Taylor Swift/The Civil Wars

This hauntingly beautiful song is very different to anything she has sung before. It features the twice-Grammy nominated duo, The Civil Wars, who wrote the song with Swift for the upcoming movie, The Hunger Games. I don’t know anything about The Hunger Games but I like this song!

Go have a listen!

Safe & Sound by Taylor Swift ft. The Civil Wars (video linked from YouTube – no copyright infringement intended)

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A cook book review and a recipe too!

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall wants us all to eat more vegetables. “Who the heck is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall?” you might be thinking, after reading that sentence.
The answer: he is a British celebrity chef and, according to Wikipedia, a “‘real food’ campaigner”. His latest cook book, River Cottage Veg Every Day!, is packed full with recipes which illustrate his ‘real food’ principles.

That phrase amuses me. Sure, I know what it means but it just sounds funny. ‘Real food’, as opposed to what? Fake food?

My copy of 'River Cottage Veg Every Day!'

Anyways, getting back on topic: Fearnley-Whittingstall is not trying to preach or to convert everyone to vegetarianism but he believes that “We need to eat more vegetables and less flesh, because vegetables are the foods that do us the most good, and our planet the least harm” (from the Foreword to River Cottage Every Day, text 2011 copyright Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall).

I was given a copy of River Cottage Veg Every Day for Christmas and it is a great book with about 400 pages of delicious recipes. Fearnley-Whittingstall’s style is simple: no fancy recipes which take hours to prepare, no expensive and exotic ingredients which only city-dwellers can find in specialty food shops…
The recipes are all vegetarian but almost all of them can be side dishes to meat or fish. There is also plenty of scope to create entirely vegetarian meals. I like the way River Cottage Veg Every Day is presented: there are several different chapters which range from “Comfort food & feasts” to “Hefty soups” and “Mezze & tapas”. The photography is wonderful. Every page has a color photo of the end results of each recipe.

The following recipe is from the Store-cupboard Suppers chapter of River Cottage Veg Every Day!:

Tomato, thyme and goat’s cheese tart

Serves 4 – 6
A little sunflower oil
½ teaspoon fine cornmeal or polenta (optional)
375g all-butter, ready-made puff pastry
Beaten egg, for brushing
About 350g tomatoes
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
A little extra virgin olive or rapeseed oil
100g rinded goat’s cheese
A handful of thyme sprigs, leaves only
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas Mark 5. Lightly oil a baking sheet and scatter over a little fine cornmeal or polenta, if you have some – this helps to keep the pastry really crisp.
Roll out the pastry fairly thinly and trim to a rectangle about 30 x 25cm. Put it on the baking sheet. Cut a 1cm strip from each edge. Brush these strips with a little beaten egg, then stick on to the edges of the rectangle, to form a slightly raised border. Brush the edges with a little more egg.
Thinly slice the tomatoes across into 2 – 3mm slices; discard the stalky top and skinny bottom slices. Scatter the garlic over the pastry, then arrange the sliced tomatoes on top, overlapping them only slightly. Season with salt and pepper and trickle with a little oil. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender and lightly browned.
Take the tart out of the oven, scatter over the cheese and thyme, add another twist of pepper and a trickle of oil, and return to the oven. Bake for another 10 minutes or so, until the cheese is melty and bubbly and the pastry golden brown. You can serve this hot, but I think it’s better half an hour or so after it comes out of the oven, with a green salad.

Recipe text © 2011 by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. No copyright infringement intended.

This is a fantastic cook book with a lot of simple, delicious and nutritious recipes. If I had to summarize it in one word: Yummy!

Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Christmas Day. Or, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, Happy Holidays!

Christmas snow globe

Public domain image sourced from Christmas Decorations by Jiří Hodaň

I know that my blog posts have been few and far between during the past couple months but I am planning many more for 2012!

What books have you most enjoyed in 2011?

We are nearing the end of 2011 and so it’s time for all the usual ‘best (fill in the blank) of 2011’ lists. The best movies, best books, the coolest gadgets, the most outrageous celebrity news etc. You get the idea!

So I thought I would join the party and share the books which I have enjoyed reading most in 2011.

Taking the #1 place is The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai. I found this wonderful début novel by chance and it is a fantastic read. It’s set in a small town in Missouri and is about a children’s librarian, Lucy. When one of her frequent library visitors, 10-year-old Ian, runs away from his home (and his overbearing parents) and hides in the library, “Lucy allows herself to be hijacked by Ian. The odd pair embarks on a crazy road trip from Missouri to Vermont, with ferrets, an inconvenient boyfriend, and upsetting family history thrown in their path” (quote from back cover blurb). It’s one of those books where you have to allow your imagination to step in and take over as the author uses a fair amount of artistic license but it is an endearingly quirky story. I highly recommend it.

#2: The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I thought that this was a 2011 release and I was surprised to learn that it was actually published in 2009. There is a lot of hype surrounding the book at the moment but I guess that’s partly fueled by the recent movie adaptation. I am currently half-way through my first read of The Help and it is so well-written. If you haven’t read it yet, you should!

#3: The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe. This novel is set in New York City during the 1950s, following the stories of four young women who work at a publishing company. Although it was written in the 1950s, it still feels very relevant today and is an excellent read.

If you’ve read anything great this year, please let me know about it by leaving a comment on this post. Suggestions for my (ever-growing!) list of books to read are always appreciated.

Happy December!

It is slightly freaky how the year has gone so quickly and that it is December 1st already! Time to light the Advent candle at the dinner table tonight.

Advent candle


When I think of December, for some reason the lines from Emily Brontë’s poem, Remembrance, come to mind. I love these two lines in particular:

“Cold in the earth–and fifteen wild Decembers

From those brown hills, have melted into spring”

There is such a raw beauty about Emily Brontë”s poems and I sometimes think that her poetry is overlooked as when her name is mentioned, most people instantly think of her most famous work, Wuthering Heights.

Happy December!

Advent wreath public domain image sourced from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=70&picture=advent-wreath by Petr Kratochvil