Books! Ah books! What can I say about them? They have always occupied a very special place in my heart. Having grown up among older siblings who were voracious readers, books always occupied centre stage in our house.
Talking of siblings, mine were much older to me. So, when I was about six, they were already into their teens, and my sort of fun was not exactly theirs. Growing up, I was basically a loner. But, then again, to classify myself as a ‘loner’ would not exactly be right , as I had my hoard of books to keep me company. Starting from the smallest and simplest of books and graduating to Noddy, fairy tales (Grimm’s, Hans Christian Andersen) and other Enid Blyton books( Famous five, Secret Seven etc), and then onto Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, my life was full of adventure. If, once, I was lost in the woods with Hansel and Gretel, then, at other times, I was watching the princesses dancing away to glory during their nightly escapades. If, sometimes, I was away tobogganing on the Welsh slopes with the cousins from the Famous Five, then, at other times, I would tense up while trying to solve a mystery. Throw in a few Tin tin, Asterix, Phantom, Mandrake, Flash Gordon etc comics, and I was all set!
Yes, books have their own way of taking you along with the characters, and the ‘loner’ in me found solace in them. I still remember ma looking for me in the quietest corner of the house with my eyes glued to a book. ”At this rate, you’ll spoil your eyes very soon”, she would say. I would be so engrossed in a book that even switching on a light seemed to be a chore; a few words could be read in those few precious seconds and I would continue to squint in the dimming day light. A new word here, a new expression there, a new place here, a new food there, oh, it was absolutely delightful. And everyone thought I was a ‘loner’; well, I was having the last laugh. I had so much to keep me company.
And then I grew older; the age of fairy tales had sadly passed me. It was the time to delve into more ”grown up ” sort of books, you know the sort that my dada ( older brother) and my baideo ( older sister ) would say ”you’ve got to grow up a bit more for these books”. ”So not fair”, I would grumble quietly, and wait patiently to ”grow up” so that I too can go through all those big, fat books that lined the book shelves in their rooms. And yes, that time came too.
It was during my early teens that I discovered Charles Dickens. Every book of his made me feel as if I was in the story, witnessing the rise and fall of the characters. They had so much of depth in them, they seemed so ‘real’ ; their sadness made me cry, their love made me sigh; how could anyone write with such poignancy- Great Expectations and David Copperfield still have a very dear place in my heart. And then, Dickens was followed by Jane Austen. Ah! How many times have I swooned over ‘Mr Darcy’.
Shakespeare made a rather late appearance in my reading life; but once started, I couldn’t keep away; his sonnets, tragedies, comedies were all gobbled up with great gusto.
The love of reading was further accentuated during my college years when I was pursuing my Masters in English literature. Plays, poems etc were now looked at from a very different prospective, that of a critic. Every character, every line, was dissected and I delved even deeper into the lives and loves of my favourite characters. Chaucer ( reading the Canterbury Tales was quite a mouthful) ,Keats, Pope, Wordsworth, Christopher Marlowe, Arnold, Shelly, Eliot, Byron, along with the other literary giants mentioned earlier, and so many other poets and dramatists through the ages, were now a part of my daily life, and I was not complaining. And it continued during the days after I got my degree and went on to teach like minded youngsters in a college.
I no longer teach, gave up the job, so that all four of us could stay together as we travelled to another part of the world. But the love of books have never deserted me. The reading, now, does not include just the classics, but a wider genre. Rengoni and Agastya share mine and Dinesh’s love of books immensely. A mention about a visit to the library is always greeted with great enthusiasm. Of course, along side the books that I used to read as a child, some unfamiliar names and characters do make their presence felt in our home- Horrid Henry, Rainbow fairies , Beast Quest, do take up a lot of space in our book shelf.
But so do these,
and I’m thankful that they are lapped up with equal enthusiasm. I can only hope that they can always carry on this great love for books in the years to come .
Now, back to the macarons- this time, as a part of Mactweets, we were asked to draw inspiration from the books that we may have read as a child. For me, every book was a treasure chest filled with new delights. So, I wanted to try out a new flavour in my macarons too. I haven’t taken part in this for a couple of months now, but the theme was too good to let it pass. So, the macarons were rustled up today with some pantry staples.
In went some cranberries and rosemary; I have never added rosemary to sweet treats, and this was a great revelation. The herb went very well with the rest of the ingredients; it was the perfect marriage. I kept the filling very simple- quark, honey and chopped cranberries were mixed together and used to sandwich the petite macarons. The egg white that I used this time came straight out of the fridge as opposed to using them at room temperature- see, another new thing for me. Here’s how I made them-
1 egg white ( I took mine out straight from the fridge)
a pinch of salt
2 tblsp of granulated sugar ( I used raw cane sugar)
1/2 C of icing sugar
4 T of ground almonds
1 tsp of dried rosemary
2 tsp of finely chopped dried cranberries
a little finely chopped, dried cranberries and dried rosemary, for topping
For the filling-
A few tblsps of quark ( or other cream cheese) mixed with some honey ( as sweet as you like) and some finely chopped dried cranberries
- Beat the egg whites along with the pinch of salt, with an electric beater till it forms soft peaks. And the granulated sugar and beat till the mixture forms stiff peaks.
- Mix together the almonds, icing sugar, cranberries and rosemary.
- Gradually add the almond mixture into the egg white mixture and fold in till everything is well incorporated. The mixture is ready when it flows easily from the spatula from a height ( not too runny though).
- Line a baking tray with parchment. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag and pipe out circles of 1 inch in diameter, keeping a space of at least 1 inch between them. Sprinkle a little chopped cranberries and rosemary over half of the piped shells.Let them rest for at least 30 minutes to an hour or till the piped shells feel dry to the touch.
- Pre heat the oven at 170 deg C. Reduce the heat to 150 deg C .
- Place the tray in the centre of the pre heated oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Rotate the tray and bake for another 4 minutes.
- Let the macaron shells cool on the tray for a few minutes. Gently peel them off and transfer to a rack to cool completely.
- Sandwich equal sized macaron shells together with a little of the filling just before serving.
For more tips on macaron making, refer to my notes at the end of this post.
The rosemary in the macarons worked beautifully and I’m glad about this spontaneous decision to add some. Moreover, the egg whites, straight out of the fridge didn’t seem to care too, and it definitely helped, as I’ve managed to retain my ‘feet’