Sunday, 17 August 2014

Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

I totally loved Liane Moriarty's previous novels ('What Alice Forgot' ,'The Husband's Secret') but 'Little Lies' exceeded all my expectations. The story evolves around a school in a nice sea-fronted neighbourhood in Sydney where an unspecified tragic event takes place at a parents' fund-raiser. The story is interspersed with police interviews, adding an intriguing teaser quality to the plot, which isn't really needed because the writing is so well crafted that the reader is completely in the book's thrall anyway. 

The story is told from the point of view of three mothers: the single mother Jane, the confident Madeline, and the beautiful Celeste, whose five-year-olds are new to the Pirriwee Public School. Any mother will recognise the terror and delight of those first months when a child starts school told so well in 'Little Lies', but this novel is about so much more. It's about lies, as the title suggests, but it's also about secrets, friendship, sex, love and marriage.
Because there are so many twists and turns in the book, I won't go into the detail of the plot. I envy anyone who has yet to read this novel; so I shall leave you all to find out what happens to the families of Pirriwee Pubic all by yourselves. Be prepared for a en emotional roller-coaster and give up all your free time to Liane Moriarty's prose; I consumed 'Little Lies' under a week because I just could not put the book down!
by Liane Moriarty

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Authors, be careful what you read...

Does what you read affect how you write?

I've just finished reading The Woman in the Picture by Katharine McMahon. This novel, following the life of a female lawyer, Evelyn Gifford, in the 1920s London, is written from the point of view of the heroine and very much in a formal style of the time.

I loved the book (gave it 5 stars on Goodreads, no less) and was so engrossed with Evelyn's trials and tribulations (excuse the pun), that when I went back to writing my current book, Oh England!, I found that I was using the language of the 1920's rather than the 1980's which is the time period of my novel.

It's not the first time that I've noticed this phenomena.  When in the middle of a new book I have to be very careful with the kinds of books, or genre I'm reading. Even the period of my reading matter can sometimes be detrimental to my writing. Same goes for reading books in another language; since I begun writing in earnest, I've had to give up on Finnish and Swedish books in their original language altogether. Sad, I know!

At times when - like now - I am in the crucial second part of the novel, I've had to suspend all reading of fiction all together.

Who would have thought that writing fiction sometimes forces you to stop reading it?

Do you find that you need to keep to your genre and time period when in the middle of a writing project, or as me, have to go cold turkey on reading all together?

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

A New Finnish Cookbook, Kuura, plus an Exclusive Recipe

Sini signing her cookbooks at the Kuura launch at
the Finnish Ambassador's Residence
The flavours of Nordic cuisine have become ever more popular in recent years as Scandinavian design, lifestyle and drama have penetrated the public consciousness in the United Kingdom.

In spite of its apparent ease and simplicity, cooking the Nordic way with ingredients available in Britain can be tricky. To help navigate the cross-cultural gastronomy, Sini Kiialainen, Chef for the Finnish Ambassador to London, has created Kuura, a Nordic cookbook designed for the British audience.

I began writing the book after receiving many requests for my recipes, and I’m very proud of how it turned out,’ says Sini Kiialainen.

Born in Finland, Sini moved to London at the age of 18. She has made an impressive 12-year career on the London restaurant scene, and Kuura draws its inspiration from Sini’s extensive work for a variety of diplomatic occasions, be it intimate meetings over coffee, luncheons, formal dinners or large receptions.

For me the most inspired recipe is the ‘posh’ mini meat and rice pasties (lihapiirakka). But these lihapiirakka are million miles away from some of the worst examples of this classic street food that you just must have after a night out in Finland, when some drinks have been know the kind of moment! Having tasted Sini's pasties at the launch of Kuura, I can vouch for their authentic and excellent flavour.

Every time I see that picture I want to make the meat and rice pasties again,’ Sini said when we chatted about her new book at the Finn-Guild office yesterday.

I love lihapiirakka in all their incarnations (even the greasy ones sold from a van), but the Englishman has a love/hate relationship with this Finnish version of the late-night kebab. He believes a drunk and hungry Scot, while visiting Finland, must’ve invented the deep-fried savoury pasties. (This is a reference to deep-fried Mars bars, I think). When I told him that I’d tasted a posh version, he couldn’t quite believe it.  

So to prove a point, here it is – exclusively on my blog - Sini’s Beef and Rice Pasties (to be served with Pickled Cucumber and Mustard Mayonnaise). I bet you’ll fall in love with them just as I and all the Finnish Ambassador’s guests did!

Beef and Rice Pasties
This is the best street food imaginable after a night out. My husband loves them. Rare treat though.

500 g beef mince
1 onion
1/2 bulb of garlic
2 - 3 tablespoons of oregano
1 tablespoon of all spice
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
1 tablespoon of anchovy sauce
6 drops of Worcestershire sauce
sea salt & black pepper
250 g boiled arborio rice
30 g fresh yeast
500 ml warm water
750 g strong white bread flour
25 g caster sugar
1 tablespoon of salt
1 egg
50 ml olive oil
plus 2 litres of veg oil for deep frying

Start with the filling. Boil the arborio rice for 10 - 15 minutes, or until al dente. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Set to the side.
Brown the beef mince in a frying pan. Add finely chopped onion and garlic and fry lightly for a few minutes. Add spices, anchovy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Add the rice to the mixture.
Then make the bread dough. Dissolve fresh yeast into warm water. Add all of the other ingredients and mix well for 3 minutes. Tip out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead well for 4 - 5 minutes.
Leave the dough in a bowl, covered with a tea towel in a warm place for 30 - 45 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Knead the dough once more and divide into 12 - 15 balls and roll them out to approx. 1cm thick discs. Spoon in the filling to bottom half of the base, fold the top part over the filling and crimp the edges carefully shut using cold water to glue the edges together.
Deep fry at 180 °C for a few minutes per side or until golden brown.

To buy your own copy of Kuura, go to
There's a limited number of copies for sale to members of Finn-Guild at the Camden office.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Six Tips on How to Survive the London Heatwave

London has been baking in a  heatwave for weeks now, so I thought I'd share my tips on how to survive the sweltering temperatures both above the ground and in the Tube, which, it was reported this week, had temperatures of over 40C...

  1. Wear comfortable clothes. Loose fitting linen or cotton is best. My favourites are MarimekkoHobbs, Jaeger and Cos, who all make wonderful clothes which are easy to wear, but still smart enough for the office. Needless to say, I always wear flat shoes when commuting and change into something more formal at the office (although not always!) In a heatwave my 'go to' shoes are Birkenstocks or my silver K Jacques St Tropez sandals. But don't forget that pedicure; there's nothing worse than chipped nail polish or hairy tootsies...
  2. Don't rush and run. I'm usually the commuter with least patience; on the street I overtake anyone ( and I mean anyone) with a pull-long suitcase and run up and down escalators on the tube. But in this heatwave, I've become the one who amblers along the tunnels, and on the bus lets everyone else go out first. (I know I should do this all the time, but...)
  3. Carry a bottle of water. Even London Transport now make announcements about this, because the conditions on the Tube can be dangerous. This week The Standard (The London evening paper, free at most tube stations) reported that the temperature on the Central Line exceeded the legal limit for keeping cattle. 
  4. Another way to cool down is a little fan. I carry a Spanish one which Son and Daughter-in-law gave out to the wedding guests in May. It's been invaluable when the train has suddenly stopped and the heat inside the Tube carriage has become unbearable. Plus all those around you benefit too!
  5. Find a park. There's always one around the corner in London. You may have to fight for a spot during lunchtimes, but for the rest of the day, there's usually plenty of room (and some shade) for everyone. Failing that, find a terrace with a view. There's a pretty good list here.
  6. Always carry an umbrella. It's London after all, so you never know when the heavens will open, plus it'll double up as a good shade when there's none provided by the venue...
    With Son at Alexandra Palace beer festival last weekend.
    My Marimekko Sumie dress was perfect wear for the hot day.
    As was the umbrella...Boy, it was hot!

FREE Weekend Offer!

Whilst I'm madly writing the sequel to The Englishman, I thought I'd give a treat: a summer weekend offer of my first novel. 

The Kindle copy will be FREE from Friday 25th to Sunday 27th July. 

The Englishman is a love story between a Finnish student and a British naval officer set in Helsinki in the early 1980's. At the height of the Cold War, the two lovers meet at the British Embassy cocktail party  but while Peter chases Russian submarines, Kaisa is stuck in Finland, a country friendly with the Soviet Union. Will their love go the distance?

Download your copy of The Englishman on Amazon UK site by clicking on the title above, or image below:

And download your copy of The Englishman on Amazon US site here.

The novel is also available from Amazon internationally (in no particular order):
Germany, France, Canada, Italy, India, Australia, Japan and Spain among others.