shell. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs on top of the mixture. Bake for 40-45 mins.

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Serve to rousing chorus of “Shoo fly, don’t bother me”

Or perhaps not. 🙂

It is something akin to a treacle tart, but not so tooth-curlingly sweet. A mix between that and gingerbread perhaps? Whatever. It is yummy. Add cream or custard as desired. Or just hack off a slice and chomp. Whatever works for you 🙂