Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday - Sir Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction longlist





Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week it is a genre freebie, so I thought I would share the longlist for the Sir Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. I have been tossing around the thought of doing some kind of mini challenge within the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge but I haven't yet worked out what that is going to look like! Maybe I will have figured out by the time the shortlist is announced

To be completely transparent, I haven't read any of these books, or even these authors but there are a number of them that have caught my eye. There are also a wide variety of settings amongst this list, from Tahiti to Australia, to Belfast and London and more.

The Romantic by William Boyd

These Days by Lucy Caldwell

My Name is Yip by Paddy Crewe

The Geometer Lobachevsky by Adrian Duncan

Act of Oblivion by Robert Harris
The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho by Paterson Joseph

The Chosen by Elizabeth Lowry
The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudesley by Sean Lusk

The Sun Walks Down by Fiona McFarlane
Ancestry by Simon Mower

And given that the long list has twelve books on it, here are two bonuses

I Am Not Your Eve by Devika Ponnanbalam
The Settlement by Jock Serong

If you love historical fiction, you are more than welcome to join other fans of the genre in the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge for 2023. The sign up post is here.

Have you read any of these books?

Monday, February 27, 2023

This week...

I'm reading

I really struggle at times deciding what to read next. I finished The Kitchen Front and found myself scrolling through various collections on my Kindle, and then contemplating my pile of library loans trying to decide what to read now.

The end result is that sometimes you just can't make a choice so I have read a chapter of Madame Pommery, Creator of Brut Champagne by Rebecca Rosenberg and a couple of chapters of My Father's House by Joseph O'Connor. At least they are two very different books so I won't get the two of them mixed up. And one of them I can easily read in the middle of the night! The other - not so much!

I'm watching

We started watching a British mockumentary called Cunk on Earth. It takes all the very earnest and serious traits of history and nature documentaries and has a lot of fun with it. And now I have an almost irrestible urge to listen to Pump Up Your Jam by Technotronic!

I mentioned a while ago that I am hoping to go to see at least one film from the international film festivals this year. The titles for the upcoming French film festival have now been released and there are so many that look amazing. I am not sure how I am going to fit in seeing all the ones I want to see. We did go and see a film called The Innocent last week and thoroughly enjoyed it! 


It's been a big music week this week for us. On Thursday night we went to see Scottish band Del Amitri perform, and it was so good! One album in particular is a go to album to listen to now, even more than 30 years after its release. They put on such a good show!

And then, speaking of good shows, we saw Sting perform on Saturday. I would have called myself relatively interested in Sting's music before that, but now I am definitely a fan. I have already said if he comes back I will definitely be going to see him live again. 

We have one more live music gig this week and then a bit of a break!

Posts from the last week

Top Ten Tuesday: The Classics Edition
Musings on Music: The Music of Roy Orbison

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

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Weekend Cooking: The Italian Pantry by Theo Randall

Last week I talked about the two cookbook clubs that I am kind of participating in and all the books that I had out from the library. This week I thought I would talk about one of the two books that I bought.

The Italian Pantry by Theo Randall was the January cookbook for the Jamie Oliver Cookbook club.  As we were travelling around Europe I kept on seeing all the posts in the Facebook group raving about this book but it is one that isn't available in either of my libraries, so I bit the bullet and bought it as soon as we got home. And it was worth every cent!!

Theo Randall is an British chef who has worked in a number of restaurants, most famously at The River Cafe in London where he gained a Michelin star.

The structure of this book is very interesting. Rather than be broken up into sections about starters, main course and desserts or seasons, the book is built around 10 key ingredients. They are:



Porcini Mushrooms


Leafy Greens




Pine Nuts

Within each chapter there is a nice mix of sweet and savoury recipes. Well, there aren't sweet recipes in every chapter, but there are in most.

In the photo above, you might be able to glimpse the pieces of paper which are marking all the recipes that I want to try. There are a lot!

So far I have made 5 recipes from the book. They are Paccheri with Leeks, Parmesan and Prosciutto di Parma, Aubergine and Courgette Lasagne (both from the parmesan chapter), Richhieri (from the pine nut chapter) and Amalfi Lemon Cheesecake from the lemon chapter. 

The recipes have all been easy to follow, and not particularly difficult to make. I have also had to look at different pasta shapes. For example, paccheri is a large tube pasta shape I had never even noticed on the shelves before.

Some recipes, like the Aubergine and Courgette Lasagne, take a bit of time to prepare but it was worth it.  I will definitely be making that one again. In fact, the Ricchieri were a bit hit when I took them to work, and I took the cheesecake to a friend's place and they loved it, so there's every chance I will make all of them again. 

Whilst there are some recipes that ask for specific ingredients, I have found that it isn't difficult to find alternatives. For example, the cheesecake says Amalfi lemon but I just used normal lemon. I suspect it might have been a bit more tart than it might have been but it was still really good! And it was made using a base of ricotta and mascarpone instead of the cream cheese I would normally use to make cheesecake. As a result it was very light.

Here's some photos of some of the things I have made:

One recipe I have already made more than once are the meatballs. Actually, I should more correctly say my husband has made them more than once. This is the recipe that everyone in the group was raving about, so it had to be the first recipe we tried. And we loved it too!

We couldn't get burrata from our local supermarket so the first time we made it we substituted baby boccincini and the second time we used chopped up mozzarella.

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce with Burrata

For the meatballs

400g/14oz pork mince
400g/14oz beef mince
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with a little sea salt
3 tbsp full-fat milk
100g/3½oz dried breadcrumbs
75g/2½oz parmesan, finely grated
3 free-range eggs
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, for greasing, frying and drizzling

For the tomato sauce

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
600g/1lb 5oz tomato passata
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the burrata and crostini

extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 ciabatta or sourdough loaf, cut into thin slices
1 garlic clove, peeled and left whole, to rub
150g/5½oz burrata

For the meatballs, put all the ingredients for the meatballs (except the oil) into a large bowl and combine to form a firm, evenly distributed mixture.

Cover your hands in olive oil, take a generous tablespoon of the mixture and roll it between your palms to form a meatball the size of a golf ball. Repeat until you have used all the mixture - you should have 16 meatballs. Place them on a tray, wash your hands and then place the tray in the fridge to firm up for 30 minutes.

Place a large, non-stick, ovenproof frying pan over a high heat and add a tablespoon or so of olive oil. When the oil is hot, begin browning the meatballs (in batches if necessary), ensuring that you don't cook them completely - a little colour on the outside is perfect. Once they are all browned off, remove them from the pan and leave them to one side while you make the tomato sauce.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6.

To make the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in an ovenproof pan and set it back over a medium heat. When hot, add the garlic, thyme, and chilli. Simmer for 1 minute, then add the tomato passata. Cook gently for 15 minutes, or until the volume of the sauce has reduced by half.

Season the sauce with salt and freshly ground black pepper and take the pan off the heat.

Place the meatballs in the pan on top of the sauce, evenly spaced, then transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through. Leave to one side for 5 minutes to cool slightly (leave the oven on).

For the burrata and crostini, drizzle a little oil over the ciabatta slices and sprinkle them with some sea salt. Place on a baking tray and bake in the hot oven for 4 minutes, or until crisp, then rub them all over with the garlic clove.

Meanwhile, finely chop the burrata, then use a spoon to drop dollops all over the baked meatballs.

The meatballs are juicy, the sauce is tasty. We are tending to put the cheese in a bit earlier so that it was a bit more melty (technical term).

If you are interested in Italian cooking, this might be a good cookbook for you!

Weekly meals

Saturday - Out for dinner
Sunday -  Enchiladas
Monday - Bacon, zuchhini mushroom pasta
Tuesday - Out for dinner
Wednesday - Mexican chicken parma
Thursday - Out for dinner
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

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Musings on Music: The music of Roy Orbison

A couple of years ago I was doing Music A-Z where each week-ish I would share music beginning with the letter of the week. Last year I intended to do Musings on Music whenever there was something  I fancied talking about that. A new song, an old song, a concert we went to - anything really. But it turned out without the structure, the thoughts that I did have didn't really make it into blog posts. I am, however, going to give it another go.

I have had several posts kicking around in my head - songs we heard as we travelled around Europe, new songs that make me cry and we also have a few concerts coming up. 

A couple of weeks ago now, we went to see Damien Leith sing the songs of Roy Orbison, backed by his band and a full orchestra, and it was magical. Damien Leith was Australian Idol winner back in 2006. One of the songs that he sang during the show was Crying. And so began an ongoing association with the music of the Big O.

We went to the show with a friend that I work with. She was a last minute addition but it turned out to be fortuitous as Roy Orbison is her favourite artist of all time. So whilst I was not familiar with all the older songs, she knew every song, including this one

There is no way I couldn't mention the songs that are synonymous with Roy Orbison, including Blue Bayou, Oh Pretty Woman, Only the Lonely and so many more. It was a fabulous night! 

I did laugh at one point as one lady in the queue for the bathroom was questioning why they sang Drove All Night. Yes, Cindy Lauper did a version of this song and apparently Celine Dion as well, but so did Roy!

Last year we saw Leith do the songs of Lennon and McCartney and now Roy Orbison. We will definitely be keeping an eye for his future shows.

And in the mean time, I will continue to listen to more Big O!

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: The Classics edition





Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week the theme is Favorite Heroines (or heroes, if you prefer!) but I am going to go off topic this week...again. I am currently listening to Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne, so I thought that I would share classics I have read. I know that I should have read many more, but oh well. No guilt allowed right!

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne - Listening to this now!

Les Miserable by Victor Hugo - What a massive undertaking this was!

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll - I read this last year for Cook the Books and thoroughly enjoyed it!

East of Eden by John Steinbeck -   There's several books on this list that I read thanks to Oprah's book club!

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald - I read this back in high school and then read it again 10 years ago.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - This was another Oprah read. I did end up going on to read and enjoy a number of his books.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen  - Still the only Austen I have ever read - Shocking I know!

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - I read this after reading Mr Pip!

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell - I did think about putting up the cover of the DVD of the BBC series as the picture here (hello Richard Armitage) but I restrained myself!

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - I really enjoyed this! Another Oprah read!

What's your favourite classic?

Monday, February 20, 2023

This week...

I'm reading

My read on a theme bookclub theme this month is book to screen. I was tossing around a few ideas but I have ended up landing on Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne on audio. I watched the TV series with David Tennant last year. So far I can't help but think how different it is from the book and how the things that I thought I knew about the book aren't in it so far!

I am also back reading The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan. I am reading this for Cook the Books, so I need to find something to cook from it so I can post about that when I share the post for Weekend Cooking over the next few weeks.

I'm watching

I went to the movies twice last week. I went to see The Whale, starring Brendan Fraser and then on Saturday night we went too see A Man Called Otto starring Tom Hanks. These are two very different movies. Both good but both different. The Whale was quite confronting and Otto was uplifting and feel good

We also finally finished watching Only Murders in the Building, so now we wait for the next series. We also started watching the final series of Picard and the second series of Jeremy Clarkson's series about running his farm, Clarkson's Farm. I don't always agree with Clarkson, but this show does make me laugh.


Speaking of laughing, we went to see British comedian Sarah Millican live. It is the second time we have seen her and she was just as good the second time around.


We started Advanced Manners training this week, although to be honest, I am pretty sure Max has forgotten all of his basic manners training.

Posts from the last week

Weekend Cooking: The Library Book Edition
Sunday Salon: 2022 in Review

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

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Sunday Salon: 2022 in review

I know that we are more than halfway through February, but I haven't had time before this week to share my statistics for 2022 yet! And you know I love a good statistic, so I didn't want to not do them. So, better late than never, is my 2022 in review post

My Goodreads challenge target for 2022 was 55 books, which was one book per week plus a couple of extras. In the end, I exceeded this and read a total of 60 books for the year, which was 12051 pages. I am aiming for 60 books this year too!

Let's get into the stats.

I do tend to read a lot of new books so no real surprises with the numbers below. The oldest book I read was Alice in Wonderland, which I read thanks to Cook the Books.

Genre wise, there are no surprises that my reading is dominated by historical fiction, general fiction and contemporary romance. It is a bit of a surprise to see a horror read on there! That's unusual!

My best reading months were February and October. Pretty sure February won't be up there in this years stats. At least I hope that there are better months! was August. 

One of the things that has changed for me over the last couple of years is the way that I read. If we look back a few years, most of my reading would have been paper books, then audio and then finally the occasional e-book. However, that has completely swapped around with the vast majority of my reads being digital this year. It surprises me that I completed 9 audiobooks this year. Last year I only finished 3 audiobooks whch I attributed to the fact that I spent most of my year working at home and therefore don't have a lot of listening time. The same is true this year and yet I finished a lot more.

A new statistic for this year is keeping track of whether I own or borrowed a book, or if it was a book that I received for review purposes

I have been blogging a very long time now. This is my eighteenth year and yet today is the first day it has occurred to me to include posts per month in my annual stats

Some other stats:

I read 34 new to me authors in 2022, which is 57%. I think that is a good thing, but it also means I am not getting through many backlist books from authors I have already read. So I guess there are pros and cons both ways.

The authors who I did read multiple books by were Maggie Christensen with 7 books, and Ella Carey, Toshikazu Kawaguchi, Jo Thomas and Karen Swan with 2 books each. 

I don't do a lot of rereads at the best of times. This year my only reread was Hogfather by Terry Pratchett which is seemingly becoming an annual event during the festive season. 

As always my reading is always skewed to read a lot more women authors than men but I read many more than usual men this year with 49 books by female authors and 11 by males. 

Another skew that I have in my reading is towards Australian authors. This year 40% of my reads were by Australian authors, which is a pretty big portion and is about the same as last year. I don't really see this changing.

The last graph I wanted to share is for ratings. My go to rating of a book I enjoyed is 4 out of 5 and this is once again reflected in the gradings for the year.

These were the two books that I gave 5/5 to!

So there is it is....my 2022 reading year in review!

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Weekend Cooking: In which I borrow far too many cookbooks from the library

A couple of months ago I mentioned that I had recently learned that Jamie Oliver had a cookbook club. And after that I learned about an Australian cookbook club as well called the Lambs Ear Cookbook Club. The reason why I joined the second one was to get to know about the Australian cookbooks that are being released.

I enjoy buying new cookbooks as much as the next person, but two monthly cookbook clubs does mean two new cookbooks every month. If you aren't sure you are going to cook from them, that is not only pricey but takes up space on the bookshelf too! So, where possible,  I am trying to borrow the books from the library. The only problem with that is sometimes the books take so long to come in that the month is over. I am finding that when I have the cookbook during the month, it is easier to find things to cook out of them as everyone is excitedly posting what they have made.

Today I am going to share the cookbooks that I currently have out from the library. 

More Fish More Veg by Tom Walton - I know that we should eat a lot more fish than we do, and should be way more adventurous with vegetables than we are.  The reality is that of the three of us who live in this house, I am the one who likes fish the most. And vegetables for that matter.

I have, however,  convinced Robert to try at least a couple of the fish dishes before I return the book to the library. 

There are also a couple of interesting vegetable dishes, which look impressive because of the way that they are served. One is a roasted pumpkin which is halved that you then pile a jeweled rice on top of. 

One thing I really like about this book is at the bottom of a lot of a button, there is a section which says this recipe goes well with which is a nice touch

One of the cool things about these kind of cookbook clubs is that the choices cover a variety of cuisines. This month's book for the Lamb's Ears Cookbook Club is Salamati: Hamed's Persian Kitchen by Hamed Allenyari with Dani Valent.

A lot of people are enjoying the section of omelettes, and I was skimming through there was a recipe for a tomato omelette that caught my eye.

There are a lot of authentic Persian recipes in the book, but there are also a lot where the author has given non traditional recipe a Persian twist.

One of the things I like from this book is that for various  seasons and special occasions there is a suggestion for a feast and it tells you which dishes complement each other. I also like that the food is so colourful and that each recipe has a little story about his memories or why he chose it.

Interestingly, there is a rice pudding dish with roasted rhubarb that Hamed worked on with Julia Busittil Nishimura, whose book is below.

I really like looking at this book and I would like to own it, but I am not sure how much we would actually cook out of it.

At the bottom of the pile of books in the photo above you may be able to notice that there is a magazine. In addition to the monthly cookbook, they have an annual option and this year it is about cooking from Delicious magazine, so I just grabbed one from the library on a whim.

Around the Table by Julia Busuttil Nishimura was another selection from Lambs' Ears cookbook and I think this is one that I am definitely going to buy.

This book had me at hello, by which I mean that I opened the book to the first recipe and it was for something that I had been thinking that I want to make!  

It is an interesting mix of predominantly Italian and Japanese recipes, but there are other influences throughout the book.

A couple of the recipes that caught my attention were the Summer Nectarine and Raspbery trifle,  a Pear & Polenta Torte and a Lemon Mascarpone Tart.

The final cookbook for this post is, unsurprisingly, from the Jamie Oliver Cookbook club - One: Simple One Pan Wonders by Jamie Oliver

This is Jamie Oliver's 26th cookbook. It makes me wonder how easy it is for him to come up with new concepts for each book. In this book, the idea is that you only use one pot, one casserole dish, one baking tray to cook with. 

Most of the recipes are are relatively simple, with not too many ingredients and use some store bought ingredients rather than making everything from scratch.

There are some interesting ideas here. There is a whole chapter on Frying Pan Pasta where you use fresh lasagne sheets as the pasta base, therefore meaning that you don't need to boil the pasta separately and then add to the rest of the ingredients

There is another chapter on the Joy of Eggs which has a few different versions of Shakshuka.

One recipe that I am definitely going to try before returning this book is a Baked Lemon Cheesecake which is made in an ovenproof frying pan. 

The current choice for the JO Cookbook Club is Hopper by Karan Gokan which is Sri Lankan food. I can't get this book from either of my libraries and I still haven't quite decided if I want to buy it. I am definitely interested in going to a Sri Lankan restaurant to try hoppers, which I had never heard of before this.

I wouldn't mind owning this book but of these four books, if I can only buy one, it would Around the Table. Of course, there's nothing to say that I am only allowed to buy just one!

I have bought one cookbook which I absolutely love cooking from which I will post about in the coming weeks.

Oh, and if you are wondering about the book on the top of my artistically photographed pile of books, it is a foodie related novel that I grabbed on a whim on my way out of the library. I mean, I borrowed it, I just didn't walk out the door with it. Now to find time to read it.

Weekly meals

Saturday - 
Sunday -  
Monday - Meatballs with mozzarella
Tuesday - Out for dinner
Wednesday - Out for dinner
Thursday - Cheese and crackers
Friday - Cumin cheese on toast

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


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