The dazzling, powerful story of a gutsy showgirl who tries to conquer her past amongst the glamour of 1960s Las Vegas – finding unexpected fortune, friendship and love.
Words by Gregory Norminton
For years, I have wanted to write a book about ‘deep England’ in the manner of Adam Thorpe’s Ulverton: a narrative that charts the many places that one place becomes over generations. It was only by living far away – in Edinburgh, and later Manchester and Sheffield – that I realised where my subject awaited me: in the unsung landscape of my Surrey childhood.
A fish pie, bulging at the seams like an overstuffed pillow, its filling full of herbs, cream and smoked fish oozing as it’s cut.
The snap of cold that comes at the start of the year is perfect porridge weather. I’ve never understood those who eat it like clockwork, regardless of the temperature. I love the warmth of it on a cold day, a bowl in my hands like a morning hot-water bottle, the quick but nourishing time spent stirring at the stove a welcome interruption to the busy rush of the morning and a few minutes to let my mind wander at the start of the day.
This is a soup for the soul; chicken soup without the chicken and with no apology. It’s the get-well soup I have been searching for, to cure whatever ails you, whether that’s a cold or a broken heart. As gentle and as nourishing as they come, the soup has a base of slow-cook sweet fennel and leek, layered with old friends celery and carrot, with a pep of ginger and lemon and a warmth from a generous amount of white pepper. Crisp little pieces of tofu top the broth, sticky from a minute or two in a pan, with some soy and a sprinkling of seasoning.
I have an obsession with pancakes; any opportunity to make or eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner and I’ll take it. So I’ve had to expand my pancake horizons beyond the Shrove Tuesday classics and the fluffy American ones. One of my favourite ways to make pancakes is with chickpea flour. All over the world chickpea (gram) flour is used to make socca, farinata and Indian pudla. Farinata are a distinctly Italian creation.
I made this pie after a bracing walk on a wintry Welsh beach, a long stretch of sand lined with pines on one side and tempting glistening sea on the other. Icy cold, we dipped our toes in then ran to the car. On the drive home I became fixated on pie and an hour or so later we were eating a comforting crust of mashed cauliflower on top of a rich lentil ragu, cooked until the lentils were almost soft. Its warmth spread all the way to our feet. I use cauliflower but you could also use potato or a mix of roots.