Saturday, 28 February 2015

more reading...

More books  added to the 'to be read pile'.
The lovely Brooke Davis reading an extract from her debut novel, 'Lost & Found'.
Helen McDonald who recently won the Costa Book Award for 'H is for Hawk' 
was very engaging (but apologies for the rubbish photograph).
  • I managed to see Jay Rayner, the food critic, on his current tour of theatres and bought his slim volume of 'My Dining Hell' ( but forgot my camera).
  • A free review copy of 'If I Fall I Die' by Michael Christie from Windmill Books via mumsnet.
  • Ten free copies of 'One Night Markovitch' by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen arrived in the post from Pushkin Press via Reading Groups for Everyone for my reading group.

  • I also heard this week that I'm going to be an Ambassador for World Book Night on April 23rd and will be receiving free books to hand out in the local community.

Monday, 23 February 2015

ouseburn wanderings - part 2

After lunch we strolled down to Newcastle quayside and popped into The Cycle Hub for a coffee and some cake.
Lack of wheels does not mean you are any less welcome into the Hub where you can find a cycle repair shop and bike hire as well as the cafe.  
Next we wandered further up the river spotting some public art on the way...
...before crossing the fantastic Millenium Bridge over the River Tyne to reach Baltic on the Gateshead of the river.  
The magnificent Baltic building is free to enter and although it used to be a flour mill it's now a major international centre for contemporary art housed over several floors.
The work of two artists are currently on display in Baltic - and although I usually enjoy contemporary art, the exhibitions of work by Jason Rhoades and Graeme Durant were quite challenging!

What was fantastic though was the display of sculptural work produced by children inspired by Graeme Durant's exhibition...I preferred looking at the children's work.
What a lovely afternoon of culture, great food, wonderful sights, a bit of local history and a smashing time with good friends

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Saturday, 21 February 2015

ouseburn wanderings - part 1

A lovely day out yesterday with friends wandering around Ouseburn.  
We'd been hoping to visit the Anna Hedworth's 'Cook House' for lunch for some time.  But as it's only open on weekdays it took us a while to manage to all be free on the same was well worth the wait.
Housed in two converted shipping containers the interior is beautifully bright, spacious and modern and the venue is warmed by a fabulous wood burning stove.

We ate: 'Winter Tabbouleh Salad with Walnuts, Pomegranate and Dill', 'Feta, Blood Orange and Walnut Toast' and a Salt Beef Bagel with Sweet Cucumber Pickle with Mustard' and we shared a Beetroot, Feta & Seed Salad'. 

The empty (and very fashionable) enamelled dishes say it all.  Fresh, healthy and honest food sourced as locally as possible and prepared on the premises by Anna, who welcomes visitors, takes orders, prepares food and does all of the work herself.

As there is no drink licence (it's a BYOB venue) we had wonderfully refreshing fresh mint tea, ginger and lemon cordial and a cup of traditional tea to accompany our food...perfect!

The delightfully named Toffee Factory (which was its original use) now houses contemporary office space nearby.

Just around the corner the sign for the Tyne Tees Steam Shipping Co. hangs over a side entrance for the Hotel Du Vin.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

into the woods...

The garden is still covered in snow but a walk in the woods offered up the first signs of spring.
My first snowdrops of the year,
Oak Moss Lichen often used as a perfume fixative (forefront) and Foliose Lichen (background).
At fist I thought this was a pirate ship in the middle of the wood - but it turned out to be 
Noah's Ark with lots of animals walking up the gangplank and looking out from the openings.
Nearby a rickety rocking chair, bench and table 
inviting you to sit and spend a few moments in the woods...
and a cheeky robin hopping in and out of the foliage.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Baltic Beer & Bites...

Last weekend a few of us popped out to Newcastle / Gateshead.

We had a smashing lunch first of all in the Bridge Tavern and found the food very, very tasty, pulled pork with kimchee coleslaw in a brioche bun for me with the most tasty chips (triple cooked) that I've had for some time.  The on site microbrewery also kept the chaps happy.  And there's some interesting artwork to look at too.
Then we crossed the river to the Baltic, a major international centre for contemporary art which has some fabulous food and drink areas, for an informative 'Beer and Bites' session with beer expert Andrew Mitchell.  

Five regional artisan beers were paired with 'bites' to compliment.  Ruth scored  them...
  • Fermata (Allendale) a low in strength yet bold in flavour beer with a big bitter bite, paired with Cajun Chicken Nachos with Sour Cream and Guacamole.
  • Salted Caramild (Almasty) a modern take on a classic style; sweet salty and delicious.  Paired with Ginger & Lemongrass King Prawn.
  • Bramling Brown Ale (Allendale) where hedgerow berries meet toasted nut, biscuit and caramel sweetness.  With a Fig & Blue Cheese Tartlet as the bite.
  • Pineapple & Passion Fruit Sour (Northern Alchemy) a Berliner Weisse conditioned on fresh fruit.  Think tart, tropical sorbet and you're there.  Some Chicory Spiced Rice accompanied this beer.
  • Goldbox Breakfast Stout (Almasty) an intense and intoxicating full bodied stout serving up lashings of dark chocolate and dark berry fruits was paired with a Raspberry Blondie.
As a non drinker I had a good sniff of the beers - but a cold prevented me from getting the maximum from the aromas.  Instead, I had a cup of tea with a Praline Square (think Millionare Shortbread with a praline filling instead of toffee).

Just before we left we took a few minutes to enjoy the stunning views from Baltic, looking up the Tyne to the Millenium Bridge, Sage Gateshead and Tyne Bridge as the sun began to set. Glorious!

Friday, 6 February 2015

dipping into...

Today I'm dipping into Carmela Sophia Sereno's 'Southern Italian Family Cooking' after watching the rather attractive cookery writer at talk last night.  She spoke about her passion for 'cucina povera'; great food made with inexpensive simple ingredients and seasonal produce.

She was very entertaining and some of the chaps were rather wowed by her striking appearance.
Carmela is on the left with the lovely Helen from Forum books who organised the event.
Carmela's recipe book stands out from the current trend in cookery books in several ways.  The first edition book is a paperback and is the size of a novel.  There are no photographs (not through choice Carmela said) but there are a few illustrations.  Each recipe is contained on one page - or on a double page spread, so no having to try to turn pages over in the middle of a recipe.  At the end of most of the recipes Carmela has added a helpful tip, and she has also added a list of essential Italian store cupboard ingredients just before the recipe index.

Carmela is very passionate about pasta so I checked out what I had that might match her essential ingredients list.  I had; fusilli, lasagne sheets, orzo, and spaghetti.  So out of my list only one of the pastas matched up with Carmela's choice...spaghetti, bucatini, ditalini, penne, troife, rigatoni, pastini.

As pasta is often fairly easily interchangable in recipes I'll not be too distressed by my pasta choices! 

Sunday, 1 February 2015


As one of my plans for this year is to read more I'm showing a few books that I plan to try to get through.

I've just finished 'Burial Rites' by Hannah Kent.  A dark, brooding novel based on the execution of the last person in Iceland.  I love books and films that are quite dark and claustrophobic and this book certainly hit the spot.  The writing is rather good and the story develops like an Icelandic saga, a family history set several centuries after the original sagas.  Based as it is on an execution you'd be right in thinking that there isn't a happy ending.

I'm now reading 'The Electric Michelangelo' by Sarah Hall.  This is the choice of a new book group that's started up. Starting at the beginning of the 20th century the story follows Cy Parks,a young boy in Morecambe who becomes a tattoo artist before crossing he water to live in America.  I'm struggling with it a bit at the minute.  The writing is fabulously descriptive but it seems as if the author is trying too hard - why only use one simile when you can use five!  
Like a portion of thousands of migrating, flaming meteors swarming and being spun with his eyes pieces of a mirror being smashed.'
The first chapter sets the tone of the novel and is quite hard going.  TB, consumption, abortion and all of it it in quite a lot of detail.
Had I not been reading this for a book group I think I would have given up by now.

Other books on my 'to be read' pile are...
  • 'The Miniaturist' by Jessie Burton.
  • 'Elizabeth is Missing' by Emma Healey.
  • 'The Invention of Hugo Cabret' by Brian Selznick - I loved the film and this novel in words and pictures looks great.
  • 'Wolf Hall' (missing from the picture) and 'Bringing Up the Bodies' by Hilary Mantel.
  • Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole novels: 'Cockroaches', 'Phantom', 'Police' and stand-alone novel 'The Son'.  I've read quite a few of the other Harry Hole books and also Headhunters.  I enjoy the writing of Scandinavian authors and can get through these books fairy quickly.
  • 'A Faraway Smell of Lemon' by Rachel Joyce - on the Kindle.
I'm quite luck to have a great independent bookshop nearby in Corbridge, Forum Books, and in February they have a couple of authors visiting for talks and the delightfully named nearby tea room 'Tea and Tipple'.
Brooke Davis - author of 'Lost and Found' and Helen McDonald who has just won the 2014 Costa Book Award for 'H is for 'Hawk' are the authors visiting the NE.  So their books may both go on the to be read pile too.