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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten

Malavita encore

Malavita encore - Tonino Benacquista The sequel to [b:Malavita|867149|Malavita|Tonino Benacquista|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51MH2ZSBMGL._SL75_.jpg|852547], but unfortunately it isn't quite as good. Though there are still some very amusing episodes. The subplot I liked best stars Maggie, who's tired of being an ex-Mob wife. Everyone says she makes the best melanzane parmigiana they've ever tasted, and she decides to take them at their word and go commercial.

She starts a little take-away restaurant which caters to the lunch crowd. There is only one dish on the menu: melanzane parmigiana. Maggie buys nothing but the very best ingredients, and uses a recipe which she has honed over twenty years until it is absolutely perfect. They make the same number of portions every day, and when they're all gone, that's it. First come, first served.

Her operation is just opposite a big chain restaurant, and at first the manager smiles at her naiveté. How can she possible compete with him? But after a couple of months, he isn't smiling any more. Word of mouth has done its work, and Maggie is taking his business. His profit margin has disappeared, and his bosses want to know why.

He unsuccessfully tries to persuade Maggie to move, then resorts to dirty tricks. Her suppliers are suddenly unable to deliver the raw materials. The health and safety people start harassing her. After a few weeks of unequal combat, she's forced to close down her shop. Fred wants to know why she's so miserable, and in the end she tells him. He says she just has to leave it to him. He'll make her competitor wish he'd never been born. But Maggie is tired of Mob violence. No, Fred, she says. Don't do that. Just write in your next book about what you would do.

Fred kind of likes the idea, and really gets into it. He hardly even changes the names, and describes in detail exactly what he would have liked to do to the scummy manager, his business associates, and their families. On publication day, they deliver a dozen free copies to Maggie's former competitors. People read them and get sick with worry. A couple of weeks later, Maggie receives a phone call. It was all a huge misunderstanding. They'd be delighted if she started up her restaurant again. They'd help her and compensate her for the inconvenience she'd suffered. The pen, you see, is mightier than the sword.

I thought of this book earlier in the week, and decided to try my own hand at making melanzane parmigiana. Here's my recipe:

Melanzane parmigiana

2 large eggplant
3 medium onions
1 carrot
1 1/2 tins crushed tomatoes
1/2 tube tomato puree
100 g Parmesan cheese
4-5 cloves garlic
extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups left-over wine
black pepper
mild chili powder
bay leaf

1. Cut the eggplant in 1 cm thick slices, place on kitchen roll, and sprinkle with salt. Turn over, and sprinkle with salt on the other side. Leave to stand for half an hour.

2. Set the oven to Gas Mark 6, or whatever your equivalent is. Grease two baking trays, and put the aubergine slices on them. Crush 2-3 cloves of garlic over them, and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Put in the oven for about an hour, or until they are golden brown. You should swap the trays around at half-time, to make sure that they get done equally.

3. Meanwhile, dice the onions and the carrots. Put some more olive oil in a large pan, turn on the heat, and crush in another couple of cloves of garlic. Sautee for a few seconds then put in the vegetables. Sprinkle on salt, pepper, mild chili powder and paprika. Stir around until they are soft and a nice brown color. The onions should be sticking just a bit.

4. Pour in the tomatoes and tomato puree. Sprinkle on basil and oregano, stir well, and add white wine. Toss in a bay leaf and allow to simmer gently for 20 minutes or so. Add more wine if it starts drying out too much.

5. Grate the Parmesan, and grease an ovenproof dish. When the eggplant and the tomato sauce are both ready, take the eggplant out of the oven, turning down the heat to Gas Mark 5. Layer the eggplant, sauce and cheese in the dish; I did a layer of sauce and cheese, a layer of eggplant, another layer of sauce and cheese, another layer of eggplant, and a final layer of sauce and cheese. Put back in the over for another 25 minutes.

6. While the melanzane is in the oven, make some tagliatelle and a salad, arranging things so that it will all be ready at the same time. Serve immediately.

I'm sure Maggie's was better, but hey, I've not been making melanzane parmigiana for 20 years and I'm not a former Mob wife. It was still delicious! I'll be doing this again.