Friday, 18 October 2019

A New Zealand book every kid should read before the age of 12 - Alex by Tessa Duder

The New Zealand Book Council came up with a list of books by New Zealanders that they reckon every kid should have read by the age of 12.  I decided to check out the ones I haven't read and post about the ones I agreed were good (in no particular order).

Alex was written in 1987 but was set in 1959.  The protagonist is a schoolgirl who is a bit of an overachieverl.  Amongst other things she is trying to get selected for the Rome Olympic swimming team.  The story has quite a few twists and turns and I enjoyed it as an adult and can see why teenage girls went for it big time.

This was the first of a quartet of books about Alex.   I am going to read the others as well.

Flawless writing – at times hilarious, at times heart wrenching.  Cracking good.

Foodie Friday – Pommes Anna

Pommes Anna is a classic French potato dish.  It sounds simple but I suspect there is quite a degree of difficulty to be successful.  Not diet food but fabulous.

A dish created during the reign of Napoleon III in France.

Here is a traditional recipe:


  • 2 1/2 pounds waxy potatoes, peeled
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt


For the potatoes
1.    Preheat the oven to 425°F.
2.    Using a sharp knife or mandoline, slice the potatoes ¹⁄8 inch (4 mm) thick. (Do not rinse or soak the slices; the starch is what binds the layers.)
3.    In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and cook, swirling the pan, to get it to the brown butter stage: First, the butter will boil in large bubbles. Soon, the bubbles will get smaller, the pitch of the boil will get higher, and the butter will turn light brown and smell nutty. At this point take off the heat immediately and pour into a bowl. (If you overcook the butter, the solids will burn and form black, acrid-tasting flakes. Throw it out and start again; it’s happened to the best of us.)
4.    Grease the bottom of a shallow 10-inch ovenproof cast-iron pan with some of the brown butter. Cover the bottom of the pan with one-third of the potato slices, arranging them in a slightly overlapping, circular pattern. Brush with one-third of the remaining butter and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of the salt. Make two more layers using the remaining potatoes, butter, and salt. Set over medium heat and cook, without disturbing, to initiate browning on the bottom, 10 minutes. Cover loosely with foil, transfer to the oven, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the potatoes are cooked through (a knife should pierce through easily) and the top is browned and crusty, 20 to 30 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes on the counter.
5.    Run a spatula around the edges and underneath to loosen and flip carefully onto a serving plate so the golden bottom faces up. If any of the potatoes are stuck to the bottom of the pan, scrape them off and return them to where they belong. (If you don’t feel up for the flipping, it is fine to serve the potatoes directly from the pan.) Slice into wedges and serve.