This week I chose a bit of a guilty pleasure read…
It Felt Like a Kiss – by Sarra Manning
I have a real soft spot for Sarra Manning’s books – I’ve read every one of her adult books and quite a few of her teenage ones too. In fact, we go way back – in the days when I actually was a teenager, she used to write for J17 (anyone else remember Diary of a Crush?!) So when I heard she had a new book coming out, I got quite excited. In my mind, her books are a perfect read – light, frothy, compulsive and fun. The perfect combo, but also a little bit of a guilty pleasure given that the subject matter is never particularly taxing and maybe a teeny bit generic. But not every book can win prizes and sometimes you need a little light relief!
Manning’s latest offering is the story of Ellie, the love child of a mega rockstar (in the vein of Bono). Ellie has a knack of dating guys her friends describe a lame ducks – guys that are pretty much losers, until Ellie builds up their confidence and they move onto someone else. Her latest boyfriend is no exception – but this time Ellie sees sense and dumps him before he gets there first. In a fit of vengeance, he steals her ‘Dad box’ – full of proof of her connection to her rockstar Dad… and before she knows it, Ellie’s paternity is splashed all over the tabloids, along with less than flattering photos and sordid stories about her love life.
David is the lawyer tasked with damage limitation and making sure Ellie says and does all the right things and though he is convinced that she’s a gold-digger at first, I’m sure you can guess what happens!
As I said, not exactly a groundbreakingly different story, but there is lots to like about this book. The thing I really like about Manning’s writing is that even though it is often quite cliched, happy ever after stuff, there is a lot that a girl of my age (28 in case you are wondering) can relate to. Her love stories are always rooted enough in reality to be believable and strangely, her heroines always seem to live wherever I currently live! Spooky or what… and as a North London girl, you can’t help but like her North London heroines! Also, they are never too perfect – no perfect size 8, tall blondes, but girls that are just a bit normal. Basically, I think if I were to turn my own life into a novel, it would probably read a lot like one of Sarra Manning’s books – slightly more glamorous and racy, but believable. So if you ever fancy reading a bit of chick lit, I would give any of Sarra Manning’s books a go – I think part of the craft of being a chick lit writer is conforming to genre without being too boring. You know what you are going to get and yet it’s still a story you want to discover.
To accompany It Felt Like a Kiss, I decided to cook my favourite guilty pleasure meal:
Yum yum yum! I did have a look at a few different recipes for this dish, but in the end thought why mess with something you already cook well, so I made my own recipe. Which isn’t really my own recipe at all, just a standard macaroni cheese recipe but with added extras!
3 tbsp plain flour
about a pint of milk
Almost a whole block of cheese (shhhhh)
Chives & Dill
Some blue cheese
I started by frying all the veg in a pan until soft. I know it’s not typical to include veg in macaroni cheese but I just can’t bring myself to eat a meal without vegetables. Plus they just add to the deliciousness in my mind. I added a chilli and some herbs just because I had them in the fridge. Once they were soft, I left to one side and got started on my cheese sauce.
Now I’ve seen macaroni cheese recipes that use creme fraiche or philadelphia, but I think if you are making a true guilty pleasure meal then don’t bother with all that rubbish, make the real deal! In my mind, guilty pleasure means making it as tasty as you possibly can! While you are cooking the cheese sauce, boil the pasta in a separate pot. Then in a saucepan, melt the butter. Then add your flour and mix to form a roux. Add a little of the milk and mix into the roux. It doesn’t matter too much if you have a lumpy sauce because the lumps will cook out when you put it in the oven, but the best way to avoid a lumpy sauce is to use a whisk and to add the milk bit by bit. Keep adding the milk in stages until your sauce thickens – always a good idea to make it slightly runnier than you want it because when you add the cheese it’ll thicken and then it’ll thicken again in the oven. So once you have a sauce that is the right consistency, then add the cheese (I used mature cheddar and a bit of blue cheese). I didn’t weigh it, I just say keep tasting it until it’s the right cheesiness for you! Once the sauce is done, add all elements: the cooked veg, the pasta and the sauce and then put it in an ovenproof dish. Cover with some grated cheese and then bake for about 15-20mins until it’s crispy on top.
Then enjoy…. don’t worry about the calories or fat content – it’s a guilty pleasure meal: something you only enjoy once in a while. Meals like this are great for occasions when you are ill or heartbroken – as are books like It Felt Like a Kiss. They cheer you right up!