Monday, 28 July 2014

Eat Istanbul: A Journey to the Heart of Turkish Cuisine

Istanbul is a melting pot of cultures and Ottoman cuisine is likewise a mix of Turkish, Greek, Albanian, Mongolian and Bulgarian, to name just a few.  This is an enjoyable big glossy book full of pictures both of the recipes and of the markets of the city.

We are given a brief introduction to the areas and markets of Istanbul with delicious descriptions and pictures of the enjoyment and delight with which the people of Istanbul devour their food, from street vendors to restaurants.  Then there are then six recipe sections: Breakfast; Streetfood and snacks; Vegetables and pulses; Meat and poultry; Fish and seafood; and Desserts.  The last section is a glossary of ingredients, some of them are distinctly Ottoman and a picture and description gives enough information to understand the flavour each brings to a dish if they cannot be sourced.

As someone who is gluten intolerant I found this book really useful because it gives me access to favourite foods such as kofta kebabs and wraps that previously I would have been unable to consume and can now substitute, gluten free breads and wraps, quinoa for bulghar wheat, etc.

The Natural Cook: Eating the Seasons from Root to Fruit by Tom Hunt

An interesting book in which Hunt invites us to cook vegetables and fruit in season, divided into Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.  Each vegetable or fruit is introduced with notes on preparation, taste and season and instructions given for cooking it three ways, for instance, for asparagus instructions are given for preparing it raw, char-grilling it and blanching it.  Below each method comes further ideas for using the ingredient, it is then followed by an extant recipe, for instance, the blanched asparagus is used for a variation on Italian Risi e Bisi (rice and peas).  It's an approach that teaches you the possibilities of each vegetable and fru

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Dummies

I must admit, I was sceptical at first, how could something as complex as Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) be simplified, but this book does it elegantly.  It begins with a brief 'Contents at a Glance' page and then much more detailed 'Table of Contents' including all the icons used in the book which make it easy to navigate: tips; things to note down and to try, warnings, jargon explanations and tracks to play from the online spoken guided meditation tracks.

The book begins with an introductory part I: a clear explanation of what MBCT is, it's origins and benefits, the problems MBCT can address and what the challenge of taking on the full 8 week course entails

Part II is the 8 week course itself, each chapter covering a single week and each building on the one before to develop becoming mindful of your body and mind and how to deal with setbacks and difficult emotions to enable you to come to a point where you are fully in control of your own physical and mental wellbeing and able to live a life far more connected to your own life.

Part III is on using MBCT for specific afflictions: depression, addiction, anxiety, pain, ageing and the work-life balance.

Part IV enables you to go beyond the book, giving list of 10 ways to expand your mindfulness practice, 10 inspirational people and 10 inspirational places to visit.

All in all a welcome addition to the mindfulness bookshelf, straightforward but not shallow.

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

Imagine a virus that affects our ability to speak and write, to communicate.  Anana's father has disappeared from his work as editor of the North American Dictionary of the English leaving only a cryptic message 'diachronic' and his speed dial display reads 'Hotline to Alice'.  The moment she sees this Anana knows something is very wrong, Alice is both a reference to Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland and a kind of literary code name he had for Anana.  Down the rabbit hole the story goes, she finds a small army of sweat shop workers in the basement destroying dictionaries, tries to get help from Bartleby who worked with her father, tries to deal with the aftermath of her breakup with ex Max and the onslaught of the word virus that steals language.  A really good read.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Fresh Prints: 25 Easy and Enticing Printing Projects to Make at Home by Christine Leech

A nice collection of beginners projects for block printing, both with easy to use readily available foam and with found objects.  The book begins with an introduction to materials, to inks, rollers, safeprint lino foam, and inking plates.  Then there are three sections, the first on printing with found objects such as leaves and haberdashery, the second on printing using safeprint foam sheets which are inexpensive and readily available.  The third section is on other printing techniques, such as using bleach and templates.  It's a good starter packed with small easily realisable projects that introduce the very beginner to printing.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Knitting Smitten by Jessica Biscoe

This is a funky cute introduction to the gently addictive art of knitting, for the most part ideal as a book for a complete novice.

The book is divided into four section.  The first is an introduction to knitting basics looking at the stuff you will need, how to choose yarns, how to read knitting patterns and charts, measuring tension, tips, and the basic techniques of casting on, purling stitches, knitting stitches, increasing and decreasing stitches.  I like that instructions are written and illustrated with good photographs, and that two sets of instructions are given: one for the British / American knitting style and one for the European.

Then come the projects which each introduce the knitter to a new technique and a newbie could do worse than just work through the book, they would come away with a funky wardrobe and be a proficient knitter.  Projects include hats, slippers, mittens, leg warmers, a cape and snood, bracelets, necklaces, headbands, brooches, cushions, throws, cloths, a paperweight, a bow tie and the cutest egg cosies.

Each project starts with a good illustration and a supplies page covering what size the project will be, what yarn you will need, needles, tension, any new techniques you will be learning and any haberdashery needed.  This is one of my small niggles: although there is a good page in the back showing you what weight each yarn is this isn't given on the supplies page.  My second is that when the crochet chain cast on is introduced there are no instructions on how to crochet.  However, the instructions that are given with each project are well written and well illustrated with photographs.

But the missing things are technqiues that that the unsure can find videoes of online and in general I do love the layout - learning step by step through the projects - and the size of the projects, nothing is too big or daunting but each introduces the techniques in a fun a friendly way.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

This is kind of halfway inbetween a coffee table book and a travel book.  It's a hardback book of a less than A4 size filled with some of our world's greatest wonders split into two sections: natural and man made.  The man made are roughly in chronological order and go from caves painted by ice age people to the Burj Khalifa.  Each wonder begins with a tantalising introduction what it is like to encounter the wonder, a full page photograph, and 'how to get there' and what to do 'while you're there' sections.  Then follows a section on the construction and history of the wonder with 'did you know' boxes and great little diagrams.  It's informative and good to look at.

So why only three stars, well, because this book is neither one thing nor another.  The 'what to do while you're there' sections suggest a travel book, but this is really too heavy to be carried unless you are travelling by car.  The construction sections are good but so brief, too brief for me, it is not really big or detailed enough to be the kind of book you could devour at your leisure at home either.