Beetroot and walnut hummus

Beetroot hummus — what an amazing pink hue!

I introduced Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s style of cooking to you in my post last December, A cook book recipe and a recipe too, when I was given a copy of his latest cook book for Christmas. I recommend it and if you’d like your own copy, it’s available at Amazon: River Cottage Veg Everyday at I promise I am not being paid to promote it! I am merely a fan of tasty, simple food.

River Cottage Veg Everyday has become my go-to recipe book and today I made Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s beetroot and walnut hummus. You’ll need to use a measurement converter as Fearnley-Whittingstall is English and therefore uses British cooking measures. But don’t worry about it too much; in a recipe like this one it doesn’t matter if quantities aren’t exact. The recipe (see below) is from the Mezze & Tapas section of the cookbook, which is filled with all kinds of delicious dips and snacks. Hummus doesn’t just have to be all about garbanzo beans (chickpeas). The cookbook includes recipes for cannellini bean hummus, carrot hummus and of course, beetroot hummus.

I hope you enjoy the recipe and as always, please feel free to let me know what you think in the comments section. Have you tried making an unusual variation of hummus? I’m always on the alert for new recipes to try!

Beetroot and walnut hummus

Serves 4
• 50g walnuts
• 1 tbsp cumin seeds
• 25g stale bread, crusts removed
• 200g cooked beetroot (not pickled), cut into cubes
• 1 tbsp tahini
• 1 large garlic clove, crushed
• Juice of 1 lemon
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• A little rapeseed oil (optional)

1 Put the walnuts on a baking tray and toast in a preheated oven at 180ºC for 5-7 mins, until fragrant. Leave to cool.

2 Warm a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and dry-fry them, shaking the pan almost constantly, until they start to darken and release their aroma – this should take less than a minute so be careful not to burn them. Crush with a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder.

3 Break the bread into small chunks, put in a food processor or a blender with the walnuts and blitz until fine. Add the beetroot, tahini, most of the garlic, a good pinch of the cumin, half the lemon juice, a little salt and a good grind of pepper, then blend to a thick paste.

4 Taste the mixture and adjust it by adding a little more cumin, garlic, lemon, salt and pepper, blending again until you are happy with the result. Loosen with a dash of oil if you think it needs it. Refrigerate until required but bring back to room temperature to serve.

Recipe © Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, 2011, River Cottage Veg Everyday, Bloomsbury. No copyright infringement intended.

My to-list for 2012 has decreased… one item

There are a number of things that I want to achieve in 2012, such as visiting the beautiful state of Maine. Whether I will do all of them this year remains to be seen. But last Friday night, I checked off one of the items from the list: I went salsa dancing for the first time.

Salsa dancing — image source Salsa dancing tumblr. No copyright infringement intended and all rights remain with their owners.

Salsa is amazing. 3+ hours of almost non-stop dancing to fast Latino music is a fantastic workout. My hips and the muscles in my legs were still slightly achy two days after the class! The teacher is from Colombia and has a wonderful sense of rhythm. She told me salsa dancing is easier for girls because if the girl makes a mistake, it’s the guy’s fault! A good dancer will know how to lead so that his partner can follow without errors.

I already knew the origins of salsa dancing were in South America but I was motivated to find out more details about how the dance originated and which South American country it comes from. According to the Wikipedia page for salsa dance, there are now many different styles of salsa dance, including Cuban style, New York style and LA style. The primary origin is the Cuban Son dancing of the 1940s. When I read this on Wikipedia, I went in search (via the ever-helpful Google) to find out about Cuban Son dancing. This is what I found: – the webpage explains the history of the dance and that many African elements are present. It’s interesting to realize salsa dancing and music has so many diverse influences, even though I think it’s often considered a solely Latin American dance.

One of the salsa songs I danced to:

Have you ever danced salsa? Are you a current salsa dancer? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. 🙂

Book review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles front cover — no copyright infringement intended. All rights remain with their respective owners

Image source: The Age of Miracles at

I was lucky to get an advanced review copy of The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker and I just finished reading it. It is a striking, original début novel and it is definitely one to watch out for when it arrives in book stores next month on June 26.

I’ll give you a brief summary of the plot before I share my thoughts on this novel. The Age of Miracles is set in California….wonderful, sunny Southern California, in a quiet everyday neighborhood. But then the Slowing begins. The earth begins slowing down, meaning that the days and nights grow longer and longer until our human concept of 24 hours in a day no longer has any relevance. Julia, the protagonist, is eleven years old when this takes place but the story is narrated by Julia when she is older and looking back on the events of “the slowing”. The author, Karen Thompson Walker, thoughtfully describes the changes which take place when “the slowing” happens: changes in gravity and Circadian rhythms, the death of birds and crops. Catastrophes are woven with the story of a young girl beginning adolescence, creating a multilayered story of people going about their daily lives in a setting which feels very unreal.

This is a novel which is all about time and its power over us. Even though the government attempts to enforce the 24 hour clock, nature is ever-powerful. As this article from the website of the British newspaper, The Guardian points out, The Age of Miracles is “eerily prescient” because something like this could actually happen. When the massive earthquake struck Japan last year, it moved our planet on its axis, causing our day to shorten “by a fraction of a second”. The Age of Miracles has a quietly apocalyptic feel to it: there are no dramatic explosions, no zombies parading the streets, no extraterrestrial beings conquering the Earth. And it is this fact that makes it so believable; it’s not your typical sci-fi novel.

However, although the novel is well-written and the concept is engaging, I am disappointed by what I think is a weak ending. The book leads the reader on to wonder what will happen but then, all of a sudden, you arrive at an anti-climactic and forgettable ending. The ending is my main issue with the novel. I tend to avoid giving stars or points in my reviews but if I had to rate this on a scale of 1 – 10 I would probably give it a 5 or a 6: I enjoyed reading it and it gripped me but the ending was unsatisfying. Don’t let that dissuade you from reading it though; despite the fact that my enjoyment was somewhat negated by the ending, The Age of Miracles is a thought-provoking read and Karen Thompson Walker is a talent to watch out for. For more info and to read an extract from the book, visit the website at