Tag: book review

A Sunday Salad 

Italy has been on my mind over the last couple of weeks. I bought Rachel Roddy’s beautiful cookbook, FIve Quarters and have been happily cooking my way through it. Peperonata, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, grilled eggplants, pasta and more pasta- making the most of the sweet, ripe produce lying in the sun at the market on Sundays. We watched this episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix which reminded me of the absolute love and respect Italians have for food. And I have been storming through Eleanor Ferrante‘s engrossing Napoli series as I sit and feed and feed this hungry baby. She is taking me in to 20th Century Italy with a woman’s eyes- political control, marital control, family control. Passionate and powerful writing I would definitely recommend.

Sometimes though, you need a break from Italian food. Here is a quick and easy salad I made for dinner last night – fresh and tasty but still satisfying. We had it as is, but it would be great with grilled lamb. 


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Herby quinoa and rice salad
Serves two for dinner with enough left over for two lunches the next day

1 cup quinoa
1 cup basmati rice
1 large eggplant or 2 small eggplants
1 lemon
A handful of each- parsley, coriander, mint and baby spinach
4 spring onions
A handful of pistachio nuts
100g feta
1 green chilli
Olive oil
Sea salt

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Cut the eggplant into small cubes and bake on a well oiled oven tray until golden brown. While these are in the oven, cook the rice and quinoa then set aside to cool. Chop the herbs, spinach, chilli and spring onion and put in a large bowl with the pistachio nuts, feta, a generous slug of olive oil, salt and the juice and some zest from the lemon. When the eggplants have cooked, combine everything together and serve. We had this salad at room temperature which worked well and meant the heat of the eggplants, quinoa and rice didn’t discolour or wilt the herbs. Perfect with a glass of cold white wine at the end of a busy weekend.

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Tonight for dinner? Pasta of course!

My Top Reads of 2014

A couple of years ago I set myself the challenge to read 50 books in a year. About one a week, not too hard for someone who always has a book on the go and is a tad competitive. I came in at 51 books for that year, 56 for the next, and I have started on my list for this year. What is great about it is not the number of books, but the fact I write them all down. When someone asks me what I have read lately, I don’t just stare blankly at them as I try and remember, I can look at my list and recommend something they might like.

So here are my top five books from 2014, in the order they were read;

The Goldfinch- Donna Tart

I was utterly obsessed with Tart’s first novel, The Secret History when I was eighteen. Part of my reading list for an American Literature paper, I sat in my hostel room and devoured it imagining myself at an East Coast university, part of an elitist and drug fuelled secret society. The Goldfinch is her third novel and a huge epic about a stolen painting, but more so a coming of age story. I love the way you cannot trust the narrator entirely- you are getting their version of the story and little by little you realise that may not be the whole truth as you piece the parts of the puzzle together.
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The Light Between Oceans– M L Stedman

Read this if you want to be devastated and cry and feel for every flawed and beautiful character on the pages. A story of everyone trying to do the right thing, and yet everyone losing in some way, this is a must read from a new Australian author.

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Run– Ann Patchett

I discovered Ann Patchett when I read Bel Canto- a beautiful observation of human nature, and have been reading everything of hers I can find since then. Run is an analysis of family relationships, ethnicity and America told beautifully. It makes you think about nature versus nurture, how privilege affects everyone, especially interesting for me living in the States where the ‘every man for himself’ mentality certainly wins out.

80566The Children Act– Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan is my favourite author. The way he uses language is so precise and perfect and… British I am in complete awe of him. Although I feel his last few novels have not been nearly as good as his earlier works, The Children Act was amazing. I found a signed first edition at my local bookshop and devoured it in a day, relishing in the powerful punch McEwan’s writing delivers.21965107

Bad Feminist– Roxanne Gay

Not usually a non fiction reader, this collection of essays on gender and race was fantastic. Gay nails the mix of anecdote with academic research for an intelligent and engaging read. I would recommend this to men, women, and teenagers who think that the fight for gender equality is over, or feel that the term ‘feminism’ isn’t for them.

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What do you suggest for my reading list of 2015?

Local Bookshop Found!

I have had a lot of time to read since I have been in this city. In between apartment hunting I have perched in cool looking cafes with a coffee and a book hoping someone will come and befriend me. No luck just yet, but I am ever the optimist. At least I have devoured some good ones this week- Flesh and Blood by Michael Cunningham was an epic tale spanning three generations of American immigrants. Not quite as good as Middlesex, but a captivating and tragic tale. Plus I have read Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel, A Pale View of the Hills and the very creepy The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

So it is with great excitement that I have found my new favourite bookshop. The Booksmith on Haight Street immediately wooed me with their range of books and beautiful space. They have write ups on favourite books so you have all the people who work there’s opinion on what to read. Someone called Amy liked a whole lot of books that I also like, so I have bought Captial on her recommendation.

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Bookshops are so important in any community, whether they sell a selection of dog eared second hand books, or beautiful new waiting to be discovered books. People thought that with the rise of bookshops like Borders, smaller independents would suffer. Then with the ease and discounted price offered by the Book Depository and Amazon, then kindles, we wondered- how could a small local store ever compete when they have to charge so much more and people have to leave their homes to look and buy? Perhaps it is for that very reason independent bookstores are doing better than ever. People want to feel like they belong in a community, buy their fruit and vegetables from the local farmer’s market. They don’t want to be anonymous in a huge mall. There is something nice about chatting with the person who makes your coffee in the morning, something even nicer about someone being able to recommend a book they know you will love.

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I have some amazing talented friends who are starting up their own thing and being their own boss. Anna has become a freelance photographer. Within a year she is turning away bookings because she is in such high demand. Olivia has started designing beautiful rugs and is now being stocked in small local shops in Sydney, Wellington and Auckland. Millie sells flowers out of a converted truck at Cox’s Bay and sells out all the time. These incredible people are a sure sign that we like supporting local. Why should bookshops be any different? My friend Kimberley and I have a long standing dream to open up our own bookstore one day selling beautiful books, coffee and community. It may be a cliche, but I think we can make it happen.