world according to sam

Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. Mark Twain

Month: December, 2014

Baby Star Pasta Soup

Chicken Soup …. AKA Jewish penicillin – I could not agree more, soup is warming and true comfort food, particularly when you are feeling under the weather or cold and one of my favourites is this recipe from when I was a child, a cheap supper for my sometimes cash strapped mother and one I still indulge in when Mr H is away on business, cooking for one couldn’t be simpler. A good quality chicken stock with lots of flavour or even a Knorr Chicken Stop Cube and Marigold Swiss Bouillon Vegetable stock will all give you the perfect base for your soup.


Stellete Star pasta is available online and in good Italian delis, the supermarkets sometimes have it under their own label but the de Cecco is durum wheat, which I prefer.


250g de Cecco Stellete Pasta n.75

750ml good stock chicken or vegetable stock

(if you have roasted a chicken, boil up the bones with an onion, carrot and celery to make your own stock)

Salt and Pepper to taste

A knob of butter to taste

Fresh parmesan shavings or grated to taste

Chopped flat leaf parsley (optional – to taste!!)

If you want to add a little protein, finely chop some cooked chicken once the pasta is cooked through sufficiently but ensure you heat the chicken through thoroughly


Boil the pasta in stock for 7-10 minutes, depending how well you like your pasta cooked – al dente or moosh? you choose, personally I think this works best with the pasta well done.

To serve, allow the soup to cool a little

add a knob of butter, some freshly ground black pepper and a couple of fine shavings of fresh parmesan. grind a little black pepper, finish with a little finely chopped flat leaf parsley ….. E Bob è tuo zio (and Bob’s your uncle!)








Teetotallers Spiced Apple Cup

For those not able to imbibe on Christmas Eve I will also make a Spiced Apple Cup …. alcohol free but festive, delicious and warming


2 litres Good Quality Apple Juice

Orange studded with cloves

2 Cinnamon sticks

2 Star Anise

2 Cardamom pods

A chunk of ginger

Dark Brown Sugar to taste

Vanilla Pod

Place the apple juice and sugar in a large saucepan, heat to gentle simmer.  When the sugar has dissolved add the spices and leave to heat very gently.  Do not boil …. this time not to evaporate the alcohol just because it’s not necessary.  Serve in glasses with a thin slice of apple and a couple of cranberries


Mulled Wine Recipe

IMG_5655A lot of people are under the misconception that Mulled Wine is an unpalatable hot drink to be grimaced through over the festive season …. not so. I have been known to convert even the most die-hard of haters!! Here is my recipe for a delicious mulled wine that I serve every year on Christmas Eve when friends from my village join my family for mulled wine and mince pies before Christmas Carols in the village square.


2 x 75cl bottles of red wine (don’t use your best – this is definitely one to use up the vino collapso you won on the school tombola!)

A large slug of Cointreau (optional)

1 litre Orange Juice – the stuff with bits in adds to the quality

2 Large tablespoons of rich dark brown sugar (you can add more if you feel it needs it)

Stud an orange with cloves

1 or 2 Sticks of  Cinnamon

3 or 4 Star Anise

3 or 4 Cardamom Pods

A handful of fresh cranberries

Clementines sliced

Lemon sliced


Add wine to a large pot with the sugar and bring to a gentle simmer until the sugar is melted, add all your spices and the orange juice and Cointreau and keep at a very gentle simmer – there is no need to boil this as the alcohol will evaporate.  I prefer to use the spices in their whole form, if you use powdered spices the mulled wine will form a dusty scum.  Serve in glasses with the clementine slices and a couple of cranberries as garnish – the berry colours look gorgeous and the smell is just delicious …. perhaps I should make a practise batch now …..





Holiday Reads that will make great Christmas Presents …. Part II

So now on to some more current, contemporary reads ….



A quick read and ideal gift for anyone interested in history, this is a sort of Scandi Forrest Gump, totally implausible but a ripping yarn nevertheless.  The book traces the life of 100 year old Alan Karlsson, as you journey through the old man’s century on Earth you cross paths with Stalin, Franco, Mao Tse Tung and Truman, oh and an elephant.  An offbeat funny book, not really laugh out loud but it has that humour peculiar to the Scandinavians, that sort of Nordic Nuttiness that is a little dour but still funny, death through hypothermia, decapitation and firing squad and told in the voice of Karlsson who is a-political but veers from one Socialist leader to the next tyrant.  So although it’s not a new book it’s definitely a good one for the guys.  As luck would have it the World Cinema choice on our flight home was Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann (The 100 year old man etc etc ….) now what are the chances of that? The film is fun too but you don’t get the back stories of each of the building group of oddballs that join Karlsson’s travelling troupe but a great Christmas pressie ensemble if you are wanting to give the full 100 Year Old Man …. experience!



(be assured I did not look for two books with the longest titles on purpose)

One of the most charming books I have ever read has to be this one, published in 2008.  This is a novel in letters of a love story emerging between two of the main characters, Juliet Ashton in London and Dawsey Adams on the island of Guernsey.  Dawsey regales Juliet with stories through his letters  of how the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society came about. When German soldiers controlled Guernsey during the occupation of the Channel Islands from 1940 to 1945, the islanders were held to a strict curfew and severely oppressed. They were not even allowed to eat their own livestock and the island became a sort of Nazi holiday camp.  Several islanders thought of a clever scheme that could save a pig from their own livestock for them to enjoy themselves: When one farmer’s pig died, several farmers would pass around its carcass, each reporting the death of their own personal pig to German officials. Farmers could then stow away one of their pigs to slaughter in secrecy and eat with neighbours. When one group of islanders is caught they devise the Literary Society, something akin to a modern-day book club and to uphold the story they continue to meet throughout the occupation while they develop not only  a love for literature but also create a strong bond as friends.  There are some laugh out loud moments, some moments of lump-in-the-throat sadness, this is a book that I could read time and time again and would make for a great gift.



And the one that got away ….

LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov,

I rarely don’t finish a book, even if I don’t like it I persevere but this was such an uncomfortable read I actually couldn’t finish it.  From the beginning of the book you have an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach and whilst with most books you want to go on a journey with the central characters, with this there is that awful sense of foreboding that somewhere in his head this paedophile, Humbert Humbert is justifying that this is a pure and natural love and somehow right.  There is no denying that Lolita herself is a little minx but Humbert knows he is wrong but continues to manipulate and impress upon the young girl and her mother, whilst horrifyingly recognising that there will be a time in the not too distant future where the young Lo’ will fall out of favour with him to be replaced by a younger more nubile model.  Somewhere on the internet I found a description that Lolita is a metaphor for the Old World of Europe (Humbert Humbert) and the changing new land of plenty, America (Lolita)  …. that may be but not a comfortable read for me … I am sure I will revisit it at some time but it was my final choice while away and was definitely bringing the mood down.

Read yesterday’s post on my
classics here 

What books do you like to give as gifts … the classics or new releases?




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