The Adventures of Fat Rice Recipes from the Chicago Restaurant Inspired by Macau 4 Stars

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Adventures of Fat Rice
Recipes from the Chicago Restaurant Inspired by Macau
Authors: Abraham Conlon, Adrienne Lo, Hugh Amano
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
ISBN: 9781607748953
Pub date: 25 Oct 2016 
Source: NetGalley
With 100 recipes, this is the first book to explore the vibrant food culture of Macau--an east-meets-west melting pot of Chinese, Portuguese, Malaysian, and Indian foodways--as seen through the lens of the cult favorite Chicago restaurant, Fat Rice. 

Located just an hour away from Hong Kong on the banks of the Pearl River in China, Macau is one of the wealthiest cities in the world--the so-called "Las Vegas of the East," and the only place in China where gambling is legal. However, Macau's modern-day glitz belies its rich, centuries-old history as one of the greatest trading ports in the world. Ruled by Portugal from the 1600s until 1999, Macau was a crossroads along the spice route, and a place where travelers from Europe, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and mainland China traded resources, culture, and food--making Macanese cuisine one of the most eclectic and deliciously unique food traditions in the world.
   Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo are the chefs and owners of the wildly popular and critically-lauded Chicago restaurant Fat Rice, where they serve their own unique take on the food of Macau. The Adventures of Fat Rice is a fun and whimsical tear through modern-day Macau--and the minds of two wildly creative chefs. Dishes like Hong Kong French Toast (Macau's version of dim sum), Po Kok Gai (a Portuguese chicken curry), and the titular Arroz Gordo (if Spanish paella and Chinese fried rice had a baby) are enticingly exotic yet accessible and even playful. Featuring a mish-mash of classic and interpretative dishes, plus comic book-style illustrations and edgy location photography, The Adventures of Fat Rice will be the first book to bring the eclectic, richly satisfying, and previously unheralded food of Macau to the mainstream.

The bright, bold cover with the sea monster is an instant attraction, to me it served as an indication that this may be an unusual and fun book and worth a look. It is certainly unusual in that it focuses on the food customs of Macau, a culinary melting pot of food cultures that, according to the authors, is a subject not well recorded.
What I loved about the book:
The history, of how the various cultures came together on this island resulting in a cuisine that is so unique. I always like to read anecdotes about the local people who work hard to maintain the traditional procedures ensuring they are passed on. I like to think that this book contributes towards that aim. The authors do point out though that despite all efforts to maintain authenticity, there can be several ways to prepare a dish.
There is a section on equipment and how to prepare it for use and how to maintain it, handy for the new wok owner.
I loved the spices glossary, especially as some are unfamiliar, I would have liked the beautiful illustrations of the spice pots to have been labelled though, that would be helpful.
What is helpful are the diagrams of how to fold chamucas and also the cute cartoon like noodles section.
There is a wonderful illustrated vegetable glossary, again, useful as some are so unfamiliar to home cooks.
The recipes are written in a very clear style, some are quite lengthy and requires skipping to another page to find the ingredients, for example, making a curry; Po Kok Gai (Portuguese chicken curry)  requires a portion of Turmeric Baked Chicken and a portion of a curry sauce, both are recipes in themselves. Meals then may require much forward planning, there are however, many less complex dishes, it's just a case of reading a recipe carefully before leaping in and attempting to cook it. I like that there are no short cut options, to me, this indicates authenticity.
Each dish is beautifully photographed so we know, at least, what it should look like!

I was a little disappointed that there was just a brief introduction to the authors, I would have liked to know more about them. As it is we jump straight in to the resource tour followed by a brief history of the restaurant itself. this is merely personal opinion, but I feel it would have rounded out the book, giving it a more well rounded and complete feel.
Copy via NetGalley and Ten Speed Press in return for an unbiased review

Queen Bees: Sian Evans 4 Stars

Author: Sian Evans
ISBN: 9781473618039
Publication date: 13 Sep 2016
Page count: 320
Imprint: Two Roads 
Source: Hachette Australia
Publishers Summary (extract)
QUEEN BEES looks at the lives of six remarkable women who made careers out of being society hostesses, including Lady Astor, who went on to become the first female MP, and Mrs Greville, who cultivated relationships with Edward VII, as well as Lady Londonderry, Lady Cunard, Laura Corrigan and Lady Colefax. Written with wit, verve and heart, QUEEN BEES is the story of a form of societal revolution, and the extraordinary women who helped it happen.
In the aftermath of the First World War, the previously strict hierarchies of the British class system were weakened. For a number of ambitious, spirited women, this was the chance they needed to slip through the cracks and take their place at the top of society as the great hostesses of the time. 

The lives of the wealthy are fascinating to most of us and, if there is a bit of juicy gossip and some outrageous behaviour thrown in, most of us will want to know more. Added to that is the authors belief that these six society hostesses had a “profound effect on British history". This then is what attracted me to the book.

Book layout
Beginning with a “Dramatis Personae” as a brief introduction to each woman there follows a broader introduction where the author offers an opinion on the motivating forces that drove them. Venturing a little into the world of pop psychology Evans believes it to be “telling” that each of the women were “driven by a volatile childhood or unhappy experiences”.

The remainder of the book is divided in to time periods beginning just before the Great War and ending with the aftermath of World War 2. Followed by source notes, acknowledgements and an incredibly long index.
The stories of the women are not written separately but alongside each other throughout the time period. 
The book is filled with the fascinating anecdotes promised by the back cover but because of the layout I did not find it an easy read. I was expecting a more lightweight account of these woman, which it is, in parts. However, I found it difficult to follow because the author included so very many characters that they just became a convoluted blur and I simply couldn’t keep track, just look at the length of the index! Historians do hate to leave out the smallest detail and that is certainly the case here. 
I would have preferred each woman to have had chapters separate to the others, or, better still, as the author likes to include so much detail, separate biographies.

One of the most interesting sections is what these women contributed to society with their war work, Laura Corrigan who was, by all accounts the least likely to shine as a successful society hostess. She is my favourite, because she rose to the top from very humble beginnings  without the advantage of beauty or remarkable wit, I have to admire her iron willed determination. She also had the sense to stay clear of Wallis Simpson, this choice eventually served her well with the British aristocracy
For her war work in France she was awarded the Croix de Guerre, Legion of Honour, the Croix de Combattant and The Kings Medal.

Who will enjoy this book?

This book merges rather dry historical fact with the more entertaining reports of the outrageous, outlandish and jolly interesting gossipy bits. It will be of interest to anyone who loves to read about the outrageous antics of high society, and of even more interest to those who love historical facts. 
If the layout could be sorted to make the book less meandering and the facts easier to follow then it would surely be a 5 star read, as it is, it is still deserving of 4 stars.

Mini introduction to the Queen Bees:

Lady Nancy Astor: American born, divorced from her first husband. Later married Waldorf Astor. she was the first female to become a Member of Parliament

Sibyl, Lady Colefax: English born to a well known family,
She married Arthur Colefax (later to be Knighted) whose family made their money in “trade”. Later she became a noted interior designer.

Lady Londonderry: Born in Scotland and was granddaughter of the 3rd Duke of Sutherland. The only social hostess of aristocratic birth.

Lady Cunard: American born, married nobility, the 3rd Baronet Cunard

Laura Corrigan: American born, scandalous divorce. later married James Corrigan son of wealthy James Corrigan Snr.

Mrs Ronnie Greville: British born, shady details about her birth.Married Ronald Greville, eldest son of the 2nd Baron Greville

In case you were wondering A Viscount is a British nobleman ranking above a Baron and below an Earl.
Review copy provided by Hachette Australia

Audiobook Bloggers Week: Motivation Monday

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Considering I missed the Sunday #SunnyHello I shall combine Sunday and Mondays posts (although its actually Tuesday here)

I started my blog about 18 months ago (maybe) though I don't "blog" as such, just post reviews and not much else - I'm not very chatty and live a very dull life!
I began listening to audiobooks about four years ago, it was when I first got my Ipad and was able to listen via the Audible app. I also listen to books on CD from the fabulous Bolinda Audio. I still read books though and my favourite genres are crime/mystery, cookbooks, bios and  little childrens books.
I listen when cooking, gardening and just generally doing things, I read books at night.

Apart from the convenience of listening on the go I love audiobooks because of the narrators, a good one makes a good book better. Over time I have found a few who have become firm favourites.
Books that I think do not suit audio are cookbooks, I do believe they are best suited to paper.

Now to #MotivationMonday and the question how do I start a blog?
I usually stick to one format: picture, book details and summary first, I usually use the publishers summary as they do it so well - certainly better than I can.

Then it is the hard part, the review!
Well, really I just ramble on saying what I liked and, if necessary what I disliked. I'm not keen on reviews that merely say "I hated it" with no explanation as to why.

I always write my thoughts on the narrators performance - good or bad.

I consider myself as a reader reviewer, I am no writer, my grammar leaves a lot to be desired and yes, (whispering here) I have tense issues ......

The most difficult reviews for me are of books I have disliked, I don't want to or see any point in being mean, after all, what I dislike may be just what someone else is looking for.
I do think I'm quite a generous reviewer but I never jump on the reviewing bandwagon, you know, giving 5 stars simply because everyone else has or because it has fabulous editorial reviews.
Giving me a book for free does not mean a good review.
If I hit a slump I look for something completely outside of my listening norm, recently I found a lovely little gem of a book in this way.

That's it fellow audiobook listeners and reviewers

The Joyce Girl: Annabel Abbs 4 Stars

Monday, 10 October 2016

Author: Annabel Abbs
ISBN: 9780733636974
Publication date: 30 Aug 2016
Page count: 368
Imprint: Hachette Australia
Source: Hachette Australia

James Joyce was her father. Samuel Beckett was her lover. The stunning fictionalisation of the life of Lucia Joyce.
Publishers Summary
Paris, 1928. Avant-garde Paris is buzzing with the latest ideas in art, music and literature from artists such as Ford Madox Ford and Zelda Fitzgerald. Lucia, the talented and ambitious daughter of controversial genius James Joyce, is making her name as a dancer. But when Lucia falls passionately in love with budding writer (and fellow Irish expat) Samuel Beckett he is banned from the Joyce family home.
1934. Her life in tatters, Lucia is sent to pioneering psychoanalyst Carl Jung. For years she has kept quiet. Now she decides to speak.
Profoundly moving and stunningly written, The Joyce Girl brings to light the untold tale of Lucia Joyce. It will entrance and educate you. You will fall in love with this compelling woman, but she will break your heart too.

After many years of moving around, the Joyce family, Giorgio, Lucia and their parents James and Nora were now settled in their home in the Square Robiac.
The Twenties in Paris were known as the “Années Folles” - the Crazy Years, a time of massive cultural change encompassing art, literature, music and fashion.  The publication of Ulysses had made James Joyce a literary star, everyone wanted to know him. People gave their time freely to read to him or to help in other ways. 
Though they appeared to live lavishly at times, Joyce spent his patrons monetary contributions on maintaining this lifestyle, his family were always short of money.
The opening chapter: 
It is now 1934 and twenty-seven year old Lucia Joyce is taking the short ferry trip from Zurich to Kusnacht. Three times a week she does this to keep her appointment with Dr. Jung, the eminent Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist. As part of her treatment, Lucia agrees to write a memoir of what has led her to this point in life:

I know where to start my memoir” I say. I shall start with the first stirrings of desire and ambition that pushed their way, like the greedy tendrils of a weed, into my young heart. Because that was the beginning. No matter what anyone else says, that was the beginning. (p6)

This then, is how the story is told, moving back in time to Paris 1928 which Lucia deemed to be “the beginning,”  at intervals, moving forward again to 1934 to Kusnacht and another session with Dr. Jung.

The beginning for Lucia was 1928, her father arranged a special dinner to celebrate the fabulous review she received from The Paris Times for her debut dance performance. At this time, Lucia was enamoured with the young composer Emile Fernandez , but this was not to last long. Samuel Beckett came to the Joyce house to visit with Babbo (her father) and, as soon as she met him she felt an “overwhelming emotion,” consequently losing her desire for the composer. At this news Giorgio, her brother, became angry with her for rejecting a man who could have provided for her (and her family) very well indeed. Giorgio hated his impoverished life and now he and Lucia, once so close, began to drift apart.

When Nora Joyce was hospitalised for a gynaecological procedure James Joyce arranged for Giorgio and Lucia to stay with Mrs. Fleischman, a wealthy woman who, wanting to be close to the great man, would come to the house to type his notes for no payment. It was during this stay that Lucia discovered that Giorgio was receiving something rather more than motherly care from the much older and still married Mrs. Fleischman, neither Giorgio nor Mrs. Fleischmann seemed the least bit ashamed. Lucia was appalled by their relationship, later blaming herself because she believed that if she had married Emile Fernandez, Giorgio need not have chased Mrs. Fleischman’s money. Lucia and Giorgio were never to be close again.

 Lucia submerged herself in dance and practiced her routines for hours every day. She was to take part in the International Festival of Dance and, as was her way, wanted to be perfect. Not just for herself and Babbo, Mr. Beckett was to attend and she could barely contain her excitement at the thought of performing before him.
Lucia was a great success, but now she decided she could not possibly become the greatest dancer unless she studied classical ballet, and with her usual dedication, undertook a gruelling schedule of classes and practice. She was distraught when her parents caused her to miss weeks of class and practice by insisting she accompany them on a trip. 
When she returned, Madame Egorova saw how her skills had deteriorated and decided she must drop down a class. Mortified and despondent at her lack of progress Lucia gave up ballet, she and her best friend Kitten decided to offer dance classes but this too failed.

She saw Beckett as an escape route, she had created the scenario that they would marry, that marriage was the only way she would ever gain her independence. She really believed this story in her head and had planned each detail of the wedding. Sadly for her it was not to happen, the story in her head was far different to the one in Becketts. He told her the truth, that he did not care for her in that way, another dream had been shattered.
This then seemed to be the pattern for Lucia's' life, whatever dreams she had for her career were thwarted by her parents. Whichever lover she took would let her down. 

I enjoyed this story very much, the author writes in a very easy to read style and gives the reader a wonderful sense of those times, people and places. I can't begin to guess at how many hours of research was undertaken to complete this book.

What I didn't like so much
A couple of things gnawed at my enjoyment of this otherwise fine tale

A certain revelation made during a session with Dr. Jung came as quite a nasty shock, for one thing it didn't really seem to fit well with the rest of the story and if that scene is only from the authors imagination then it was a very unpleasant addition.
The other aspect that did not sit well with me is the way Nora is presented. She is the only character who is given an accent, possibly to draw attention to her lack of education or to reflect her character? Also the author does imply that Nora's mothering style is to blame for the state of Lucias mental health by having Lucia herself blaming her mother during one of her session with Dr. Jung.
That could well be very hard to read for those mothers of troubled children.

However, the author does make it very clear that this is a work of fiction, still, having previously read about these characters in biographies I did find it difficult to see them presented in a different light.

Review copy provided by Hachette Australia

Annabel Abbs generously funds a scholarship for a MA

she is also donating the first year UK royalties to a UK charity for troubled young people and children. Please visit her website for further details

The London Cookbook: Aleksandra Crapanzano 5 Stars

Friday, 7 October 2016

Author: Aleksandra Crapanzano
Hardcover ISBN: 9781607748137
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Pub Date: 11 Oct 2016 
Source: Ten Speed Press/NetGalley
From an award-winning food writer comes this intimate portrait of London--the global epicenter of cuisine--with 100 recipes from the city's best restaurants, dessert boutiques, tea and coffee houses, cocktail lounges, and hole-in-the-wall gems--all lovingly adapted for the home kitchen.
Once known for its watery potatoes, stringy mutton, and greyed vegetables, London is now considered to be the most vibrant city on the global food map. The London Cookbook  reflects the contemporary energy and culinary rebirth of this lively, hip, sophisticated, and very international city. It is a love letter to the city and an insider's guide to its most delicious haunts, as well as a highly curated and tested collection of the city's best recipes. This timeless book explores London's incredibly diverse cuisine through an eclectic mix of dishes, from The Cinnamon Club's Seared Aubergine Steaks with Sesame and Tamarind to the River Cafe's Tagliatelle with Lemon, and from Tramshed's Indian Rock Chicken Curry to Nopi's Sage and Cardamom Gin. Striking the perfect balance between armchair travel and approachable home cooking, The London Cookbook is both a resource and keepsake, a book as much for the well-travelled cook as for the dreaming novice.
The book is set out in an interesting and easy to read style beginning with Author  Aleksandra Crapanzano relating how taking a walk turned in to the inspiration for writing this beautiful and informative book.

This is followed with a little history, of how, following World War One the newly independent ladies of the middle classes took an interest in cooking. I have of course, heard of Elizabeth David (then Elizabeth Gwynne) but had no idea that she had been involved in such a scandalous relationship, and who knew she had been imprisoned under suspicion of being a spy? Discovering these little gems of culinary chattiness in such a book is priceless! 

The author then gives us the inspiration for, and the history of, some of the most famous places to eat, of which chefs have worked there and where they are now. These are not those chefs made famous solely through T.V. shows, but those who by talent and hard work have risen to the top of their field. It makes interesting reading, discovering how these great names started out and the route they followed to learn their craft.

This is followed by the  recipes which are are sectioned according to type, for example: light fare; meat, fowl etcetera, each section is  headed by a menu of selected dishes from various establishments
Each recipe is also annotated with interesting tidbits of information.

Although the author states that each recipe has been chosen so as to be easy to prepare at home, some do look a little complex to an average cook such as myself. I'm sure though that the ambitious home cook will happily find many interesting challenges. Having said that, I love the look of the Indian chicken and pumpkin curry which I may just manage to make. There is also a recipe for Welsh Rarebit which is unlike any other I have seen! 

This is so much more than merely a cookbook, it is generously illustrated with high quality photographs of food, people and places, it would make a wonderful Christmas gift for not only cooks but also those who want to find somewhere wonderful to dine when in London.
Review copy provided by Ten Speed Press and NetGalley for unbiased review

A Man with One of Those faces: Caimh McDonnell 5 STARS

Friday, 23 September 2016

Author: Caimh McDonnell 
Paperback: 332 pages
Publisher: McFori Ink (August 27, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0995507503
ISBN-13: 978-0995507500
Source McFori Ink/via NetGalley
Genre: Humorous  Crime

Publishers Summary
A darkly comic Irish crime thriller. 
The first time somebody tried to kill him was an accident. 
The second time was deliberate. 
Now Paul Mulchrone finds himself on the run with nobody to turn to except a nurse who has read one-too-many crime novels and a renegade copper with a penchant for violence. Together they must solve one of the most notorious crimes in Irish history . . . 
. . . or else they’ll be history. 


I loved this book! It appeared without the usual publishers’ fanfare and hyperbole of many a lesser book and so I feel lucky to have come across such a gem. 
a bit about our hero…

Paul Mulchrone is twenty-eight years old and “five foot nine of sheer ordinariness”. He is a man whose only friend seems to be Mickey, the delivery driver for a Chinese takeaway, The Oriental Palace which proudly boasts of an in-dining area (with ambience).

Pauls Great Aunt Fidelma, whom he’d only met twice and didn’t much like, died and left everything to the donkey sanctuary. She didn’t forget Paul though, he was to be allowed to live in her house and was to receive 500 euros a month - with conditions! 
1: He could live there until he found gainful employment 
2:He must not get into any trouble with the law and
3: In order to improve himself he must undertake six hours of charitable work each week, to be monitored by Mr. Greevy of Greevy and Co. solicitors.
When Paul learned of these conditions he determined that, just to spite Aunt Fidelma, he would live off her 500 euros forever - hence he lived a very frugal life!

…and now just a little bit about the story

We meet up with Paul at the hospice where he is carries out his charitable duties; he becomes whatever the confused patient wants him to be, son, nephew, grandson, Paul didn’t mind. 
He was about to go home and was wanting Nurse Brigit Conroy to sign his work note when she asked him a for favour, Nurse Brigit has a bit of a mouth on her and despite having worked five minutes overtime that week Paul found her to be a woman who was difficult to refuse. 
The old fella she wanted him visit mistakes Paul for someone else, someone he obviously disliked because, with the last of the strength left in his body he attacked and stabbed Paul in the shoulder. At the hospital Dr. Sinha, trying to cheer up Paul tells him that being stabbed is better than being shot, and how much nicer it was to be stabbed by someone you didn’t know rather than by someone you did know, as that wouldn’t be very nice at all.

Before long it became apparent that somebody somewhere thought that Paul knew something about something, and for that he must be taken out.
Paul had no idea what that ‘something’ might be.
Not having much faith in D.I. Jimmy Stewart and his sidekick Wilson to protect them, Paul and Nurse Brigit go on the run. 
Somewhere along the way the awful police officer Bunny McGarry intrudes himself into the case, Paul having been “one of his boys” in his hurling team from way back, justified Bunnys poking his nose in to everything.

Paul and Nurse Brigit are given temporary shelter by Dorothy, who believes that Paul is her  grandson Gregory. In an effort to remain ladylike, Dorothy transposes the first letter of every cuss word with an “m”, so “muckin’and  “ munt” appear quite frequently.
Eventually their hideout is discovered and that is when the real adventure begins, Nurse Brigit, whose only experience of crime is from watching the telly is secretly thrilled to be involved, she decides they must investigate. That is, until it gets really dangerous!

This is humorous crime at its finest, droll, witty and highly entertaining. The characters are well fleshed out and engaging - wait ’til you meet the very pregnant Nora Stokes, Pauls solicitor. - What a Woman!

The writing is skilled and captivating, I am eagerly awaiting the next book.

Review copy provided byMcFori Ink via NetGalley

Cuba! Recipes and Stories from the Cuban Kitchen 5 Stars

Sunday, 18 September 2016

By Jody Eddy, Dan Goldberg, Andrea Kuhn
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Ten Speed Press 
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
ISBN-10: 1607749866
ISBN-13: 978-1607749868
Source: NetGalley / Ten Speed Press
Publishers Summary: 
Cuba continues to captivate visitors with its vibrant culture, colorful cities, and incredible cuisine.Cuba! explores the magic of this country through recipes and stories that will set taste buds on fire and delight even the most well-seasoned traveler.
What a fabulous read! Cuba! takes cookbooks to a higher level, giving as it does so much more than recipes.
I enjoyed learning a little of the history of Cuba and the effects of the strict rationing which gave rise to The Paladares, private restaurants. Once illegal because, by taking advantage of black market products, they provided relief from the rationing for those who could afford it.

I was surprised to read of the proliferation of organoponicos (organic urban gardens) which have been so successful in providing food for city dwellers, and are now copied worldwide. An interesting concept and well worth looking up.

Oh and the recipes, I appreciate how both the original recipes and the "gussied up" recipes are both given, there can't be a more staple meal than rice and beans, but with a few tasty additions who wouldn't appreciate a plateful of congri? There's a whole raft of wonderful recipes in this book to try, and I can't wait to get going on some of them.

The authors also include a few  anecdotes about the Cuban people themselves, allowing us a brief insight to their daily lives. The illustrations are gorgeous, my favourite being the Cuban Pantry.
I would like to express my appreciation to the authors for producing this outstanding book, so entertaining, so informative and so beautiful.
ARC provided by NetGalley and Ten Speed Press for an unbiased review

About the Authors (via Amazon)
Dan Goldberg is an award-winning commercial photographer specializing in food photography. His work has been recognized by the London International Advertising Awards and he’s been listed as Archive’s Best 200 Advertising Photographers. When not taking photographs, you can find him seeking out the best food and drink in town, fly-fishing, and traveling the world with his wife, Casey and daughter, Dylan.
Prop stylist and art director, Andrea Kuhn’s work has appeared in national magazines and ad campaigns, as well as numerous cookbooks, including The Girl in the Kitchen, the James Beard-nominated Spiaggia, Cookie Love and Fat Rice. When not on set, you can find Andrea perusing flea markets (near and far) looking for that perfect prop, enjoying a good cup of coffee, and hanging at the dog park with her doodle, Finley. She lives in Chicago, Illinois.  
Jody Eddy is a food writer and the author of Come In, We're Closed and the IACP Award-winning North: The New Nordic Cuisine of Iceland. She is also the former editor of Art Culinaire. A graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan, Jody has cooked at Jean Georges, Tabla, and The Fat Duck. She lives in Chicago where she enjoys running, gardening, and planning tomorrow’s next culinary adventure.

Available from BOOKTOPIA  and AMAZON
© Audiobook and Book Reviews by Audiothing • THEME BY Maira Gall