March & April 2013

* indicates in Middle English/Scots

Books read in March:

  1. Mazers. Omar Ramsden.
  2. Go Tell It on the Mountain. James Baldwin.

Books read in April:

  1. East. Edith Pattou.
  2. Serenity: Those Left Behind. Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, and Will Conrad.
  3. Serenity: Better Days. Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, and Will Conrad.
  4. Pretty Monsters. Kelly Link.
  5. Prodigy. Marie Lu.
  6. Burgess, Merchant, and Priest: Burgh Life in the Scottish Medieval Town. Derek Hall.
  7. Historic St Andrews and its University. John Read.
  8. The Testament of Cresseid. Robert Henryson. *

Best new read: East
Best sequel: Prodigy
Best non-fiction: Burgess, Merchant, and Priest

I never got around to posting the books I read in March, so here they are with April’s post. April has actually looks like what my reading average used to look like. I suppose that’s the benefit to reading shorter books and taking a few days off.

Potato cakes with coriander


Another yummy recipe inspired by using up what I had in the fridge: potatoes, coriander, stale bread stashed in the freezer, one egg left. This dish was perfect with a salad for lunch. I want to make it again, maybe as a side for some steak! 🙂

Potato cakes with coriander
(Adapted from BBC Good Food: Spicy Potato Cakes)
Serves 2

  • 400g potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 egg yolk
  • handful coriander, chopped
  • half a red onion, sliced
  • 75g cheddar, grated
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 75g fine dry breadcrumbs
  • vegetable oil
  1. Cook the potatoes in salted boiling water until tender. Drain and leave to dry for 5 minutes. Mash the potatoes and add the egg yolk, coriander, onion, some salt and pepper, cheddar, and chilli flakes. Mix well and shape into 6 medium cakes.
  2. Put the breadcrumbs on a plate. Roll the cakes firmly in the breadcrumbs. Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan and brown the cakes on both sides.

Serve with a green salad and enjoy!


Prodigy_Marie_Lu_BookThis isn’t going to be a real book review.

That’s because Prodigy by Marie Lu is the sequel to Legend (which I reviewed last month), and though it is so good I want to tell you all about it, I don’t want to give *any* spoilers. So I am not even going to give you the first line.

The second instalment in most trilogies tends to fall flat. I don’t need to list examples because this is a known fact. Even the second book in my beloved Hunger Games trilogy feels like ‘filler’. It would have been much more exciting if what happened in the third novel happened in the second, and then we had more happening after…

Which is what Prodigy does. Prodigy ends where most trilogies end, and I am so so excited for what is going to happen in the third book. I really have no idea what is going to happen next.

Prodigy served as my incentive and reward to finish revising two chapters. I sat down and actually read it in two days, sitting outside in the garden on a rare warmish sunny day. As soon as I finished it I resolved to make the third book the reward for revising the next chapter — alas, without knowing that the third book isn’t even published yet. Champion is due out in 2014. It’s going to be a long wait. instead, Champion will probably be my reward for turning in the corrections to my thesis.

In the meantime, read Legend and Prodigy. You won’t regret it.

EDIT: I just saw that lists the release date for CHAMPION as 5 November 2013. Hip hip, huzzah!

Favourite things

Used books:


Bouquiniste is next door to my office though: a dangerous combination, but to be honest, I don’t buy many books anymore — relying instead on the library and gifts. But the owner, Bill, is very kind and we’ve built up a passing acquaintance after sharing the same part of Market Street the last few years.

Red Wine Mushroom Risotto


I love risotto, especially after learning how to make the perfect risotto thanks to The Guardian. I’ve almost got the recipe memorised. Since we had an open bottle of red wine kicking around after Easter, I decided to look up recipes for how to use it up. Risotto is usually made with white wine, but I was curious to try making some with red wine instead. Lo and behold, I found a recipe.

The following recipe is an adaptation of Eclectic Recipes’ red wine risotto made by the rules of the tried and true Guardian method. It was different and delicious. Even F., who after being put off of risotto by several mediocre restaurant experiences, said that this recipe ‘redeemed’ risotto for him. Hooray!

Red Wine Mushroom Risotto
(Adapted from Eclectic Recipes: Red Wine Mushroom Risotto)
Serves 4

  • 400g arborio rice
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • about 12 leaves fresh basil
  • 100g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 salad tomatoes, sliced
  • 100g grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese
  • 50g fresh spinach
  • 50g butter or 2Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1.5l good stock, chicken or vegetable
  • 100g unsalted butter, diced
  1. Preheat oven. Arrange the mushrooms and tomatoes on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the veg for twenty minutes or so or until finished.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the 50g of butter (or use the vegetable oil) and soften the onion in a heavy-bottomed, straight-sided pan, then add the arborio rice. Turn up the heat, and stir to coat the grains with butter.
  3. When they are hot, add a glass of red wine, and keep stirring until this has evaporated. Then you’re ready to start adding the stock, a ladleful at a time. Stir until it has nearly all been absorbed – the rice should always be sloppy, rather than dry – and then add another, and so on.
  4. Add the roast veg and spinach during this time, depending on how robust they are – usually about 10 minutes in.
  5. When the rice begins to soften (after about 13 minutes, but the only way to know is to keep checking), add the stock in smaller amounts, and test it regularly, until it is cooked to your liking. Then add 100g of diced butter, and 1000g of grated cheese, and beat in with gusto, until the risotto is rich and creamy.
  6. Add the basil leaves at this point, stirring until they just wilt. Check the seasoning, then serve immediately.

Pretty Monsters

Opening line: ‘All of this happened because a boy I once knew named Miles Sperry decided to go into the resurrectionist business and dig up the grave of his girlfriend.’ (‘The Wrong Grave’)

Pretty MonstersIn this anthology by Kelly Link are ten stories of magic, the strange, and the surreal. Ranging from zombies to werewolves to aliens, no story is quite the same — which can sometimes happen in short story anthologies. However, they were all similar in one degree: they were forgettable. Granted, I’ve been chipping away at this anthology for over a year now, but looking through the table of contents I find I can’t remember what most of the stories are about. ‘The Wizards of Perfil’ jumps out at me as having an ending I liked, and ‘Magic for Beginners’ was interesting, though I wish it had gone farther. Most of the stories didn’t catch my attention really, except for two, near the end: ‘The Constable of Abal’ and the title story, ‘Pretty Monsters’. The latter novella had more time to develop the characters and story, and I enjoyed how the two seemingly unrelated story lines intertwined. Although the stories in this anthology were supposed to be bordering on horror stories, only this one held me in suspense near the end; the ‘horror’ in the others fell flat.

The contemporary stories set in ‘our time’ also run the risk of becoming dated very quickly, especially if you refer to mobile phones and tablets by their brand names, which Link sometimes does. There’s a reason you don’t often find references to current technology in fiction: by doing so you ground your text firmly in a specific date and time.

My favourite from the collection is ‘The Constable of Abal’, a story about a girl and ghosts and goddesses. ‘The Constable of Abal’ caught my imagination from start to finish and has stayed in my head since. I’d happily keep hold of Pretty Monsters for this story alone.

Roasted Tomato Pasta


When Ros visited over Easter weekend, F. made a lovely dinner for the three of us. It was too good not to share, and so his recipe again makes a guest appearance on this blog!

Twenty-Minute Roasted Tomato Pasta
Serves 4+

  • 2 pints grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 6-ounce bag of spinach
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound pasta
  • 1/3 cup asiago cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 450F/232C/Gas Mark 8.
  2. Lay tomatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and make sure each tomato gets oiled. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 20 minutes until tomatoes begin to burst.
  3. After the tomatoes go into the oven, heat a skillet over medium heat and add remaining olive oil. Add onions and mushrooms and sauté until soft, about 5-6 minutes. Bring water for the pasta to a boil and cook pasta according to directions.
  4. Add garlic and spinach to the skillet, sautĂ©ing until spinach is wilted. Once tomatoes are done, add to veggie mixture. Drain cooked pasta and add it after the tomatoes. Sprinkle with asiago cheese and stir – the tomatoes and olive oil should create their own ‘sauce.’

(N.B. For a non-vegetarian option, you can also drizzle with more olive and add chicken or shrimp.)

IMG_8163It is rather nice having a man around who cooks. 🙂

Ceilidh in the Castle

Every year there has been a ceilidh in the castle and every year I’ve missed it — except this year.


And it was such a beautiful spring day! It was so much fun. Usually ceilidhs feature a lot of dances where you keep changing partners during the dance but this one only had two dances like that, which meant that F. and I actually got to spend most of the evening dancing together.

A video of ‘The Dashing White Sergeant’, one of my favourites, but one we had to sit out because we couldn’t find another group of three.

This was by far the best, most fun ceilidh I’ve been to. I’m so glad I went, at last!

A day in the life…

Today, so far, has been a Good day. Which is especially good because it hasn’t been so great a week (or few weeks; it’s been off and on).

I had local pears to put in my porridge, which was delicious after a couple of days of plain porridge and sugar. A nice cycle ride into work at the museum, and then an unusually quiet morning. I worked on current chapter for a couple of hours in the quiet, wrote up a few blog posts and scheduled them for later (yes, I do this for the food and Favourite Things posts), and did some online publicity stuff for our choir concert in a few weeks. I went out to lunch, where I had soup and and a sandwich and read more of Reading Lolita in Tehran. I called my parents on my way back to work and had a good ten-minute chat with them. After lunch I searched for articles for a pet project of mine, and then updated the Table of Contents for my current PhD notebook. All the while greeting the occasional visitor and keeping and eye on the museum. It’s still sunny, and I anticipate walking/cycling home via the sea with my Favourite, and then we will have a much-needed quiet evening.

This is all to say, yes, today is a good day, and I want to write about it because it’s been a while since I’ve had a completely good day. I’m glad.