Reading List (16/1)

Salted chocolate chip cookies

Nirvana in a major key. The weirdest, warpiest thing your brain has heard this week.

Sometimes academia is a dog-eat-dog world.

Colour impacts on our ability to taste different flavours.

Having the kind of day when only cake will do? This gingerbread salted caramel layer cake looks delicious.

Eating comfort food can cure a lonely heart“.

Improving oneself in January. An article to make you think about the point of it all.

Baking the cinnamon rolls from Mario Batali’s ‘apology’ letter. And related, Batali & Bastianach restaurant group is restructuring.

Volunteering can help improve your life.

Reading too many health stories, I’ve decided, is bad for your sanity“. Bee Wilson on health in the new year.

Protecting cocoa trees in the wake of the modern world.

I loved both these articles from the NYT magazine. The first, by Dorie Greenspan, reflects on learning to cook instinctively, without recipes or measurements. The second, by Samin Nosrat, is on the joy of friendship and cooking. The importance of cooking in taking care of, and being cared for…

Thoughts on robots preparing your salad in a restaurant?

An interview with Tim Hayward.

I made these cookies on the weekend. (To accompany some rather delicious fig, dark chocolate and marsala ice cream I made for dessert – from Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles). They are very good, and rolling them in sugar before slicing and baking is a genius idea but are they the best chocolate chip cookie ever? I am not convinced.

This tart looks delicious. The feed over on Canal House is inspirational if you are not sure what to cook this month. Pistachio lemon bars sound like a brilliant idea.

Have a good week! x

Reading List (9/1)

coffee

Thoughts about things to let go of in the new year.

Controversial employment practices at Wagamama over the festive period.

A photograph creates images of bird movements in the sky.

Foodie things to do in January.

Friendship bread.

A fascinating read on Anthony Bourdain and his particular brand of food travel.

I fully identity with this: “I, for one, invariably feel overwhelmed by huge projects I’ve yet to start, the pressure to achieve goals within a neat 12-month timeframe, the anxiety and panic around what might happen to the world in the year ahead”. If you’re suffering from a case of January blues, read this advice on surviving the month.

Thinking of writing as self-care.

An online Baking Club. I think I may dabble in this.

This is an old but useful list for new year decluttering, streamlining, organising etc…

Iceland has made it illegal for men to be paid more than woman.

Baking in winter.

“Sometimes, I believe the only reason we maintained a relationship with her was to get a tin of her fruitcake”. I love this essay on food, heritage, identity and fruitcake.

A list of must read stories for food bloggers and writers.

Team, you can go and run a bookshop in Scotland for a few weeks, for a holiday…

A pilot to make school cafeterias in Boston more like casual-fast food places. This means they serve better, fresher food.

I’ve been listening to How to Stop Time by Matt Haig. I absolutely love it. It is wonderful, part magic, jumping around in narrative time and place. I loved this line: “as if a part of us is contained in every book we’ve ever loved“. What a wonderful idea.

Have a good week! x

Reading List (2/1)

Happy New Year all! I do hope you had a happy December and a very good New Year. I spent a lot of it asleep, recovering from a particularly hectic year. This reading list was a few weeks in the making so there may be a few things that seem ‘old’…

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If you are still adjusting to the new year, Maria Popova wrote eloquently on how taking a longer perspective might help us deal with the present moment. Look up at the stars, and wonder at our insignificance.

A list of inspiring women.

Motivation porn‘.

Being a minority in an elite university.

Being a person of colour in the hospitality industry. A pastry chef on restaurants.

Rachel Roddy’s recipes for Christmas feasting. I’m including this because really, we should be able to eat trifle at any time of the year. Plus, the recipe for bean and bacon casserole seems appropriate for these colder days. And her recipes for the New Year.

The Guardian’s best food books of 2017. Saveur’s best food reads of 2017. (If you read only one from the list, make it Helen Rosner’s essay on Mario Batali.) The Food Programme reviews their favourite cookbooks of the year.

The story of Hodmedod’s.

Why food appeals at Christmas obscure the structural factors that result in people being unable to afford to buy food.

Ideas of how to cope with the academic publishing complex. Work-life balance in academia.

Coping with anxiety.

Monkey bread. These shortbreads. (Today is soooo grey these seem like a perfectly sound option for dinner).

On tamales.

It is coming up to Epiphany, January 6th, which means galette du rois

A French chef giving back his Michelin star.

Barbara Cartland’s Cookbook. (Thanks Jo for bringing this to my attention!)

I did a fair amount of non-work related reading this past month. Apart from re-reading Harry Potter (currently busy with The Goblet of Fire), I read some truly wonderful books:

Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore. I read this in a scant 24 hours. I could not put it down. The writing is eloquent and I loved Lizzie, the narrator. But I really loved Dunmore’s notes at the end of the book. This was her last novel before she died and the novel is all about what remains after we leave this world. She writes, “only a very few people leave traces in history, or even bequesth family documents to their descendants. Most have no money to memorialise themselves, and lack even a gravestone to mark their existence. Women’s lives, in particular, remain largely unrecorded. But even so, did they not shape the future?

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. This is another novel that is technically YA but should be read by everyone. It has stayed with me long after I finished it, thinking about Calum and Sephy, and their relationship. I haven’t read more of the series yet, although I will this year.

The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick. I just loved this book. It jumps around in time, deals with ancestors and ghosts, magic and stars. It moves from France to Ireland to Antarctica. It is a strange and wonderful book.

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie. Because it isn’t the festive season without a bit of murder mystery in a grand house right?

The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater. I’ve read this like a memoir and I want to make all the recipes…

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge. My god, this book! Another about silenced women. Well, not exactly. It is a book about a young woman, Faith, who travels to an island with her family and natural scientist father. He is hiding a specimen and the story revolves around Faith, the tree, her father, and the secrets and lies people tell. I found myself wanting to yell at the men keeping Faith from pursuing science, telling her she couldn’t know anything and is absolutely not as important or as intelligent as her brother – it is set in the mid-1800s so women are supposed to be silent, and are definitely not clever (they are measuring people’s heads to prove it!). In one chapter, Faith is in the church and reads some of the marble plaques on the walls, full of women’s names. “Who had they been, all these mothers and sisters and wives? What were they now? Moons, blank and faceless, gleaming with borrowed light, each spinning loyally around a bigger sphere. ‘Invisible,’ said Faith under her breath. Women and girls were so often unseen, forgotten, afterthoughts”. In a year of #metoo, this book, along with Birdcage Walk, draws attention to the way women are regarded (and have been regarded) in our societies.

Have a good week! x

I did that! 2017 edition

Greetings on the last day of 2017 all! I know I have been absent from this space for most of this last month. I was swamped with work, then away, and then Christmas seemed to take over all my time. I do hope you’ve had a good month.

2017 in a nutshell

 

As has become tradition, this is my ‘I did that!’ list for 2017. As I have said in the two years previously (you can read those lists here and here), I like this practice of reflecting on what I have actually achieved these past 12 months or so. It gives me time to worry less (always a challenge) of what I should be doing in the next 12. I did read (on Instagram) that some people find this practice quite upsetting, because they don’t feel like they have achieved anything during the past year. Well, for the record, I am with you on that. It is how I always feel when I look back. At first I can only ever see what has not been done, what is still outstanding, and how much there still is to do. But eventually, with some time and patience, some things I am proud of do reveal themselves. If you are feeling that way – that nothing is ever good enough or done – don’t worry, you are not alone. It is totally acceptable to feel like that too. Ignore all the lists and other people’s achievements. Have a glass of bubbly and just be content to be.

This has been a tough year. Some of it has been extremely rewarding – I switched jobs and absolutely love my new one. (Unfortunately it is fixed-term research so I am already on the job market again, applying for new jobs that begin in the next academic year. Shout out to anyone who might have anything education and research-y going!) My job involves a lot of travel, which I love because it takes me to many places I have never been and also involves a fair amount of seaside visits. But being away from home most weeks is tough, and I have spent many a weekend asleep, catching up on rest.

It has also been a challenging year health-wise. I had surgery to fix the stabilising ligament (ACL) in my knee. Recovery has gone well but it took me out for a fair few months. I am also still battling endometriosis. The doctors have yet to identify what exactly is wrong. I have an appointment on Tuesday so hopefully will have a better plan of action then.

So it has been a mixed bag of goods really. I am quite looking forward to the changing of the year…

All that said and done, here is my list.

1.) I endeavoured to strike a better equilibrium of work demands with the rest of my life. This may seem like an odd way to start but not working all the time is incredibly difficult for me. It is a legacy of my doctoral studies, and is also connected to my tendency towards perfectionism and over-achieving personality type. I actively tried to have at least one whole day off a week throughout the year, where I did not do any work. I prioritised spending time with A, and tried hard to be present and in the moment when I was with family. (Sometimes I failed at this entirely – I spent the weeks I was on sick leave, recovering from my knee op, finishing the manuscript of my book.) As if I needed reminding, I read this article yesterday that warns that “what is lost in a world of total work is the very possibility of our experiencing meaning“. This remains part of my list of things to work on in 2018.

2.) I finished the book and submitted the manuscript. It is now in production and should be out sometime early next year. YAY.

3.) I had a paper published in a well-respected journal. Huge sigh of relief. I cannot describe the weight that left my shoulders when I got the email confirming this.

4.) Despite all the health challenges, I prioritised doing exercise and keeping fit in a way that gives me joy. This has meant a lot of yoga and a fair amount of swimming. I have found exercise is a good way to disengage from work, particularly when I am traveling as it helps break up my day so that I can do some relaxation in the evening (and then sleep better). I have discovered the sheer joy of cold water swimming, managing a bracing 13C before deciding I was done until the spring. I now seek out swimming pools and yoga classes ahead of my trips, so that I can plan places to swim/attend yoga classes. As a result, I have a list of wonderful pools and studios across the country! (My current favourite is Newquay where you can go to Ocean Flow Yoga and do an intense yoga class before washing away the sweat with a dip at Fistral Beach.) Now that my knee has been fixed, I am back at running. I used to hate running but how I have changed. I love the rhythm, the sounds, the meditative trance I have to slip in to in order to make it all the way to the end. I have managed to run solidly for 25 minutes (I am doing the Couch to 5k plan) and the sense of achievement I have at the end is wonderful.

5.) I started a new project to introduce ritual and routine into my life: 52 weeks of sourdough. Most weeks I am trying to make either sourdough bread or something that uses a sourdough base – babka, cinnamon buns, croissants etc. I am not quite consistent in making something every week, but I keep returning to the making and baking, and that is what is important.

So that is my list. How was your year?

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 13

I know you guys totally thought I was flagging on this project. You did, didn’t you? Basically, November became an overwhelming month, one I spent mostly not at home, on trains, on buses, traversing the country for work. Whenever I was home, I was asleep. There was no bread baking. Things got so desperate we ran out of our emergency bread stash in the freezer. Dire people. (Fortunately the kids at Small Food Bakery sorted us out. Thank goodness for local sourdough bakeries).

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But this weekend I finally had enough energy to bake some bread. And obviously I made far more than we actually needed, see above about emergency bread. When A- came home from work he exclaimed, ‘you are making bread for an army!’ I have a total inability to cook in small portions so I suppose it was inevitable that this would spread to my bread making too. I assured him it would be fine. I made one plain loaf, for regular toast and then I flavoured the second half with rosemary, thyme, walnuts, and a really sharp stinky cheese A- brought back from his last trip to Spain. It is glorious bread. The interior is sort of purple in colour. We’ve been slathering it in butter and dipping it into soup for dinner.

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The plain loaf developed this extravagant whole through it’s crumb. The flavoured bread was much more even, bubbles-wise. I’ve now sliced the loaves and placed some in the freezer. Bread in the freezer is so reassuring. Like a guarantee of dinner even when there is nothing else in the house.

Verdict for week 13? I’m back baby. Going to experiment with Christmas themed bakes in the next few weeks.

Reading List (5/12)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Edible gift recipes. Gift ideas from Anna Jones.

A tiny donkey! (Thought you would appreciate Holly, Micky and Lee!)

Baked Alaska. I am not the biggest fan of this dessert but even I can get into this version with pistachio cake and lemon semifreddo. Plus words from Gabrielle Hamilton.

Jeremy Lee has a whole series of puddings for Christmas in the Guardian.

What to eat while watching your favourite festive films.

The majority of PhDs will never obtain the tenured post for which many initially believed they were being trained‘. Lots of PhDs, not a lot of academic jobs.

Community gardening.

I love everything on this menu. And will definitely be making the honey roast sausages during the festive period.

Panettone is a challenge to make properly. I really want to try making one in the few days before Christmas.

‘You have to be someone to understand the value of your senses, to know what they’re telling you. Mine, after cooking in her style, told me that I should definitely aim to be more like a German aristocrat in Spain in my daily life. I should be regularly crusting more whole fish in salt, making my own bread, and mixing nut creams and bitters into my pints of vanilla Häagen-Dazs’. Recreating food from books.

If you want to, you can now buy perfume that smells like Sunday lunch.

More holiday baking: saffron cardamon star bread.

New podcast find: My Open Kitchen.

I love Oliver Jeffers.

Women in professional kitchens.

An important comment on the bubble that is food writing.

A pretty comprehensive cookbook list. The London Review Bookshop cookbook list.

Cake and grief.

Food history blogs.

I finally finished listening to A God in Ruins this weekend. It was loooonnnnggg. I am still not sure how I feel about it. But I do love Teddy. I am now listening to Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (she of The Girl on the Train). It is a fab mystery story that I turn on whenever I am making coffee/tea/cooking/running which is always a good sign. I also finished the Red Queen. After not reading anything for weeks I have now entered December reading vibes I think and I am enjoying the quiet reading moments I can find. Red Queen would be classified as a YA dystopian novel I think. (I found my copy in the library’s YA section). It is set in a world of people with abilities (Silvers) and those without (Reds) and is a classic good v evil, everyone is not who they seem, revolution-is-coming type book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. If your vibe is The Hunger Games, or The Bone Season or The Midnight Queen series, you will like this.

Have a good week! There will be no reading list next week as I am away. Service will resume possibly on Boxing Day! xxx

Reading List (28/11)

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Guys, I missed my calling as a Dessert Anthropologist. Do you think it is too late to switch careers?

A write-up of an awesome community project in Sneinton.

Ideas for alcohol in desserts.

I’m still too liable to think that being thin is the same as being healthy‘. A professor on the complexities of health and being well. Some interesting ideas on the benefits of home-cooking too. Has anyone breached the whole “what should you do when your cooking skills start to make you fat because you make an excellent slow cooked pork belly” debate yet?

The ritual and significance (or not) of burial sites.

On farming. Young farmers in the US.

A book to add to your Christmas wish list.

Food as therapy.

A top cookbooks of 2017 list.

This past weekend I finished an incredibly disturbing Val McDermid. I think I have had enough crime fiction for a while after that, (apart from Poirot’s Christmas which I found in a second-hand bookshop and am saving for December reading) so if any one has any recommendations they would be gratefully received! I am thinking Christmas themed books…

Chocolate caramel cake. This looks like a good one for the festive season.

I hope you are all organised and have your Christmas gifts already. If not, gift guide here.

Massimo Bottura transforms leftovers.

American heirloom project. Sooooo cool!

I went to the Basquiat exhibition at the Barbican last week. If you can, go and see it. Just a fantastic collection of work and musings. I really loved the journals they exhibited, filled with random thoughts. It has inspired me to try and take up a pen more regularly again.

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Have a good week everyone! x