VALENTINES @ RICK STEIN’S | 2016

A quick hello! I hope you had a lovely Sunday, whether you were doing Valentines related things or treating yourself to some extra chocolate and wine…

On Friday night my love took me to Rick Stein’s in Winchester, which is quickly becoming one of our favourite places to go to for a special occasion.

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I had the mackerel salad with mango and papaya salad for starter. It was powerfully spicy due to the chilli and the pieces of mackerel were sprinkled over the salad like crispy seafood croutons – yum!  Sam had the salt and pepper squid (which he has tried before) and it did not disappoint.

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For main, Sam favoured the famous cod & chips, I have tried this previously and can attest it is divine. If perfectly battered fish with a stack of the hugest/chunky/crunchy triple, quadruple (?!) cooked chips are your thing, this is for you.  I was treated to lobster thermidore which I will be dreaming about for months to come. I had never eaten lobster in this style before, the price is perhaps a little eye-watering but it was like nothing I have ever tasted; thick lobster meat in a decadently rich, creamy, sauce topped with hot, bubbling Gruyère — #foodporn

I had a side of skinny fries with my lobster to dip in the sauce, because why not? In Mr Stein’s own words: “There’s a renaissance of classic French seafood dishes. I’ve made it lighter and more fragrant and it’s rather good.” — Indeed it is! We only took one quick snap, which was of course of the food not us!

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It was a sweet and very romantic evening, phones away, giggling and catching up over a delicious bottle of wine.

Thank you very much, my love! <3

Charlotte, aka HF x

Monthly Reads | January 2016

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The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

On reflection, I am feeling equivocal about this novel. It has a promising and in some places evocative plot; historically atmospheric in way that reminded me of the richly narrated Girl With a Pearl EarringThe critical difference being we don’t have a passionate, artistic, hyper sensitive narrator like Griet, we have Nella who fizzles in filmy comparison. Whilst the events unfurling in this Dutch household are combustive in subject matter, the personalities are dull – I was longing for an honest dialogue between the protagonists instead of an insufferable amount of repressive behaviour

A few neat little twists helped the pace of the novel lending a near hysterical urgency after certain salacious secrets are revealed and being an easy digestble little novel meant I devoured it over 2 busy days. I really wanted to like this book but found the small range of characters all SO unlikeable, unrealistic and two dimensional. Would I recommend it? I’m not sure.

In Between the Sheets – Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan is one of my favourite authors and I had wanted to read some of his earlier work, out of curiosity. McEwan has an incredible way of quickly submersing the reader in complicated narrative microcosms so beautifully detailed you will feel bereft when they end, this collection of short stories was no different.

In Between the Sheets is far less macabre, shocking or perverse than First Love, Last Rites
collection, however stories like “Dead As They Come” [my favourite] powerfully and exigently coax you into sympathising with the anguish of a mentally ill man, tortuously infatuated with a female mannequin.  This left me reeling from the violently destructive behaviour and most of the protagonists in this collection have pretty fucked up problems, but their flaws give the small stories grit, rawness and intrigue.

Plot lines are difficult for me to discuss without revealing spoilers, so I would encourage you to instead read this collection!

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Why Not Me? – Mind Kaling

I LOVED THIS SO MUCH! This second collection of micro essays from Kaling are even funnier and more revealing. And yes, she does indulge us in more behind the scenes gossip of life whilst filming/working on The Office — Hooray!  A couple of the essays were indulgent, comical, frivolous and fun but many surprised me with the overarching motivational message of “you gotta work hard, make your own opportunities and really believe in you”. Trying to break it down like that sounds a little cheesey, but the message of this book is potentially very empowering.

The autobiographical account that Kaling gave regarding her newest work “The Mindy Project”, shows what an admirable, inspiring and dedicated work ethic she has. I was impressed even more so with her positivity, attitude and “Go Get It Girl” spirit… the main thing I learnt was was how driven Mind Kaling is and her most passionate and insightful chapters were when explaining her roles job, as a director, writer and actor.

It’s such a fucking feel good, girlie, joyful book that just writing about it now makes me want to re-read it.

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

Nazi Germany – 1939 on the verge of war and narrated by Death might sound a like a depressing combination of ingredients but there are moment of pure love and joy amongst the prevalence of death in this novel.

At first I struggled, no, wrestled with the narrative style. I didn’t enjoy Death’s voice or style in which he sliced into the story with quizzical interferences.  I didn’t enjoy the dictionary use of definitions of words that broke up the story or hinted at the tone of the chapter to come. But aside from that… I gradually grew very close to the characters and terribly angry at Zukas for certain deaths that occured.

Liesel is a wonderful character, robust and refreshingly unfeminine. She is persistent with her reading and education despite lacking natural ability and plagued by many horrors and traumas in her early life. We follow her development and relationships with her new adoptive family and the people of Himmel Street. Finally, I was blown away by the humanity that was given to the German people involved in the Nazi politics. It made me very reflective for the families and children of the Nazi regime, a view point I had not personally considered before.

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Let me know what you thought in the comment as I’d love to hear from you

Next month I will be reading The Night Watch
and The Bassoon King