Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Library Loot: 9 April

I swear that this is not just one visit to the library because, quite frankly, I would have needed two carry bags to carry all my loot out!

Here's my loot for this week:

A Star for Mrs Blake by April Smith - I have seen some good things about this book, and now I am going to be participating in a blog tour for it.

The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty - I read the first book in this series a while ago and was a bit underwhelmed by it until the very end when I was very definitely hooked into wanting to know what happens next.

Murder of Crows:  a novel of The Others by Anne Bishop - I thought that I was done with urban fantasy when I read the first book in this series by Anne Bishop and loved it last year!

Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson - I definitely have a WWI theme going on with my reading at the moment, and this is the next one.

Marco's Temptation by Fiona McArthur - The next book in the Sydney Harbour Hospital series.

A Feast for Crows by George R R Martin - I am actually half way through this but was never going to finish it in time so I ended up returning it and borrowing it again within a couple of minutes.

Jasmine Nights by Julia Gregson - I really liked Julia Gregson's other books but never actually got around to reading this one.

Blood Safari by Deon Meyer - Bree is a big fan of this author so when I was looking for a new audiobook and I saw this one I thought I would give it a go.

The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright - This is one of the books that has been longlisted for the Stella Prize this year.

Regeneration by Pat Barker - Early prep for a readalong that we might be hosting over at Historical Tapestry later in the year (not that we have announced it yet)

The Luminaries: a novel by Eleanor Catton -  I went and heard this author speak in February and thought the book sounded interesting. I am not sure that I am going to get through it before it is time to renew it though.

Library Loot is hosted by Clare from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief. Clare has the Mr Linky this week so head there to share your loot links.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Sunday Salon: March Reading Reflections

March was a pretty good month reading wise! My highlight was definite In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl, my first 5/5 read for the year. I was also very pleased with the number of books that I read for challenges this month, specifically the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

Here's what I read during March:

The Debt of Tamar by Nicole Dweck 4/5
Floodtide by Judy Nunn 2/5 (audiobook)
Hate is Such a Strong Word by Sarah Ayoub 4.5/5
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley 4.5/5
A Bitter Taste by Annie Hauxwell 4/5
Dear Stranger by Alise K Ackers 4/5
Satisfaction by Sarah Mayberry 4/5
Sydney Harbour Hospital: Bella's Wishlist by Emily Forbes 2.5/5
The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith 4/5
The Collector of Dying Breaths by M J Rose 4/5
In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl 5/5
1914: The year the world ended by Paul Ham 4/5 (audiobook)
Hope Flames by Jaci Burton 3.5/5
Just One Year by Gayle Forman 4/5
The Sandman Vol 2: The Doll House by Neil Gaiman 4/5
Play by Kylie Scott 3/5
Lick by Kylie Scott 4.5/5 (reread)

Challenge Update

Australian Women Writers - Floodtide, Hate is Such a Strong Word,  A Bitter Taste, Dear Stranger, Satisfaction, Bella's Wishlist, In Falling Snow, Play and Lick

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge - The Debt of Tamar, In Falling Snow,

Once Upon a Time - The Sandman Vol 2: The Doll House

Reading now

Bellagrand by Paullina Simons, A Feast for Crows by George R R Martin, The Golden Apple by Michelle Diener and listening to Blood Safari by Deon Meyer

Up Next Jack of Fables: Jack of Hearts by Bill Willingham

Saturday, April 05, 2014

A Feast of Ice and Fire: the official companion cookbook by Chelsea Monroe-Cassels and Sariann Lehrer

It seems as all the gods have been smiling in terms of the timing of my post about this book. I was a bit disappointed when I saw that someone else had requested it from the library so I couldn't renew it but, given that I have been reading A Feast for Crows, indulging in watching Season 3 of Game of Thrones this week and Season 4 starts on Monday, the timing really couldn't be better.

This book is actually by two bloggers who started blogging about the food from George R R Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice series over at In at the Crossroads and ended up with a book deal. Not only did they get a book deal, it is the officially sanctioned companion cookbook for the series and as such it includes a foreword from George R R Martin, In it he confesses to not being able to cook much at all, which given how much food is mentioned in the books might be a little surprising.

Whilst this is undoubtedly a book for the fans of the series, whether it be the books or the TV series, there are definitely aspects of the book that might be of interest to other people who like to read about historical food.

Let's start with why fans of the series will like the book. The book is broken up into a series of chapters which relate to different lands in Westeros and reflect the individual character traits of that land. For example, the recipes for the section from The Wall are mostly warm and hearty, as you would need if you lived atop a frozen wall whereas the recipes from King's Landing reflect the more cosmopolitan nature of the population, not to mention the feasts in the royal household and Dorne there are lots of spices and fruits. Each of the recipes includes a quote where the particular recipe has been mentioned in the books and there are plenty of pictures so you know what the finished product should look like.

What about from a purely food perspective? Whilst it would have been easy to put in a pie and call it something to do with the books, this is so much more than that. Lots of fantasy has it's basis in medieval history and this is true of a lot of the food in the series. The first section of the book talks about stocking a medieval kitchen and then gives some basic recipes. For example, there are recipes for Elizabethan Butter Sauce which is recommending for serving with small poultry and Lemon Pastry Dough  which sounds like it would be an awesome base for a fruit tart.

In the main recipe section of the book the authors have gone back through history to find dishes and techniques that reflect the dishes mentioned and then provided a modern equivalent for the recipe where possible. Whilst a lot of them are medieval (like Pease Porridge which I thought was just a nursery rhyme thing), there are some that are Roman in origin (Peaches in Honey-Cumin Sauce) and others Elizabethan. There are some recipes where it has not been possible to find a historical recipe so they have made one up but these are clearly marked as such.

One thing I did like was that on each recipe there is a suggestion of other recipes in the book that would work well together, so if you so desired you could easily have a complete Game of Thrones themed menu for you and your friends.

Because you can't just pop down the shops to buy auroch for example, they generally have provided suggestions for substitute ingredients. There are some recipes though that still have some more obscure ingredients like pigeon, rattlesnake and locusts that may be a little difficult to source, let alone to contemplate eating but reading about those are part of the fun. And there are some that will be challenging but it could be fun to try like Cream Swans which are meringues that are shaped to look like swans - an elegant  addition to any dessert menu I am sure!

The big question for a book like this though is could you cook from it, and I think that the answer is most definitely a yes. There are a wide variety of recipes from breakfasts to soups, mains and sides as well as desserts, cakes and drinks. Yes, there are some recipes that you would be unlikely to make (Honey Spiced Locusts anyone?) but there are more than enough that sound delicious enough to try. My list would include:

Buns with Raisins, Pine nuts and Apple
Bean and Bacon soup
Traditional Style oatcakes
Blueberry tart
Poached Pears
Lemon cakes
Tyoshi Honeyfingers

A really good read for fans of the series and for people interesting in comparing historical dishes with modern equivalents.

Rating 4/5


Ever wonder what it’s like to attend a feast at Winterfell? Wish you could split a lemon cake with Sansa Stark, scarf down a pork pie with the Night’s Watch, or indulge in honeyfingers with Daenerys Targaryen? George R. R. Martin’s bestselling saga A Song of Ice and Fire and the runaway hit HBO series Game of Thrones are renowned for bringing Westeros’s sights and sounds to vivid life. But one important ingredient has always been missing: the mouthwatering dishes that form the backdrop of this extraordinary world. Now, fresh out of the series that redefined fantasy, comes the cookbook that may just redefine dinner . . . and lunch, and breakfast.

A passion project from superfans and amateur chefs Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer—and endorsed by George R. R. Martin himself—A Feast of Ice and Fire lovingly replicates a stunning range of cuisines from across the Seven Kingdoms and beyond. From the sumptuous delicacies enjoyed in the halls of power at King’s Landing, to the warm and smoky comfort foods of the frozen North, to the rich, exotic fare of the mysterious lands east of Westeros, there’s a flavor for every palate, and a treat for every chef.

These easy-to-follow recipes have been refined for modern cooking techniques, but adventurous eaters can also attempt the authentic medieval meals that inspired them. The authors have also suggested substitutions for some of the more fantastical ingredients, so you won’t have to stock your kitchen with camel, live doves, or dragon eggs to create meals fit for a king (or a khaleesi). In all, A Feast of Ice and Firecontains more than 100 recipes, divided by region:

The Wall: Rack of Lamb and Herbs; Pork Pie; Mutton in Onion-Ale Broth; Mulled Wine; Pease Porridge
The North: Beef and Bacon Pie; Honeyed Chicken; Aurochs with Roasted Leeks; Baked Apples
The South: Cream Swans; Trout Wrapped in Bacon; Stewed Rabbit; Sister’s Stew; Blueberry Tarts
King’s Landing: Lemon Cakes; Quails Drowned in Butter; Almond Crusted Trout; Bowls of Brown; Iced Milk with Honey
Dorne: Stuffed Grape Leaves; Duck with Lemons; Chickpea Paste
Across the Narrow Sea: Biscuits and Bacon; Tyroshi Honeyfingers; Wintercakes; Honey-Spiced Locusts

There’s even a guide to dining and entertaining in the style of the Seven Kingdoms. Exhaustively researched and reverently detailed, accompanied by passages from all five books in the series and full-color photographs guaranteed to whet your appetite, this is the companion to the blockbuster phenomenon that millions of stomachs have been growling for. And remember, winter is coming—so don’t be afraid to put on a few pounds.

Includes a Foreword by George R. R. Martin
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