Mexico The Cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte

InstagramCapture_5c326356-840f-4483-ac71-12a355a04189What: The definitive bible on Mexican home-cooking by Mexico’s leading culinary authority Margarita Carrillo Arronte.

Who: Margarita Carrillo Aronte

Why: The book itself is absolutely beautiful,  I love cooking and I wanted to discover what Mexican food was aside from fajitas  (which I do love) -although the book is rather daunting in size.

InstagramCapture_90df50d5-d8a1-40e0-9432-7fa49ba9eee2InstagramCapture_fe300812-7fa1-4fd0-a321-dd85d8c3d2ccRecipes:

Birria from the region of Jarisco

Slow-cooked lamb shoulder broth style soup with lots of fresh herbs, ginger and chilli. It has to be noted some of the ingredients you will have to go seeking out as they won’t be in your local supermarket and it’s definitely one to do at the weekend as the lamb needs 5hrs marinating and then 3-4hrs cooking. However, it’s bloody delicious and you can add lots of little bits and pieces to the top to season it to  you own tastes.

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Bean Stew from Oaxaca 

Firstly I love the fact there is a whole section dedicated to simply rice and beans with each recipes simple and providing an amazingly tasty side dish alternative. This pretty much needs black beans and chorizo with a couple of sprinkles of store cupboard essentials -just remember to soak your beans overnight if they’re dried! I served mine with roasted chicken thighs, avocado and coriander. It also makes vast amounts for leftover lunches for the rest of the week.

Review:

This cookbook is amazing -it’s ridiculously large but it is described as the ‘definite guide to Mexican food’. I’m already happily working my way through the soup section and plan on working my way into the slow cooking meat section throughout winter and perhaps even invite some friends over for a Mexican buffet! It’s also interesting to see which region of the country the recipes comes from and highlights the diversity of one cuisine.

Rating: 8 out of 10  -buy it or put it on your Christmas list and then research where you can buy a range of dried chiles!

 

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The Stylist by Rosie Nixon

Screenshot 2015-11-05 15.05.00Title: The Stylist

Author: Rosie Nixon

Publisher: Mira

Publication date: 11th February 2016

Synopsis

When fashion boutique worker Amber Green is mistakenly offered a job as assistant to infamous, jet-setting ‘stylist to the stars’ Mona Armstrong, she hits the ground running, helping to style some of Hollywood’s hottest (and craziest) starlets. As awards season spins into action Mona is in hot demand and Amber’s life turned upside down. Suddenly she catching the attention of two very different suitors, TV producer Rob and Hollywood bad boy rising star Liam. How will Amber keep her head? And what the hell will everyone wear?

Review

Most women, and men for that matter, whether they admit it or not, hold a fascination with the life and times of ‘celebrities’ – the glamour, the extravagance and the swapping of bed partners – there’s a reason the Mail Online’s side-bar of shame is the widest read newspaper in the world.

Witty and with an edge of genuine experience and insight into the industry – thanks to Rosie’s extensive experience working at glossy magazines like Glamour and Hello – The Stylistprovides a genuinely entertaining, and indulgent, addition to women’s commercial fiction and one where I can already see Jennifer Lawrence stepping into Amber Green’s cinematic shoes.

The Brits definitely come out on top in terms of character traits; Amber is intelligent and fun, gets drunks at the worst times after one bottle of wine often turns into two – an eventuality that is all too familiar with certain friends of mine. Her best friend Vicky is a strong supporting act and one I hope is brought into the spotlight a little more in the next book. Equally I am amused by Trey, a director, who provides some comedy gold towards the end.

Our friends across the pond don’t get off so lightly. Mona is insane, tragic and absolutely brilliant a bit like how you imagine Karl Lagerfeld to be (although he’s French and Male) but also with echoes of Eddie and Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous. Mix those altogether and you’ve got Mona. Equally Beau, an up and coming actress, epitomises those celebs who hold the belief that somehow they’re above ‘normal’ people and therefore able to use, abuse and manipulate whenever they want.

Smart and addictive Rosie Nixon delivers her debut novel with panache

Rating: 7 out of 10

Media Lunch for Rosie Nixon, Editor of Hello! for her debut novel The Stylist

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Where: Soho House daaarling.

The Event
I happily accepted the invitation to the Media Lunch for Rosie Nixon, Editor of Hello! for her debut novel The Stylist -and not only because I was keen to step inside Soho House and see what secrets, and creative type, were hidden inside.

Once I had missioned along Shaftesbury Avenue, not for the faint hearted, and divined which of the doors would let me into the ‘house’ I was wafted through to the red room -I believe chosen purposefully because of the notable red gown both on the front cover of the book and a running theme throughout the narrative.

Introduced to the lovely ladies from Midas PR and Harlequin who promptly popped a glass of Prosecco in my hand I felt like a member of an elite inner circle -although my hair was more frizzy than glossy. Rosie arrived soon after and was glowing and wearing a beautiful floral dress and an infectious megawatt smile -she was also on the cusp of giving birth, thankfully an event which did not take place during lunch!

Working in PR myself it was a bit like a double whammy I got to learn about how they work at the various places; Glamour, Lorraine, Yours magazine -and also had some really interesting conversations both about The Stylist and other upcoming books they were working on and looking forward to reading. Happily I learned about a book being worked on that has been written by the writer of Death in Paradise -a cosy murder mystery set in the Caribbean watch it you’ll love it!

TheStylist3Food & Drink
The lunch was a variety of mixed platters for starter, main and dessert and all delicious especially the parma ham and melon salad, duck with rainbow chard and star anise and the yogurt and honey panna cotta with figs. The amusing food deliveries were the giant bowl of chips which were devoured and cancelled any illusion that women just want superfoods, and the blackberry crumble that came in one giant sizzling bowl as if it was to represented to a giant with a ladle as a spoon.

Of course drinks were accompanied throughout -white or red wine- as ladies who do lunch do drink.

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A really lovely lunch well it went on until 3pm… Rosie was and is quite obviously excited about her book and the conversation both with her and the other creative women was interesting and extremely entertaining.

Book reviews on the way…

Colombian Holiday Reading

Tripping off to the stunning country of Colombia for ten days taking in: the capital city of Bogotá with it’s historic quarters and emerald jewellery shops, the coffee triangle of Pereira, then moving onto the natural beauty of Tyrona Park and Santa Marta before ending in the colonial Caribbean city of Cartagena  -books had to be carefully selected and packed!

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The third book in the Victor Legris Mysteries, The Montmartre Investigation by Claude Izner was read whilst staying at the stunning Hacienda San Jose in Pereira.

We fortuitously had the place to ourselves so enjoyed the luxury of a private swimming pool where we enjoyed a few too many Ron Coca in the evenings. The service was excellent and the rooms were traditionally decorated, and styled, in dark wood which complimented the lush green surrounding of the coffee region.

The book : 

November 1891. The body of a young woman is discovered at a crossroads on Boulevard Montmartre. Barefoot and dressed in red, she has been strangled and her face disfigured. That same day a single red shoe is delivered to Victor Legris’s Parisian bookshop. Suspecting more than just coincidence, the bookseller sleuth and his assistant Jojo are soon engaged in seeking out the identity of both victim and murderer. In this third investigation set in belle-époque Paris, we are drawn with Victor into the city’s nightlife and the legendary Moulin Rouge immortalised by Toulouse-Lautrec, who features in the story.

The story was stronger and more interesting than the first two I have read in the series. The plot juicer and the setting of the Moulin Rouge and culture of Cabaret was a welcome addition. Don’t get me wrong I really enjoyed it, however my continued niggle is that I just don’t like Victor (seems like it should be quite a big problem seeing as though he is the main character -but it’s not). His jealousies and overbearing attitude to the wonderful Tasha continues unabated which is just an irritating part of his personality and not one I feel is entirely justified.

Rating: 7 out of 10

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Not  a book more a menu … and one which made very interesting, if slightly disconcerting, reading.

 

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Well obviously one of his books was going to make an appearance….

Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs–yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.

I started reading this in Cartagena and continue to read this back at home in London – in a word (or three) I am hooked. Márquez’s flair for description and attention to detail in each of his characters is a thing of pure beauty. There’s no need to blather on extolling the man’s writing prowess, simply say his name and people will read his book no questions asked. Genius.

WP_20150926_09_46_02_ProAlso a quick shout out to the city itself. In Caratgena we stayed at a wonderfully luxurious hotel called the Anandá which was a perfect way to end the holiday.  The rooftop jacuzzi in particular was an excellent place to cool off, after a hot day exploring, and to watch the sun set, with panoramic views across the  colonial style rooftops and a very good cocktail (gin and cucumber infused vodka!!). The walled-city alone is totally worth the visit, and we spent many a pleasant hour idly walking the narrow streets admiring the colourful architecture. Also the restaurants here are amazing  -if you love seafood- with 5 course tasting menus costing around £25 per person ( heartily recommend Alma Restaurant).

Other books I would take on your travels to Colombia-nwe had these two with us and dipped in a couple of times having read them both before…

  • The Robber of Memories: A River Journey Through Colombia by Michael Jacobs
  • Cocaine Train: Tracing My Bloodline Through Colombia by Stephen Smith

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Finally I leave you with a quote from this guy…

Nowhere is sadder than an empty bed

French Road-tripping Reads

WP_20150804_18_06_57_ProSummer holiday this year involved a gastronomic road trip around the beautiful region of Burgundy, France and a couple of days in Paris including a visit to the Palace of Versailles with its breathtaking and vast gardens.

France as the destination the reading had to follow suit and on suggestion from a friend I borrowed a copy of A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke…

Paul West, a young Englishman, arrives in Paris to start a new job – and finds out what the French are really like. They do eat a lot of cheese, some of which smells like pigs’ droppings. They don’t wash their armpits with garlic soap. Going on strike really is the second national participation sport after pétanque. And, yes, they do use suppositories.

Review: Acerbic and fun this really is a hilarious read that doesn’t cower in the face of political correctness – the ongoing war between Paul West and his French employer is genius. The writing isn’t going to set the world alight it’s straightforward as if you’re having a conversation in a bar with Paul but it’s entertaining and perfect for reading aloud as you drive along the country roads.

Screenshot 2015-08-16 10.32.24Second Leg: A Decent Interval By Simon Brett

A super fan of BBC Radio 4’s adaptations of the Charles Paris mysteries by Simon Brett starring Bill Nighy in the starring role, I was bought some of the books for my birthday (the day we left for Paris) so I took one of the smaller ones with me.

After a long period of ‘resting’, life is looking up for Charles Paris, who has been cast as the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father and First Gravedigger in a new production of Hamlet. But rehearsals are fraught. Ophelia is played by Katrina Selsey, who won the role through a television talent show. Hamlet himself is also played by a reality TV contestant, Jared Root – and the two young stars have rather different views of celebrity and the theatre than the more experienced members of the cast. But when the company reach the first staging post of their tour, the Grand Theatre Marlborough, matters get more serious, with one member of the company seriously injured in what appears to be an accident, and another dead.

Review: Cosy murder mystery is one of my all time favourites and whilst reading  I was accompanied by Bill Nighy’s voice narrating the book in my head. Clever characters, a satirical critique of stardom -and how the idea of talent has changed with the growth of reality shows and a sense of entitlement- coupled with a strong plot and lots of Scotch. As a character Charles really is a failure of a human being especially in his role of husband and father but you really can’t help but love him.

WP_20150810_16_26_51_ProReturn Leg: Murder on the Eiffel Tower By Claude Inner

Visiting Paris and returning on the Eurostar a second murder mystery this time located in the iconic building at the time of the 1889 World Fair and written by two sisters who are booksellers along The Seine -you can’t get more Parisian than that.

The brand-new Eiffel Tower is the glory of the 1889 Universal Exposition. But one day a woman collapses and dies on its second floor. Can a bee-sting really be the cause of death? Enter young bookseller, Victor Legris, who is determined to find out what really happened.

Review: Half way through the book and completely absorbed in the plot and the characters especially Tasha the flame haired artist whose secrets are plenty and her allure to men knows no bounds. At the beginning Victor comes across as quite precocious and has an obsessive mind -that lends itself to his later investigations into the murders- but he does grow on you, although his taste in women is questionable. The plot is complex and those in the frame for murder often end up dead enabling the twists and turns of the crime to tie you up in knots. A real page turner that will hold your imagination and attention until the very end.

 

Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

Screenshot 2015-07-25 10.11.01 Title: Bonjour Tristesse

Author: Françoise Sagan (translated by Irene Ash)

Publisher: Re-issue by Penguin Essentials (2011)

Pages: 112

Screenshot 2015-07-25 10.16.08Where to read: Ideally by the French Riviera but if getting there isn’t logistically possible a quiet corner of a park – I chose Battersea Park on a bench near the water fountains one sunny day and happily whiled away a very pleasant few hours reading.

Where to buy: Belgravia Bookshop – I’m not on commission I promise I just simply love everything about this bookshop -location, atmosphere and of course the titles it sells-  a real haven for book lovers.

Refreshments: I was in the park so didn’t have much at my disposal aside from my packed lunch which was an Ottolenghi recipe of chicken and couscous salad which isn’t exceptionally French. However, I did finish the final pages sat on my tiny balcony drinking a dry gin martini (with Tanqueray No’10  which was rather delightful -and perhaps more refined!

Review:

The French Riviera: home to the Beautiful People. And none are more beautiful than Cecile, a precocious seventeen-year-old, and her father Raymond, a vivacious libertine. Charming, decadent and irresponsible, the golden-skinned duo are dedicated to a life of free love, fast cars and hedonistic pleasures.

But then, one long, hot summer Raymond decides to marry, and Cecile and her lover Cyril feel compelled to take a hand in his amours, with tragic consequences. “Bonjour Tristesse” scandalized 1950s France with its portrayal of teenager terrible Cecile, a heroine who rejects conventional notions of love, marriage and responsibility to choose her own sexual freedom.

Cecile is our narrator for the heady three months of summer spent in a villa on the Riviera. Vibrant, manipulative and conflicted in her every waking thought and action she epitomizes the confusion of a woman emerging into adulthood and one whose equilibrium is upset by an outsider. Her father Raymond is a romantic and has his head turned by the swish of a skirt and a teasing smile the thought of growing old and domesticated is both appalling and appealing. I quickly fell in love with both of their characters and was drawn into the swirling vortex of their superficial lives and captivating beauty – one that caught anyone within a mile radius and swept them away so they forgot themselves and their lives before Raymond and Cecile.

Remarkable and aloof, Anne, entangles herself into their lives and attempts to adapt them to a life both decent and bourgeois. She is depicted as being acerbic and condescending but in actuality is trying to find her footing in a game that is being played with rules she doesn’t understand.

Sagan weaves these individuals lives with aplomb and the descriptions and detail of Cecile’s inner turmoil is simply stunning. A novella that will fit in your back pocket, handbag or simply your hand as you stroll off to the park I would recommend reading this to everyone -it’s a triumph and just so…French.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Italian Food in Soho & Natural Desire in Healthy Women

MeleEPere_7Where: Mele e Pere, 46 Brewer Street, Soho London.

What: Italian Trattoria and Vermouth Bar

Food & Drink:

Starter: Salt cod Mantecato, squid ink mayo, potato crisps

The dish arrived beautifully presented in a jam jar. The fresh lightly salted cold was substantial and with a thin layer of the mayo on top so when you dug in your enjoyed all the levels of flavour across the palate – especially if you used your potato crisp like a cracker.

Main: Mediterranean stew prawns, mussels, cod & samphire

Salty samphire resting on top of perfectly cooked meaty pieces of cod that flaked at the lightest touch, nestled between two substantial prawns and a number of mussels (all of them open and ready to be demolished) and all swimming happily in a hearty and robust tomato sauce that brought the whole dish together. A welcome surprise was a doorstop wedge of fried bread in olive oil which helped mop up all the aforementioned sauce.

Dessert:  Summer Morello cherry, pistachio, marshmallow & lychee ice cream

Cherries are not really my favourite thing in the world but I was intrigued by this dessert and the collection of flavours that were involved. Highlight was the lychee ice cream which was fresh and palate cleansing after the previous courses, the marshmallow was pleasant but slightly overbearing in sweetness especially when combined with the sweet yet extremely tart cherries. Pistachios added a nice crunch and contrast in texture.

Price: Dinner for 2 = £50  (£20p/p for 3 courses & a glass of proscecco).

Rating: 7 out of 10

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Title: Natural Desire in Healthy Women

Author: Gary Dexter

Publisher & Pages: Old Street Publishing, 224 pages

Why: At an event in Belgravia Bookshop I happened upon a startling beautiful cover and then caught sight of the title and I was hooked and had to purchase it -so obviously I did.

Review:

Amber Haldane, doughty campaigner for contraceptive rights, wishes to free the masses from the chains of sexual repression and nasty-mindedness. As she gathers contributions for her new periodical, Birth Control Monthly, she encounters the luminaries of the age: H.G. Wells, preoccupied by the appearance of mysterious green spheres in his apple trees; T.S. Eliot, eager to pick her brains about glandular secretions; and Wilhelm Reich, whose theory of orgastic potency is fundamentally Misleading, Damaging and Wrong.

Brilliantly eccentric Dexter weaves together poignant arguments with a satirical flourish. The characters which include a ribald collection of notable thinker, writers and revolutionaries pop into the narrative with ease. One in particular -Margaret Sanger- is a favourite with her formidable opinions and overbearing deliverance. Old beliefs are ridiculed with acerbic and intelligent strokes of the pen and Amber is glorious throughout even when in defeat.

Entertaining and enlightening Dexter introduces readers to the history of contraception and has prompted me to read further into the previously taboo subject.

In summary -and as many have stated before- Dexter provides welcome originality and humour to  the genre of literary fiction.

Rating: 9 out of 10