Tag Archives: Cookbooks

Sunday Smiles: More Olympics… and that’s about it

This has been a bit of an uneventful week.  I had grand plans for the weekend but they were totally thwarted by my waking up yesterday morning with a throat so sore that I could barely swallow, which was suspiciously reminiscent of my previous encounters with tonsillitis.  I feel a little better today, so I really really hope that it isn’t.  I guess I’ll just have to wait and see, and my plans will have to wait for next weekend…

My Olympics-dominated Sunday Smiles this week are:

  • One of New Zealand’s big, popular comedic talents are the Flight of the Conchords duo.  They had a reunion tour around NZ a couple of month’s ago, and I kept hearing about them but didn’t know any of there work.  This week I finally watched the first season of the Flight of the Conchords TV series.  I wasn’t too convinced by the first few episodes, but it definitely grew on me and I actually found it rather hilarious by the end.
  • As I mentioned in Friday’s post, I have a copy of River Cottage Veg Every Day from the library at the moment – I’ve tried a couple of other dishes in addition to the chachouka that I posted, such as the scrumptious mushroom risoniotto (look out for a blog post soonish).  They all turned out wonderful, and I really like the book.  I predict that there will be a copy residing on my bookshelves permanently in the near future.

  • There’s a section of my blog stats that tells me what search terms have directed visitors to my blog.  The last few weeks haven’t provided any funny ones, but this week the internet apparently thought that I’d be a good source of information on “the fear of running out of butter” and “accidentally gave 4 year old too much caffeine.”  Both amused me.  Sucks to be the second person though.
  • The Olympics carried on this week, and although I’m not the biggest fan of athletics (I get bored of it after a while), since the coverage here is mostly highlights, I watched it anyway.  I’m so glad that I was able to see one of Saudi Arabia’s first two female Olympic athletes compete in the women’s 800m (the other was in the judo, but I didn’t really watch it). She had to compete in full sleeves and leggings and headscarf, which can’t be terribly practical and must be boiling given that most other athletes are in little two-pieces and she went out in the heats (to an ovation from the crowd), but what an achievement for her.  Although I’ve read that there has been a lot of backlash and criticism against the two female athletes back in Saudi Arabia, so perhaps it’s doesn’t represent as much progress at it may initially seem.  I also loved seeing other “underdog” athletes, such as the rower from Ghana.  I can’t be the only one who just watches events because they’re on without any actual knowledge of them.  The other day I discovered the keirin.  Seriously, have you seen it?  It’s a cycling race where the competitors follow a motorised bike for several laps, which gets slightly faster each lap, then disappears and everybody cycles as fast as they can.  Well, that’s my interpretation anyway.  It’s the oddest thing to watch.  Also, the motorised bike guy looks like he should be in a Tintin cartoon (just me?).  Also what’s up with the race where there are two cyclists and they cycle along at a glacial pace and then out of nowhere put on a crazy burst of speed.  Could anybody explain the tactics behind that one?  Along the same lines of sports that don’t seem to make much sense, have you seen the canoeing where the canoeists (?) paddle whilst kneeling rather than sitting?  Who thought that was a good idea?  (Anybody have any stats on the number of people that fall out whilst racing?  I spent the whole race expecting somebody to over-balance.)  Also speed walking – who came up with that and made it an official sport?  It looks so uncomfortable (and difficult not to break into a run).  Less than a day to go before the Closing Ceremony…  I don’t want the Olympics to end!  At least there will be the Paralympics soon!  (Photo source)

What made you smile this week?

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Sunday Smiles: Flips, flops & snowdrops… Oh and the Olympics

This week saw the start of August.  I’ve no idea how time is managing to disappear so quickly, but I really wish it would slow down a bit!  Although spring and summer are definitely something to look forward to (I’m not sure when spring officially starts here, but it can’t be too far off…?).

Quite a few things made me smile this week, so I guess this week’s list of Sunday Smiles is fairly long, but I’ll try to keep the entries concise (and I might even succeed for once!  Ha.  Ha.  Ha.):

  • I mentioned last week that I missed the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony because of time differences.  The guys in the lab showed me how I could watch any program that’s recently been aired on NZ freeview TV through a service that the university provides (so it’s perfectly legal), which is super handy.  For some reason I could only get the first two hours of the ceremony, until just before the torch was lit, but I managed to watch that bit on YouTube, so it’s ok.  I’ll be honest, I was expecting the ceremony to be a bit of a fiasco, but it was spectacular.  I cried at several points (I’m pathetic like that) and the Chariots of Fire/Mr Bean sketch and the Bond and the Queen segment with the corgis were utterly brilliant and probably my favourite bits.  (Image source)

  • Of course, after the opening ceremony comes the actual Olympics…  I haven’t really been watching any of it live because of the time difference, but one of the free-to-view TV channels here is entirely dedicated to Olympics coverage so we get the main highlights and re-caps throughout our daytime, and conveniently we can stream the channel through the university network (general productivity in the lab has plummeted this week).  Since there’s only one channel we don’t really get to choose what we want to watch, but this week has worked out fairly well (Sky is also showing the Olympics and I think there is more choice across their channels, but of course you need a subscription), with lots of rowing, sailing, swimming and gymnastics and a little bit of fencing, all of which I enjoy watching.  The coverage is obviously very Kiwi-centric, which means that I saw the men’s double sculls race four times on Friday (the Kiwis won gold in what was undeniably a fantastic race), but I’m ok with that, and it probably means I get a bit more work done since I can detach myself a bit more (maybe).
  • The surprise of my week came in the form of snowdrops.  I didn’t think that snowdrops existed here, since it hardly gets below freezing in winter and so on, but apparently they do.  And apparently they flower in late July/early August (mind blown – apparently I’m still not as used to the seasons here as I thought).  I adore snowdrops, so seeing a whole clump definitely made me smile, especially since they were so unexpected!

  • I requested Marian Keyes’ Saved by Cake from the library an age ago, and have been patiently making my way up the waiting list.  I was finally able to pick up a copy this week.  I think the book is aimed more at beginner bakers and loosely follows the author’s journey of learning to bake.  However, I found the introduction, in which Miriam talks a little about her (on-going) struggle with depression, to be a very interesting read.  And encouraging, too.  I’ll have to take a closer look at the recipes this week – there were a couple that caught my eye when I briefly flicked through them.
  • A new month means turning a page on my desk calendar.  My calendar has little funny ramblings every month and August’s has been making me laugh since I first flicked through the calendar before buying it.  Now I get to look at it almost every day for a month.  In case the photo isn’t too legible, this is what it says: “Know that invariably after a flop comes a flip* *Unless you inadvisably choose the open-toe sandal with sock approach to life when it would be fair to say you deserve whatever is coming to you.”  Ha ha.

  • Poor grammar is one of my pet peeves.  The correct placement of apostrophes and the differences between there/their/they’re and your/you’re aren’t exactly rocket science.  I’m not sure how I came across this video (warning: there’s some swearing), but it amused me greatly (and left me in awe of his speed rapping skills).  Plus I love the original song as well, even if the video is a bit odd.
  • I went to the Auckland leg of the NZ Food Show yesterday, and it was wonderful.  There were, of course, plenty of food stands, and lots of the odd wine stand.  I’ll be writing it up in a blog post so suffice to say that I had a great time…
  • And finally, how stunning are these colourful light art photos?  I particularly love the jellyfish one.  I’ve no idea how it’s done, but it’s amazing.

So.  About being concise… ya…  Good effort on the last few points, but not so much the ones about the Olympics…   Maybe next time.

What made you smile this week?

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Something a little different for Random Recipes #18

For this month’s Random Recipes challenge Dom has changed things up a little and asked us for “something a little different.”  The whole concept of Random Recipes revolves around every participating blogger’s respective collection of recipe books, and whilst there’s no cooking involved this month, the recipe books themselves get to be the stars of the show post.  Dom wants us to take a photo of our cookbook collection, perhaps feature a couple of our favourites, or share the stories behind some of them.   I think this is an excellent idea, mostly because I’m rather nosy and I like knowing what the homes of bloggers that I follow regularly look like, so then as I read their posts I can picture them in their environment and better imagine the stories they tell.  Is that creepy weird?

You won’t be surprised to read that I’ve enjoyed seeing other bloggers’ entries pop up.  Not only because of my general nosiness but because I’m pretty sure this is the first time that I can describe myself as ‘restrained.’  (Anybody who knows me in real life is probably laughing at the idea of me showing restraint.)  Whilst I frequently browse the cookbook section in bookshops, there’s such an overwhelming choice that I can usually never decide on just one and end up going home empty-handed.  My single shelf of books probably makes me a contender for the smallest collection of cookbooks amongst the Random Recipes participants.

Here are a few of my cookbook statistics:

  • 23 cookbooks, 3 recipe folders (plus a tonne of recipes saved on my laptop from blogs, books I’ve borrowed and magazines – I type up or photograph the recipes that interest me rather than write them out) and 3 reference books (one about wine, one about cheese and the Flavour Thesaurus)
  • 13 of the cookbooks (that’s 57%) are in French
  • 16 of them (70%) were gifts, and 12 of those are in French – clearly my French family and friends know me well and have the right idea
  • 25 magazines waiting for me to file away the recipes that interest me…  I should probably get onto that.

I’m terribly OCD about alphabetising things (having a librarian as a mum probably had an impact), but cookbooks are my one exception – I organise them by height, because it’s more aesthetically pleasing.  And some don’t have named authors, so then it all gets terribly complicated.  With only 23, it’s pretty easy to find the one I’m looking for anyway.  Incidentally, a word about the rest of my bookshelf – aside from my cookbooks, I left most of my other books (fiction and other non-fiction) in Edinburgh and since books take up a fair bit of space are thus expensive to cart around the world, I’m trying to avoid buying any whilst I’m here (thank goodness for libraries!), hence the dearth of other books.  As well as that, a lot of my uni-related books and folders live at my uni desk rather than at home.

I think my favourite book has to be my copy of Larousse des desserts, a (brilliant) gift from my French aunt and uncle and a bible of all things dessert-related.  I frequently turn to for tips, techniques or just simply ideas, as well as when I’m unsure about a recipe from another source, and aside from the caramel sauce saga, it has never let me down. If you’re looking for an all-encompassing dessert book that ranges from pastry to cakes to pastries to chocolates to elaborate desserts, and speak French, then I highly recommend this one!

I was given several student cookbooks before I went to uni, and since they were from my mum and my French aunt and uncle (they give the best gifts), they’re all French.  I’ve flipped through various British cookbooks aimed at students, but they really don’t measure up – as a general rule, they all seem to be over-simplified and aimed at students who can barely even cook pasta.  Books for students who already have some cooking skills and are just looking for cost-effective but tasty and, importantly, healthy meal ideas seem to be pretty few and far between.  Student cookbooks in France, however, suit me perfectly.  I still regularly refer to these books for meal ideas, as well as simple and straightforward everyday desserts.

I also have to mention my well-thumbed and slightly batter-splattered copy of Mad About Muffins.  I’ve tried over half of the recipes from this book, most of them more than once, and I’ve yet to be disappointed.  If you’re looking for a dedicated muffin book, this one is definitely worth consideration.

I’d actually really like two comprehensive books about meat, one in French and one in English because the cuts are different between the two countries and so is what you do with them.  The same goes for fish.  I’m also looking for a good vegetarian cookbook because I struggle to come up with interesting main courses when inviting vegetarians over.  Any recommendations are welcome!  Since I really enjoyed the TV series and the book seems pretty comprehensive, I’ve requested River Cottage Veg Everyday from the library to give it a test-run, so we’ll see how that goes.

Whilst we’re on the whole behind-the-scenes thing, for those of you who are as nosey as I am, I thought I’d include a photo of my little kitchen here in NZ, complete with totally pointless dishwasher (although I guess it does make a pretty good drying rack).  I’ve probably moaned about not having much counter space…  I haven’t been exaggerating.  At least I have a fair bit of cupboard space, although one of the cupboards is taken up by a microwave, and the rest are full.  I might not have that many cookbooks, but I have a hell of a lot of kitchen paraphernalia.  I don’t, however, have a proper utensils pot, because I have yet to find one that jumps out at me.

So there you have it, a little sneak peak at my cookbook shelf and kitchen.

Enjoy the rest of your day, wherever you are in the world!

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