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

Tag: Christmas Gifts

Green Olive Tapenade 


250g Olives

1 Garlic Clove crushed

Juice from 1 lemon

3 Tbsp Capers

6 Anchovies (try Sainsburys in Garlic olive oil for extra flavour)

A glug of  olive oil 

Salt & Pepper to taste

A handful of flat leaf parsley
Traditionally Tapenade was made from black olives in the South of France but this is made from green olives – it’s personal choice! Also I can buy the large jars of Crespo green pitted olives in brine in Waitrose which makes it less costly if you want to make big batches for entertaining.  You can find variations on this recipe that include sun dried tomatoes, basil … It’s a Mediterranean dish served as a dip or spread on little rounds of bread or toast, also delicious cooked in with robust white fish like hake. 

Add all the ingredients to a blender and whizz until you get the desired texture … You will see mine is quite smooth but that’s because my Vitamix has no middle ground – it’s either unchopped or puree!!

I store my tapenade in the fridge in my old Bon Maman jam jars for up to a week     


Limoncello ūüćč Recipe

When life gives you lemons …. Grab some vodka and make Limoncello!

I love giving gifts of food I have made to friends and family at Christmas time and each year promise myself that I will make some Sloe Gin, but of course Sloe Gin needs to steep for about 12 weeks which means by the time the sloes are ripe there is insufficient time to prepare for Christmas.   Sloe Gin is the long game but Limoncello on the other hand is quick and easy and takes only a couple of weeks until it is drinkable. The recipe below has worked perfectly and mine is ready to bottle and give as gifts over the coming weeks.

6 Unwaxed Lemons (avoid waxed lemons as you want the natural flavour of lemon)

1Litre Vodka (Supermarket own brand will do)

750g Caster Sugar

750ml Water
Zest the 6 lemons, avoiding the pith as this will make your Limoncello  bitter
Place the zest in the bottom of a 2 litre jar that you can seal tightly ( I used the Kilner jar from their Sloe Gin making set)
You may like to use the juice from the lemons to make a sorbet, a great dessert standby to keep in the freezer (for up to one month – recipe to follow)
Add the vodka and leave to steep for one week. Turn the jar each day.

At the end of one week, make a simple syrup by dissolving the sugar and water in a pan. Bring to boiling point but do not allow the syrup to turn a caramel colour as this will spoil the look of your Limoncello.

When cool, add to your lemon vodka mix and leave for another week. Again turning each day.

When you are ready to bottle, strain through a fine sieve or muslin and pour into your bottles. Label and gift to those deserving friends on Santa’s Nice not Naughty list.

Add instructions to the labels as follows

Keep refrigerated 

This sweet lemony syrup is delicious over ice, in iced tea, in cocktails or drizzled over ice cream or sorbet!

You can also add a recipe for a Limoncello Prosecco Cocktail


6 sprigs Mint, fresh

1 measure Raspberries, frozen

1 measure Limoncello liqueur

3 measures Prosecco


Serve chilled in a glass


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¬†Hundra√•ringen som klev ut genom f√∂nstret och f√∂rsvann¬†(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?




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

IMG_5609Have had to tinker a little with this post as I left it so long to write that I have had to ‘seasonalise’ it by pretending it’s a Christmas post, rather than my tardiness in writing my review a whole three months after my holiday¬†…. but here goes the very first of my Christmas posts. These are not new reads as I figure the Sunday supplements will have those covered, so I thought you could consider some of these as gift ideas for the bookworms in your life.

Armed with my new Kindle Paperwhite (the original, retro Kindle committed Hari-Kiri the day before my holiday) a speedy set up and download at the airport and I was armed with a couple of good e-books for my 11 hour flight and three weeks away (don’t hate me!). ¬†For the purists out there I would like to assure you that the Kindle is perfect for travel and tripe reading but I would never eschew a¬†real book, to me¬†a book is a thing of beauty that should be savoured.¬†And besides you can’t really ‘gift’ or share ebooks other than in voucher form, if I read a good book I can’t help but buy it for everyone I think its relevant to.

I am a fickle reader and rarely read the same genre or author consecutively and like¬†an eclectic mix up. ¬†On holiday I always like to read a couple of classics that I haven’t read before – sadly my Literature O’Level (yes, I really am THAT old!) all those years ago comprised of books that I didn’t really like and in my opinion were poorly taught – ¬†My syllabus included¬†William Golding’s¬†Lord Of the Flies, (good but the boys descent into savagery was a continual annoyance to me and I was quite sure if there had been some girls to spread some common sense, things may not have escalated to such a devastating effect).¬†Brighton Rock¬†(too dark), Macbeth (again a dark tale of murderous ambition, I¬†was genuinely terrified of Lady M) and finally the¬†only book that I really loved and for years could quote verbatim,¬†The Importance of Being Earnest, (I still have to mutter to myself ¬†A Haaandbaaaag sotto voce,¬†in the manner of ¬†Lady Bracknell whenever anyone mentions handbags!!).

So this year for my yet unread classics I chose WUTHERING HEIGHTS, fuelled largely by my Twitter feed being full of news of Kate Bush’s appearance at the Hammersmith Apollo. ¬†I loved the story, a haunting gothic book of love and passion (and yet no sex). ¬†The book tells the story of ¬†Mr Lockwood renting a house on the isolated English moors¬†where¬†he meets his mysterious landlord and owner of the nearby manor house, Wuthering Heights, the troubled Heathcliff. ¬† Intrigued by the¬†dour property owner, Lockwood asks his housekeeper, Nelly Dean to tell him the story of Heathcliff and he transcribes much of the dismal tale that Mrs Dean tells him. The tone is somewhat melodramatic but the descriptives transport you to the bleak windy moors and conjure up the all consuming passion between Catherine and Heathcliff. ¬†A great gift for the book lover and available from¬†Waterstones¬†in their Cloth Bound Classics collection.

Then on to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD – Harper Lee

To Kill A Mockingbird, now my new favourite book¬†and¬†literary crush, Atticus¬†Finch, a man of few but wise words, a dry sense of humour and a strong sense of justice who as a widower nobly cares for his two sassy children and defends the rights of the wrongly accused Tom Robinson. ¬†Yes, Mr Atticus Finch has usurped Laurie from Louisa May Alcott’s¬†Little Women¬†as my literary beau – oh how I loved Laurie. ¬†From the age of 12 I was ever hopeful that he would move in next door to me and fall madly and passionately in love with me ¬†… until I ‘met’ Atticus Finch that is, perhaps this is my coming of age book (ridiculous that it has taken me until I am nearly 50 to move on from my teenage crush!) ¬†and as you meander through the streets with the quirky Scout and discover the new characters you see where some¬†celebrities have chosen trendy names for their offspring ( Scout, Jem, Boo, Dill and of course, Harper ….). ¬†Anyway, I digress, a fabulous story essentially about good winning over¬†evil, the beautiful descriptives transpose you to the steamy Alabama streets and the underlying racial and social tensions of America’s deep South. ¬†If you want to buy a special gift for someone then try the¬†Folio Society¬†copy¬†at ¬£29.95, a beautiful cloth bound edition, that is definitely going on my Christmas wish list.

And I just found this …. a¬†Christmas tree bauble¬†that is filled with¬†hand-cut and vintage strips of the novel taken from¬†the pages of discarded and damaged vintage books, no longer suitable for selling. I love these sort of little gifts to give to special friends¬†over the Christmas period when visiting, if I don’t have food gifts to take I often pick up things like to keep for those who may appreciate literature or something other than my marinaded olives (recipe to follow in a later post). Also available Dickens’ Christmas Carol and lots of Jane Austen versions of the bauble too.


And of course the great thing about classics is that you can re-visit the book time and time again which is why they make such a perfect gift for all ages, wonderful to give to a child to start their own little library of classics – that is how I fell in love with Little Women, finding a dog eared, faded copy that had belonged to my mother and aunt – ¬†or a gift to someone older who feels they no longer ‘need’ anything – we all NEED books to enrich our lives and transport us¬†to another time …..

Tomorrow …. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared and my opinion of Lolita

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