Friday 7 August 2015

The Year in Books - August... Plus a recipe!

I can hardly believe we are a week into August already. I don't teach or do any other work in August with the intention of catching up on all the other stuff that I never seem to get done around the house. But since I got home from Summer school last Friday all I seem to have done is catch up with family and friends every single day... which has been absolutely lovely! All the other stuff can wait. I've not even had time to start a new book this month but I did read quite a few in July.
My July choice for The Year in Books was How to Catch a Frog by Heather Ross. It was an easy, gentle and delightful account of Heather's rather unconventional childhood growing up in Vermont, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Earlier in the month Stewart had been to a talk by Nigel Risner and was so inspired he came home with this book The Impact Code. As it seemed to tie in with the Do What You Love course I was taking I also read it. It was a quick read which I'm sure had as much to do with the wide margins and sparse text on many of the pages but mostly it seemed a bit cliched, repetitive and stating the obvious. I was left feeling this was obviously a really inspirational speaker who was cashing in by selling the transcript of his talk!

Our village book club choice was Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. It is a bleak, horrific thriller set in communist Russia... and utterly compelling, although as often with thrillers, by the end it all seemed a little far fetched.
The final novel I read in July was The Children Act by Ian McEwan which I thought was brilliant. Very powerful, very sad and with totally believable characters. A High court judge, Fiona Maye, is required to decide whether a 17 year old boy should receive a life saving blood transfusion , although he and his parents are refusing on religious grounds. Set against problems in Fiona's own life, the novel intellegently weighs up all the arguments and is utterly compelling.

As yet, I've not started a new novel this month as I've been absorbed in this fabulous baking book... Popina Book of Baking by Isidora Popovic... and trying to perfect my own biscotti recipe based on the apricot, fig and nut biscotti in the book. And this is the result:
Date and Pistachio Biscotti
1. Preheat the oven to 180 deg C. (160 fan)
2. Sift together 250g plain flour, 125g caster sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder.
3. Beat two large eggs together in a jug and gradually work into the dry ingredients until you have a very soft dough. You may not need all the egg or you may need to add a few drops of milk to get the right consistency. It should be soft but not sticky.
4. Add 70g pistachios and 100g chopped dates*, working them into the dough. 
5. Divide the dough into two and roll each half into a sausage shape about 25 cm long and place onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Flatten each sausage slightly and bake for 25 - 30 minutes until golden brown.
6. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile turn the oven temperature down to 150 deg C. (130 fan)
7. Once cooled, move the biscotti dough to a cutting board and using a sharp serrated knife slice the biscotti into diagonal 1cm slices and lay them onto the baking tray.
8. Return to the oven and cook for 8 minutes. Turn the slices over and then cook for another 10 - 15 minutes until golden brown.
9. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks.
10. Served dunked in coffee, dipped in vanilla ice cream or best of all... dipped in Vin Santo!
* You can used any combination of fruit and nuts if you stick to approximately 60-70 g nuts and 100 - 110 g dried fruit. Isidora uses 30g each of pistachios and hazelnuts plus 40g each of chopped dried figs and apricots and 30g of raisins.

And so to a novel for August... I have a pile to choose from, mostly aquired from charity shops over the past couple of weeks, which I'm hoping to get through when we go away at the end of the month. But I shall start with The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell.
Joining in with Laura of A Circle of Pine Trees for The Year in Books


  1. Hello Gina!

    I'm so glad you are enjoying August! What a wonderfully relaxing month it can be. The first and last book have already caught my eye and I am glad to read your positive reviews.

    Happy weekend,


  2. Talking of books, I'm eagerly anticipating the publication of your baking book. Just make sure it's got lots of pretty pictures, it's not like I'll be reading the text.

  3. Thanks for the recipe Gina, I agree with VintageRockChick, I think you would write a brilliant baking book.
    Have a lovely weekend,
    V x

  4. Another varied reading list, and another mouthwatering recipe. I love baking but try not to as we are both trying not to put on any more weight. However, homemade bakes are so much nicer than anything bought.
    I am enjoying a Philippa Gregory reading fest and have found some titles I hadn't heard of before.

  5. I agree with VintageRockChick and GreenRabbitDesigns. Your own baking book - what a fab idea!

  6. Gina, I have worked today and will again tomorrow, but did want to leave you a quick comment to thank you for the biscotti recipe. Perhaps I might just give it a try next week. If the current comfortably cool weather holds a few more days.


  7. I had the Popina book at one time, and can't put my hand on it now. It's the second time in recent weeks I have seen it mentioned in Blogland. I must have a really good rummage on the bookshelves for it. X

  8. The biscuits sound delicious, I may try to make them gluten free. Good selection of books, Child 44 has been made into a film, not seen it yet though.

  9. You'll love the Maggie O'Farrell book, one I 've actually read.
    Have a relaxing August.

  10. I read Child 44 when it came out in hardback but that was a while ago and I don't honestly remember much about it. I must look some of these other titles up though Gina. I just finished The Secret Life of Bees and a beautiful short book about elderly love by Kent Haruf which is a lot of fiction for me in one go. I tend to do more non fiction these days but you can't beat a good summer read so I shall be interested in your verdict on the pile ahead. Was it you who posted about The Girl on the Train? I've got a copy of it but don't know if it's for me. If it was you, give me your verdict will you? You make a great book reviewer!

  11. What a wonderful selection of books. My reading has been on the back burner for a couple of months now, but I am feeling inspired now having just finished a book.
    Hope you enjoy the rest of august.


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