Month: May 2016

Peanut Crunch – salty|sweet|good

IMG_0736This is the base of a slice I make all the time.  On this blog in 2012. It is on a yellowing and crumpled piece of newspaper. It has always been kept on the recipe book holder on the bench because I need it a lot and I can always find it there when I need it. The original recipe has a caramelish topping but I was experimenting and needed something really fast to take to a friend’s place and this is what I came up with.

Double everything and it makes a bigger slice.  Hint: you want a bigger slice.

  • 150 grams butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 desertspoon golden syrup
  • 1 cup salted peanuts
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup rice bubbles

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Melt butter, sugar and golden syrup over low heat. Chop peanuts in food processor. Mix flour, baking powder and rice bubbles together.

Mix everything together and place in slice tin which has been lined with baking paper. Bake until golden.

Just in case you want to ice this with the most delicious icing in the world – again double it.

  • 100g butter
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 1tblsp golden syrup
  • 2tsp vanilla

Melt butter and golden syrup, stir in vanilla and icing sugar, pour icing over base while hot.

Review: The City of Mirrors

The City of Mirrors
The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve just set down the final book in my favourite series, possibly the only time I’ve read a whole complete series, and I’m left feeling a little bereft, a bit teary and overwhelmed and satisfied. Justin Cronin wrote a story that is deeply complicated, filled with loads of characters and tied all the threads together in the final volume but loosely, he left enough space for a little wondering. What a great book, I’ve spent large chunks of two weekends reading it and becoming that reader who cannot hear what is happening around them because the story was so engrossing.

Don’t even think of attempting this without reading the two previous books, you need all the background to lead into this. Fanning is going to tell you the story of how the virus was released, and why and expose the motivation for all that went before. But you will also follow all the people you have become invested in as they fought and loved and battled to survive in the previous books. And he will leave you with Amy. Amy is always at the centre of things, as she always was and always will be.

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Review: The Language of Flowers

The Language of Flowers
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a change of pace for me. A little romance and a lot of flowers. I learnt a lot about the meanings of flowers, not that I will probably ever use this knowledge, but the victorian language of flowers must have been very useful for courting couples of that time. I enjoyed seeing Victoria grow to adulthood via group homes and abandonment. She isn’t an entirely attractive personality, but she has plenty of drama to deal with and her prickliness is understandable given her childhood. I enjoyed her relationship with Elizabeth who nearly adopts her but ultimately lets her down. I liked her forgiving nature and the depiction of her life. A good book to read if you want some nice escapism and a view into the world of the florist and also single motherhood.

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Kumara & Coconut cream soup

soupThe weather is foul, with a cold blustery wind whipping about the house, the ideal dinner tonight is soup. A hearty warming one.  I made this one up so it is an ‘add a bit of this and that’ kind of soup.  You can’t go wrong whatever you do.  I was making it for a crowd so this made a big pot.  Serve it with lovely crusty bread rolls.

3 large kumara, chopped into medium size pieces (a mix of pumpkin and kumara would be good too)

3 large onion – chopped and diced

3 cloves of garlic – chopped finely

Stock (any sort but chicken or veggie is best) – start with 2 cups but you might want more depending on how thick you like our soup – or water if you want.

1 can coconut cream  – light would be fine too

oil and butter – dashes of both

2 bay leaves

Cumin seeds both whole and ground – be generous

A couple of tablespoons of the spice paste of your choice

More of a guide than a recipe. Melt the butter and oil in a big pot. Add the onions and garlic and spice paste. When they are all melty and caramelised, add the cumin seed and bay leaves, add a little more oil and add the diced kumara and cook, stirring occasionally until it just starts to cook a little bit.  When the kumara is softish, stir in the ground cumin, add the stock, cover with a lid and let it all just bubble away for a goodly time. Taste.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Add water if you need to. Add more spice if you need to.  When the veg is all soft use a stick blender and wizz till smooth.  Add coconut cream and stir in.  Serve with some lovely bread.




Review: The Slap

The Slap
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! I’d started this book before but not carried on, I was influenced by someone who told me that it was just full of swearing and ugly people and I wasn’t in the place where I needed to read that stuff and I put it down. Then another friend told me I must read it, it was brilliant and beautifully written and to get over myself. So I did. Good decision.

There is so much to say about this book, and I’m totally incapable of doing it justice. Here is a small attempt. Firstly the characters, this book feels like Australia, a certain demographic, a certain sector of society, the middle class wannabes, the immigrant families who want their children to be higher up the economic/educational scale than they were, the harshness that can exist in that country and the fantastic vernacular that colours the conversations in Australia. It speaks of the political correctness that pervades in current society and the completely different set of values of young adults today compared to people who have gone before. Racism is there in it’s horrifying but inherent in the species, the whole these people are different from me and therefore inferior to me style. This is social commentary via the family. It is powerful and the conversations are so well done, I was completely engrossed.

This book is breathtaking in it’s power. It gets you thinking about your own attitudes and horrifies you as the characters act badly and unexpectedly. Everyone has secrets and they are all flawed, but then these are very real and believable characters. They act the way that people really do. We know these people, we might even be these people. These grasping and selfish people who live their lives with misguided loyalties, or are they misguided, who have family conflict, who have friends who are crazy lunatics but who are still our friends, regardless of their faults.

Along with Tim Winton, but with a completely different take on Australia, I think this author must be one of the best in Australia today. Yes, the swearing is rampant but it is the way that people really talk, and it gives power to the story and without it the book wouldn’t have been so powerful. Highly recommended.

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Review: The White Cottage Mystery

The White Cottage Mystery
The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really like mystery novels from the so-called Golden Era. Margery Allingham is considered one of the stars of the time, but I had not come across her. This book is about the mystery surrounding the death of the horribly obnoxious Eric Crowther, a man who is universally disliked by everyone who knows him. The suspects all had reason to knock him off. A father and son detective team work to solve the mystery and along the way Jerry, the son, encounters romance. It is a gentle mystery and totally evocative of the era. Good story.

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Review: Havoc

Havoc by Jane Higgins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I would have given another star if I’d been able to remember the first one – which I really liked – more clearly. This one took me a wee bit to get into because I couldn’t remember the characters well enough, I see that some people on Goodreads think it is ok to read as a standalone, but I really felt that you needed the background of the previous novel, and once that all came flooding back to me I was in. The characters are realistic, witty and the dialogue sparkling between them. Nicely conflicting moral issues and I think Jane Higgins is one of the very best young adult writers in this country. I’m interested to see what she writes next. Look, I just upped the stars!

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Review: Remade

Remade by Alex Scarrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this so much more than I expected to, was hooked from page one and had to keep reading to find out what would happen to Leon and Grace. A virus is sweeping the world, people are dying in droves and within minutes of catching it. All that remains of the afflicted are bones and teeth and a gooey pool of yuck. There has never been a plague like it. It seems that it must be man made to kill with such ferocity. Leon and Grace are great characters, both having to deal with being new back in England after moving there from the USA. There is such a lot to deal with, and Mum is busy trying to hold it all together for them, earn money and deal with the divorce from their Dad. She is distracted and not paying proper attention her kids. It is all fine until the virus hits and then they are in the thick of a much bigger disaster. Will they even survive? And if they do, why them?

The science sounds authentic, the virus is horrendous, the characters are engaging and this is the first book in a series. A winner for teenagers looking for a non-zombie apocalypse! Bring me number 2 immediately!

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Review: Island Home

Island Home
Island Home by Tim Winton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The thing, or one of the things, about Tim Winton, is his voice. This memoir is one which covers lots of the landscape of the giant island, and that is what he feels Australia is about. That landscape has informed the culture, the attitudes and the inherent nature of the people, both indigenous and imported. This book gets better and better as it rolls along. I love it that he gets political, I totally agree with his stand on ANZAC and I’m sure that his views will upset some people, but for me his is spot on. Same with his concern for the environment and his attitudes there. The man is an Australian national treasure. (Along with Tim Minchin.) I love it that he is prepared to draw a line in the sand and state his views categorically.

I found his views on writing and the writers who informed his writing really fascinating. I’d love to hear him speak and this book is kind of like having him interviewed and given the chance to speak on topics dear to him. Basically I think he is a writer of genius and I would read anything he wrote, this is a nice kind of background to his books and I particularly thought about Eyrie while I was reading this. Great stuff.

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Review: Shame and the Captives

Shame and the Captives
Shame and the Captives by Tom Keneally

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been completely engrossed in this novel. It is about a real event which I had never heard of before, despite living in Australia for many years, the uprising of Japanese prisoners of war at Cowra during the 2nd world war. The intertwined stories of the people of the town was just great. I particularly loved the story of Alice and Giancarlo, she is living on her husband’s family farm, her rather dour father in law is running the farm because her young husband is in captivity in a prisoner of war camp in Europe, their relationship is beautifully drawn. I loved the way the tension built, the frisson in the air as the rebellion built.
Tom Keneally is such a great writer, the sentences are so beautiful. The dry atmosphere of country Australia is completely captured in this novel. I loved it.

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Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick

QuickOh Matthew, you give me the feels so bad every single time! I love that about you, and even though I know it is coming you can still surprise me with a great big feely moment. I love your troubled teens and the way they never quite fit in the world. Nanette is in her last year of high school, she is great at soccer and in line for scholarships to college. Then she falls out with her favourite teacher, she encounters a book which she connects to in all kinds of ways and sets about finding out the answers to the mysteries the book throws up. She encounters first love, obsession, encounters with the law and a hell of a lot more.

At the beginning of this book I was reminded of the novels of E.L Konigsberg but that feeling passes as you read on. Nanette is a great character, she is interesting, she goes through a lot of change during the course of the novel and while it gets very dark there is a message of hope. Nannette discovers sex, drugs and rap music and there is, as you expect in a Matthew Quick novel some swearing and dodgy choices, but this is very real and always appropriate and although there is a terrible preventable death (suicide) it is very much a book with hope.This is another really good novel by Matthew Quick and just confirms my love for his writing.  A great book for secondary school libraries and one your sensitive types will love.