Thursday, May 28, 2009

Books, Cameras, Berry Season

I just finished The Accidental Sorcerer by K.E. Mills otherwise known as Karen Miller (see Blog link this page). It is the first book in her Rogue Agent Series. Very different from the last series I wrote and quite light hearted in many ways. I was surprised at a lot of the Englishness (is that a word) of one of the characters and wondered if Australians use more English phrases than I realised, I then discovered that Karen worked in the UK for a while which would explain her familiarity with English slang. The Anglicised character is a bird, no-one tells you what kind of a bird exactly, just a bird, who is an ex Queen and an ex witch and who was enscorcelled many years ago to become Reg the bird with a mouth on her. The basic story is about a young third grade wizard who is bumbling along somewhat unsuccessfully and ends up discovering he actually has a lot more power than anyone realised. Reg, the bird, is his companion - familiar maybe. I enjoyed the story and am looking forward to getting hold of Witches Incorporated which is the next in the series. Now I am back onto Kate Elliott's Crown of Stars books, I have just started volume 6 In the Ruins and then have one more to read, Crown of Stars. I wasn't all that enamoured of the first book, although I liked the story enough that it kept me reading. I have found the books have improved as they went along although I always have trouble with books which have lots of different groups or characters all doing different things so that one jumps from one to the other all the time. You are just settling down to the activities of one character, and poof, you are onto another person. But if you are telling a story about a wide ranging world of characters, I guess it can't be avoided. Although I did read one series, can't remember what it was now, where each book was written from the POV of a different character and told the whole of their story, then the next book went on to another character. It was well done and it worked. My miniature camera arrived yesterday, it really is pretty small and fits into my 'wallet on a string' beautifully. I have stopped carrying huge handbags any more, I must say I like not having to wonder what to do with my bag when I am shopping or something. The camera came with a docking station which I don't think I will bother with. I took a couple of pictures of Matt but as he never smiles when I take a picture, I haven't bothered to keep them. The weather is rainy and dull at the moment, so I don't want to take pix outside. Matt can't understand why I need it, but I am fed up with not remembering to take a camera with me when I go to various functions, places, etc. Now I can have it with me all the time. My regular camera will be used on vacations, in particular, after all it can take video, this miniature one can't. Well, its shopping day, so I had better get cracking. I am planning to buy some more ingredients for Tourtières - we already have the ground beef and pork so I need veal. I think tomorrow will be a cooking day, I may well do steak and kidney pies too whilst I am at it, I have the ingredients for that except for pie shells. Strawberry season is well on its way in some parts of North America and will soon be under way here. Here is a recipe from Eating Well for a strawberry dish - it uses black pepper. The first time I tried black pepper on strawberries was in a recipe by Graham Kerr called South Australian Strawberry Pie. It was delicious and a sprinkling of black pepper really enhances the flavour of the berries. Strawberry-Black Pepper Tart for Two Makes 2 servings Crust for Two (recipe follows) All-purpose flour for dusting 1 ½ cups sliced strawberries 4 teaspoons sugar 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon cornstarch ½ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper Pinch of salt 1. Preheat oven to 375°F. 2. Prepare Crust for Two. 3. Place parchment paper or a silicone baking mat on a work surface, dust with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Dust the dough with flour and roll into a rough 9-inch circle, dusting with flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Transfer paper or mat and the crust to a baking sheet. 4. Toss strawberries with sugar, 1 teaspoon flour, cornstarch, pepper and salt in a medium bowl. Mound the strawberry mixture in the center of the crust, leaving about a 2-inch border around the outside. Pick up the edges of the crust using a spatula and fold over the berries. (The crust will not meet in the center.) 5. Bake the tart until the crust is lightly browned and the filling is bubbling, 40 to 42 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes before serving. Look for whole-wheat pastry flour in the natural-foods section of large supermarkets and natural-foods stores. Crust for Two Makes 2 servings ¼ cup whole-wheat pastry flour (see Sources) ¼ cup all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon sugar ⅛ teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 chunks 1 tablespoon canola or walnut oil ¼ teaspoon distilled white vinegar 1-2 tablespoons cold water Mix whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or fork until it is smaller than peas. Stir in oil and vinegar. Mix in enough water so the dough is evenly moist and a little crumbly but not wet. Gather the dough into a ball, then pat it into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Let stand at room temperature for about 5 minutes before rolling. White whole-wheat flour, made from a special variety of white wheat, is light in color and flavor but has the same nutritional properties as regular whole-wheat flour. Have a great day.

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