Friday, 17 May 2013


There are few problems in life that can’t be solved by soup. 

Unfortunately, this doesn't apply to the weather.  This week alone, we’ve been hit by rain, gales, hail and glorious sunshine.  It’s had a knock-on effect on our house build, but on the plus side I’ve found a soup recipe that can adapt to anything the weather throws at us.  It’s fantastic hot with freshly made Breadline Bread, but cool and refreshing chilled.  Just as well really.  


1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 medium onion, chopped
3 red peppers
1 yellow pepper
750ml vegetable stock, made with 3 teaspoons Marigold Bouillon
1 tablespoon plain flour
freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat the grill to a medium/high heat. 

2. Halve the peppers and place on a foil lined grill pan, skin side up.  Grill until the skins have blistered and blackened.

3. Put the peppers aside to cool.

4. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan, and fry the garlic and onion until golden and slightly transparent.

5. Add 150 ml of the stock and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for approximately five minutes until the stock has reduced in volume. 

6. Sprinkle the flour over the onion mixture and gradually add the remaining stock, stirring all the time.

7. Peel the skins from the cooled peppers and discard.  Chop the pepper flesh into 1-2cm chunks and bring to the boil.  Cover and reduce to a simmer for a further five minutes. 

8. Leave to cool slightly and puree with a hand blender. 

9. Serve chilled from the fridge in the unlikely event of sunshine, or hot with crusty bread.  

Friday, 10 May 2013


The very first paragraph of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is a shock.  “When I think of my wife, I always think of her head”, says Nick Dunne, “…Like a shiny, hard corn kernel or a riverbed fossil.  She had what the Victorians would call a finely shaped head.  You could imagine the skull quite easily.  I’d know her head anywhere.  And what’s inside it.”

Nick is speaking on the day of his fifth wedding anniversary.  His beautiful wife Amy has gone missing, and it’s quickly clear that their marriage has been less than perfect.  “What are you thinking, Amy?” he wonders.  “How are you feeling?... What have we done to each other?  What will we do?

Gone Girl unravels the story behind Amy’s disappearance, setting out events through the alternating perspectives of the unhappy couple.  Is Nick an innocent husband caught up in events beyond his control, or are his disposable cell phone and repeated lies to the police hiding a secret?  Do Amy’s detailed diary entries offer any clues to what’s happened or is the truth somewhat more complicated?  And crucially, can anyone ever really claim to know the person they’re married to?

Flynn’s novel is a tightly plotted and multi-layered psychological thriller, and the stakes are raised with every new revelation.  Unexpectedly, Nick and Amy’s own versions of events do not exonerate them.  Rather, each shift of focus breeds suspicion and self-incrimination as they independently chart the disintegration of their marriage.  Rarely have I ever spent time with characters I dislike quite so much, yet I found it impossible to step away from them. 

Gone Girl manipulates the reader from start to finish.  Each development casts previous understanding in a new light until the possible interpretations of the story seem limitless.  Who – if anyone – is telling the truth?

This novel is disturbing, brilliant and unforgettable, and the way Flynn expertly plays her readers sits perfectly with the plot.  Like many though, I had difficulties with the ending.  It’s not wrong, it’s not unsatisfying, it’s just… sudden.  There’s been speculation that this is because a sequel is planned, although Flynn denies it.  If true, that’s a relief.  Gone Girl is so compelling that it would be hard not to read it, and there are very many things I would rather do than spend more time in the company of Nick and Amy Dunne.  Chilling.  

Thursday, 2 May 2013


Necessity has been the mother of invention this week. 

Our long-planned house build is now imminent, and in the ongoing balancing act between what we want to live in and what we want to eat, imagination has won.  The wine tunnel is staying, as are the secret Narnia room and post-box laundry chute, but to allow for them all the food budget has to stay tight.

Fortunately, we’ve now got a cupboard full of basic ingredients that we mix and match, and having just made Spicy King Prawns  we also had leftover bits of ginger, lemongrass and lime.   This is the result - a quick and easy dish that didn’t cost the earth and still tastes delicious.  Enjoy.


3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 stalk of lemongrass, bruised
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
handful of chopped coriander
Generous slug of olive oil
400ml can of light coconut milk
400ml chicken stock
2-3 chicken breasts (depending on size), chopped
30ml fish sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon of sugar
Juice of two limes, or bottled lime juice to taste
Handful of fresh baby spinach

Pitta bread to serve


1. Prepare the noodles according to the packet instructions. 

2. Lightly fry the garlic, chillies, ginger, turmeric, coriander and onions in a heavy bottomed pan over a medium heat, stirring all the time.

2. When the onion has softened, add the coconut milk, lemongrass and stock.  Bring to the boil.

3.  Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar and chicken.  Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through.  This should only take a few minutes.

4.  Remove the lemongrass and add the spinach, lime juice and prepared noodles.

5.  Serve with pitta bread and beer.