Saturday, March 30, 2013

Weekend Cooking...Dark Sticky Gingerbread

The week before last, I believe it was, that I post a review of Irish Family Food by Rachel Allen. I am of the opinion that is a very nice cookbook with a large number of recipes that I really need to make and try out.
So in the interest of research, for you my dear readers, I will take up the burden!
So what to make?
Well, how about a sweet?

There are a number of choices available. Fluffy Lemon Pudding..very spring sounding. Or how about  an Irish Apple Cake..or a simple Ginger Cookie...or a fancy sounding Irish Coffee Meringue Roulade?
So many I picked something that sounds warm and cozy, nice for the still cool (or downright chilly, with the snow we had this week) weather...Gingerbread. Dark and sticky, with a syrup you pour over the warm cake and an optional icing that I think must be added.
Don't you?

"This classic teatime cake can be served warm with cream as a dessert or cold, sliced and buttered at any time.  The flavor is quite intense, and it's the kind of treat that is immensely satisfying. It stays deliciously moist and has a lovely mixture of different spices so will keep very well. Divine with a  cup of coffee."
Makes 1 loaf 

 Dark Sticky Gingerbread
  • 60g (5 Tbs.) butter 
  • 75g (1/4 cup) golden syrup (or dark corn syrup)
  • 50g (2  Tbs. plus 1 tsp.) molasses or black treacle 
  • 110g (3/4 cup) plain flour 
  • 25g (4 Tbs.) self-raising flour 
  • 1 level tsp. bicarbonate of soda 
  • 1 heaped tsp. ground ginger 
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg 
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 
  • 100g (1/2 cup) sugar 
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 120ml (1/2 cup) milk 
  • 1 egg, beaten 
  • 50g (2oz) crystallised ginger, finely chopped 

For the syrup
  • 80g (6 1/2 Tbs.) sugar 
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) water 
  • 1 tsp finely grated root ginger 

For the topping (optional)
  • 200g (1 2/3 cups) confectioners sugar, sifted 
  • Juice of 1⁄2 lemon 

You will need  13 x 23cm (5 x 9in) loaf tin
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F), Gas mark 3. Line the loaf tin with parchment paper.
2. Melt the butter, golden syrup and molasses or treacle in a small saucepan over a low heat. Set aside.
3. Sift the flours, bicarbonate of soda, spices and pepper into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and salt, then add the milk and egg and mix until smooth. Gradually add the melted butter mixture, stirring until well incorporated, then fold in the chopped crystallised ginger. The mixture will be runny.
4. Pour into the prepared loaf tin and bake in the oven for 50-55 minutes or until risen and firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Do not open the oven to test before the bread has cooked for at least 45 minutes. 
 5. Place all the ingredients for the syrup in a small saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes. Prick the hot cake all over with a fine skewer, pour over the syrup and leave to cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on the rack.

6. If you wish, mix the icing sugar and lemon juice together in a small bowl until thick, then spread carefully over the top of the cake with a palette knife or a table knife, allowing some icing to drip over the edges. 

I think it had me at 'divine with coffee', since I gave up coffee..and milk and soda and almost every beverage except water for Lent and am thinking this will indeed be divine when I can have a cuppa java come Easter Day.

Although this has a fairly large number of ingredients, once you have them gathered, it is quick and easy to put together. I got everything prepped and measured and ready to go before I started,  something I would really recommend with this recipe.
as to those ingredients...
I had no self rising flour, so I looked online and found a 'recipe'. 4 TBS is 1/4 cup, then add about 1/3 tsp. of baking power and you should be good to go. And I had no golden syrup..even though I have seen it in my I used corn syrup. Three forms of ginger are used..fresh, powered and crystallized..and I got my hands on all of them.
BTW, I also lined the loaf pan with parchment paper before I poured in the batter. All that talk of 'sticky' had me concerned about, well, sticking.

Adding the icing is up to you. I went with, not least of all because I though the touch of lemon would be nice. Have I mentioned I love lemon? But to tell ya the truth, next time I would make the icing, but half the amount and leave out the lemon juice, maybe using milk instead, with a dash of vanilla..or a touch of cinnamon. The lemon conflicted rather than complimented in my opinion.
But it was still very good.

And very cozy.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Review of "A Dying Fall" [26]

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN 978-0547798165
March 5, 2013, 400 pages

It is shocking when Ruth Galloway finds out that her old university friend Dan Golding has died. She had not been in contact with him for years, but at one point in her life he was one of her small band of friends. She is even more upset when she finds out that it appears he was murdered, the front door to his house locked from the outside after a fire was set, trapping him inside. But who would want to kill Dan, an unknown archaeologist in a small unknown college?

Then Ruth receives a letter, sent by the dead man shortly before his death. He talks about a discovery he has made, a huge discovery that will change history...and about being very afraid. So when Dan's boss from his university ask Ruth to head up to Blackpool and check out the discovery...she being a renowned bone a flash, she is packing up her wee daughter Kate, and with friend and part time Druid priest Cathbad along to visit a friend, heading to the scene to check out this discovery.

Cue the Neo-Nazis, the King Arthur fans, and a range of Old Religion followers to enter stage left, all with their own dangerous agenda, Ruth right in their sights.
Happily, she is not alone.
Her good friend..and Kate's father...DCI Harry vacationing nearby, visiting family with his wife. For those who have not read the previous four books, let it be known that who Kate's father is is not a total secret. Harry does his wife..which, of course, leads to a few problems. Harry loves his wife dearly, but he can not deny his connection to his latest daughter, or, in a different way, to Ruth as well.

The development of this story line is just one reason I love this series..and one reason why this is one series you really should read in order. Which, believe me, is not a trial, since every one of the book has been very good. As with many of the storylines in these books, the plot here is clever, with enough red herrings to keep you guessing. Not unusual, but I picked the wrong person as the murderer.

Without question, one major reason I like this series  so much is Ruth, one of my favorite characters of all time. She is...very smart, rather overweight, about as far from glamorous as a woman can be, curious, a very messy housekeeper, unlucky with men, a respected professor, a rather grumpy introvert, someone who never expected, especially as she will not see 40 again, to be a mother..and yet is a wonderful, if rather unconventional, mom.  She is very real and very likable and surrounded by a great cast.
Her relationship with Harry is without question interesting, even more so since his wife has found out he is Kate's father. I must say, she has taken it better than most women would. But we have to think that Ruth's and Harry's continued interactions...if even now only on a professional basis...will take it's toll.

And I do love the setting of the books, centered around Ruth's lonely rather ramshackle cottage on the marshy coastline of Norfolk, the Saltmarsh. I am not sure I would want to be living there on a stormy winter night as the tide comes closer, but Ruth talks it in stride and it adds great atmosphere to the books.

Yes, it is another series I am recommending...but it is only five books so far. Now is the time to start it before it gets out of hand! lol
Good plots, good settings, great..characters...really, you need to be reading these books.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Wordless Wednesday...Reading Terminal in Neon

Reading Terminal Market in Philly.
Full of great food...and great neon signs. 

 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Musing Monday...A Different Shade of Gray

 Monday is upon us once again, so let's look at the questions at Should Be Reading...

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are(or, aren’t) enjoying it.
 • Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up?
 • Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it.

I finished a couple of books this week, and started a few more. The first was the fifth in a series, Dying Game by Elly Griffiths, which bring back the ever interesting Ruth Galloway and her charming little daughter Kate. This time, everyone is heading to Blackpool, England. Ruth is off to check out an archaeological dig..that is what she does... with her daughter Kate in tow and her friend, and Druid priest, Cathbad, along as baby sitter and occasional bodyguard. Meanwhile Harry Nelson, Kate's father (but that is another story) and a police Detective Chief Inspector, is visiting Blackpool as well, with his wife, visiting family on vacation....but you just know the two, Ruth and  Nelson, are soon to be linked in a nasty crime.

Next, I read Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville. The book takes part in Ireland, so it was sort of in celebration of St. Patrick's day, although I doubt the saint would be too happy with the goings on in this story.
The main character is Gerry Fegan, a former IRA hitman, a hero in the republican community for the years he served in a British prison for his deeds. But now the 'Troubles' are over, a political agreement in the works, and Gerry is left with memories that cause him to spend his nights getting drunk, trying to ward off the ghosts. Because you see Gerry is a man who is literally haunted by the 12 people he killed, 12 ghosts that want revenge if they are to leave Gerry in peace.

So that bring up my muse for the day, a question I raised in another recent review of a book called Resolve. In that book, we know at the beginning that our hero is going to kill a man that very day, in the midst of a marathon he is running. Can we still 'like' him, care about his story if we know he is going to take someones life?

In this book, Ghosts of Belfast, he know that Gerry has killed 12 people. True, several of them were soldiers on the other side, which you might explain off as fellow combatants in a war. But several others were innocent passersby...a mother and her infant child..a butcher, killed when his store was bombed. And the revenge they cry out for will call for more deaths, the deaths of those they..and Gerry...hold responsible as well.
So, can you like a book where the hero is a killer?

Well, sometimes a writer can make it work. In Ghosts I think he does. Gerry makes no excuses for what he did, which is part of his appeal. He knows he deserves to suffer for his deeds...but he also does not want others to to get away without paying for their part as well. He is not a good man..but he is not all bad either, and for all his many faults you can't miss that small flame of light inside him, that small glow of goodness that may call him to do something noble and protect a few innocent lives.
Even if he is still a man very skilled in killing.

As I said last week, I like books that explore the Big Questions, the whole balance of Good and Evil and a book like this does that very well. Because it is rarely all black and white, rather frequently, shades of gray.
And Gerry is a very gray, but interesting man.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Weekend Cooking..Beets in Two Parts.

Last week, we had that recipe for corned now I had left over corned beef! 

After the last St. Patrick's Day, I believe I made corned beef hash with the leftovers, which is great, but how could I change it up a bit this time.
Happily, just in time, I saw this recipe, "Hash, Re-Hash", in the Wall Street Journal. For a variation, lets make some Red Flannel Hash.

The author,  Sarah Karnasiewicz, explains the appeal better than I ever could...
"The rugged beets that lend the dish its color and its colorful name; the soft scraps of carrot and parsnip; the waxy potatoes, their freckled skin still clinging; the ruddy corned beef: Apart, they're anything but sexy.
But dice and season and scatter them in a searingly hot pan. Watch their edges crisp and blush as the beets bleed. Slide it all onto a plate and crown the lot with a fried egg, as bright and cheerful as a buttercup.
You'll fall, and hard."
 Red Flannel Hash 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review of "Wool" [25}

Wool: Omnibus Edition by Hugh Howey
Simon and Schuster, ISBN 978-1476733951
March 12, 2013, 528 pages

Is it that bad a society?
Their basic needs are met, even if the whole place has a gritty, steam punk feel to it. They live underground, in a giant buried concrete silo, 144 stories deep, linked only by one spiral staircase, that takes days to navigate from top to bottom, creating a society of very distinct communities.

Most of all it is a world of secrets,  dreadful secrets that will be revealed, slowly, one by one, building up to an exciting and surprising conclusion.

From the lowest level where the mining and drilling for oil are accomplished, to the upper levels that contain the mayors office , the cafeteria and not least of all the giant screen that are the only view of the bleak outside, the ruined city in the distance, the grey clouds of the toxic air. But they have given up many freedoms to form this society. Any relationship must be approved by the powers that be and couples must enter a lottery to allowed to have their implants to be remove so that they can attempt to have a child. And that is only done when their number is decreased by one, but natural death or by being sentenced to perform a "cleaning" the ultimate punishment.

The one condemned to the cleaning will put but in a protective suit and sent outside, their first task to clean the grime that is built up on the camera lens to retain their view on the screens inside. Their second is to die out there, quickly, painfully, their body becoming just another grey lump on the landscape until it denigrates in the toxic wind.

What do you do to deserve this? Well, the most common reason is that you question what might be out there. And that leads to what is maybe the biggest question. When sentenced to death, a horrible death, why does ever one of them pause to clean the lens first, before stumbling on to their death. Why does no one refuse? Well, that is until Juliette. 

Juliette, is drafted from the deep down levels of the Mechanicals to be appointed Sheriff, and it is only days later that her investigations into her predecessors death will have her scheduled to be the latest person cast out. But this time it will be different, because she is quite the whiz and not so easily taken down. As she starts chipping away at the secrets, it is not long before she and the friends she leaves behind may be able to bring down a careful constructed facade, generations old, revealing the troubling secrets it covered up.

If you read my Musing Monday last week, you might know something about the history of this book. It was self published by Mr. Howey on Amazon, first as a five part series, then all together as one book. It became a huge bestseller and if 3,247 five star reviews can be believed, a critical success around readers. So can thousands of fans be believed?
Yes, they can.

This is a heck of a good ride of book, a great plot, with surprise after surprise revealed, with a startling and quite good ending. True, not everything is revolved. Happily, a short epilogue resolved some of our remaining questions,. but this book just calls out, loudly, for part 2. It will make a fantastic movie, which is a good thing, since Howey has already sold the movie rights. And the hardcover and the paperback rights, keeping the digital rights, the place he started, for himself.

Juliette is a great character, smart and resourceful but far from perfect, but also far from the only great character. And maybe the greatest character of all is the silo itself, in many ways a living, breathing thing, always a presence. It is at times a comforting home, at others, a great beast to be fought against. Howey has created a complete and believable and rather troubling world, a wonderful setting for an interesting tale of friendship and bravery, deceit and evil.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wordless Wednesday..On With the Show!

..The Philadelphia Flower Show that is! 
The show may be over for this year, but the memories live on in my pics.. 



  always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review of "The Guilty One" [24]

The Guilty One: A Novel by Lisa Ballantyne
William Morrow, ISBN 9780062195517
March 19, 2013, 480 pages

Today, we have one hot off the presses, just available today..

A small boy is dead in a playground, hit with a brick, and another small boy is accused of the horrible crime.
Leading the defense will be solicitor Daniel Hunter, a man who has made a bit of a speciality of defending young people accused of crimes.  That might be because he knows that, but for the grace of the form of a loving foster mother, Minnie...he might well have ended up in the wrong side of the courtroom table himself. He sees in the accused boy, Sebastian, more than a bit of his young self, a troubled boy, from a troubled home.
Ultimately, it must be decided who is responsible for the little boys death..and don't worry, we will find this is more than enough guilt to go around.

I guess this book would be categorize as a mystery, and there are several mysteries here to be solved. Is Sebastian's guilty of the murder of his small friend and what exactly is going on in that home, not to mention in that slightly odd head of his?
On the other hand, there is Daniels mystery. We know from the beginning that he is long estranged from his adopted mother Minnie, that he feels so betrayed by something she did years ago that he has refused to answer her calls or letters since shortly after he left for college. And now it is too late. What terrible act could have caused this sad estrangement?

It is a mystery in the style of many British mysteries, at times more of a psychological character piece than a story of crime or violence as many mysteries are.
For me, that is also the cause of my one problem with the book. When we find out what happen between Daniel and Minnie, I just could not buy it. Yes, someone, especially a young person such as he was then, would has been hurt, upset. But to hold that anger, to not see her motivation as he grew to be a man, a lawyer who saw a great many tragic situations in his practice..sorry, no.
The book builds up to it, builds up to it, and I could not fully buy it. Not believable. A bit disappointing.
And I think the buildup, the back story of his life, while interesting and so necessary to the story, was too long, too detailed, and in need of some judicial editing to remove more than a little repetition.

Still, for those flaws, it is a very interesting, very griping story, well told. All the characters are well drawn, and though Daniel is at the center of the story, Minnie is, in my opinion the heart and soul of this book. With her glass of gin, her tragic story, her less than hygienic kitchen, her soft spot for all things frail and unprotected, her faithful dog, she is a charming woman, a memorable character.And the pain she must have felt when Daniel left her, would have nothing to do with her...I challenge you not to find it heartbreaking.

I do wonder if we will see Daniel again. I would not be adverse to it, even if I ended the book not liking him a great deal. I think he learned a few lessons and I would like to see how that works out for him.
But regardless, I will be looking forward to seeing what Ms. Ballantyne turns out next, after this, her very good debut novel.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Musing Monday..Merry Murder and Mayhem

 Monday is upon us once again, so let's look at the questions at Should Be Reading...

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are(or, aren’t) enjoying it.
 • Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up?
 • Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it.

I been up to this week, book wise?
No pending rants, so lets take a look at what I was reading this week.

First, there was Wool, by Hugh Howey, a book I discussed in last weeks muse.
Good book, a sci-fi, post apocalyptic tale, that I would certainly recommend. Great characters, great setting, great story. And pretty well edited for a self published book.
Buy the e-book and save some money but give more to the author.

Then I read a debut novel by Lisa Ballantyne, The Guilty One, a psychological mystery set in London. Murdered child, another child on trial and a lawyer with his own troubled childhood and a deserved case of the Guilts.
Troubling, yet good ending. Another one I would recommend.

And finally, just yesterday, I started a new one, the next in a series by one of my favorite of all time writers, Elly Griffiths. This one, number 5 is called A Dying Fall, and once again the wonderful Ruth Galloway, archeologist extraordinaire, taxed single mom to an 18 month old daughter, owned by a cat and owner of a lonely cottage on the marshy coastline, is back. Can't wait to see what trouble she gets into this time.

As you can see, two of the three are mysteries, without question, my go-to genre.
I admit it..I love them.
And it was the comment of one of the characters in The Guilty One, in fact the boy on trial, that reminded me of how popular crime and mystery tales are. At one point he is accused of having an unnatural interesting in things like blood and murder and death, and answers, as is true, that many people do. Just look at all the police and mystery stories on TV, he says.

It is a subject I have discussed before, but one I still find interesting.
Why is it that there is nothing like a cuppa tea, my favorite chair and a good case of murder and mayhem to relax me?
Part of it is, I think, that I like the challenge of trying, usually unsuccessfully, to figure out who done it. But more so is watching the battle of good and evil at play, usually with least to some degree, often imperfect degree...winning. And there is no genre, in my opinion, more perfect for revealing the oh so interesting quirks and imperfections of the human race as a Big Crime. A chance to investigate the Big Questions of Life and Death .

So while I try to widen my sights, dip my toe in a bit of non fiction here, a memoir there, I always come home to a dark tale of dubiety and death to feel all cozy.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Weekend Cooking...Review of "Rachel's Irish Family Food" [23]

Rachel's Irish Family Food: 120 classic recipes from my home to yours by Rachel Allen 
Collins ISBN 978-0007462582
February 19, 2013, 256 pages

I am of two minds about corned beef.
We had it when I was a kid, and not just at St. Patrick's Day but it's mistaken identity as a common Irish dish just sets me on edge. Like green beer and drunken leprechauns and calling the saint St. Patty.
What we should be having is pork, bacon..which as Rachel Allen defines it in this lovely cookbook is back bacon or cured and smoked pork loin.
Good luck finding that in your typical American supermarket.
I need a butcher...a really good butcher!
So I went with a pork butt, a smoked pork shoulder butt, something we also had frequently on the dinner table when I was a kid.

So, where did this connection of Irish Americans and corned beef come from?
Well, believe it or not, scholarly articles have been written about it, like this one,
Irish Corned Beef: A Culinary History by Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire

"It is considered by most Americans to be the ultimate Irish dish, so much so that Allen (2010) notes ‘I can’t believe how many times I’ve had to emphasize that we don’t just live on corned beef, potatoes and cabbage in Ireland.’ However, corned beef and cabbage is seldom eaten in modern day Ireland. It is widely reported that Irish immigrants replaced their beloved bacon and cabbage with corned beef and cabbage when they arrived in America, drawing on the corned beef supplied by their neighbouring Jewish butchers...

From ancient times in Ireland, cattle were highly prized as a sign of wealth....
This paper identifies that corned beef has always been an aristocratic food in Ireland and particularly a festive dish eaten at Christmas, Easter and St. Patrick’s Day. It suggests that the most probable reason for the popularity of corned beef among the Irish Americans was not the lack of availability of bacon, as sometimes argued, but that corned beef was widely available at a reasonable price. Irish immigrants aspired to better themselves in America and part of this betterment was the consumption of foodstuff they might not have been able to afford at home."

So, enough with the research, and back to the cookbook, Rachel's Irish Family Food by Rachel Allen.
I am not familiar with Rachel Allen, but I am quite familiar with her mother-in-law, the well known chef and cookbook writer Darina Allen, who started a famous cooking school at Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland...and her mother-in-law, Myrtle Allen, she who started the now famous hotel and restaurant in Ballymaloe. It is quite an accomplished cooking family. So when I saw a review of Rachel's latest book..she has written 8 or 9 cookbooks..I thought it would make a nice gift to myself.
And I was right!

It is a very attractive book, full of many beautiful pictures of the completed recipes, some lovely ones of the Irish countryside and a few of Rachel and her handsome family. There is a nice variety of dishes, soups, everyday dishes, ones for special occasions, vegetables and side dishes, breads, desserts, cakes and cookies, many with a unique Irish feel. There are 120 recipes in total, many marked as being vegetarian, but a nice selection of meat and seafood dishes as well.
I must say, the number of recipes I am looking forward to making after paging through this book is long. Kale and Bean Stew..Sticky Cumin and Apricot Roast Carrots and Parsnips...Pork and Mushroom Pie...Dark Sticky name just a few.

Every recipes includes a little introduction by Rachel, telling the place of this dish in Irish culture, such as Ballymaloe's recipe for spiced beef, or in her own family history, like her father's favorite Ginger Cookies.
I have a number of Irish cookbooks and yet found many new ideas in this one. Still, for those not familiar with Irish cooking, beyond that corned beef and cabbage, this would make a wonderful introduction.

I will leave you with a recipe...or two..
a sauce to serve with your bacon, or ham, or corned beef
and a different way to cook your cabbage, both from Rachel's Irish Family Food.

Parsley Sauce

For the basic white sauce...

1 ¼ cups whole milk

few slices carrots
few slices of onion
1 sprig parsley
1 sprig thyme
3 peppercorns
2 Tbs. Flour
2 Tbs. Butter 
Salt and pepper to taste

Pour the milk in a small saucepan and add the carrot, onion, parsley, thyme, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow to infuse for about 10 minutes.

 While the milk infuses, make the roux. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low to medium heat ad add the flour. Allow to cook for 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Set aside. Strain the milk through a sieve placed over a small saucepan and bring the milk to a boil. Whisk in the roux, a little at a time, until well blended and allow to simmer gently 4 to 5 minutes or until thicken to the desired consistency.

For the Parsley Sauce...add

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
7 Tbs. Finely chopped fresh parsley 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Sliced pork butt, steamed red potatoes and carrots and buttered cabbage with parsley sauce

Buttered cabbage 

1 pound Savoy or other dark cabbage 
2 Tbs. Butter 
2 Tbs. Water 
Salt and fresh ground black pepper 

This is the way we prepare cabbage here at Ballymaloe Cookery School. The cabbage isn't boiled, but cooked in butter with only a splash of water. This way the water doesn't leach out any flavor or nutrition. 

Remove the tough outer leaves from the cabbage. Cut the head of cabbage into four from top to bottom. Cut out the core, then slice the cabbage crossways into fine shreds, about ¼ inch thick. Combine the water and butter in a wide saucepan over medium heat and allow the butter to melt. Toss in the cabbage and season with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and cook 2 to 3 minutes, until just softened; do not allow the cabbage to burn. 
Taste for seasoning and serve. 

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review of 'Garnethill' [22]

Garnethill: A Novel of Crime by Denise Mina 
Back Bay Books, ISBN 978-0316016780
September 30, 2007, 432 pages

Maureen O'Donnell is from a family that put the dysfunction in the word dysfunctional. Her brother is a drug dealer, both her sisters with their own issues, and she has an alcoholic mother and a father who took off years ago when it seems that Maureen was going to accuse him of sexual abuse.
Or so Maureen claims...the rest of her family, with the exception of her brother claim to believe that she is just very troubled, mentally unbalanced and imagining the whole event.

So when Maureen, just a short time out of mental hospital after a breakdown, awakes in her apartment after a drunken night to finds her therapist boyfriend Douglas murdered in the middle of her living room with a few bits and pieces cut off, things do not look good for her. With more than a few clues pointing her way, it is not a huge jump for police to see Maureen as the number one suspect. But for all her problems, Maureen is not one to take things sitting down and sets out to prove her innocence. By finding the true murderer.

It soon become apparent that the victim had a number of secrets and it is not long before Maureen uncovers a series of crimes that someone is willing to kill to keep secret.
Maureen may be one of the most unlikely heroes you will find, but make no mistake, she is no ones fool. The only question is whether she will catch the murderer before he or she catches her.

I have read a number of Mina's other books but not this one, Mina's first book and the first in a series.
Oh now, don't get upset with me for suggesting yet another series..
It is only a nice little three book series so you are not taking on a big commitment here. And I will tell you, it is a good one.

It takes place in a rather bleak and dreary Glasgow, Scotland...Garnethill is the name of a Glasgow suburb...but don't worry, Maureen and her friends and family are colorful enough to make for an excellent story. Maureen is on the one hand very troubled, very damaged, yet on the other, smart and very funny and surprisingly resilient. And while underlying the story is the heartbreaking world of the sexually abused, it is far from a hopeless book. Maureen sees to that is her own imperfect way.

Yes, the second book "Exile" is one the way and shortly after that I will be reading the third and last in the series, "Resolution". I can't wait to see what trouble the very interesting and very likable Maureen gets up to.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Wordless Wednesday...Philadelphia Flower Show




 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Musing Monday...An Underground Bestseller

Hey folks, it's Monday! So let's look at the questions at Should Be Reading...

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are(or, aren’t) enjoying it.
 • Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up?
 • Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it.

This week, I wanted to muse about an article I saw in the WSJ this week.

Have you ever heard of a book called "Wool" a post-apocalyptic thriller by the author Hugh Howley?

Well, I had not, which is pretty odd since this self-published e-book has sold more than 500,000 copies, earning more than $1 million dollars and has readers posting more than 5,000 Amazon reviews. This was all before Howley sold the foreign rights...and the movie rights, to Ridley Scott, he of Alien fame...and now, the hardcover and paperback rights to Simon and Schuster.
But not the digital rights. No, Mr. Howley kept those for himself and it seems he is quite wise to do so. It seems to benefit the author and quite possibly benefit the reader.
So, what is it about?

"Wool became a viral hit last winter, a few months after Mr. Howey began publishing the five-part series on Amazon.
The novel takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where a few thousand remaining humans live in a giant, 144-story underground silo. Couples who want to have a child have to enter a lottery; tickets are distributed only when someone dies. Citizens who break the law are sent outside to choke to death on the toxic air. Those who are sent to their deaths are forced to clean the grime off the digital sensors that transmit grainy images of the ruined landscape to a screen inside the silo. The images are meant to remind residents that the world beyond the silo is deadly, but some begin to suspect their leaders are lying to them about what's outside and how the world came to ruin."

I must say it sounds interesting and I am impressed by the sales and by the hugely popular reviews. Yes, I had to go online and buy a copy. I have not read it yet but I am looking forward to it and it seems I am not alone.

Or so a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Wool: Sci-Fi's Underground Hit discusses. The article is about more than just the book's success. The article is about something even bigger, something that this book is an example of, a whole new publishing model for authors, self publishing. True, author could always self-publish a book, but now, in the days of e-books and, to take just one example, the role of an online publisher like Amazon, it is a whole new world. Not only can they publish a book, they can publish a bestsellers, a huge, underground bestseller.
"It's a sign of how far the balance of power has shifted toward authors in the new digital publishing landscape. Self-published titles made up 25% of the top-selling books on Amazon last year. Four independent authors have sold more than a million Kindle copies of their books, and 23 have sold more than 250,000, according to Amazon. Publishing houses that once ignored independent authors are now furiously courting them. In the past year, more than 60 independent authors have landed contracts with traditional publishers. Several won seven-figure advances."

I found those statistics startling...
25% of the top selling books are self published?
Four have sold more than a million Kindle copies?
23 more than 250,000...
Really? How did I miss this?

Yes, I have had my issues with e-books in the past and while I still love to read "dead-tree" books what is the future going to bring?
And what part are the traditional publishers going to play?
Will it be a declining have to think it will be... and is that a good or bad thing for writers and readers.

Another figure they mention in the article is that the author's deal with Amazon is that the writer gets a 70% commission on what he or she sells as opposed to traditional publishers who offer a 10-15% royalty on digital sales.
Let me see...70% or 10% ..that is a big difference. True, no doubt publishers offer some pluses, say a marketing and publicity campaign but ..

And as a reader, I have to consider that Howley is offering the digital edition for $5.99 while the hardback or paperback is being sold by Simon and Schuster for $26 or $15 respectively. I know publisher do not use that sort of pricing model, often charging almost as much for the e-book as for the paperback, something I do not understand. But if the author can offer it for a significantly lower price online..well that will hurt traditional publisher in many cases, will it not..and yet benefit readers!

So, what do you think of the whole issue of self-publishing vs. the role of traditional publisher? Or as Mr. Howley says "Publishing is changing so quickly that we are all equal experts....We're all trying to figure this out."

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Weekend Cooking..Cilantro Pesto

Some people love cilantro...some people can not stand it.
If you are one of the later, you best just move on.
Nothing for you here this week. ;-)

 See, I had some ingredients on hand, a bunch of cilantro that would shortly be limp, a jalapeno that would shrivel, a lime that would dry out. And I HATE to waste!

So when I happened upon a recipe for cilantro pesto, it was perfect.
I had almonds in the freezer, along with some frozen cotija from Christmas, so I was all set.

Cilantro Pesto


1 large bunch fresh cilantro, large stems removed.
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup grated cotija (or Parmesan) cheese
1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced
1/2 cup almonds, walnuts or pecans

1/2 cup olive oil


In an electric food processor or blender, blend cilantro, garlic, lime juice, cheese, diced pepper, and nuts. Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil, and blend.
Add more olive oil until the pesto reaches your desired consistency.

Quick and easy!
So, how can you use this?

Well, here is a list of suggestions from Snappy Gourmet.

  • Now are you wondering what to do with all this great Spicy Cilantro Pesto??? Here are some of my favorite ideas: 
  • Spread a little pesto on your sandwiches or burgers, or mix a little in with some mayo for a sandwich spread. 
  • Mix a little pesto into your favorite pasta salads, potato salads, and coleslaws.
  • Mix a little pesto into your favorite chicken salads, tuna fish, or shrimp salads. 
  • Spread a little pesto on crostini or crackers and top with shrimp, sliced beef, or veggies. 
  •  Mix a little pesto into some sour cream and mayonnaise/yogurt for a delicious veggie or chip dip. Use pesto as a sauce for pasta or mix a little into your favorite tomato sauces. 
  • Spoon pesto over a block of softened cream cheese for a spread that is great with crackers and veggies. 
  • Spoon a little pesto over tacos or your favorite Mexican dishes. 
  • Mix pesto with a little more olive oil and vinegar for a simple vinaigrette dressing for salads. 
  • Mix pesto with a little more olive oil and lime juice and use as a marinade or sauce for chicken, beef, shrimp/fish, or pork. 
  • Use pesto as a sauce for homemade pizza. 
  • Or my personal fave…just eat it straight-up with a spoon!
I can not argue with any of those but I bet there are tons more.

As you can see, I put some on slices of steak, like a cheesy, cilantro version of Chimichurri. Delicious!!
And I think it would be excellent on fish or some grilled chicken as well.
You can add some more oil and make it looser or leave it thicker, mix with hot pasta and add a little pasta water to thin the sauce out to the desired consistency.

I froze the extra.
Ideally, I would have put it in ice cube trays and then pop the frozen nuggets into a zip lock bag, sitting in the freezer until you need it. But having no ice cube trays, I just put it in a zip lock, flattened it out, and will break off some as I need it.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.