Saturday, April 30, 2022

Weekend Cooking: Yet More Chocolate

Welcome to my third chocolate flavoured post for the week! I started with my Top Ten Tuesday post which featured 10 books with chocolatey titles and then yesterday I shared a vintage post for my go to brownie recipe.

The origins of this post came from a passage that I read in a rural fiction novel called Snowy Mountain Cattleman, second book in the Bundilla series by Australian author Alissa Callen. It doesn't really matter what type of book I am reading, I am always on the lookout for quotes about food, books or Christmas to share in one form or another over the course of the year.

A slim blonde gave him a smile from where she stood behind the coffee machine frothing milk. "The usual?"

That would be great, Beck. And one of your brownies."

Her smile grew. He knew how early she would have been up this morning baking, and he always bought somethign to go with his coffee. His sweet tooth was a running joke around town.

By now he'd almost reached Grace. He'd have a quick chat and then sit at a nearby table. She hadn't yet smiled. even though when they'd spoken on the phone her voice had been less reserved than  when they'd met. As he drew near she moved the stock of books on the tabletop to make room for him. He hoped his expression didn't convey his surprise or his hesitation.

As much as the thought of her leaving had set him on edge, the prospect of sitting across from her proved just as unsettling. Yesterday whenever near her he'd breathed in a subtle floral scent that reminded him of the honeysuckle that rambled over the Ashcroft stone garden wall. He might now be standing a body length away but he still could catch a delicate flower fragrance amongst the other coffee shop aromas.

In his peripheral vision he saw a pair of grey nomads seat themselves at the empty table he'd been planning to use. Even though this must have been why Grace had moved her books, his gaze met hers to double-check it was okay to join her.

After she'd gestured towards the seat opposite her, he sat, making sure his knee didn't bump hers in the tight space.

When she didn't break the silence, he initiated the small talk. "Bundy's out for the count."

"I'm sure he is."

I owe you an apology. I should have messaged last night to check how you were going and given you directions to my sister's."

Grace shook her head, the tip of her ponytail swinging over her shoulder. "No apology needed. I wasn't you to and I wouldn't have wanted to impose."

"I'll pick the ladder up as soon as I leave here."

"Thank you."

He smiled at Beck as she delivered his coffee and brownie.

Once he and Grace were alone he slid the plate into the centre of the table. He didn't classify the action as impulsive; he was used to sharing his food with Clancy and her best friend Breanna. For some reason they alays thought what he ordered looked better than what they'd chosen. "You're welcome to have some."

"Thanks." Instead of looking at the brownie she straightened her already tidy stack of books. "It's yours."

"I'm happy to share." He studied her, trying to work out what line he'd crossed to again make her feel wary. "My sister thinks that as part of her sibling entitlements what is mine is always hers."

As he'd hoped, the corners of Grace's mouth tilted. "I'm an only child. You eat your brownie."

He slid the plate back over to his side of the table. "Any food-hogging cousins?"


"So every Easter, Christmas and birthday you didn't have to hand over half of your chocolate?

"Not at all." The smile in her eyes made her irises appear more green than brown, but then the light ebbed. "My father liked anything with mint while my mother preferred dark chocolate."

Rowan noted the use of the past tense. His own grief surfaced and he worked hard to keep his expression from changing. "My father was a chocolate and nut fan while my mum only ate white chocolate.

When Grace didn't immediately reply, he knew she'd also noted his word choice. Her gaze searched his. Whatever she was looking for, she found, as the tense line of her shoulders lowered. "Was there anything you didn't have to share?"

"Salty liquorice."

She grimaced. "No wonder you had that all to yourself."

When it comes to chocolate I like most types, although dark chocolate is probably my least favourite. I love milk chocolate, white chocolate and mint chocolate but my husband doesn't like mint so that one is one I don't need to share with him when I buy it very occasionally. Another one I don't have to share is the milk chocolate with pineapple filling which I love, but he doesn't, although I do hide that one from my son.

I am making something chocolatey this weekend. I will be making Chocolate Sour Cream Cake. As I mentioned before I prefer milk chocolate, so I will use that in the ganache.

Thinking about making this recipe prompted me to buy a new bundt tin. The only problem is that the bundt tin I bought was a bit smaller than I expected, which explains why it was a good price (oops!). So now I am going to have to find a recipe for a 6 cup capacity cake tin rather than the bigger recipes I have now!

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

For the cake

1 cup (250ml) sour cream
1/3 cup (80ml) water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups (225g) plain flour
¾ cup (95g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp bicarb soda
Pinch of salt
230g unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups (295g) firmly packed brown sugar
3 large eggs

For the Ganache

200g dark cooking chocolate, chopped
¾ cup (180ml) sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp instant coffee (optional)
1 tbsp glucose syrup - optional

For the cake

Preheat oven to 180°C (fan forced). Grease a 2.4L bundt tin with butter and dust the inside with cocoa, tapping out any excess. Don’t use baking spray on bundt tins or cake will stick.

Combine sour cream, water and vanilla in a jug, mix well. Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer or electric beaters, cream butter and sugar for 5 minutes until pale and creamy. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well in between.

Add half of flour mixture to butter mixture, mix well then add half of sour cream mixture, mixing in between. Repeat with remaining mixture and mix until well combined.

Transfer batter to prepared tin, and tap the tin firmly on benchtop a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 40-55 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Once cooked, allow to cool in tin for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the ganache

Place chopped chocolate into a small, heat proof bowl, set aside. Melt sour cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until just simmering. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate. Allow to sit for 3-4 minutes, then add vanilla, instant coffee (optional) and mix well until a smooth glossy ganache is achieved.

Allow to cool slightly before drizzling over bundt cake. This will ensure you achieve nice ganache drips that hold their shape.

If your ganache splits add in the glucose syrup to bring it back together

What's your favourite chocolate?

Weekly meals

Saturday - Engagement party
Sunday - Zucchini and mushroom risotto
Monday - Takeaway
Tuesday - Stockman's pie with vegies
Wednesday - Out for dinner
Thursday - Beef stew with rice
Friday - Out for dinner

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page

Friday, April 29, 2022

Vintage Weekend Cooking: Chocolate Brownies

After Tuesday's post all about books with chocolate on the cover and the post I have planned for tomorrow, it appears that I am having a chocolate flavoured week here at The Intrepid Reader.

This seemed to be a great opportunity to roll out a Vintage Weekend Cooking post. I originally shared this post back in 2014, and this is still my go to brownie recipe.

I still haven't actually had it with the sauce. One day I might try it that way. Today is not that day!

Do you have a recipe that you know as soon as you try it will always be your go to recipe. The one that everyone loves? And that you are asked for the recipe for all the time? For me, this is one of those recipes, along with the 
Lemon Syrup Cakes recipe I have posted previously. A couple of months ago I made a batch of these to take to work and my son was very disappointed that he didn't get to have more than a couple so then I had to make more!

Last year, I posted a couple of brownie recipes, one of which was a Triple Choc Brownie. That recipe was a perfectly serviceable recipe, and I made it several times and each time it was well received. One day I thought I would try this recipe instead, and I basically have never even thought about going back to the other recipe. It is just that good.

Part of what I like about this recipe is that it is very moist but it has a really crusty top which is just delicious although to get that effect I need to cook it for much longer than the 40 minutes mentione but I think that is because of my oven more than anything. I should also mention that I have never actually made the chocolate sauce that is recommended to go with these brownies. I also don't use the dark chocolate buttons. The first time I made this I didn't have any of those so I used milk chocolate melts that I had broken up into pieces and because it was so good I have just made it the same way ever since.

Chocolate Brownies

345g (1 1/2 cups) caster (superfine) sugar
85g (2/3 cup) cocoa powder
60g (1/2 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs, beaten
200g (7 oz) unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla extract
200g (7 oz) dark chocolate button

Preheat the oven to 160°C (315F/Gas 2-3). Stir the sugar, cocoa powder, flour and baking powder together in a bowl. Add the eggs, melted butter and vanilla and mix until combined. Mix in the chocolate buttons. Pour into a lined 22cm (9 inch) square tin and bake for 40-45mins

Allow the brownie block to slightly cool then cut into eight pieces. Place on serving plates with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Dust with extra cocoa powder if you like, then serve with the chocolate sauce.  Serves 8

Warm Chocolate Sauce

125g (4 1/2 oz) dark chocolate
185ml (3/4 cup) cream

Place chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl and place the bowl over a saucepan of just simmering water. Whisk occasionally until a thick sauce forms. Cool sightly before serving. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Chocolate anyone?



Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week the topic is  Books with [___] On the Cover (Pick a thing (a color, an item, a place, an animal, a scripty font, a sexy person, etc.) and share covers that have that thing on the cover.) My thing is chocolate! Originally I was thinking about posting this last week in honour of Easter but then I saw that this was the next theme it seemed perfect for this week!

I'll start with the chocolate themed books I have read, then a few that I want to read.

Friends, Lovers, Chocolate by Alexander McCall Smith - The second book in the Isabel Dalhousie series set in Edinburgh (review here)

Bread and Chocolate by Philippa Gregory - I read this short story collection more than 15 years ago. I don't remember a thing about it though! (review here)

The Chocolate Run by Dorothy Koomson - I read several Koomson books and then haven't read another for years. I do remember really liking this one

The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand - Laura Florand has an entire series of books with chocolate titles, and then a couple of others. If you love foodie romances, especially set in France, then this series is for you. (review here)

The Chocolate Tin by Fiona McIntosh - This book was chock-full of chocolate history, set just after the end of WWI.

Chocolate Cake for Breakfast by Danielle Hawkins - I've been known to have chocolate cake for breakfast on occasion! (review)

The Chocolate Chip Murder by Joanna Fluke - This ws the first book in the Hannah Swensen cozy mystery series. I read about 8 books in the series until I got annoyed with the love triangle. There are now 28 books in the series, many with chocolate titles, but I won't be going back seeing as it appears that the love triangle thing is still going.

The Chocolate Promise by Josephine Moon - Last year I read The Jam Queens by this author, and I still have this on my Kindle to read at some point.

The Chocolate Maker's Wife by Karen Brooks - I have this book sitting on my Kindle for a while too.

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan - I have read a number of books by Jenny Colgan over the years, but this one is still on the TBR list.

Have you read any other chocolate themed books?

Monday, April 25, 2022

This Week ....

I'm reading...

Last week I was intending to finish reading The Language of Love, and I still intend to do so but I found myself getting side tracked by a completely different book, mainly because I coudn't renew the library loan. That book was Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens by Shankari Chandran and I really enjoyed it. I originally picked it up as I thought it might be a good book for Weekend Cooking, and the cover and title sounded good. 

Whilst there was plenty of talk about food in the book, it was really a book about much meatier topics, including the lasting legacy of trauma, racism, the power of our individual stories and so much more.

I also started reading The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. The theme for our read on a theme bookclub this month is a type of road. For example, the title could include the word street, avenue, road, court or something like that. I did have another book that I was intending to read, but I have been meaning to try Amor Towles for a while now so this seemed like a good opportunity. I was a bit surprised to see how chunky the book was. Once upon a time I would buy a book based on how thick it was but not so much anymore. Hopefully I can get through the nearly 600 pages before our meeting in a couple of weeks.

I did also make some progress on my current audiobook, Love Stories which was written and narrated by Trent Dalton. I am going into the office for a few days this week so that will give me a fair bit of listening time.

I'm watching...

Our binge watch over the last week was Clarkson's Farm thanks to it being mentioned at Sam Still Reading last week. Jeremy Clarkson is known for being a co-host of Top Gear and The Grand Tour. We really enjoyed this series. It was funny and it really shone a light on the life of a farmer..

We are also very pleased that Masterchef Australia is back! This season it is a fans vs faves series, so half of the contestants are from previous series and half are new to the show.

We also started watching Moon Knight, a new Marvel series. I was a bit confused by the first episode but after watching the second episode I think it makes a bit more sense now. We'll see!


Today is Anzac Day and so it is only right that I start my recap of the last week with an acknowledgement of the day and for those past and present who have served to protect our country.

We went to Bendigo today, taking advantage of the public holiday and the nice weather. We caught the end of the Anzac Day service and wandered through the gardens. Our main reason for going to Bendigo today was to see the Elvis: Direct from Graceland exhibition. It was an excellent exhibition, and it certainly bought back memories of when we visited Graceland itself around 3 years ago.

Posts from the last week

Top Ten Tuesday: Going Shopping
Weekend Cooking: Baked Prawn Nasi Goreng

I've linked this post to It's Monday, what are you reading? as hosted by Book Date

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Weekend Cooking: Baked Prawn Nasi Goreng

One of the meals that regularly makes it into our meal rotation is nasi goreng. Nasi goreng is a dish that is South East Asian in origin, served in countries such as Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei and the name nasi goreng literally means fried rice. It has been named as one of the five national dishes of Indonesia, along with soto, rendang, sate, and gado-gado. 

Indonesia had colonial ties to the Netherlands. I first tried nasi goreng at a restaurant in Amsterdam when I was there years ago. My husband has Dutch ancestry and so learnt to make nasi goreng whilst growing up in South Africa. When we make it, it is generally made with minced beef and then topped with fried banana and fried egg, usually made by mixing the eggs and then frying so it is almost like a flat scrambled egg, similar to how it is done in Chinese cookery.

This time four years ago I was in South Africa meeting my in-laws for the first time. We spent some time with my brother and sister-in-law doing a safari and on the way back we stopped at a Dutch shop. I was surprised to see my sister-in-law buy huge quantities of nasi goreng spice mix. We were happy not to as we could still easily get the premade mix from the supermarket. Of course, the wisdom of her ways was shown when not long after that we could no longer buy it here. It is possible to buy our preferred brand off of Amazon or the like, but it isn't cheap by the time that you buy the small packet and pay for postage. We have tried a couple of other brands but we weren't that impressed. Maybe we will have to pick up a stock when we visit The Netherlands later in the year.

A while ago we therefore thought that we would try and make our own spice mix which we now have saved in the cupboard for when we make nasi goreng. There aren't a lot of recipes for the spice mix around but the ones that I can find pretty much have this list of ingredients as the base, but the quantities vary depending on the recipe.

Nasi Goreng spice mix 

garlic powder
laos/galangal powder
chili powder (or ground chilis)
coriander / ketumbar
sereh / lemongrass
cumin / djintan
onion powder
fine salt

The version that we have made is very tasty, although it is quite spicy so we will need to play with the quantities next time we make it.

I mentioned last week that my son was in America. He was supposed to be back earlier this week but unfortunately his flight was cancelled so he only arrived home this morning. What this meant is that we could have another seafood meal without worrying about the fact that he won't eat it, something we were happy to take advantage of.

We therefore found the following recipe for a baked prawn nasi goreng tray bake and thought we would give it ago. We actually really enjoyed this recipe as we made it (we couldn't get a couple of the ingredients) but we will be doing it a bit differently next time we make it.

Baked Prawn Nasi Goreng

60ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
500g peeled green prawns, deveined, tails intact
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 long fresh red chilli, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
300g green beans, thinly sliced
1 tsp shrimp paste 
450g packet microwave jasmine rice
250g packet microwave jasmine rice
2 1/2 tbsp kecap manis, plus extra, to serve
2 1/2 tbsp tamari
1 tsp chicken stock powder
4 eggs
Green shallots, thinly sliced diagonally, to serve
Sambal oelek, to drizzle

Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan forced. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a 5cm-deep, 25 x 35cm flameproof roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add the prawns and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a bowl.

Reduce heat to medium. Add the onion,  chilli and remaining oil to the pan. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until the onion softens. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until aromatic. Add the green beans and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes or until tender crisp. Add the shrimp paste and cook, breaking up the paste with a wooden spoon, for 1 minute or until well combined and aromatic. Remove from heat.

Add the rice to the pan and stir, breaking up the rice with a wooden spoon, until well combined. Add the kecap manis and tamari. Stir until the rice is coated. Sprinkle with the stock powder. Pour in 250ml (1 cup) water and stir until combined. Transfer to the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Add the prawns to the rice mixture and stir until combined. Make 4 indents in the rice mixture. Crack an egg into each indent. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the eggs are cooked and the edges of the rice are crisp.

Top the rice bake with shallot, sambal oelek and extra kecap manis to serve.

We didn't have shrimp paste or sambal oelek, so we had to improvise a bit, but it was a delicious dinner. When we make it again we will do it a little differently. Firstly, we will use our spice mix as part of the process, or maybe throw some Old Bay Seasoning in seeing as we now have a gigantic bottle of that. We will,however,  definitely use prawns without tails on. The tails do look pretty but make it a bit tricky to eat so we will use prawn meat instead next time. Normally we would cook our own rice, but this was a convenient way to do the rice, and we loved cooking the eggs this way so we will do them again this way too. It was so delicious that I didn't even remember to take a picture!

And now I want to find a good beef rendang recipe.

Oh, and if you are in Australia and happen to see the brand of spice mix above let me know!

Weekly meals

Saturday - Weekend away
Sunday - Weekend away
Monday - Chicken and broccoli pasta bake
Tuesday - Green Curry Chicken Pie
Wednesday - Baked Prawn Nasi Goreng
Thursday - Bacon, mushroom, bacon pasta
Friday - 

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Going Shopping!


Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week the topic Bookish Merchandise I’d Love to Own. I don't really do bookish merchandise so my twist this week is to spin on the fact that you have to go to the shops to buy merchandise, or you might receive something as a gift or present.

The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

The Greatest Gift by Rachael Johns

The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan

The Gift by Tiffany Reisz

The Gift of Life by Josephine Moon 

Coffee Shop Girl by Katie Cross 

The Foyles Bookshop Girls by Elaine Roberts 

 The Little Teashop in Tokyo by Juliie Caplin

There's my TTT for this week? Feel free to share yours when you comment below!

Monday, April 18, 2022

This Week....

I'm reading

We went away for the Easter weekend, and that means that the single hardest thing to decide about what to take is which book to pack. I changed my mind several times but in the end I decided to take The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs

I did also finish reading The Snowy Mountain Cattleman last week. I am already looking forward to the next book in that series. In the meantime, I have a number of other books by this author that I can read!!

I'm Watching

My husband went to the movies for the first time since early 2020 with his 18 year old son. They watched Morbeus but one of the previews was for the new Top Gun movie. His son hadn't seen the original Top Gun movie so we all sat down and watched that together. I am not sure that he appreciated our singalong to the soundtrack or randomly shouting out the upcoming line in the movie. We enjoyed it though!

I also watched the first episode of the new series of Great Kiwi Bake Off. The new locations for it is absolutely spectacular.


On Saturday we headed off  a trip down the Great Ocean Road, one of the great drives of the world (and it's not just me that thinks that!). We drove as far as Apollo Bay on Saturday and then through to Warrnambool on Sunday. It was a great drive - history, ocean, mountains and so much more! Here's a few snaps from Cape Otway Lighthouse, The Twelve Apostles, Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and street art in Warrnambool.

Other amazing drives I have done include the Chapman's Peak Drive in Cape Town and the Big Sur coastline in America. We are currently planning our trip for the end of the year and maybe, just maybe, we might fit in another famous drive!

Posts from the last week

Top Ten Tuesday: Second Books in a series
Weekend Cooking: In Search of Good Chowder

I've linked this post to It's Monday, what are you reading? as hosted by Book Date

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Weekend Cooking: In search of good chowder

When we were in Tasmania in February, one of the highlights was a dinner that we had at The Drunken Admiral on the waterfront in Hobart. This place had been recommended to us, but in particular I was told that we must try the seafood chowder. And to be fair, it was a great recommendation. It was so delicious and I almost wished that we hadn't have ordered it as a starter, but rather just had the chowder as a main.

The seafood chowder was so good that we knew that we wanted to try and make our own at the first opportunity we got, and the opportunity came up this week. Firstly we had to have the right weather, and this week it was much cooler than it has been and so it was soup weather. Secondly, it had to be when my son was not going to be around for dinner because he does not eat seafood. This week, he is in the US for one of his college friend's wedding so this was our opportunity. 

We went and found a recipe, shopped for the all the ingredients and then.....voila. Except, not so much.

The chowder that we had in Tassie was thick and luxurious and creamy. The one that we made had quite a thin soup and then the recipe said to put whole pieces of seafood into the soup. The recipe called for marinara mix, so there were small prawns, chunks of fish, calamari rings and mussels, and it was fine, but it wasn't the same. We have already said if we were going to make it again, we would choose what the seafood that was going to be included was.

I am therefore asking my fellow Weekend Cooking participants a very important question. Do you have a go to seafood chowder recipe that we could try the next time that the stars align? Or should we just jump on a plane and go back to Tassie for dinner every few weeks? Or perhaps we should go further afield and head to San Francisco for clam chowder. I'd be happy with either really.

Weekly meals

Saturday - Chicken parmagiana
Sunday - Scrambled eggs on toast with kransky
Monday - Steak with potato gratin
Tuesday - Seafood chowder
Wednesday - Family dinner
Thursday - Pressure cooker spaghetti bolognaise
Friday - Family Dinner

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Joint Review: The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak

It's been a while since I have done a joint review of a book with Bree from All the Books I Can Read, but recently we realised that we were both reading The Island of Missing Trees so it seemed like a good idea to talk about this book. Especially since it was a book that we both loved!!

First, here is the Goodreads blurb

A rich, magical new book on belonging and identity, love and trauma, nature and renewal, from the Booker shortlisted author of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World.

Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. In the taverna, hidden beneath garlands of garlic, chili peppers and creeping honeysuckle, Kostas and Defne grow in their forbidden love for each other. A fig tree stretches through a cavity in the roof, and this tree bears witness to their hushed, happy meetings and eventually, to their silent, surreptitious departures. The tree is there when war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to ashes and rubble, and when the teenagers vanish. Decades later, Kostas returns. He is a botanist looking for native species, but really, he’s searching for lost love.

Years later, a Ficus carica grows in the back garden of a house in London where Ada Kazantzakis lives. This tree is her only connection to an island she has never visited - her only connection to her family’s troubled history and her complex identity as she seeks to untangle years of secrets to find her place in the world.

A moving, beautifully written and delicately constructed story of love, division, transcendence, history and eco-consciousness, The Island of Missing Trees is Elif Shafak’s best work yet.

My thoughts are in purple and Bree's are in black.

M: I wish I could remember where I first saw this book.. I am pretty sure someone posted about it on Facebook and I immediately thought it looked like my kind of book. If I could remember who it was I would definitely be saying thank you because I loved this book, right from the first page. (Edited to say I remember now. Thanks again Mae!) How did you hear about this book?

B: I think it might’ve been on instagram and I’m not ashamed to say that I immediately added it to my buy list purely for the cover. I hadn’t even read the blurb, I thought that the cover was just so eyecatching that I knew I wanted it on my shelf. I ended up buying it in a little indie bookstore in the town where my husband was born when we visited my MIL and I went there with the specific goal of buying just that book. As soon as I walked in, it was on a big display. And when I finally read the blurb, I knew that it was something that I was pretty confident I was going to love.

M: I can see why the cover caught your eye. It is lovely. Let’s talk about the blurb and setting. This book tells the story of Cyprus from the 1970s through to the 2010s through the story of Kostas, a Greek Cypriot, and Defne, a Turkish Cypriot. Theirs was a love story that was going to be doomed from the start, forbidden due to the differences in culture and religion. The two young people used to meet at a tavern called The Happy Fig where the owners were happy to help them. However, as the ethnic tensions escalated, this relationship became even more forbidden.

How much did you know about Cyprus and the events of 1974?

B: Shamefully little I’m afraid. I know the bare basics of some of it and the divide between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. One of my dad’s lifelong best friends is a Greek Cypriot whose parents left when he was around 3 years old. But in terms of really knowing the island’s even modern history, I really only had the vaguest of understandings. I feel like this story definitely piqued my interest to learn a little more about it, especially because of The Fig Tree and it’s proprietors. If Kostas and Defne are a forbidden relationship, the owners of the tavern where they meet in secret are even more so - and it’s no wonder they are so understanding and supportive. Did you enjoy the way we learned about them and how they were woven into the story?

M: I could definitely understand why Yussuf and Yiorgis were so supportive of the young couple and I loved that The Fig Tree was such a welcoming place. It didn’t matter who you were, what you believed or where you were from you were welcome to meet and eat and drink. The atmosphere and ambience sounded so lovely, especially with the eponymous fig tree in the middle of the tavern. When the troubles started between ethnic groups, I was so sad to think of a place where tolerance was so embedded became one of early targets of those who are not tolerant. I guess that is probably not that unusual in such situations. And the tragedy only escalated from there.

Let’s talk about the fig tree shall we? I must confess that I was a little concerned initially about the role of the tree as a narrator. How did you feel about it?

B: The same! When I realised just who that narrator was in parts of the story I was definitely apprehensive about it. Maybe because I didn’t expect it to have that sort of element going in, it kind of took me by surprise. But I ended up absolutely loving that choice that the author made. It became this omniscient narrator that was able to give the reader this overarching view of things, from Cyprus and also after that. The author winds everything the fig has ‘seen’ and experienced into the story. I also really was surprised at how much I enjoyed learning about the actual tree itself - its growing cycles, its history. The idea of burying it for a British winter was fascinating to me and the fact that the book provided instructions including a little picture was great because it was different to how I pictured it in my head. I actually ended up googling “burying a fig tree in winter” after that and read about how it’s quite often done in places like Canada, etc as well, that have harsher winters than fig trees would be used to in their more native environments. It’s quite ingenious really! And quite amazing that the tree survives such a thing.

How did you find the way that portion of the narration played out for you? 


Head over to Bree's blog to see my answer to this question and more! 

And if you would like a taste of the writing in this book, I recently shared an excerpt which you can find here.

Rating 5/5

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I havent read but want to


Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week the topic is Authors I Haven't Read but Want To! To be fair, I could have done many posts just on this theme, but let's start with these authors and just one book from their backlist that I think I shoud read.

Maggie O'Farrell - Hamnet is the  book that is calling me the most. I have purchased this on audiobook but haven't even downloaded it yet.

Karen Brooks - I own this one too.

Santa Montefiore - I currently have this book out from the library. We'll see if I actually read it.

C S Harris - I have owned this book for at least ten years....never read it.

Elizabeth Wein - I have lost count of how many times I have had Code Name Verity recommended to me, but I still haven't read it.

Carly Schabowski - I love this cover so much!

Fiona Davis - I am pretty sure when I do finally read Fiona Davis, I will love her.

Elin Hildebrand - and same for this author!

Fredrik Backman - One day I will get to this book

T J Klune - This book has been calling my name for a couple of years.

Would you recommend any of these authors to me, and if so, which of their books should I start with?