Book 2

 

¬†Just finished reading A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.¬† Set in 1970’s India during a time of horrific political and civil turmoil, the novel explores the relationship between four characters of great differing backgrounds (geographically, culturally¬†and economically).¬†¬†The title of the book comes from an idea discussed by two passengers on a train, that the key to life is balancing hope with despair no matter how awful one’s situation.¬† It’s a beautiful idea, especially when illustrated by the heartbreaking tragedies and injustices¬†of the characters’ lives and¬†their continued labours to improve their lives.

A captivating but shattering read. 

Flatbread

The lovely summer pizza recipe and more-ish lamb kofta recipe I’d like to share in the next week or so requires a base of (preferably) freshly made flatbread.¬† The same ridiculously easy, absolutely fool-proof flatbread that I promised to post a recipe for weeks ago and never ever did.¬†¬†Here it is – better late than never.¬†

Flatbread (makes 4)

1/2 tspn dry active yeast

200ml warm water

250 g pasta flour (a mix of durum and white flour) or strong white flour

1/2 tspn salt

Olive oil

Optional – sesame seeds

  • Whisk the yeast with the warm water.¬† Set aside for 15 minutes until begining to froth.¬† Stir again briefly.
  • Sift half of the flour and all of the salt into the bowl and stir to make a ragged dough.
  • Tip dough onto floured surface and gradually knead in the rest of the flour.¬† Knead for 10 minutes until dough is stiff but smooth.
  • Place in a¬†lightly oiled bowl and turn until dough has a thin film of oil all over.¬† Cover with a plastic bag and put in a warm place for 1.5 hours.
  • Heat oven to 250 oC.¬† Split dough into four pieces.¬† Take one piece and roll out on a floured surface into a very thin circle.¬† Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired and roll in.¬† Place dough circle on baking paper and bake in the middle of the oven for approximately 7 minutes or until the bread puffs up like a balloon and has just a few spots of golden brown.
  • Repeat until all the dough is used up.

Use Real Tomatoes

We enjoyed¬†a heatwave last week here in the north of Scotland.¬† I realise that “heatwave” has exceptionally negative connotations for all of you living in warmer climes but up here it tends to be a much celebrated event.¬† Temperatures of 25 oC/77 oF give us a rare chance to get out the summer dresses and deck chairs, to eat ice lollies, drink icy cocktails and to doggedly stay outside with the midges until it gets pitch dark (well after 11pm at the moment).

With such toasty temperatures, it may seem rather odd that I chose to make a baked pasta dish one evening last week but make it I did.¬† The idea came from the rather beautiful Kitchen Unplugged by Viana La Place which was recommended to me by Lucy several weeks ago.¬† La Place’s recipes are exceptionally simple but rely on absolutely perfect ingredients.¬† When I came across the most beautifully ripe tomatoes last week I knew it was the perfect time to try out her Penne Baked with Tomatoes.¬† And it was.¬† A beautifully light dish that felt pure and right for a warm summer’s evening.

Penne Baked with Fresh Tomatoes (based on a recipe from Kitchen Unplugged)

400g dried penne

8 large perfectly ripe plum tomatoes, sliced thickly

Handful of basil leaves, torn

Handful of parmesan, plus more to grate when serving

Butter

Extra virgin olive oil

Seasoning

  • Cook the penne in plenty of boiling water until not quite al dente – it will cook more as it baked.¬† Drain and toss with seasoning and enough olive oil to just coat the pasta.
  • In a large heat proof dish add a layer of pasta topped with tomato slices.¬† Add seasoning, a sprinkling of parmesan, a¬†scattering of basil¬†and some fine slivers of butter.¬† Continue layering until tomatoes and pasta are used up (I only had two layers).¬† Drizzle a little olive oil over the top.
  • Bake in a 180 oC oven for 20 – 30 minutes until tomatoes are very soft but still holding their shape.
  • Serve with a green salad and more parmesan.¬† A few strips of Parma ham is divine with this too.

Book 1

 

Many thanks to you all for the huge amount of reading suggestions for my very lazy summer hols.¬† I shall endeavour to work (that’s not the right word at all!) through as many as possible over the next blissful six weeks and will give little updates occasionally.¬† Like this one…

First book¬†of the summer was To The Wedding by John Berger and was¬†suggested by¬†Christina.¬† Picked this as my first book as it was¬†was quite¬†short and¬†sounded very emotional.¬† The story revolved around the wedding of a 23 year old HIV positive girl.¬† Her estranged parents travel from different parts of Europe to be with their daughter, Ninon, in Italy as she marries her love, Gino, and as they do we learn of¬†how she and¬†they and he¬†came to be in this situation.¬†¬†Berger’s characters and their preoccpations reminded me a lot of¬†Milan¬†Kundera’s novels (which I loved as a student) but his writing is far more poetic.¬† That’s not a criticism¬†nor a compliment – it just is.¬† Must say,¬†it was a¬†great start to my reading season.¬† I cried quite a lot but, despite the inevitably tragic end, I came away feeling far more uplifted than saddened.¬†

On to A Fine Balance now.¬† Early days but I suspect this may join the list of¬†my favourite books…