Is there anyone who doesn’t like chips and dips. Nope? Good.

Recently T and I hosted dinner. We did a bits and pieces dinner. Frittata, flat-breads and salad which gave me the chance to try two dips. One an aubergine, yoghurt combo and the second a thick white-bean citrus mash. Both were delicious. Yes, they were.

These are wonderful with flat-breads and chips, but you could also serve with vegetables. The white-bean mash could also be served as a mash, with steak/sausages/quorn pepper steaks. Perfect.

Aubergine Dips

Put in your trolley

For white bean mash

Olive oil (plus 2 teaspoons)

Half a head of garlic

Fresh rosemary

One green chilli

Grated zest 1 lemon and juice of half a lemon

2 x 400g of Cannellini beans (or white beans)

Salt and pepper

For Aubergine and Yoghurt Dip

2 medium aubergines

half a bulb of  garlic,

2tsp of ground cumin

2 tsp of paprika

Salt

4 big tbs of Greek natural yoghurt

6 tbsp finely chopped parsley

Jalapenos for topping

Method for White Bean Mash

Chop off the top of a bulb of garlic (to use with both recipe.) Pop the oven on 200 and slam in the garlic and leave to roast. While you’re waiting, drain the cannellini beans and chop the chilli. Once the garlic is soft (only takes 5/6 minutes,) squeeze half the garlic into a blender. Add the beans, lemon, chilli, rosemary, salt to season and blitz. Use the lemon juice to your taste and to help with consistency. I like it thick but not chalky. Serve!

Method for Aubergine and yoghurt dip

Oven should be nicely warm. Chop up the aubergines into slices, season well with salt and pepper. Cook in the oven, turn over regularly until they are cooked. Take from the oven, and once you ‘can’ chop into smaller chunks. Then add all the ingredients into the nutri-bullet/blender until mixed. Whiz until blended and serve. Top with jalapenos if you so wish.

Numbers (if you’re bothered.)

Both of these are very calorie friendly coming in at 50 calories per portion for the aubergine and closer to 90 for the white bean mash. (Depending on how much you demolish.)

I’m really pleased with the photographs of these books today. Must admit I’m not the greatest photographer but I snapped these on the train home recently. I’m kinda super proud of them. The tale inside though is filled with pain, hurt, disgust, human destruction and perseverance. I’m going to try to do it justice. I probably won’t so just read the book.

Blurb

When the Nazis invaded Hungary in 1944, they sent virtually the entire Jewish population to Auschwitz. A Jew and a medical doctor, the prisoner Dr. Miklos Nyiszli was spared death for a grimmer fate: to perform “scientific research” on his fellow inmates under the supervision of the man who became known as the infamous “Angel of Death” – Dr. Josef Mengele.

Nyiszli was named Mengele’s personal research pathologist. In that capactity he also served as physician to the Sonderkommando, the Jewish prisoners who worked exclusively in the crematoriums and were routinely executed after four months. Miraculously, Nyiszli survived to give this horrifying and sobering account.

My Review

Auschwitz A Doctor’s Eyewitess Account by Dr. Mik­lós Nyis­zli is a non-fiction memoir of a Jewish Hungarian Medical Doctor who performed research on other Jews under Dr. Josef Mengele also known as the ‘Angel of Death.’ Not an easy read but a super super important one.

Mik­lós was sent to Auschwitz when the Nazi invaded Hungary in 1994 but was picked by Mengele to perform scientific research on inmates. He later became Mengele’s personal research pathologist. Surviving the war  but having to live with knowledge that you’ve helped one of the biggest criminals is a struggle Mik­lós constantly discusses.

Dr Nyiszli describes the terrible things he’s seen and done and stories he’s witnessed. The horrors of the gas chambers. (There is a terrifying account of girl that survives the chamber only to be brought back to life to then be shot immediately) The stories of the twelfth Sonderkommando, the Jews who had to work in the crematoria (something I hadn’t known) and revolted before being brutally murdered. The Nazi’s replaced the Sonderkommando every four months. The new Sonderkommando getting rid of the bodies from the previous group; it will later be their turn. (Horrendous.)

A comment on the style?

There’s a little controversy as to the clinical telling of  Dr. Nyiszli’s experience. I don’t think we can really comment from our comfortable lives. Yes the writing is cold, but if Dr. Nyiszli’s had poured his heart out, maybe he wouldn’t have survived. It is a clinical telling from a doctor who wanted to get down on paper what the horrors he personally experienced. Yes there are no surviving witnesses that can corroborate the story, but this is a story of survival. What would any of us have done in his place.

Final Thoughts

This book was a struggle to read but one I’m glad to have. It’s like nothing I’ve read before about the experiences at Auschwitz and I definitely recommend it.

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One of the most used things in my kitchen is a vegetable sharpener.

I mean you could call it a spiralizer but to me it looks like a pencil sharpener. But, you use it on courgette/carrot/sweet-potato, not crayons.

Recently I bought a meat hamper from Campbell’s. It was stuffed with sausages, black pudding, haggis and bacon. Due to buying it through Wowcher it cost me only £10. I told myself I would revert from my tried and tested bangers n’ mash and make something different. This is my Tomatoey Courgette Spaghetti and Vegetable Medley.

Tomato and Herby Sausage Courgetti Spaghetti

Put in your trolley

Serves 4 hangry people 

400g of sausages (I used Campbell’s haggis sausages but a good herby sausage will do.)

A couple of spritzs of low Cal cooking spray

400g of Chestnut mushrooms cut into slices

1 tbsp of Paprika

2 Birdseye chilies chopped finely (adjust to your taste.)

Salt and Pepper 

600g of courgette

280g of sweetcorn

700g of chopped tomatoes (with basil/garlic/chilli.)

Step One

Take the sausages out of their casings and roughly chop. Fry in a small pan with the low Cal cooking spray till browned. Add the mushrooms and cover the pan with a lid to create moisture. Cook for a minute. Add the paprika, chillies, and a sprinkle of salt and cracked black pepper. (Lots of it.) Cook for another minute.

 

Step Two

Spiralise the courgettes. Just pop them in the end and then twist until you get pasta like ribbons. If you don’t have a spiralizer, use a potato peeler (works just as well.) Set aside ready for cooking.

Step Three

 

Add the sweetcorn to the pan and cook for a minute then tip in the chopped tomatoes and heat until bubbly hot. Then add the courgette spirals and toss in the mixture. Cook for a two minutes. You don’t want them to go too soft but you don’t want them crunchy.

Step Four

Take off the heat and pile high in gorgeous bowls.

Tomato and Herby Sausage Courgetti Spaghetti

Tomato and Herby Sausage Courgetti Spaghetti

Numbers if you’re bothered!

This works out to around 500 cals a portion (depending on the sausages. But this is the perfect dinner that’s filling but not full of carbohydrates. Using the courgette instead of pasta allows you eat a lot more (which is always good non?)

Recommended Reading

I recommend reading Angela Carter’s book of dark fairy-tales. I saw a gorgeous copy featured on Katy’s blog and it reminded me it’s been forever since I dived into that rollercoaster of a book! PERFECT MATCH. 

In other news, which I’ve mentioned earlier, I joined a book club!

If you’re in the Greenwich area and love books I would definitely recommend joining us. We meet the first Wednesday of the month and read a different book each month. Whether you loved or hated the book there’s always something to discuss. The Last Weekend was the book of choice the first week I attended the book club. This is what I thought.

Blurb

Set over a long weekend, Blake Morrison’s new novel is a taut, atmospheric, brilliantly chilling story of a rivalrous friendship – as told by Ian, the deceptively casual narrator.

It opens with a surprise phone call from an old university friend, inviting Ian and his wife, Em, for a few days by the sea. Their hosts, Ollie and Daisy, are a glamorous couple. And the scene is set for sunlit relaxation and cheerful reminiscence. But dangerous tensions quickly emerge.

In vivid, careful prose, Blake Morrison perfectly conveys the stifling atmosphere of a remote cottage in the hottest days of summer. Troubling revelations from Ian’s past slowly intrude. And his rivalry with Ollie intensifies as they resurrect a seemingly forgotten bet made twenty years before. Each day becomes a series of challenges for higher and higher stakes, setting in motion actions that will have irreversible consequences.

My Review

This review might be tough to write because I’m still on the fence as to how much I liked it. The book is a tense and fast-moving book told following the events of a long weekend in the life of four friends. First there’s Ollie and Daisy, the golden couple. They invite Ian and Em (the poorer, less golden couple) to a remote country lodge for a brief holiday. As the weekend progresses, old rivalries surface as the two old university friends Ian and Ollie interact. It leads to a dark, chilling, ending.

First things first, Ian is an incredibly unreliable narrator. At the beginning of the book I liked his easy nature but as the book progresses his character crosses the line. He’s a devious, manipulative and delusional liar. His obsession with Daisy comes full-force and we find that he is capable of horrible, horrible things. (I’ll let you discover them.) Daisy is a a waif like character and I wish we had learnt more about her. Her dreams, her fears, her expectations. Em the same – we don’t quite get the full picture, but I think this is to expose Ian’s unstable nature.

The whole holiday is an utter car crash that I couldn’t stop looking at. But was also sickened by what was happening/what I was seeing. Throughout the book Ian and Ollie compete to honor an old bet. A range of sporting challenges which are played for bigger and better stakes. Ian, the poorer friend feels a sense of social inferiority to his richer, more successful friend, which is magnified by his gambling addiction (kept secret from their friends.) There’s a definite sense of an unsettled score and a childishness to the rivalry between the two men.

Final Thoughts

The book does have problems. The ending is very formulaic and predictable. Daisy and Ollie have a son that comes on the holiday but dissapears frequently. We never learn where he’s been and he never really adds anything  the book. There’s also a discussion of Ollie visiting the lodge as a boy. It’s never revealed whether Ollie was lying. Other bits and pieces in the book that seem pivotal are never discussed. It’s frustrating.

The writing is playful and well-written. As Ian’s personality bubbles and becomes more unstable, we see Ollie and Daisy react but never get the release we need. The twist (if you can call it at the end,) is very well done, just not quite the ending I wanted.

Read ‘The Last Weekend’ for the shock factor, and the beautiful McEwan style writing but it’s not perfect.

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I am still using Campbell’s breakfast box to fuel my meals.

Due to T being a vegetarian it’s lasted me nearly a month. One of the best things I’ve bought during 2017. One of the bits I was worried about was the haggis. I love haggis – but have never cooked it myself. I looked through a lot of recipes, but decided to wing it and attempt a kind of haggis style ragu. It tasted and looked delicious and I could serve it with mashed potatoes. Disclaimed – my favourite way to eat potatoes.

Enjoy. (Plus, don’t be put off by the haggis.)

Haggis Ragu with Comforting Creamy Mash

Put in your trolley

100g of Haggis (could use vegetarian that I have found at Waitrose.)

300g of maris potatoes (or any potatoes you fancy mashing – sweet would also work.)

Milk + butter for mashing (and salt and pepper.)

120g of red onion chopped into chunky-ish bits

120g of pepper chopped also in chunky bits

140g of passata (I used Napolina)

A helpful sprinkling of hot chilli powder

Step One

Put a big saucepan onto boil. Chop up the potatoes into regular pieces, salt the water and tip in the potato chunks. Boil until soft.

Step Two

Whilst potatoes are boiling, heat a small pan and add the peppers and onions. Fry for a couple of minutes and then chop up the haggis and add. Season with pepper (not salt the haggis should be enough.) Sprinkle in a good amount of chilli powder based on your personal taste. Then add the passata. Turn the hob down to low and cook until it thickens. You want a bolognaise style consistency. If it becomes too thick spoon in some water from the potatoes.

Step Three

Once the potatoes are cooked drain and splash in a little milk and butter. I think everyone has their own personal way of making mash so do that. Season well with salt and pepper, and make sure you make it over a low heat. (Helps bring it all together.)

Step Four

Pile the mash and the haggis ragu together on a plate a devour!

Numbers (if you’re bothered.)

This came to around 400 calories. Perfect for lunch or dinner. You could also add extra vegetables or serve the ragu with pasta!

Recommended Reading

I recommend reading The Swap by Nancy Boyarsky. I don’t think it’s come out quite yet but it’s one to keep an eye out for. See my review here – it’s a wonderful read.

Haggis Ragu with Comforting Creamy Mash

Haggis Ragu with Comforting Creamy Mash