Tasty Avoca Minestrone Soup Recipe

This soup is easy, tasty, healthy and low GI (glycaemic index) which basically means it breaks down slowly in your system leaving you feeling fuller for longer, kind of the opposite effect to a Mc Donalds! A big bowl of wholesome goodness for these freezing days and chock a block with your 5 a day

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Ingredients

2 onions, peeled and chopped

olive oil

2 carrots peeled and diced

1 red and 1 yellow pepper seeded and diced

1 chilli, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

A handful of pearl barley, rinsed in several changes of water

2 celery stalks, diced

1 litre light chicken stock

1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon tomato puree

1 x 400g can chickpeas rinsed and drained

2 sprigs oregano, finely chopped

1 teaspoon picked thyme leaves

How to…

Gently sauté the onion in 4 tablespoons of  olive oil for 10 mins. Add the carrots, peppers, chilli, garlic and barley. Toss in the oil and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the celery, stock, tomatoes and tomato puree and cook for a further 15 mins, or until the vegetables are just cooked. Add the chickpeas and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the fresh herbs, check the seasoning and serve.

Variations

**You can add char-grilled chicken breasts, grilled sausages or chorizo to turn this into a more substantial supper dish.

Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche and a half teaspoon of harissa per serving for a chilli kick.

Semi-sun dried tomato pesto along with extra herbs gives a robust, fragrant finish.

Next up I will be posting recipes from the rather wonderful looking Cake Cafe Dublin recipe book which I was received as a gift recently including their most sought after recipes so stay posted……

 

January Reads

For me January is a month to go into a little hibernation mode after the joys and excesses of the Christmas season. Regular exercise and a good diet is a great start but for me chilling at weekends in front of a fire and not running around is a wonderful way to recharge your batteries.

First things first – reading. I have gotten through 3 books now this month and am on my fourth. So in order of reading them:

Enduring Love by Ian Mc Ewan

Enduring love

I have read several of Ian Mc Ewan’s books including Atonement, Amsterdam and Saturday, but I found this totally different from his other work. It’s an older book, first published back in 1997 and the plot concerns two strangers who become perilously entangled after witnessing a deadly accident. It’s a slim book but packs an enormous punch and I would highly recommend it for the thrill alone.

This Is How It Ends by Kathleen Mac Mahon

this is how

I got this for Christmas and I was really excited to read it after hearing so much hype around it (the first time author received a two book advance of over €700,000 and is the grand daughter of writer Mary Lavin) and while I enjoyed parts of it, I wasnt blown away. The characters are well developed if a little cliched in parts fitting neatly in stereotyped boxes and the plot was predictable. All in all, an underwhelming read but to be fair perhaps expectations were set a little too high to start with.

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of The Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

yearold

A funny and fast paced novel following the 100 year old hero Allan Karlsson as he dashes an escape from his nursing home and embarks on a comic crime spree through Sweden picking up equally ludicrous accomplices along the way. The novel also manages to cleverly take in all the major events of the 20th century and the lead character’s role in them. Funny, entertaining and well worth a read.

I am currently reading Claire Kilroy’s The Devil I Know and while I am only a few chapters in, the writing and dialogue is excellent and I am looking forward to getting stuck into it more. It is a pretty savage satire on Ireland’s property boom so a good reminder of the excesses and tasteless extravagance of the so-called ‘Celtic Tiger’. Feels like a distant memory now in the heart of austerity.

On an aside, the house is falling down with books but it’s one thing I find it hard to part with so I have decided I need a Book Barn kind of like this one –  Baldwin’s Book Barn, an 1822 building in West Chester, Pennsylvania which has five floors of books, pretty realistic goal don’t you think?

Below are some images to ogle for book lovers.

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Christmas books I would love in my stocking

I’ll add to this list over the coming weeks as books are one present I look forward to every year at Christmas. I am starting out with this collection of short stories below!

Alice Munro – Dear Life

dear life

Canadian author, Alice Munro is one of those rare writers who sticks to the short story and doesn’t bother with novels. Just to read some of her stories, it’s easy to see that she has perfected the craft to such an extent that authors such as Margaret Atwood, who wrote the superb and affecting The Handmaid’s Tale, said of Munro that fellow writers ‘whisper her name in hushed tones’, so revered is she. Munro has been publishing collections of short stories for decades and when she won the Man Booker International Prize in 2009, it was widely seen as long overdue.

Her latest collection, Dear Life, instantly is unique in that it seems to be her most personal work to date featuring autobiographical stories, rare coming from an author who never speaks about herself or grants interviews. Each of these 14 stories are like mini novels in themselves and need to be read slowly and deliberately.

After the first 10 short stories, she inserts a single paragraph on an otherwise blank page, under the heading, Finale: “The final four works in this book are not quite stories. They form a separate unit, one that is autobiographical in feeling, though not, sometimes, entirely so in fact. I believe they are the first and last – and the closest – things I have to say about my own life.”

Reviews have ranged from ‘life changing’ to ‘spectacular’ which makes this collection firmly at the top of my Christmas wish list.

I would love to hear any more recommendations for good books for over the holidays.

The New Yorker just keeps on giving

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I know it’s early to mention Christmas but I just thought for any of you contemplating what to get someone, particularly one of those ‘she/he has everything type of person’, I hit gold last year when I bought my mum an annual subscription to The New Yorker magazine.

There are 47 issues per year for $120 which works out about €94, not bad when you consider that is €2 per issue. The quality of writing is amazing and a lot of highly accomplished authors road test their new work out in it. The issues arrive every week in the post so a great Christmas present and they can be shared around and recycled to family, friends and neighbours.

Other subscriptions I would personally like would be Vanity Fair and National Geographic, oh and the National Geographic for kids is I think a really amazing present when they are still teeny and should solve the problem of the constant ‘why’ being asked around the busy Christmas period.

Get in touch if you know of any other good subscriptions would love to hear it!

 

Beautiful Kerry

We are just back from spending the long St Patricks weekend in Waterville, Co Kerry in Ireland where we were so lucky to get nice weather so we could get out for long walks and take in the beautiful scenery. It’s a wonderful place to visit with very dramatic scenery and great people!

Above is the view from the tip of Lamb’s Head, you can see The Skelligs to the right of the main island.

This is the view taken from the road between Waterville and Caherdaniel on a clear day.

The view from the other side!

An existential sheep we came across pondering his kingdom!

A lovely sunset falls over Kerry on the way home.

Where are Charlie, Veruca, Mike, Violet and Augustus now?

I started watching this for the hundredth time over the weekend, one of the all time greats and got to wondering what ever became of all the mini stars – are they still in showbiz? Or was this the peak of their acting prowess. Well after a bit of research I can reveal that among Charlie, Veruca, Mike, Violet and Augustus we have a vet, two accountants and two actors…..

Peter Ostrum (born November 1957) who played Charlie Bucket now practices as an American large animal veterinarian. His only film role was Charlie Bucket and he never continued with acting afterwards. A native of Cleveland, Ostrum practices and lives in Lowville, New York with his wife and two children. He has been called “the most famous man in Lowville”, where the local video store has twice worn out its VHS copy of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Julie Dawn Cole (born October 26, 1957) who played Veruca Salt has remained in acting since her famous role and has appeared in numerous English television, film and stage performances over 40 years. She says that whenever her daughter did anything brattish when she was younger she would say ‘Is there a problem, Veruca? Can I help you?’ That always snapped her out of it.”

 

 

Paris Themmen (born June 25, 1959) who played Mike Teevee in the 1971 film has dabbled in various careers, including commercial casting, film production, Disney Imagineering, retail, real estate, and finance. Acting appearances as an adult include “Virtuoso”, a 2000, sixth season episode of the TV series Star Trek: Voyager, and as a contestant billed as a “former child star” in two 2008 episodes of the American game show Duel.

 

 

Denise Nickerson (born April 1, 1957) who played Violet Beauregarde in the movie turned 21 in 1978, and opted to quit acting at that time. Since then, she has appeared on television sporadically and currently works as an accountant at an engineering plant in Colorado. She does keep in touch with her co-stars however.

 

Michael Böllner (born 14 September 1958) who played Augustus Gloop said he enjoyed acting in the film, even though he could not speak English beforehand and had to have his lines coached by a crew member. He did a few more films in Germany after Willy Wonka  but soon quit because his father said he should finish school. He is now a tax accountant in Munich.

So there you go!

 

 

Anything on this evening? #firstthursdaysdublin

On the First Thursday of every month a selection of gallery and creative spaces are opening their doors after hours offering you an extra chance to see art, culture and events between 6–8pm. There is a great selection to choose including The National Gallery of Ireland, Cow’s Lane Designer Studio, Gallery Zozimus, Project Arts Centre and the Science Gallery to name just a few..

Full listings of each venue and what’s happening this evening here