Thursday 22 December 2011

It's Christmas!

The Writing Bit
No Writing Bit this week - it's Christmas, and the only writing I'm doing is shopping lists, gift tags and Christmas cards!

The Reading Bit
When I look back over my Reading Journal  (great Christmas present!) I see that I have read 33 books this year, still  long way short of my target of 50. Included in the total were two memoirs, but the rest were novels, including four re-reads.

So, my top 10 reads this year (some new, some not so new), in no particular order, are:

The Road Home, by Rose Tremain - this was one I'd read before but returned to it because it's such a beautifully crafted novel with a wonderful central character.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan - original and surprising. I thought it might be a bit 'tricksy' and annoying, but it's currently in my lifetime top 10. See my blog post September 23 for a very brief review.
The Rapture, by Liz Jenson - strange, chilling and beautiful. You need to be prepared to suspend disbelief, but it's worth it.
So Much for That, by Lionel Shriver - some readers found this a depressing book, others viewed it as a rant against the US healthcare system. The subject matter - terminal illness - is certainly not cheery, and there is an element of ranting. However, the novel is ultimately uplifting and I found it incredibly moving and honest. Possibly one of the most affecting novels I've ever read.
The Testament of Jessie Lamb, by Jane Rogers - set in the very near future after an act of biological terrorism, this is not the sort of novel I usually go for, however, this is both a page-turner and a 'make you think-er'.
The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver - how on earth did it take me so long to get around to reading this book? If you haven't read it yet, you must do so immediately!  I have to say that the first few pages were a bit hard to engage with, but once I'd got into the book and knew the characters better, I re-read these pages and found them moving and beautiful.
The Devil's Music, by Jane Rusbridge, wonderful setting, a family tragedy, vivid and beautiful writing - what's not to like? See my blog post October 14 for a review.
The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman - this was another of my re-reads. It's a short, chilling novel of madness. The character's post-natal depression is mismanaged by her well-meaning doctor husband, and she ends up in a worse state than she was in the beginning.
This is How, by M J Hyland - the writing is spare and precise; the character odd but affecting. See ,y blog post December 2 for a review.
The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters - what fun! A creepy, supernatural story set in a huge, chilly and decaying mansion house. The pace doesn't slacken for a minute and it's not until quite near to the end that you get an inkling of what's going on. Wonderful!

The Food Bit
As promised, here are a couple of fab vegan Christmas recipes:

Cashew Nut Roast with sage, onion & apricot stuffing
 About 25g of vegan sunflower spread
1 medium onion and 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of marmite dissolved in about half a pint of hot water (you can use veggie stock, but marmite helps to bind everything.)
500g nuts (I use a mix of cashew nuts and almonds)
2 tbsp soya flour
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp, dried winter savoury (or you can use mixed herbs)
3-4 slices of bread made into crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

Fry the onion and celery in the sunflower spread for a few minutes. Add the marmite in hot water (or veggie stock, if you’re a marmite-hater) to the onion and celery, then stir in the soya flour, nuts, herbs, breadcrumbs and salt and pepper and mix well. Allow to cool slightly, Grease a loaf tin. Place half the nut roast mixture in the tin and press down, then add the stuffing (see below) and press down well again, then place the rest of the nut roast mixture on top. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes at mark 4 then turn out of the tin while still warm and serve sliced. This goes really well with all the traditional trimmings.

6 slices of wholemeal bread, made into breadcrumbs
About 80g sunflower spread
3 tsp dried sage (or 8 of fresh sage, chopped)
1 finely chopped onion
About 100g chopped, dried apricots
salt and pepper to taste
Fry the onion in the sunflower spread for a few minutes. Add other ingredients and mix.

Red Cabbage with apple
1 red cabbage, sliced finely
1 small red onion, sliced finely
2 med eating apples, grated
1 tbsp sugar
1-2 tbsp redcurrant jelly
2 tbsp wine vinegar
1/4 tsp ground cloves or half tsp allspice
Salt to taste

Put all ingredients except redcurrant jelly and salt in a pan, bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for about 40 minutes. When cooked, stir in redcurrant jelly and add salt to taste. At this point, you may want to add more sugar/vinegar or redcurrant jelly. Just keep adding little by little and tasting as you go along. Non-vegans might like a bit of butter stirred in just before serving.

Merry Christmas!

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