Book of the Month, January

The Cockcroach by Ian McEwan

Buy at Waterstones

The Cockroach, the latest work of the masterful Ian McEwan, is a dazzlingly satirical reflection of our current political climate.

“That morning, Jim Sams, clever but by no means profound, woke from uneasy dreams to find himself transformed into a gigantic creature.”

We follow the journey of Jim Sams as he navigates the British political establishment to deliver the will of the people, Reversalism. Reversalism is a theory whereby the money flow in an economy is reversed. At the conclusion of the working week an employee hands over money to the company for the hours laboured. However, when the employee then goes shopping they are compensated for each item carried away. (If you think this sounds like a convoluted process, that would inevitably damage the economy beyond repair, then you have grasped the concept of McEwan’s work.) Sams is determined to deliver Reversalism at any cost; dissent within his ranks, fierce opposition, parliamentary democracy, none will get in his way. We observe Sams as he hijacks international incidents, charms the American President, and plots against those opposing Reversalism.

McEwan achieved in this novel what I thought impossible, unearthing a humorous tone about this country’s dire political affliction. The scabrous humour masks the very real dread and scepticism coursing through society as we are pulled along with this political farce. In ‘The Cockroach’ McEwan makes no effort to mask his feelings about “Reversalism”, a detrimental decision serving only to benefit the sinister Blattidaean plot. “Reversalism” is, of course, McEwan’s mirror for Brexit. For those of us who have been, shall I say, despondent following the result of the referendum, McEwan accurately channels our feelings in this satirical masterpiece. I have found the book a welcome break after three years of debates, uncertainty and broken promises, it breathes a breath of fresh air into the chagrined political division. I highly recommend this book to anyone, especially those who are saddened by our departure from the European Union.

Adieu Europe!

My Mother’s Winter Warmer

My Mother’s Amazing Tomato Soup (Inspired by Gordon Ramsay)

Ingredients
  • 4 tblsp olive oil
  • 1kg plum tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 red onion (sliced)
  • 2 large garlic cloves (halved)
  • Thyme
  • Basil
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 sun-dried tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
Timings

Serves: 4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Method

Preheat the oven to 220°C (428°F)

  1. Pour the olive oil into a roasting tin and heat in the oven until almost smoking.
  2. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic and thyme to the tray and coat with the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the tomatoes are caramelised, turning occasionally. Add the basil to the tray 5 minutes before the end of cooking.
  3. Remove any woody thyme stalks from the tray and add the contents of the tray to a large saucepan. In a second saucepan bring the chicken, or vegetable, stock to a boil and then pour over the tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil and then add the sun-dried tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  4. Strain the liquid from the pan, keeping both the liquid and the tomato mixture. Add the tomatoes to a blender and combine, slowly adding the stock, until the soup has reached the desired consistency.
  5. Gordon suggests at this stage to pass the soup through a sieve again for a smoother consistency, however my mother and I have always found the blended soup to be the perfect balance.
  6. Serve the soup with a crusty loaf of bread and enjoy!

Recipe inspired by Gordon Ramsay’s “My Tomato Soup” in “Gordon Ramsay’s Secrets“.