The Booker Prize long list was announced today, as always some of the usual suspects are on it but one or two new and interesting choices - see what you think.
Peter Carey, Theft: A Love Story (Faber & Faber)
Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss (Hamish Hamilton)
Robert Edric, Gathering the Water (Doubleday)
Nadine Gordimer, Get a Life (Bloomsbury)
Kate Grenville, The Secret River (Canongate)
M.J. Hyland, Carry Me Down (Canongate)
Howard Jacobson, Kalooki Nights (Jonathan Cape)
James Lasdun, Seven Lies (Jonathan Cape)
Mary Lawson, The Other Side of the Bridge (Chatto & Windus)
Jon McGregor, So Many Ways to Begin (Bloomsbury)
Hisham Matar, In the Country of Men (Viking)
Claire Messud, The Emperor’s Children (Picador)
David Mitchell, Black Swan Green (Sceptre)
Naeem Murr, The Perfect Man (William Heinemann)
Andrew O’Hagan, Be Near Me (Faber & Faber)
James Robertson, The Testament of Gideon Mack (Hamish Hamilton)
Edward St Aubyn, Mother’s Milk (Picador)
Barry Unsworth, The Ruby in her Navel (Hamish Hamilton)
Sarah Waters, The Night Watch (Virago)
En route to my court at Bow in east London this morning I observed one of those hideous monstrosities - a bendy bus - nearly mowing down a group of pedestrians standing at a corner. I started thinking about these buses and why I , and so many other Londoners, really loathe them. They are so long that when they have to stop because of volume of traffic they can block an entire junction thus causing gridlock. They have a third less seats than our beloved old Routemaster bus, and although they have quite a lot of standing room, there is not always something to hang on to when the bus is moving. I have heard young people refer to bendy buses as RFFs (Ride For Free) as you can enter and exit the bus at the middle or the rear doors without paying. TfL did not replace the Routemasters with the same number of bendy buses, so they run less frequently, which means you have a longer wait between buses than before.
A plague on Ken Livingston for foisting them on us. If London were a city like Los Angeles, then a bendy bus might well be ok, but they are totally unsuitable for our narrow streets, which run in higgledy piggledy routes having grown up over centuries rather than having been planned and built on a grid system. Get rid of them, bring back double deckers!
This morning I found a loaf of ciabatta bread left over from yesterday's lunch, so I have decided to make soup with it. This is a classic Tuscan housewife's recipe to use up stale bread and slightly over-ripe tomatoes. It is both simple and delicious. I first had it several years ago when on holiday in Lucca with old friends who are wonderful cooks, and it has become a family favourite.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 large garlic cloves, crushed to a paste with ½ teaspoon salt
750g ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped (some like to deseed them as well)
200g of stale white bread, crusts removed, broken into pieces – do NOT use pre-packaged sliced bread it will go horribly slimy, use country bread like ciabatta, bloomer, sourdough etc.
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
10 -12 fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, basil leaves, Parmesan shavings – for serving/garnish
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and sauté the garlic gently without letting it brown, then add the tomatoes, basil and bread (tear the basil leaves with your fingers, NEVER chop basil with a knife or scissors it changes the flavour). Add the stock, little by little, stirring and mashing the bread down until the mixture begins to resemble a porridge, pour in any remaining stock. Taste and season. Garnish with a swirl of olive oil, extra torn basil, and some shavings of Parmesan.
This can be served hot, warm or cold but I think it is at its best at room temperature on a hot day. It can be made a day ahead and reheats beautifully, but doesn't freeze well.
BTW the word "pappa" in the name of the soup doesn't have anything to do with dad, daddy, father - it means pap/puree/mush.