On My Reading List

Along with the usual designs on being better, faster, stronger that the new year brings there's one resolution that I seem to make every January, and that is to read more. Not to read more Blogs, Buzzfeed posts or online think pieces on popular culture - I've got them covered, but, you know, actual books! This should be easy as I do love reading, but it seems each year I read less and less. I did however get quite a few new books for Christmas: my Dad gave me three that I asked for by Caitlin Moran, Lena Dunham and Amanda Palmer - the publishing world had this 4th wave feminist truly sucked in this holiday season! I also received from Will a big hefty novel by Michel Faber with the most beautiful patterned gold cover which I chose to read first. I've started pretty well and have managed to read, even if just a little bit, pretty much every week day evening this year and I thought if I committed my current reading list to a blog post then it might encourage me to keep it up!

The Book Of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
I'm about half-way through this book and really enjoying it. It's about an English preacher who is employed by a global corporation to bring the teachings of Christianity to an alien race on a new planet. It's very interesting thematically, especially with Interstellar so fresh in my mind. It's been a great one to get me back into the habit of reading as the story has been intriguing from the start and the main character is very likeable.

Not That Kind Of Girl by Lena Dunham
Girls has been one of my favourite TV shows of the last few years and although her brand of hilarious over-sharing may make me cringe sometimes I just love Lena Dunham, so can't wait to read her book!

How To Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran
Where as the brilliant 'How To Be A Woman' was a billed as part memoir part rant. Caitlin Moran's latest book is a novel, all be it an autobiographically inspired one - I'm sure it will be equally as hilarious.

The Art Of Asking by Amanda Palmer
You may already know author Amanda Palmer through her music with her old band 'The Dresden Dolls' or from her two solo albums and various other projects. This book came about of the back of her TED Talk and is a memoir focusing on how she's gotten by in life and her career by asking for the help of others - it's certainly an interesting topic and an idea which seemingly goes against societal norms and I'm intrigued! Actually thinking about it 'The Art of Asking' may well be of use in my current wedding planning mode so I may have to read this one next!

What's on your reading list at the moment? I'd love to know if you have any recommendations?

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My Highlights of 2014 : The Ethicurean - My Birthday + Eat Drink Bristol Fashion

Whilst we are still in the first month I thought I'd share a series of my highlights from last year which I may not have blogged about at the time. First up my favourite foodie experience of 2014...

The Barley Wood Walled Garden and The Ethicurean restaurant located there has been a favourite place of mine to visit for sometime now. We have often been there on weekend afternoons to look around the beautiful gardens, have coffee and a slice of one of their amazing cakes and it has become a bit of a tradition to take friends there when they stay with us for the weekend. Will and I always leave with a veg box teeming with produce from the kitchen gardens. But, despite our many visits, perusing the menu on numerous ocasions and even owning the cook book, until this year (cake aside) I had never actually eaten at The Ethicurean. However, in 2014 this has well and truly been remedied as I have now eaten there twice - sort of. First Will and I visited the restaurant for lunch on my birthday in early March and then in May we treated ourselves to The Ethicurean's takeover at the Eat Drink Bristol Fashion event in Queen's Square. There have of course been a fair few trips for cake and veg as well!
On my Birthday I had a completely delicious three courses and was particularly keen on the starter I chose - a Salad of Goat Bacon (yep, goat), Chicory and Chipotle Crackling Salt. As you can see from the pics above the presentation of their food is simple stunning, with the dessert even being severed up on a beautiful birdy plate that matched my shirt! 

The second time in 2014 we got a chance to try their amazing food the day was a complete contrast to our chilly, windy visit on my birthday, it was a glorious, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky, almost *too hot* kind of a day (remember those?!). But although the weather could not have been more different the food was equally delicious. Eat Drink Bristol Fashion is an annual event held at Queens Square in the centre of Bristol. Across the three weeks, in the festival's pop-up fine dining tipi restaurant, each lunch and dinner service is hosted by different guest chefs and restaurants who showcase their best food with a six course tasting menu. 
The Ethicurean's tasting menu included the goat bacon salad which I tried last time and was only too happy to eat again, as well as 5 other incredible courses. The Poached Pollock with Samphire and Squid ink was a highlight but the main course of Bavette of Gloucester Beef is without doubt one of the best things I ate last year! Oh and THAT Toffee Apple cake of theirs which finished the meal was just perfect! 
As it was an open kitchen and we had seen them working away, after the meal we went to say hello and thank you to Ethicurean's chefs Matthew & Iain Pennington who were so lovely and friendly - they made me happier still by commenting on my Instagram photo later!
It really was a pretty perfect day; once we had left the lovely yellow glow of the Eat Drink tipis we enjoyed a pint of local ale on a hale bale in the sun, complete bliss! I can't wait to frequent Queen's Square again at this year's event.
Well all this reminiscing has got me longing for another trip soon. Luckily enough my Birthday is just around the corner. As I'm sure you've gathered I would highly recommend you paying a trip to the Walled Garden and Ethicurean restaurant yourself, I'm certainly you'll love it and their food too!


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This week I...

...Had my first 2015 trip to the cinema to see The Hobbit. It was good fun and a fitting end to the trilogy (which I think everyone agrees should have just been 2 films!) I definitely preferred this instalment to the first two Hobbit films but none of them are quite up to the LOTR standard in my opinion.

...Had a burger a Five Guys. As we were at Cabot's Circus to go to the cinema we thought we give the newly opened branch of US burger chain Five Guys a try. I wasn't particularly impressed to be honest. If you're after a dirty fast food burger then it's decent enough but at £20 for our meal (without drinks) it's pretty pricey for what it is. Free peanuts though, so that's something.

...Failed massively on Monday. The first day back in the office was always going to be a toughie, but I made the morning particularly difficult my managing to walk all the way to work with out my backpack which had my work MacBook and everything I need for the day in it! I had to walk all the way home and back again. At least I got some well needed exercise I guess!

...Stepped up the wedding planning. A blog post coming up about this soon - SPOILER: it's a tad stressful all this wedding business!

...Pinned a lot of mid-century modern inspiration to a new Pinterest board of mine. I love the above print above (via here), I decided not to do a dry January this year so it seems particularly appropriate this week.

...Listened to this song quite obsessively.

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Olive it! A Cookery Masterclass With Omar Allibhoy

 If you are a regular Nothing New reader you'll know that I love my food so when the opportunity recently arose to attend a cookery masterclass at Bordeaux Quay Cookery School, I of course jumped at the chance. 

The evening was run by chef Omar Allibhoy and presented by Olive It!, who together are on a mission to encourage people to cook with and eat more olives and are making people aware of the general awesomeness of these tasty little morsels. I'm a big fan of olives anyway and didn't feel I would have much to learn about their versatility beyond posh bar snacks - I use them in salads, pizzas,  cous-cous, my favourite putanesca sauce (blogged here), however I learnt three new recipes in the class that put a bit of a different meaning on the word versatility! I mean, have you ever thought about using olives in a dessert?!

The full menu to cook (and eat!) for the evening was three courses, each showcasing how olives can be used in different, delicious ways - starting with a Course Olive Paté with Manchego Cheese & Pistachios, followed by Queen Olive Stuffed Meatballs and finishing with Caramelised Black Olive & Cherries with a Goats Cheese CreamAfter being being welcomed into the kitchen class room with a glass of wine, we gathered at the top table to listen to chef. Omar, with his excellent accent and hair, is an automatically likeable character and was animated and passionate as he introduced the evening and set about demonstrating how to cook the two elements for the dessert.  I certainly didn't need much convincing that olives could work in a dessert - he had me at the salted caramel comparisons!
Once at our own work stations with all the ingredients ready for us we set about replicating the steps we'd just been shown, everything was simple and easy to follow and Omar made his way round the room to make sure we were all on track. Once the elements for our desserts were safely in the fridge to set, Will and I assumed our default roles in our kitchen partnership to make the main course, Will chopped up all the ingredients and I got my hands dirty to make the olive meatballs (remembering just in time not to get my engagement ring covered in mince!) What made this dish extra special was the ingenious idea to place a huge queen olive in the centre of each juicy meatball, they were then browned off and cooked in a rich herby tomato sauce. As the sauce also contained black olives there was double the olive goodness in this main dish! For the starters we simply combined olives, manchego cheese, pistachios, fennel seeds and paprika in a food processor with olive oil and lemon juice and blended into a course paste. This was so easy to make and is perfect as a starter or a dip with other party food or it can even be used a crust for meat or fish, which is something I'll definitely be trying soon!

When all was ready we got down to the important business of eating. Everything was delicious, the meatballs were perfect and I could eat that olive paté by the bucketload but the real star of the show for me was the dessert. Caramelised olives are amazing, a perfect combination of salty and sweet, which I love, and the goat's cheese cream was incredible. I especially enjoyed this course because it was so different to anything I've had before and I just love trying something new. FIY - I can't claim credit for the prettiness of the picture below as Omar chose my plate to demonstrate his cheffy skills - my quenelles need a bit of work!

The evening certainly proved how versatile olives can be as an ingredient and I think even people who aren't usually so keen on olives could be swayed by one of these dishes.
As well as discovering new ways to cook with them, over the course of the evening I also learnt quite a bit about Olives in general; their history, how the growing and picking process varies for different types and their health benefits. For example they are low in calories, a good source of vitamin E and black olives are a particularly good source of iron - so, great for cooking with but also a great snack to have on hand especially at this time of year!

All in all we had a great evening and learnt three dishes that we will certainly be cooking again and again, we also got to take home the brilliant Olive It cookbook so I look forward to learning even more recipes and I'll be sure to share my favourites. In the mean time if all this has got you hankering for some olives visit oliveit.eu for recipes and you can check out Omar in action in this video

A massive thanks to fellow blog club member Lily for putting me in touch with Olive It! - if you don't already read her excellent blog 'Lily Doughball' then check it out here.

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A Snapshot of a Merry Little Christmas

// 1. Wrapping presents while watching The Nightmare Before Christmas and some Christmas bling!
// 2. Cosying up at Will's parents house.
// 3. My gifts all ready and waiting.
// 4. Picking up lovely local meat from the farm shop on Christmas Eve.
// 5. The first stocking I've had in years!
// 6. Beautifully wrapped presents from Will.

Happy New Year! Doesn't it feel like Christmas was ages ago already? We had such a lovely time over Christmas spending the day with Will's family in Wiltshire then driving down to Devon to see my lot on Boxing Day. These few pics are just a small snapshot of the calm before the fun festive storm really, annoyingly I barley took any later on Christmas day or in the following days we spent with my family - I'm adding 'take more pictures of people, not things' to my new years resolution list!