"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers." ~ Charles W. Eliot
"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook - try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!" ~ Julia Child
"She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain." ~ Louisa May Alcott

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Gardener

The Gardener

What a fun book to add a review of after my last post about the fruit smoothie and our garden. I finished The Gardener by Prue Leith over the weekend. I spent hours reading this while sitting in the shade in our city garden and that at Cranberry Cottage. It perhaps enhanced the feeling of this book to sit in a garden reading it.

Lotte is looking for a whole new start with her three children after feeling unsettled and unhappy in London following her divorce. She applies for a job as head gardener at Maddon Park in Oxfordshire. Her past as an architect as well as her new education in garden history have made her very qualified for this position. She begins to research the house and garden for her employer...the wealthy Brody Keegan. During her research, friendships develop between herself and Maddon Park, Brody, and Peter, the archive librarian. The garden is constantly revealing its past mysteries while I felt that Lotte was also finding herself blossoming in her new life.

I enjoyed the gardening references in the book. They made me want to run to visit any nearby historical gardens.

I also found myself involved with Lotte in wanting to smack Amber (Brody's spoiled young wife) into reality and cheered Peter on throughout the book. I wanted Lotte to succeed in each endevour to uncover more of Maddon Park.

A perfect summer read!

Happy reading!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Strawberry season!

Strawberry season has started with a vengeance. The weather suddenly turned from cold, grey and wet to very hot and sunny. Jos bought the first strawberries of the season on the way home from working for an afternoon in Germany. They were selling them at a roadside stand by a strawberry field. We enjoyed them with ice cream but I saved about a third of them for another treat...

Sorry but I started drinking it before I remembered to take a photo. *grins* Here is a strawberry banana smoothie. I just cut up the strawberries along with two ripe bananas and pureed them. They were such a tasty treat that was also full of vitamins.

Of course, perhaps this view of our garden as we sat and drank the smoothies does help make it taste that little bit better. We started this garden last year from patches of grass and uncared for plants. What a difference a year makes. I sit and have to pinch myself that it is really ours.

Enjoy your weekend and the sunshine in your garden!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Girl on the Cliff

This is going to be a difficult book review. Why, you ask? Because it was a F*A*B*U*L*O*U*S book an I do not want to reveal too much so that all the surprises as this story twists and turns remain as exciting for you. The Girl on the Cliff is Lucinda Riley's second book. I have had her first book sitting on my shelves waiting to be read but also ordered this one. I wanted to grab a new book and it just seemed to cry out to me. Now having read it...I think it really did.

Where can I begin? On the cliff top perhaps with Grania as she sees what seems a vision of a beautiful and graceful little girl? Grania comes back to Ireland to spend time with her family after the terrible loss of her unborn child. She meets Aurora who touches her life in ways she could never have dreamed of. She finds her past through this little girl, learning about her family's history over many years and two world wars. She finds that life twists in ways you never expect and ties can be bound over many generations.

This book is like watching a beautiful tapestry unfold in front of your eyes. You think you have seen it and another color is added bringing it all into a new dimension. This is an amazing story which unfolds in front of you up to the very last page. Five stars is not enough to rate this book which is a must read for 2012!
Thank you Lucinda Riley for a wonderful world that I was able to be a part of!

Happy reading!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Dutch specialty foods - Prei prol

I love food from various cultures. Here in Holland, the good and hearty foods are a comfort but also warming in the damp, cold climate we have here. Recently, while watching a show where Dutch farmer's wives were cooking local dishes, I came across this recipe for the first time. This is my version of a dish from the regions of Zeeland and Brabant.

"Stamppot" is a combination of potatoes with vegetable and sometimes meat. It is all mashed together in one pan. The pan is then placed on the dinner table for everyone to dish up their plates. This is a Dutch tradition in just about every family. Most families have their own recipes for various stamppots. I know my American family thought it was a strange idea at first but they love it.

"Prei prol" or Leek stamppot

1 leek, washed well and sliced
2 spring onions, sliced
5 or 6 potatoes, peeled and cubed
bacon, cut in block or strips...I just used literally a handful of bacon lardons
2 eggs, hard boiled
salt and pepper

Boil the potatoes in water until soft. Boil the eggs. While potatoes and eggs are boiling, cook the bacon. Add the sliced leek and two of the sliced spring onions until glassy and tender. Turn off the heat and set the frying pan aside.
Drain the potatoes and add a little pad of butter. Using a potato masher, stamp your potatoes adding a little milk. The mash should be be robust and lumpy as stamppot is not a puree. Now add a teaspoon full of vinegar and stir in the leeks, spring onions and bacon.
Peel the eggs and chop them up but not too fine. Lightly mix the egg through the stamppot being careful not to break the eggs up too much. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serves two.

This can be eaten as a meal in itself or serve with a piece of meat or sausage to choice. I served it with a patty of ground steak with English brown sauce. I sauteed two whole spring onions to serve on top.

Bon appitit or eet smakelijk!