Tuesday, 22 January 2019

The Hairy Hand by Robin Bennett #BlogTour

fantasy books for children


Children's literature is experiencing a renaissance nowadays. There are so many books published each month, it is easy to get lost in an avalanche of the latest releases.
When you come across a real gem of a book, it's a genuine joy.

The Hairy Hand by Robin Bennett is one such splendid discovery.
Eddie and I have been reading it for several evenings at bedtime, and every time I had to stop, he begged me to continue.

The story begins with Septimus (or Sept for short) ruminating about his lot in life:
"He always knew he was very different from everyone else in the village and Septimus often wondered if that was why his mother seemed not to like him very much."

The Plogs, his parents, are a terrible, revolting couple. They could be the twins of The Twits.
Sept and his parents live in a village called Nowhere, which is a sad and abysmal place to exist.
Sept has no friends, and his parents don't care for him either. They hardly notice him, that is, until the day when a letter arrives, informing the family of Sept's uncle's demise.

Sept didn't even know that he had an uncle.
"Of course you do!" exclaimed Mistress Plog... "Everyonesies got an Uncle, imagine not having one of them!.. and, ooh, yer uncle... such a fine man and a great wizard. But a real gent, too - a Gentiman Warlock, whichesies a wizard wot doesn't wear a hat. And a bootiful house he's got by the sea, all tall'n elegant, just like him, and it sits above the frothy waves and the wild winds."

The letter includes instructions which allow Sept to choose any three items in the house, and once three treasures are chosen, he must leave the house, never to return.

After surviving the long, perilous journey to his uncle's house, Sept makes his choices. He feels drawn towards a quite ordinary wooden box, which was wedged between the volumes of magic books.

"The point was, Sept's hand felt drawn towards the box, as if pulled by an invisible string, and he reached forward. Time slowed as a warm wind sprang up from nowhere in his uncle's study, carrying with it the smell of hot sand, rich spices and whispering voices - like the dry pages of a book having a conversation with itself."

As you might have guessed, this is not an ordinary box with some banal keepsakes. It contains the eponymous Hairy Hand, a magical scary thing, with a soul and mind of its own. One of its uncanny abilities is a talent for finding the buried treasure. This suits the greedy Plogs just right.

There is a special bond developing between Sept and the Hairy Hand.
Will Sept find his destiny with the help from his supernatural friend?

A battle between good and evil takes this story to the realm of the classic fairy tales. I can easily see this book becoming a modern classic of children's fiction.



The book design deserves a special mention. The sturdy cover with a spooky image of a dark hairy hand catches your attention and intrigues you. There is a tiny metal pendant on the spine, which is a great detail.

YA fantasy books


The illustrations in the book are an eclectic mix of styles - from a style imitating a child's drawing to black silhouettes, from colour-your-own mandala to images reminiscent of the first printed books on alchemy.
The illustrations support the storyline organically, adding all in all to the eerie atmosphere.

This quirky and wonderfully bizarre story with a Gothic twist will appeal to children and grown-ups alike.
We're hoping there will be a sequel.



Author Bio:
Robin Bennett is an author and entrepreneur who has written several books for children, adults, and everything in between. Listed in the Who's Who of British Excellence at 29, his 2016 documentary "Fantastic Britain", about the British obsession with fantasy and folklore, won best foreign feature at the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards, and his first book for young aduts, Picus the Thief, won the Writer's News Indie Published Book of the Year Award in 2012.
You can find Robin Bennett on Twitter as @MonsterBooksRaw

This review is part of the blog tour. You can visit the other blog stops following the route below:


Disclosure: Many thanks to Rachel's Random Resources and Monster Books for sending me a copy of the book for the purposes of reviewing.

best fantasy books for young adults and children

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Photo diary: week 3, project 365

After watching Hotel Transylvania 3 on DVD, Eddie's new catchphrase is "Holy moly, that's a lot of guacamole". He was repeating it again this morning, jumping on the bed, while I was ironing. In comes my husband and says: "That's what your mother used to say when we lived in the States". I said: "Actually, that's not true. I used to say Holy Cannoli then".

We're on week 3 of January already, holy moly guacamole! It feels like we were only just getting ready for Christmas, and now it's all about Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies in the shops.

Last Sunday I bought a new French cheese La Baguette. It's a lovely creamy cheese - an absolute treat with oatcakes and muscat grapes.


A quick coffee in the Blue Boar after the school run on Monday morning... This pretty posy was a welcome splash of colour on the otherwise very grey dull day.


Eddie loves Domino's pizza, but the prices are pretty much extortional for a takeaway pizza. I only rarely order it on Tuesdays, when they have a two for one deal.
Eddie fancied trying their new Cheeseburger pizza. It does sound somewhat revolting, but actually is not too bad, if you're a meat eater. Pickles were the best bit.
They have changed their menu a few months ago, removing some of the tastier vegetarian Italian style pizzas. Now the range of vegetarian pizza is a bit on the boring side.


Rather than taking photos of what we eat or Eddie's pics - though he is usually happy to oblige, I tried to do some abstract-ish photos. This is a part of the rain-washed road, with a little reflection in a mini puddle.


A lonely football got stuck in the empty branches of the tree in the school yard.


More of the wet weather shots...


Our favourite Costa is getting closed for refurbishment for a few days. Eddie and I popped in for a drink and a treat before doing the grocery shopping.
We also popped in to the library to check out if they had more books in the Raven's mysteries series by Marcus Sedgwick. I bought the 1st book in the charity shop recently for 99p, and Eddie loved it very much - especially that the main character, the old wise raven, is called Edgar. We were happy to see that they have books 2 and 3 in the series, so we borrowed the 2nd one.



Sunday, 13 January 2019

The Secret by Katharine Johnson #Blogtour

family saga set in Italy


The Secret by Katharine Johnson is an absorbing novel which has managed to capture the particular time and place with great authority and genuineness.

This is a story of two friends, whose lives were damaged by secrets and lies. This is also a story of the country, complicated and intense.

Martina and Elena grow up in Mussolini's Italy.
Martina is a beautiful spirited girl, who marries into a wealthy family. Her new in-laws consider the union of their only surviving son with her a mesalliance.
Irena is a plain but smart girl, who values books and education and wants to become a teacher.

Martina's life at Villa Leonida, the most prestigious house in their Tuscan mountain village, is far from a dream come true. Martina feels stifled and oppressed by her disapproving in-laws. Her only purpose in life seems to be giving birth to a new heir.

There is a whole set of characters introduced as the story unravels. Some are mentioned en passant, some return back to the narrative.

There is a tragic Sonia, whose childhood is blighted by being ostracised as the child of the traitor.
Sonia has a big secret of her own. From the first pages of the book you discover that she finds a baby abandoned in the church, and claims him as her own. She lives in fear that her secret will be revealed, and the child taken away by his parents.

Carlo comes back to his home town to restore the old restaurant. His elderly mother Irena is a bit of a  termagant. Her memory and perception of reality are not what they used to be.

"Some of the stories he'd heard so often that he'd stopped paying proper attention. He'd found himself recounting them to his daughters, and recently his grandchildren, but he'd doubtless embroidered these with a few details of his own so that he was no longer sure he could trust his memory. He was a little ashamed now that he'd not paid more attention".

Carlo's thoughts could resonate with many of us. How often did we only half-listened to our parents and grandparents' stories from the past, trying to cut them short: Yes, yes, I remember that, you've already told it to me many times. But then you forget, and you would love to hear those stories, however, it's too late.

The innocent recording device given to Carlo's elderly mother to tell her stories brings with it a dramatic denouement, like Chekhov's gun on the wall (If in the first act you have hung a gun on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired). It might not be an instrument of murder, but it surely is as lethal, uncovering the tragic deceit and unpalatable truth.

This novel made me think of my own family. My great grandma and grandma lived under the Nazi occupation in the South of Russia. Just like in the book, loyalties were tested, families divided, and the survival depended on so many factors. Some residents managed to accommodate to the new forced regime, some tried to fight the terror and violence.
My Mum is a war child, born in 1944, she remembers playing in the fields outside town after the war, in the deep trenches overgrown with rose bushes (the Germans planned to stay, and planted the rose bushes everywhere).

Katharine Johnson writes with a deep psychological insight. The Secret is an engaging story, that will captivate and engage you to the very last page.

My review is part of the blog tour. To see what the other bloggers thought about the book, you can visit the other stops of the tour.



Author Bio:
Katharine Johnson likes writing about ordinary people who through a character flaw or bad decision find themselves in extraordinary situations. She's a journalist living in Berkshire, England, with her family and springer spaniel. When she's not writing, you'll find her exploring cities, visiting old houses, playing netball, eating cake or restoring her house in Italy, which is nothing like Villa Leonida.
You will find all about Katharine and her books at these social media links:
www.facebook.com/Katharinejohnsonauthor
https://twitter.com/@kjohnsonwrites
https://katyjohnsonblog.wordpress.com/

family saga set in Italy

Disclosure: Many thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for sending me the book for the purposes of reviewing.

The Sinister Gathering (Sophie Brown Book 3) by Diane Ezzard #BlogTour



Any venture calling itself a find-yourself retreat would send me running for the hills. Personally I can't find anything more tedious or pretentious. But that's just me.

Sophie, the main protagonist of The Sinister Gathering, hopes that the healing female-only retreat in the Scottish Highlands is exactly what she needs.
The programme is focused on meditation with gentle yoga classes and promises "In just a few short days, you can transform your life".
Unsure about her relationship, Sophie is trying to discover who she really is. Opening up her vulnerable side and getting the demons of the past exorcised sounds like a great motivator.

And Sophie needs it. She is insecure about her boyfriend - Jack is a private investigator - and does appear as rather clingy, and gets suspicious when her texts are not answered the next minute.

In search of inner peace and harmony, Sophie goes to Scotland. On top of her own problems, she has to deal with a whole bunch of insecure women who have issues of their own, from OCD to alcoholism, from a toxic friendship to jealousy and a nervous breakdown.

The scene of arrival to the respite centre doesn't bode well:
"I wanted to appreciate the beauty of the scene but all I felt was discomfort. I turned back towards the front door and shuddered. As I crossed the threshold of the great manor house, a sense of foreboding came over me.
I should never have entered that property."

Even before we are introduced to Sophie, there is a disquieting prologue.
The book starts as something belonging to a horror or ghost story. An unknown woman is running through the dark woods during the storm. Who or what is she trying to escape? What is she sorry for?

Despite working as a counsellor in a women's centre (and thus supposedly well-equipped to tackle issues of low confidence, relationship difficulties etc), Sophie is not very good at dealing with the other women at the respite. She is easily provoked and prone to aggressive outbursts, not the best recommendations for her job.

Instead of finding peace and harmony, Sophie stumbles upon a dead body on her run through the woods. Glenloch Hall turns out to be nothing as described in the ad. It's a sinister place, a nest of vipers, if you've ever seen one.

The group attending the respite week is a colourful eclectic bunch. There is only thing that they have in common - and that is they are all seriously messed up and have psychological problems, due to dysfunctional families, cheating husbands, being survivors of childhood abuse and other traumas.
It transpires that everybody at the retreat, including the organiser Olivia and Bobo the chef has a secret and skeletons in the closet.
The power of the past is affecting the present of all the characters.

You're left in between feeling sympathy for them, and also shaking your head in disbelief at how self-centred and selfish they are.
Despite going through depression and having gone through counselling myself, I couldn't relate to any of the women, they are just all unpleasant and bordering on caricature.

Even Sophie herself is not particularly likable. As it is book no.3 in the series, I presume her character and backstory are more clear, if you've read the previous two books, though this story reads as standalone pretty well.

Acutely observed, this book deftly blends the mystery and suspense with domestic drama themes.



Author Bio: Manchester-born Diane Ezzard writes emotionally charged psychological thrillers and mysteries about everyday people in seemingly ordinary circumstances until something goes badly wrong in their lives.
Before taking early retirement to concentrate on her writing, she worked as a HR manager, a counsellor, owned a cafe and managed a charity.
She now lives and writes in South East London close to her daughter and grandchildren.

You can find more about the author following her social media links:
dezzardwriter.com
www.facebook.com/dezzardwriter
and
https;//twitter.com/diane_ezzard




Disclosure: Many thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for providing me with a free ebook for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Photo diary: week 2, project 365

It's almost two weeks into the new year, and we're back to school.

We usually walk into town through the flood fields (but return home via town). This cat lives in one of the houses next to the fields, but is often wandering around. Just the other day we saw it walking proudly with a mouse dangling in its jaws.
In this photo it's lying in the dry grass and bramble, so camouflaged, that you can hardly spot it, like a Where's Wally character.


Monday was the last day of holidays (Inset day at school), and we popped into Greggs to have the consolation treat. Eddie has chosen a donut. I've asked for their famous vegan sausage roll, as I'm very curious to try it, but they said they don't sell it in this particular cafe. 


Morning walk to school through the fields, and a beautiful sunrise.


I haven't done a charity shops' crawl since before Christmas holidays, when I visit around 5-6 shops around the town centre. Found this gorgeous Spode plate for a fiver, reduced from £10. It's in pristine condition, and I love Spode. I have quite a collection of mismatched Spode plates, all from charity shops. 
On Wednesday Sash went to stay overnight at his respite centre. My husband was away, so it was just Eddie and I on our own at home. We spent the evening, watching Netflix, reading and stuffing ourselves with pizza.

vintage china

In the morning we went to Bill's for breakfast, as Sash was arriving to school from his respite centre, and we didn't have to get him ready for school. Eddie loves the Bill's breakfast on the kids' menu, which is as big as a grown-up's portion. I had a dish of scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, and very nice it was too.


On Friday I met up with a friend for a quick coffee in the morning. We went to the UE Roasters cafe, as their coffee is one of the best in town, and their banana bread is to die for.
I love the display of the vintage books on the window sill. Maybe I should come on my own to have a coffee and read Voltaire's biography. 


I had to get something from the summerhouse today, and on the way through the garden spotted that the hellebore started to flower. It always comes very early in the year, and has such an intense deep purple colour.

garden flowers in January UK


Thursday, 10 January 2019

Pea pesto spaghetti

easy vegetarian meals


When the weather outside is grey and miserable, there's nothing better than coming home to a hot comfort meal. Pasta is nearly everyone's favourite. It's quick, delicious and easy to adapt to any diet preference.
The latest Degustabox's bounty included a pack of Delverde spaghetti (£1.99). This is a premium durum wheat semolina pasta, made with a rough surface to better hold sauce.
It is traditionally made in the area around the river Verde, which flows through the Majella National Park, in the Abruzzo region of Italy.



We love fresh pesto, it is so easy to make, and you can play with the ingredients, choosing different cheese, nuts or herbs.
Pesto made from fresh peas has a vibrant green colour.

This pasta dish will be enjoyed by vegetarians (if you use a vegetarian cheese) and meat eaters alike. I'm not sure what's the best substitute for cheese, if you're a vegan. Possibly skip cheese alternatives altogether, and use more nuts, like cashews. All the vegan cheese alternatives that I've tried so far are pretty grim, they taste nothing like cheese (and even those which are supposedly the award-winning ones).
Just want to add that Grana is not a vegetarian cheese, as it's made using a cow's rennet. I googled, and if you want a more authentic Italian recipes, you can use Italian cheese like aged Asiago or Romano.

Pea pesto spaghetti:
200g fresh peas
25g fresh basil leaves
1 clove of garlic (or more)
50g pine nuts
50g Grana Padano cheese or a vegetarian hard cheese
90ml olive oil
50g+ dried spaghetti per person



Place all the ingredients except oil in a deep bowl and blitz with a blender (or use a food processor). Pour the olive oil, and keep blending, until you get a smooth pesto.



Serve stirred into cooked spaghetti.

This pesto will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. It can also be frozen.

easy vegetarian dinners

Monday, 7 January 2019

Very garlicky roast peppers

roast peppers, side dish, vegan recipes


I'm still catching up on the last weekend's stash of newspapers. Reading Feast magazine while sipping my coffee, I nodded in agreement with Fiona Beckett who wisely says "I know it's an unfashionable view these days, but January is not a time for abstention. Moderation maybe, but no booze at all? That makes an already miserable month even more dismal."

It's not that we drink much. Certainly not on par with numerous Insta and Twitter posts, announcing it's Gin o'clock to the world. A couple of days ago, when I was sorting out the recycling, I realised we only had 2 empty bottles to put in the black box after Christmas - from the sweet dessert wine we opened for Christmas, and Aperol, which my husband has been drinking for a while and only just finished. Nothing like the full, overflowing black bins some of our neighbours have. They must have been partying at full steam (she says wistfully, remembering the parties of old.)

As it's an Orthodox Christmas today, I asked my husband to open the bottle of prosecco yesterday night. I bought a set of The Modern Cocktail Champagne Toppers (in 4 flavours) in Lakeland (reduced to £3.49), and was curious to try it. Alas, two flavours we have tried were rather disappointing. If I had to pay a full price, I'd be pretty peeved.

Then on the 14th the Russians will be celebrating the so called Old New Year (the start of the new year according to the Julian calendar). It's not a formal holiday, but is traditionally observed with parties and having family get-togethers. I might raise a glass of something like G&T to mark the occasion.

So, not a Dry January for me then.

And while we don't do the Veganuary either, here I am with yet another vegetable recipe.
The original recipe appeared as one of the recipes of the day on the Russian food site Povarionok, which I mentioned recently. The author of the Fried peppers à la Odessa says his grandma used to cook the sweet peppers like that. The origins of the recipe are from Odessa, a port city on the Black sea, in what is now Ukraine. The cuisine is heavily influenced by the Greek and Jewish heritage.

I have slightly adapted the recipe. The original recipe asks for 6 cloves of garlic. I used 3, and even then found it way too garlicky. I think 2 would be better, unless you are a garlic fiend, then go full Monty.

Veganuary recipes, vegan recipes


Very garlicky roast peppers
Ingredients:
about 6 Romano (long-pointy red) peppers
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2tbsp olive oil
1tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2tsp sea salt
1/2tsp black pepper, ground
1/2tsp caster sugar (optional)

First roast (or fry) the sweet/Romano peppers, sliced in half and drizzled with 1tbsp of oil, for about 20 minutes. Take the peppers out, put in a bowl, cover it with a cling film or plastic bag, and let them cool. Peel off the skins and discard.
In the meantime make the garlic paste - crush the garlic using a garlic press, add the salt, and combine together, then add the oil, vinegar, black pepper and a pinch of sugar and mix well.
Mix the peppers with the garlic paste, cover the bowl, and place it in the fridge for 3-4 hours (or longer).

vegan recipes, side dish recipes


Veganuary recipes, vegan recipes

It is tasty with plain boiled potatoes or rice.
Be warned though - if you are planning to go on a date, don't eat these peppers.

vegetarian recipes

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Reading goals for 2019

Mark Twain said once: "In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them".
Following that, I must be one wise woman indeed. In our house almost every room is a book room.

Last year I wrote a list of the so called non-resolutions to give me a rough plan for the year. When it comes to books, I completely failed my good intentions on so many aspects.

Having banned myself from buying books last January, I think I lasted no longer than a week before splurging on more books.
It doesn't help that we have The Works in town, with their ever so tempting 3 for £5 offers. Every time I pop in, I end up buying three more paperbacks.
Someone just has to tie my hands behind my back to stop me.

Though I have been good at parting with books - taking them to the charity shops and giving them to a friend who shares my love of ghost stories and thrillers, I still managed to buy more books last year than I managed to read.

I also blame The Book People with their email newsletters and paper catalogues. Perhaps I should unsubscribe from temptation.
And of course, when I buy books from charity it is ever so easy to convince oneself that you're doing a good thing and are helping a charity.

If you have a look at my 2018 Reading challenge on Good Reads, it shows 58 books. I have actually read many more, just didn't want to add them to the list. For example, we went through the whole set of 19 books in Goosebumps Horroland series. If I added them all, I'd look like a Goosebumps addict, which I suppose I am. :)
There were also books which I started and never finished.
This year's Reading Challenge will be to read another 50+ books.

I was unsuccessful achieving my goal re the cook books as well. I knew I needed to look through my cook books and try to bookmark some of the recipes, and actually use them.
"If the book just takes space, perhaps it is more sensible to take it to the charity shop and let someone else enjoy it. There are some cook books which I bought when we still lived in the States (14 years ago) and which I haven't opened for many years", - I wrote a year ago.
I managed to get rid of a couple of cook books, but I did buy a few new ones, though not as many as I used to, so that's a minor adjustment.



Calling the resolutions non-resolutions didn't solve the problem.

I need to nudge myself gently (or not so gently) to be more pro-active regarding the books' haul issue.

A. Read some non-fiction. How about a goal of 5 non-fiction books this year?
I used to read a lot of history and art books, and would like to go back to that.
Starting with "Poirot and Me" by David Suchet which I'm reading now, so as to neutralise the unpleasant aftertaste after watching The ABC Murders with Malkovich.
In my Reading challenge of 2019 I added 50 books as my goal. 5 books out of 50 would be quite do-able, don't you think?!

B. Start reading books in Russian again. My Mum keeps bringing books from Russia with her, when she comes to visit me, and I always think I would have time to read them at some point.
The last time I read something in Russian was about 3 years ago, after I watched War and Peace and decided to tackle Tolstoy's masterpiece (the previous time I read it, we studied it at school for a whole term).

C. Classics!!! Time to revisit some old favourites and discover those classics which I've never had a chance to read. When I was in high school and at Uni I spent many hours devouring all those big fat volumes - Thomas Mann, John Galsworthy, Alexandre Dumas, Charles Dickens etc etc.

D. Read what you bought. Go through the stash of paperbacks. Do not allow yourself to buy new books until you read at least three from the stash you already have and take them to the charity shops.

That's only one small pile of purchases in the last year


E. Let them go... If you cannot finish a book, don't feel guilty about it. That particularly relates to books given to me as gifts.
My late friend J and I had shared a love of poetry, and even studied Russian poetry together. She had much more sophisticated tastes when it came to fiction than me. And she gave me quite a few books which I've either started reading and couldn't finish or would pick up, read the blurb, and put back on the shelf, trying to convince myself that one day I will read it.
I've read about one half of Reading Lolita in Tehran, and never finished it. It's not that I didn't like the book, it just I didn't click with it.
I feel bad about it, and perhaps it's time to let it go... J will always be in my heart as a dear friend and a gentle soul, and wouldn't want me to feel guilty about not reading the books she has gifted to me.

Are you a fellow book addict? How do you manage to restrain yourself? What are your reading resolutions for 2019?

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Photo diary: week 1, project 365

January is the time of new beginnings for many, while we seem to be doing the same things we did last year, including the daily snaps for Project 365.

The first photos of the year were selfies Eddie and I did just after midnight. He insisted on staying up and watching the fireworks in London on TV. His father was away in Italy, Sash went to bed around 10pm. I was also yawning around 10pm, trying to persuade Eddie that the TV was too boring and perhaps we should go to sleep as well, but he persisted.
He was channel-hopping, as we couldn't find anything that was not total drivel.
I called my brother on Skype at 7pm - when they were celebrating the new year (it's 5 hours' difference) - and listened to the chimes of the Kremlin clock welcoming the new year. Once the chimes stop beating, there is usually a Russian hymn coming.
Strange how I remember all the words of the Soviet Union hymn which was played on new year's TV in my childhood. They have changed the words to reflect the new Russia, but the music stayed the same.


Apologies for more selfies, but I just wanted to show my new pinny. I treated myself to a Harry Potter apron.


On the 3rd my husband was back home, and we all went out into town. Eddie and I did some grocery shopping and also popped into Costa for a coffee and panini.
Here is Eddie, chillaxing on the sofa (he did take his shoes off).


Sasha's recent obsession with the church continues. In the last 3 days he's been going to the church every day. He also shows me images of the churches in all the books we've got at home. We really cannot figure out, what has prompted this interest. He seems to be relaxed there.
This is a photo taken by my husband, but I wanted to include Sash in the first week of the photo diary.


Our local ladies at Waterstone's gave us the Diary of the Wimpy Kid bunting that was on display in the bookshop window for weeks, as they knew how much we loved it. It's now hanging in Eddie's bedroom above his photo portrait and Angry Birds poster.



Laura Beresford shared a link. 2 January at 21:31 Happy new year everyone!

Friday, 4 January 2019

Roast tomato soup

recipes for Veganuary


We have no plans to join in the Veganuary. First of all, this is not feasible for us, we love cheese, chocolate and ice cream too much. Second, I am all for individuality and not following the crowd - it comes from the days of my Soviet childhood and youth, when I absolutely detested doing the same things that were considered to be a must for my age and socialist agenda.
Plus, the Russian Christmas is coming in a couple of days, and I mean to celebrate it with a mini-feast. So, no plans for a Dry January either.
Saying that, my full respect to all those who brave the Veganuary/DryJanuary movement.

Today's recipe post is an accidental vegan recipe, just because most vegetable soups are, and were as such even before the word "vegan" was invented.

Veganuary recipes, easy soup recipes


Roast Tomato soup
Ingredients:
440g tomatoes (2 packs of sugardrop or any other small tomatoes)
3tbsp chopped sundried tomatoes
1 clove of garlic
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
2tbsp olive oil
a good pinch of black pepper
1tbsp basil and oregano
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
2tbsp tomato ketchup
1l vegetable stock

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the tomatoes, drizzled with 1tbsp olive oil in a roasting tray. Roast for 15-20 minutes. I also like to add a tbsp of vodka when roasting the tomatoes, but don't have any vodka at the moment.
Thinly slice the onion and chop the garlic, and fry with 1tbsp olive oil in a small frying pan for about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Place the roasted tomatoes (you can easily remove skins at this stage, or leave them for extra texture),  chopped sundried tomatoes, onion and garlic to a medium sized pan, season with black pepper. Add the stock, vinegar, dried or fresh herbs, balsamic vinegar and tomato ketchup.
Bring to boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
Blend the soup until you reach smooth consistency.
Add a spoonful of soured cream or a vegan substitute.
Serve with a nice chunk of bread - for example, sourdough with butter (or whatever plan-based spread rocks your boat, if you're vegan).

This is an easy and tasty winter soup. The tomato ketchup adds extra sweetness and a real depth of flavour.

In this recipe I used Real Good Tomato Ketchup (no added sugar, 78% less salt, vegan-certified) which was one of the products in the last Degustabox.
If you don't have this ketchup, any good quality ketchup will work as well.

easy Veganuary recipes

I prefer to roast small sized tomatoes, as they are sweeter and less watery, but again, you can use any tomatoes. If you add a sliced carrot or potato, the colour will be less bright.
It's a vibrant easy soup recipe to beat the January blues.