Cook with Harry: Top 5 Recipe Books

For any of my followers and readers that don’t know, I love food. I run an online bakery selling gift-box brownies and in my spare time I’m always caught with my head in BBC Good Food magazine or a recipe book planning my next feast. I’ve not even finished my breakfast before I’m thinking about what’s for dinner. I have an eclectic taste in food and am the least fussy eater (just don’t put offal on my plate and I’m all good!). Because of that I wanted to introduce you to my new series – cook with Harry*. Kind of…Really, I’ll just be sharing my favourite cookbooks, recipes from them, new cookbook launches and any major food successes!

To start off my food series, I thought I’d share my TOP FIVE recipe books. I have a dedicated bookshelf for these alone, so this is a mega hard one to whittle it down to just five. When I say top books, I really mean most-loved, most-tried and tested, the failsafe ones etc. etc.

Without further ado…

Eat. Live. Go – Fresh Food Fast by Donal Skehan (Hodder & Stoughton)

EatLiveGo

This is one of my newest cook books, but it’s fast become one of my absolute favourites. I’ve cooked over 10 recipes from this one and every single one has been amazing. I cooked the Katsu Curry recipe for my boyfriend’s family and his Mum said it was, hands down, the best curry sauce she’d ever eaten. If you get your hands on this one, I highly recommend the spelt spaghetti with avocado pesto.

Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Ebury Press)

Jerusalem

I tend to save this one for when friends or family are visiting over a weekend. I find the recipes take a little more investment and can sometimes be a touch more ambitious. However, it is definitely worth the time. The flavours are exquisite and the recipes are something a little bit different. Next on my list is Ottolenghi’s Sweet, which focuses all on (as you might have guessed….) sweet recipes.

Super Food Family Classics by Jamie Oliver (Michael Joseph)

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I love Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks by default; he never seems to release a dud one. Super Food Family Classics is packed full of healthy recipes. The batch cook seven veg tomato sauce has become a staple in our house – we regularly freeze portions ready to make a Bolognese or a chili with. Everything is well laid out, easy to follow and as a bonus you know you’re making healthier choices. Win, win. Next on my list is 5 ingredients.

Easy by Bill Granger (Collins)

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As the title suggests, everything in this book is easy to cook and definitely a great one for beginners. The book is split out by food / category – pasta, cheese, eggs, beef etc., which makes is nice and simple to find recipes based on what you’ve got in your fridge.

Fast, Fresh and Easy Food by Lorraine Pascale (Harper Collins)

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The chocolate mousse with raspberries has become one of my go-to quick pudding recipes – it’s easy to make, but utterly indulgent and full of flavour. There are so many mouth-watering recipes in this book; from minty pine nut couscous, to fish burgers.

Okay, so having put my list together I can see there’s a definite theme – fast, fresh, easy food than can be prepared and cooked quickly but still taste amazing! I’m more than happy doing more complicated recipes and spending time in the kitchen, but I normally save that for the weekend.

*disclaimer, this won’t be the name of the series as I need to think of something a bit snappier, but If the next post has this name too then you’ll know I failed.

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Birthday Books

At the end of August it was my birthday and I was lucky enough to be given some books – which are always some of my favourite presents. This year all of the books I was given were non-fiction – it’s quite an eclectic mix, but gives you a good insight to my mind, interests and weird fascinations… I’ve included the blurb for each of the books below.

Grow Your Own Vegetables in Pots and Containers: A practical guide to growing food in small spaces by Paul Peacock

Grow Pots

This book is aimed at the majority of us who live in terraced houses, high rise flats, town houses and semi-detached properties with a small garden and often nowhere to grow but the patio. It shows how to make the most of pots and planters; how to plan for a reasonable yield; and how never to run out of at least something to special eat.

You might not have all the space in the world, but you can enjoy all the flavour in the world. With the step-by-step instructions in this book you will be able to grow, nurture and harvest your own fruit, vegetables and herbs in a range of pots and containers, including recycled ones such as plastic milk bottles, and kitchen sinks.

Eat Live Go – Fresh Food Fast by Donal Skehan

EatLiveGo

EAT.LIVE.GO – Fresh Food Fast is a collection of quick and easy recipes for busy and energetic lifestyles. Donal’s healthy approach to eating provides big flavour, the optimum nutrition the body needs, plus delicious treats.

Donal offers up brilliant recipes to cook at home, from everyday eating with family and friends, to restorative meals to nurture and nourish, including dishes from Donal’s travels in Europe and South East Asia. EAT.LIVE.GO – Fresh Food Fast is a cookbook for anyone who loves good food and eating well.

The Women Who Flew For Hitler by Clare Mulley

WomenWhoFle

Hanna Reitsch and Melitta von Stauffenberg were talented, courageous and strikingly attractive women who fought convention to make their names in the male-dominated field of flight in 1930s Germany. With the war, both became pioneering test pilots and both were awarded the Iron Cross for service to the Third Reich. But they could not have been more different and neither woman had a good word to say for the other.

Hanna was middle-class, vivacious and distinctly Aryan, while the darker, more self-effacing Melitta, came from an aristocratic Prussian family. Both were driven by deeply held convictions about honour and patriotism but ultimately while Hanna tried to save Hitler’s life, begging him to let her fly him to safety in April 1945, Melitta covertly supported the most famous attempt to assassinate the Führer. Their interwoven lives provide a vivid insight into Nazi Germany and its attitudes to women, class and race.

Acclaimed biographer Clare Mulley gets under the skin of these two distinctive and unconventional women, giving a full – and as yet largely unknown – account of their contrasting yet strangely parallel lives, against a changing backdrop of the 1936 Olympics, the Eastern Front, the Berlin Air Club, and Hitler’s bunker. Told with brio and great narrative flair, The Women Who Flew for Hitler is an extraordinary true story, with all the excitement and colour of the best fiction.

Spaceman by Mike Massimo

MassimoSpaceman

Mike Massimino’s compelling memoir takes us on a brilliant journey where the nerdiest science meets the most thrilling adventure to reveal what ‘the right stuff’ truly is. Many children dream of becoming an astronaut when they grow up, but when NASA rejected him, he kept on trying. Even being told his poor eyesigh would mean he could never make it didn’t stop him; he simply trained his eyes to be better. Finally, at the third time of asking, NASA accepted him.

So began Massimino’s 18-year career as an astronaut, and the extraordinary lengths he went to to get accepted was only the beginning. In this awe-inspiring memoir, he reveals the hard work, camaraderie and sheer guts involved in the life of an astronaut; he vividly describes what it is like to strap yourself into the Space Shuttle and blast off into space, or the sensation of walking in space, as he did when he embarked on an emergency repair of the Hubble telescope. He also talks movingly about the Columbia tragedy, and how it felt to step into the Space Shuttle again in the aftermath of that disaster.

Massimino was inspired by the film The Right Stuff, and this book is not only a tribute to those fellow astronauts he worked with, but also a stunning example of someone who had exactly those attributes himself.

Ian Brady: The Untold Story of the Moors Murders by Alan Keightley

IanBrady

Since May 1966 when Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were sentenced to life imprisonment at Chester Assizes the British public has been absorbed and horrified by the Moors Murders. Ian Brady has often been aptly described as `the most evil man alive’ or `the Daddy of the Devils’, while Myra Hindley, Britain’s first female serial killer, became the most hated woman in Britain. Here is the definitive account, drawing on exclusive, never-before-seen material. It changes forever our understanding of the Moors couple and their heinous crimes.

Why did they do it? What actually happened? Unlikely as it may appear to those detectives, psychiatrists, authors, criminologists, journalists and the victims’ families, who have all sought in their own ways for decades to discover it, this book is possibly as near as we shall ever get to understanding how the victims died. It proves beyond question that the parents of the victims were right all along in their claims about Hindley’s part in the murders. Did Brady give an account to anyone of his life, Myra Hindley and their crimes before he died? Yes, he did – here it is.

 

 

July Reads

Another month has passed, which means it’s time for another wrap-up! I must apologise in advance for my tardiness with this post – I had written half of it before 1st August, then it fell by the wayside, but it’s here now! Better late than never, right?

Once again, my reading hasn’t been great having only read six books – I’ve found it hard to have time to pick up books, having to prioritise other things (if you haven’t taken a look at this post, please do!).

Without further ado, last month I read…

Plum by Hollie McNish (Picador Poetry) – 5/5

Plum hollie mcnish

Plum is poet Hollie McNish’s newest collection and features both new and old poetry – her recent poems are interrupted by earlier writing from her formative years – voices that are raw, honest and also very, very funny. If you’re looking to get into poetry, this is a fantastic place to start – Hollie is warm, honest, funny, sarcastic and passionate. I could listen to her poetry over and over again (a personal fave of mine is Mathematics – I encourage you to go and have a watch on YouTube!)

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla (Unbound) – 5/5

Good Immigrant

This is a collection of essays written by BAME authors, edited together by Nikesh Shukla. It explores what it means to be Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic in Britain today. The essays look at identity, culture, family and diversity; I found it enlightening, eye-opening, funny, heart-breaking and infuriating all in one. This is such an important read and one that everyone should pick up!

Them: Adventures with extremists by Jon Ronson (Picador) – 3/5

Them

It seems I was on a bit of a non-fiction roll this month! I’m a big fan of Jon Ronson’s books and my favourite of his is The Psychopath Test, however I wasn’t mad about Them: Adventures with Extremists. The book goes on a quest to explore extremism, from Islamic fundamentalists to Neo-Nazis. Originally written in 2001, this book is definitely still prevalent today; I found it fascinating in parts, but also a little boring in others.

Dying to Live by Michael Stanley (Orenda Books) – 4/5

Front Cover Dying to Live

Dying to Live is the sixth book in the Detective Kubu series – I loved the setting of the book, the African landscape added a different dimension, making it stand out from so many British crime books, which can sometimes feel a bit samey! If you’re looking for a fairly light crime novel, which is a bit different, then I’d definitely recommend giving the Kubu books a go. My full blog tour post is here.

Our Memory Like Dust by Gavin Chait (Doubleday Books) – 2/5

OurMemoryLikeDust

This one puzzled and perplexed me – my full review can be found here. Our Memory Like Dust wasn’t completely up my street, but I definitely think you’d enjoy it if you’re a fan of light sci-fi or dystopian fiction. Chait is a complex storyteller, using many themes, characters and contemporary issues to make a wider point about society – although I think some of these points went over my head…

The Marshking’s Daughter by Karen Dionne (Sphere) – 4/5

Marshking's Daughter

Last of all, I picked up The Marshking’s Daughter to help get me out of my slump! I was hooked from the get-go; it is thrilling, suspenseful and action packed. The story is centred around a woman who was born into captivity after her Mother was abducted – I was wary that this might read like Room by Emma Donoghue. I shouldn’t have been worried as it was completely different. Dionne creates wonderful, atmospheric scenery which chills you to the core. After finishing The Marshking’s Daughter I was excited to pick up another thriller.

What did you read in July? Do you have any recommendations? 

Mental Health Awareness Week

Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week (8th-14th May), a topic that has always interested me and been close to my heart. A major new study by the Mental Health Foundation discovered that over two-thirds of Britons say that they have experienced a mental health problem, with younger people more likely than those over the age of 55 to say that they have experienced an issue. Whilst people are becoming increasingly open and sharing their mental health stories, many people still think talking about mental health is taboo and there’s a big job to be done in raising awareness.

Today I’ve put together a roundup of some books that I’ve read to educate myself and that I’ve found both really interesting and enlightening. I haven’t got the last one on the list, but had to include it as it looks like a great tool for helping manage your own mental health.

As usual, I’d love to hear if you’ve read any of the below and your thoughts on them.

Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon

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Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness. Bryony Gordon has OCD. It’s the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down: that her family might die if she doesn’t repeat a phrase 5 times, or that she might have murdered someone and forgotten about it. It’s caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it. Keeping silent about her illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with trademark wit and dazzling honesty.

Sane New World: Taming the Mind by Ruby Wax

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Ruby Wax – comedian, writer and mental health campaigner – shows us how our minds can jeopardise our sanity. With her own periods of depression and now a Masters from Oxford in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy to draw from, she explains how our busy, chattering, self-critical thoughts drive us to anxiety and stress. If we are to break the cycle, we need to understand how our brains work, rewire our thinking and find calm in a frenetic world. Helping you become the master, not the slave, of your mind, here is the manual to saner living.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

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Susannah Cahalan was a happy, clever, healthy twenty-four-year old. Then one day she woke up in hospital, with no memory of what had happened or how she had got there. Within weeks, she would be transformed into someone unrecognizable, descending into a state of acute psychosis, undergoing rages and convulsions, hallucinating that her father had murdered his wife; that she could control time with her mind. Everything she had taken for granted about her life, and who she was, was wiped out. This is Susannah’s story of her terrifying descent into madness and the desperate hunt for a diagnosis, as, after dozens of tests and scans, baffled doctors concluded she should be confined in a psychiatric ward. It is also the story of how one brilliant man, Syria-born Dr Najar, finally proved – using a simple pen and paper – that Susannah’s psychotic behaviour was caused by a rare autoimmune disease attacking her brain.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

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Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again. A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth. “I wrote this book because the oldest cliches remain the truest. Time heals. The bottom of the valley never provides the clearest view. The tunnel does have light at the end of it, even if we haven’t been able to see it …Words, just sometimes, really can set you free.

The Wellbeing Journal: Creative Activities to Inspire by Mind

Wellbeing journal

Explore your inner world and be inspired with The Wellbeing Journal. Developed in partnership with Mind, the mental health charity, each page of this gorgeous journal has been thoughtfully crafted and it includes activities, colouring, drawing prompts, contemplative quotes and lots of space for you to write about your own thoughts, feelings and experiences. Creativity and reflection can have a powerful, positive influence on our lives. Now, with The Wellbeing Journal, you can enjoy practising these skills every day and wherever you go.

If you’re concerned about your mental health, or you’re worried about someone you know there is plenty of help available through both Mental Health and Mind.

Spring Cosy Reading Night: My TBR

Tomorrow sees the next Cosy Reading Night take place. If you’ve not heard of the Cosy Reading Night, it’s an evening hosted by the lovely Lauren over at Lauren and the Books, which encourages you to snuggle up at home with a few books for three hours of reading bliss. You can see the announcement video here if you’d like to hear more. Lauren’s YouTube channel is full of bookish videos – her and her boyfriend David are such a funny double-act – I encourage you to go and check her out as she’s one of my favourites on BookTube!

Lauren and books
Image courtesy of Lauren and the Books

So, as mentioned the Spring edition will be taking place tomorrow (Sunday 23rd April), 7-10pm BST. I can’t wait for an evening of uninterrupted reading and I thought I’d share what I’d be reading during the evening, as well as my snacks of choice (very important!).

My books

Cosy Reading Night is taking place over three hours I thought I’d divide my reading up into hourly slots, purely so it gives me some variety during the evening.

7pm – 8pm

I think I’m going to start the night with Beyond the Wild River by Sarah Maine, an historical novel that “balances a Daphne du Maurier atmosphere with a mystery”. It sounds like it’ll be a dark, brooding read that will hopefully fit nicely with the cosy theme of the night. 

Beyond

Scotland,1893. Nineteen-year-old Evelyn Ballantyre, the daughter of a wealthy landowner, has rarely strayed from her family’s estate in the Scottish Borders. She was once close to her philanthropist father, but his silence over what really happened on the day a poacher was shot on estate land has come between them.

 An invitation to accompany her father to Canada is a chance for Evelyn to escape her limited existence. But once there, on the wild and turbulent Nipigon river, she is shocked to discover that their guide is James Douglas, Ballantyre’s former stable hand, and once her friend. He disappeared the night of the murder, charged with the shooting. Evelyn never believed that James was guilty – and her father’s role in the killing has always been mysterious. What does he have to hide? In the wild landscape of a new world, far from the constraints of polite society, the secrets and lies surrounding that night are finally stripped away, with dramatic consequences.

 8pm – 9pm

Next up I’m aiming to switch over to some non-fiction. I’ve recently been working my way through Walking Through Spring by Graham Hoyland. I love nature and walking (and am a long-time National Trust lover!) so I’m finding this fascinating, although I only seem to read a small amount at a time. It’d be nice to make a dent in this one before Spring is over!

Walking

Walking Through Spring follows Graham Hoyland’s journey as he traces a new national trail, walking north with Spring from the South Coast to the Borders. Hoyland connects a labyrinth of ancient footpaths, marking each mile by planting an acorn and drawing a path of oak trees that stretch through the English countryside.

Whether it is sailing a dinghy through the Lake District or taking in an otter’s point of view down the River Eden to the Scottish border, he finds himself engaging with some of England’s best nature writers, discovering the essence of the country and meeting England’s rural characters along the way.

9pm – 10pm

Finally, I’ll either carry on with Beyond the Wild River or I’ll pick-up Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. I’ve been planning to read this before the new film adaptation comes out later this year. My local library had it in stock when I last went in, which means I’ll need to read it before it needs to be returned.

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Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year, but by the morning it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Isolated and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must identify the murderer – in case he or she decides to strike again.

My snacks

Obviously I’ll be drinking lots of tea, as for me it’s the perfect reading companion! In terms of snacks I’ll probably pick up some crisps and dip (sour cream and chive is my favourite, but a bit messy!) as well as some fizzy sweets – the sourer the better! When I’m reading I like to have snacks that are easy to pick up / nibble on.

The cosy factor

I’m planning on planting myself on the sofa, with comfy clothes and slippers on, wrapped under a blanket. If it’s cold (which it has been recently – where’s the sunshine?!) then I’ll light the fire and put some candles on too.

I’m looking forward to a night of pure relaxation – I’ll be doing a wrap up post next week of how my evening went. I’d also love to hear what you’ll be reading if you’re planning on taking part.