Treat Yo’shelf

L shares her latest reading recommendations.

These titles have real shelf appeal

We de-la-Haye Girls have always been avid readers. E is far more adventurous in selecting her material than me, but we often recommend and share books amongst our family. I’m always reticent to try anything new without a recommendation, such is my stubborn Capricorn nature. Prior to this year, I would only allow myself to read “for pleasure” during the holidays. There’s nothing better than selecting your beach reads at the airport and getting stuck in on the aeroplane, is there?

Recently though, with everyone having to go a bit slower and finding ourselves with more time at home, I’ve been treating myself to reading more often. There is a sense of cultivating a habit, or a flow, with the reading, but once formed there is nothing more luxurious than curling up with a blanket and something warm to drink and escaping into those pages.

Travel books are some of my favourite reads at the moment. Planning my next escape already!

With this in mind, I thought I’d share a list of our my most recent recommendations: the books that have had E and me hooked from cover to cover. Please do let us know what you are currently enjoying reading – we’d love to add to our shelves!

  • The Other Bennet Sister Janice Hadlow. Don’t let the intimidatingly large size of this book put you off! Both L and E romped through this “alternative” and extension Pride and Prejudice story within a week. The perfect tonic post Bridgerton.
  • Quite – Claudia Winkleman. This funny, frank and fabulous book had me chuckling out loud. Our beloved Strictly presenter is so unashamedly herself in the writing, it really feels as though your talking to her. Or rather, she is talking to you, sharing her thoughts on all things from art history to the benefits of bangs.
  • I Am Not Your Baby Mother – Candice Brathwaite. Lots of wonderful female authors in this list, what better tribute to this week’s International Women’s Day? We’ve been long time followers of Candice on social media and her debut book is beautiful and brilliant. Enjoyable whether you’re a mother or not – beg, borrow or steal a copy!
  • In Paris – Jeanne Damas and Lauren Bastide. Paris is my happy place. It always has been. I’ve often fantasised about running away and starting a new life across the Channel, renting a tiny apartment in the Sixth…ideally with Vince and a cat. Whilst this is still a pipe dream, I love to read about my favourite city, circling all the cafes and streets I want to explore. Excellent reading if like me, you’re mourning the end of Call My Agent.
  • Yes Please – Amy Poehler. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been recommended this book by friends of mine and during this lockdown, after having picked it up several times, I finally managed to complete it. It’s a lovely, fizzy read which I’m sure I’ll come back to again.
  • Cook, Eat, Repeat – Nigella Lawson. Without fail, each Christmas, both E and I will receive some type of cook book. Cooking and sharing food is a huge part of our family and Nigella’s most recent serving is truly delicious. It reads more like a novel than a cookbook thanks to the way Lawson talks about the emotions surrounding food. It is so comforting during these uncertain times. Oh, and her recipe for Linzer Cookies went down a storm for our German Themed Date Night two weeks ago!
E’s multicoloured bookshelves

What have you been enjoying recently? ~L.

Date. Night.

L shares her new favourite lockdown activity – themed date night!

Two words that put the horrors into me and my partner. I have friends that insist a weekly date night becomes a necessary evil once you have children, but we don’t, as yet. Notwithstanding this, and as I mentioned in a previous blog, I’m on the hunt for new activities to keep me out of trouble this lockdown.

Anyone else sick of Zooming?

Before we entered this new normal, one of our shared passions was travel. We loved nothing better than exploring the culture, music and cuisine of an unknown place. It’s something that E lovingly passed down to me. So, given that we can’t currently travel, I thought, why not bring the travel to us?

On our daily walk, we hatched a plan. Each week we will pick a place: a country; a region; a continent; whatever takes our fancy. We will have a home-cooked meal celebrating food from the selected place, followed by a film inspired by or set in the same location. The only rules are: no fish/celery (at Vince’s behest), neither of us can have seen the movie before and we have to be brave and include at least one item on the menu we wouldn’t normally prepare and eat at home. And there you have it, dinner and movie, lockdown style.

For our inaugural week, we decided the theme should be the USA, as this seemed both easy and wholly appropriate. After toying with whether to go down the TexMex, Soul Food or cowboy food route, we settled on a menu inspired by our childhood and holidays.

And yes – aperitif was spelt phonetically for humour. The menu was designed to be read in your best southern drawl

Buffalo chicken wings and ice cold beer immediately transports me back to working for Royal Caribbean aboard the beautiful Oasis of the Seas. Every Wednesday, the ship would host a “Crew Appreciation Evening” where all departments were welcome to join for free beer and wings. For variety, I’d love to swap out some of the wings for cauliflower florets for a vegan twist.

Celeriously delicious. Breaking my own non-celery rule in week one!

Our main course had to be hotdogs. We both had fond memories of those jumbo bad boys from family trips to Florida. Now let me tell you a secret: the trick to a great hotdog is nothing to do with the bun or meat; it’s all about the toppings. We created our own selection bar with crispy bacon bits, relish, macaroni cheese, chopped onion, mustard, ketchup and grated Cheddar. Really the combinations are endless; you could feasibly chuck any leftovers a top your hotdog and make it delicious. Chilli con carne dog? Sauerkraut and smoked cheese? Linda McCartney veggie-dogs and mushrooms? Ok, ok – I’ll stop!

DIY Hot Dog Bar

After a long debate with E about what film we should screen, (she hilariously suggested An American Werewolf in London…yep), we settled on Tony Kaye’s American History X. It was quite a heavy watch of a Thursday evening but I couldn’t believe how relevant it still is 23 years on. It’s available on Netflix and worth a watch if you haven’t seen it before.

Our evening finished with a slice of good old-fashioned apple pie. It’s long been known between the de-la-Haye Girls that E is the baker. Whilst we both love to potter in the kitchen, anytime something sweet has to be made it never goes well in my hands. But, dear reader, I’m delighted to report that I may have broken the curse! It might not have been the prettiest pie but the bottom wasn’t burnt and the filling tasted good. Better than good actually; it was delicious.

The apple pie was A-OK

It’s such simple idea but we both really got into it, listening to Johnny Cash all day and feeling like we’d escaped for just a moment. Next week we are going to Japan. Recommendations for food and films are most welcome! ~L.

Not-So-Basic Banana Bread

It’s lockdown, of course we must have banana bread.

Slice Appeal

This third lockdown is hitting a little different isn’t it? Discounting those four weeks in November of last year, our only other experience of lockdown was during the spring. Getting out and safely enjoying your local surroundings is much tougher on a cold, dark evening. In fact nearly everything that lifted my spirits last time just isn’t cutting the mustard this time round. I think the key to getting us through the next few weeks, or indeed months, is changing things up!

I’m taking full advantage of all the activities I didn’t turn my hand to in the initial lockdown and top of my list is baking banana bread. E treated me to the new Nigella Lawson cookbook Cook, Eat, Repeat for Christmas and this recipe is very much inspired by her gluten-free version. Mine is best served still slightly warm with ice cream or early the next day, fridge cold and lathered in salted butter.

Serving Size:
10 generous slices
Time:
1 hour + cooling time
Difficulty:
lemon squeezy

Ingredients

  • 175g flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarb of soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 bananas (the more bruised the better)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g Greek yoghurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml vegetable oil
  • 125g brown sugar
  • 100g dark chocolate chips
  • 100g walnuts
  • a spoonful of Nutella (for swirling purposes)

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 150℃ and stick some baking paper into the base of your loaf tin.
  • Mix together your flour, almonds, baking powder and salt
I do find this recipe so very appeeling
  • Peel and mash the bananas, a good old fork will do for this. Then, take out any aggressions you’re harbouring, possibly towards certain politicians who will remain nameless and beat in the vanilla, yoghurt, eggs, oil and sugar. Make sure you do these one by one so as not to overwhelm the mixture.
Cracking series, that
  • When you’re happy that everything is well combined, tentatively mix in your flour. Again, unless you want your kitchen floor to look like you got into a fight with a pastry chef, go slow. Or if you’re using one of those fancy KitchenAids, frankly you’re cheating.
A great excuse to finish off any baking bits left over from Christmas
  • Here’s the fun bit, fold in the chocolate chips and chopped walnuts, I’ll allow you a blitz in the blender if you really loathe chopping. And just to be extra decadent, I added a spoonful of Nutella and swirled it into the cake batter to make a marbled effect.
She’s a beauty!
  • Gingerly tip into the lined loaf tin and pop her into the oven for an hour. At this point I poked a kebab skewer (of course I don’t have cake testers) into the centre and it was still pretty liquid. I turned the heat down to 120℃ and let her sit there for another 20 minutes whilst I went on a walk.
Must…resist…urge…to…eat…
  • Tempting as the smells may be, leave your loaf to cool down before you attempt removal! It’ll be worth the wait, trust me! We had ours for pudding with freshly sliced bananas and cream. It’s healthy because there’s fruit in it, right?
It’s worth the wait – you can crust me

You can always swap the nuts out if you prefer or use rice flour and GF baking powder to turn this coeliac friendly. I’m sure E has some tips for a vegan version too! Happy baking ~L.

It’s so good – you won’t beloaf it