Wednesday, 12 October 2011


Over the last little while I have been lamenting on how I seem to have lost my ability to read as I used to.

I love books- I have written about it before here and here. 

I look at cook books a lot.  But I have stopped reading other forms of literature.

And I am missing it.

I spend a lot of time as a stay at home mum looking on the internet, conversing with  my buddies on twitter & facebook.  I love that- it gives me a sense of community. It is great to chat with other people who share similarites with me- like cooking, raising kids, making stuff, thinking about know...the important stuff.

I love that i can come and go as I please.  Take a little bit here, give a little bit there.

Being a stay at home mum is a pretty challenging job.

My long time readers know how much I love it.

I love it A LOT!

Each and every day I am thankful that I can do it.

I don't enjoy my job everyday but I am thankful that I am doing what I do.

Conversing online makes it less of a solitary exercise.  I can feed my brain a little.

And I have met some truly lovely people- people that I would not have met otherwise.  These people have helped me through some particularly hard times over the last year.

But lately I have been thinking of how I can find a better balance.

How I can switch off from my electronic world and get my head back into books again.

I have an ever growing pile of books on my bedside table that has toppled and spills across the floor.

My tendency after a very tiring day doing my job is to head over to the internet to see what all my buddies are looking at,  reading short snippets here & there.  Stuff that is important & stuff that is well written.....but not BOOKS.

I have been reading cookbooks to cook with- of course.   I have several bookshelves filled with them.  Here's one of them.
One of the other reasons I love cookbooks is because they give me a peek into the world of the culture that the food has come from; stories of the people & histories of nations.

I don't want to feel like I have to read.

But I do want to read because I feel like is the desire that I crave.

In the back of my head I am thinking of a plan to help me.

Those people that know me know my resistance to making a plan.  I think I am a bit averse as I don't like to fail.


But maybe it's time I learnt to plan......... and learnt to accept failure.

I have started to make To Do lists- but my rule is they have to have things on them that are not housework jobs but things that are good for me....this one includes something about reading. I set the bar pretty low in the reading stakes.....but in my super busy days I have to keep it realistic too.

I always tell my kids failure is natural part of the learning how come I find it so hard to practice that in my world?

I have some ideas swimming around to help me out.

I'm thinking of getting some other people to join me.

I don't like doing stuff's fun to share!

Do you have the same trouble?

I would love to know how you overcame your reading block- if you did?

This recipe comes from Claudia Roden's book ARABESQUE- a taste of Morocco, Turkey & Lebanon.
I love her recipes and this book was about her revisiting the countries she had first written about in the 1960's (opening up their cuisine to many of us for the first time) to see how their cuisine & culture had changed since that time.  I have a very well thumbed original copy of her Middle Eastern cookery in one of my cookbook shelves.  I have very quickly fallen in love with this book also.
I made this dish last week and had a request to blog the recipe.
I fell in love with the story & had to cook it.  I also have a deep love for Eggplant- and so do my kids so I was keen to try this.
The name of the dish means "Her Majesty's delight".  The story is that it was served to the wife of Napoleon III - Empress Eugenie in 1869 when she was entertained by Sultan Abdul AzizThe Empress was so taken with the pale,creamy aubergine sauce that she requested the recipe.  The Sultan's cook refused however, explaining that he could not pass on the recipe as "He only cooked with his eyes and nose."

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 tblspoons Extra Virgin Olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 kg boned Organic lamb leg or shoulder, chopped into medium chunks
  • 500g tomatoes (tinned is fine- use chopped ones)
  • 1 tspn sugar
  • 1 clove garlic (not in Claudia's recipe but I CANNOT cook without it!)
  • S & P
  • 3 large eggplants (aubergine)
  • 75g butter
  • 3 tblspoons flour
  • 500ml milk
  • good grating of fresh nutmeg
  • 50g Gruyere cheese (or other good quality cheese).
Fry the onion until soft in EVOO. Add garlic and fry for a minute or so.
Add the diced lamb and cook till lightly brown.
Add tomatoes, S & P and sugar.
Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours with the lid on.
Check every now & then to make sure it does not dry out. Add water if it does.
Remove the lid for the last half hour and let sauce reduce.

For the puree- prick the eggplant with a pointed knife to prevent them bursting in the oven.
Place them on a large piece of foil on a baking tray and roast them in an oven preheated to 240C for about 45-55 minutes or until they feel very soft when you press them and the skins are wrinkled.
When cool enough to handle, peel and drop them into a strainer or colander with small holes to press out as much juice as possible.
Place the flesh in a bowl and mash with a fork. Set aside.

Make a bechamel sauce: melt the butter in a saucepan add the flour and stir over low heat for abut 2 minutes to cook flour.
Add milk & cook at a gentle heat while stirring to prevent lumps. Add salt and plenty of nutmeg. Cook for aobut 15 minutes or unitl the sauce has thickened.
Now add the eggplant and cheese. Stir through until cheese has melted.
Serve the meat stew in a shallow dish with the aubergine sauce all around.

I served it with a Basmati pilaf with brown lentils and a side of green beans with almonds.  When the sauce is all mixed through it is AMAZING!

and todays listening pleasure....


  1. Oh My God, thanks for posting this Ruth! Yum! My mouth is literally watering. I can't wait to make it this week, let you know how I go! Off to buy some eggplants! xxx

  2. I just started reading a BOOK again after a long break of not reading, but as you do, plenty of reading online.
    At first, it was pretty disappointing, because I chose a pretty lame book. Against the idea of not putting up with second rate material, i chose to soldier on, and it has paid dividends. i like the meditative aspect of reading - a focus on the subject, somewhere peaceful (in bed), and excluding and escaping the world. So, despite the novel not being the best, i have still enjoyed the read. I think I might even read another book after I finish this one! Hopefully something that is interesting in itself though ...

  3. I NEVER have reading block. I always crave reading, but it's a matter of making the time. I use it as a reward to get some house work done.

    My tip is to try a book of short stories. I got one for free as part of Get Reading month. It was fantastic. There are less chances to 'fail' and give up on the book as you can often read one story in one sitting.

    Good luck. That recipe looks delicious.

  4. I've just had my daughter and with a newborn it is quite hard to squeeze as much as reading time in as I would ideally like to. Not reading makes me blue and when I suddenly stop reading for a while or for a long time for that matter I know I'm not feeling the best. So I better get used to reading a page or two instead of the long reading sessions I was able to do before. Love how simple yet poignant your to-do list is. Happy reading!

  5. I am the same. Although my kids are big-uns, I have replaced book reading with web pages, blogs, Facebook and Twitter and have made some amazing new friends. ; ) I have many many books on my shelves that I am yet to read and I too have hatched a plan to read them.
    I have decided that when I hop in to bed at night, my iPad is no longer welcome.
    Hopefully this will help me start to whittle down the pile!

  6. I can relate. i used to be an avid reader, but as my children got older i found myself reading magazines, lots of non fiction, practical type books, but not much fiction. I tend to be a read at all costs type reader, so if i have a book on the go, I do seem to lose time, and everything else takes the back burner till I finish it. Hence, I don't let myself get lost in a book like I used to, too many other things to do now! Although I did read 2 ace books recently while we were on holiday,(they only lasted 3 days) and it was soooo good!! Have a great day :)Julie

  7. Really must learn how to post a post.. I try to convince myself that reading an Elizabeth David book is like reading a novel as it has no pictures as such. Blogs,Facebook are non committal and easy as an unwind whereas a novel involves commitment. It's easier to watch Tuesday book club show and pretend to be literary then to muscle up the willpower to read a complete novel. I think you need your own book club with a meeting invite that says "bring a plate". Now that would be the motivation needed to read, just to see what people would bring. Yum!

  8. Yep.... My first attempt of posting didn't work. Oh well my abridged version gets the gist across. Milo with frangelico by the way was my drink after putting all my little people asleep tonight.

  9. It's a tricky one... I like the idea of short stories or even poems - easier to put down and pick up again. At the end of the day it's a phase in your life - so busy with five kids and still such a little one - so long, deep novels might have to wait till they are all at school... I had to laugh about you trying to find balance - did you read the article in the Sunday Age magazine about women trying to find balance? By the way, I'd love to read more, too... Eva xx

  10. Hi Ruth
    Can I reccomend Grand Days by Frank Moorhouse? then Dark Palace? and in November Cold Light the last of Moorhouse's Edith Trilogy. Its the story of an Australian woman who goes to Geneva when the League of Nations is being set up with the notion of stopping another world war.... it has one of the best first chapters that is also food related, that might get you into the mood for reading more... the for some light relief Loose Living also by Frank M his funny/serious food book. He is one of my fave authors and maybe you too will enjoy them?

  11. Hi there.... I am still really enjoying your blog...I love reading, I always have a book on the go. I love old books, new books....I read most nights before going to sleep. Even for just 20 mins to half an hour. It is such a great escape and a way to live other people's lives. It teaches me about so many things. I ask other keen readers to lend me their favourite books too so that broadens my reading horizons. I have a post on my blog which i wrote for a friend listing my fav books, i also have a list of books i have read this year - other wise I forget! I would recommend you reading something quite riviting to start Chocolate by Joanne Harris, House of the Spirits by Isabelle Allende or an old classic like Little Women, Pride and predjudiced or Jane Eyre....although it is such a personal thing....maybe you would like Like Water for Chocolate where she puts love and sadness into all her food (a great movie too). Sorry i am raving now...happy reading....Kate

  12. I LOVE that so many of you commented on this post. Reading obviously is a passion of many!
    Unlike reading books i have NO TROUBLE reading all these lovely comments!
    I always appreciate them VERY MUCH
    I don't normally reply to comments- I am SOOOO frustrated that Blogger still hasn't put a reply system on the comments...ggrrrrrrrrr- but i feel compelled to reply on this post.
    And I'm so glad to get such lovely comments about my blog- thankyou!
    What lovely readers you are! xxx
    @Sunnybrae- how lovely of you to stop by! and I love Frank Moorhouse- but didn't konw of the Edith trilogy. That sounds fab.
    @Sunshiny Day- i have read quite a few of your suggestions! Great choices.
    @Eva- I can thank you for my latest pile of books- thankyou for sharing.... I am going to sit down now with one! x
    @Caroline- have tried bookclubs and then just feel like the naughty little girl because i haven't finished....I don't want to be made to fel bad for not reading :(
    I am so glad you persevered with your commenting even though you had trouble. xx
    @Martta- thankyou for your lovely comment about my to do list.
    @Jules- i know there is hope!
    @Greg- thanks - as always- for your comments. Love them everytime!
    @Jackie- I hope you continue your great reading. tried short stories- no luck.
    @Jess- hope you try the recipe. let me know if you do xx

    Thanks everyone.

  13. @FranklyFeisty- i think I need to apply same rule :)

  14. I love to read and am totally in love with my Kindle...the closest thing to book without being one! I am amazed at how much more I read with it and how convenient it is to take anywhere!!!

  15. Ahhh, so much to catch up on!! You know how much we have in common, and I believe we have already talked about this particular problem. But it amazes me just how widespread this seems to be! People like you and I who have been lifelong avid readers are suddenly finding we CAN"T! I have not managed to find a solution. But I do need to. It's actually very depressing. -_-,

    Please do share your ideas!!!


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