Milly Reynolds the Crime and General Fiction Author

Creator of crime sleuths Mike Malone and Jack Sallt and writer of other general fiction

Latest book review – ‘Buried Angels’

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Have read all of Camilla Lackberg’s Patrick Hedstrom series and have never been disappointed. This one moves between past and present, past events have repercussions for the present day and secrets are revealed. I like the character of Patrick Hedstrom, it’s refreshing to find a policeman who is not plagued by demons or addictions; instead he juggles a career and a young family.

The story? A young couple return to the wife’s family home, a home she left aged one, when her entire family vanished without trace. A happy homecoming? Hardly, someone tries to burn the house down while the couple are sleeping. Patrick Hedstrom believes that the crime is connected to the disappearance of the family in the 1970s, a mystery his wife, Erica, is delving into as a possible subject for her next book.

The gripping story twists nicely and is perfectly balanced with the insights into the family lives of Patrick and Erica, and some of the other officers that regular readers of Lackberg are familiar with.

A good read.

Baking disaster? Maybe, maybe not.

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Oh, dear. Inspired by one of the cakes featured in ‘A Cake To Die For’, I decided to make lemon and blueberry cupcakes. In the book, the cake is tiered with a rich lemon cream. I needed to reduce the calories – hence the cupcakes. Now, this is the question. Are the cupcakes a disaster because the blueberries have all sunk to the bottom, or, are the cupcakes a success because they are only 101 calories each? I’ll go for a success; they may not look ‘pretty’ but I can eat them without guilt.

So, what did I do?

115g margarine, sugar and self-raising flour.

2 large eggs

The zest of 2 lemons

The juice of 1 lemon

150g blueberries.

I creamed together margarine, sugar and lemon zest.

Then added the eggs and mixed well.

Then I added the flour, the juice, half of the blueberries and mixed.

The mixture was divided into 18 paper cases and the remaining blueberries divided between these.

These were cooked in a pre-heated oven – Gas 5/190C for 25 minutes or until golden.

I’m reasonably happy with them, but think that next time I will not use so many blueberries, and just add them to the mix once I have divided it between the cases.

BUT………………….

I was left with a lemon. What should I do with it?

As I needed to make a loaf of bread, I thought, why not add it to the dough with some poppy seeds. So, I grated off a little more zest and added the juice of the lemon to the dough with a good handful of poppy seeds. Did it work? It’s in the oven now …

Why do I have to grow up?

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A rather sad week. My father has hung up his driving licence. He has finally decided that it is time for him to stop driving. At the age of 93, I am sure that many will say that he should have stopped driving years ago, that he was a liability on the road, a hazard to other drivers. I disagree.

My father has driven all his life – motorcycles to lorries – he’s driven them all. He taught me to drive, he taught my friends to drive. He’s the safest driver I know. Personally, I think that he could have carried on for another year, but he has made his decision and I have to respect that. At least the decision has been his to make, he has not been told to stop. That would have been harder for him. This way, he has kept control of his life.

So, why do I feel sad? Part of it is that my father is no longer independent; he can’t pop out to the car and go to visit a friend whenever he feels like it. He can’t be spontaneous any more. Now he has to plan, to arrange a lift or a taxi whenever he wants to go anywhere. That is one reason why I feel sad. The other reason – it’s a painful reminder of my own mortality.

Everyone wants their parents to live forever. While our parents are alive, we are still children – children with years of life ahead of us. My mother died nearly eleven years ago, a first hint that life is not never-ending. Now, with my father deciding that he is too old to drive, I am once again reminded of the brevity of life; reminded of the fact that I am approaching a time when I will have to grow up, when I will have to make decisions about my own ability to carry on doing the things that I enjoy doing.

Why do I have to grow up?

Harry Potter – I’m a child at heart.

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I’ve finally got there – Warner Bros Studios – The Making of Harry Potter. It was everything that I had hoped it would be. I might be a grown-up, but I loved every little bit of it. I was like a child on Christmas morning. The Great Hall, Diagon Alley, Privet Drive – they were all there. As it was Half Term when I visited, they even had the animal actors there as well. There were real owls in the Owl Emporium! The highlight was the model of Hogwarts. I’d seen pictures but the reality was 100 times better. Breath-taking. And Butterbeer is delicious.

If you ever get chance to visit, do go. You will love it. I’m hoping to go again at Christmas when everything is decorated and even more magical.

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Whisky? It’s the new beer.

Having written earlier about how I have been experimenting with different beers when I’m making bread, well, yesterday I might have gone slightly mad.

The idea had been fermenting for some time. Whisky. What would a tot of whisky add to the bread dough? Would it make a bread that was out of this world, or would it just be a waste of good whisky? I had to give it a go.

All other ingredients were the same as my previous post, but to the warm water I added 5 floz of whisky.

The result? Well, this lunchtime, after he had eaten the sandwiches that I had packed up for him, I received a text from my husband telling me that the bread was ‘fantastic’.

So, now I’ve got another problem. What shall I add to my bread dough next time?

Review – ‘Chasing the Dead’ by Tim Weaver

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This book introduces David Raker, a journalist turned missing person investigator. The plot – he is hired by Mary to find her son, Alex. The twist – Alex had been killed in a car accident some time previously.

David Raker is a sad figure, a man trying to come to terms with the death of his wife, but he is also a man who does not give up. While investigating Alex, he is threatened, intimidated, kidnapped and tortured. The violence is hard going at times, but the book is totally gripping. It’s full of twists and turns and I never saw the final twist coming – I wasn’t just on the wrong road, I was on the wrong planet.

There are more David Raker books and I’m definitely going to read some more.

A Taste of Toronto – cinnamon rolls

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When we visited Toronto last year to visit our son, we were introduced to Cinnabon cinnamon rolls. A very sticky experience but, oh so good. So, I always promised myself that I would have a go at making them when I returned to the UK. Now, six months later, I have finally done it.

I researched various recipes/videos on the Internet and finally, with a bit of tweaking, I have come up with something that sort of works. Well, not sort of – they looked good and tasted good, although next time, I think I will be more generous with the cinnamon.

This is what I did – and let me stress once again – I’m not a professional, I just enjoy messing around in the kitchen.

I mixed 500g of strong white flour with 1tsp of salt and a packet of fast action yeast. I use Hovis  bread yeast. In a saucepan I added 40g of butter to 10floz/300ml semi-skimmed milk and warmed it until the butter melted. I added this to the flour mix together with one egg and kneaded the mixture together. I always do this by hand, so therapeutic after a day marking exercise books. I then left the mix to prove for an hour. All of the Internet entries that I read stated that the enriched bread mix would not puff up like ordinary bread dough, and although it did increase in size, there was not the volume that I usually get.

Once the dough had risen, it was time for the fun bit. On a floured surface, I then rolled the dough out to a nice big rectangle. What size? No idea, but it was a nice big rectangle. I tacked one edge down and then proceeded to fill it.

I had previously mixed together 100g of sugar with 3 tsp cinnamon. Now some recipes said brown sugar, I only had caster sugar in the cupboard so used that. I will try it with brown sugar next time and see whether the flavours are different. 3tsps cinnamon seemed an awful lot but I think after tasting the rolls, I could have actually added another one at least. To the bread dough – using my hands as I found that a palette knife was pulling the dough too much – I spread out softened butter – about 25/30g, making sure that all of the dough was covered right up to the edges. Then I poured over the sugar/cinnamon mix and spread that out evenly as well. Once happy, I rolled the dough up nice and tight and cut it into 13 pieces. I’m not sure how – I’m positive that I counted 12, but … These were then placed in a tin that I had lined with greaseproof paper – making sure that there was a gap between each roll to allow for a second prove. These were then covered and left for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, the newly risen rolls were placed in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 5 – which my conversion tables tell me is 190C/375F and baked for 25/30 mins. While they were cooking I made the icing. This is where personal preference comes in. Some recipes used a plain icing sugar/water icing and others a rich cream cheese icing made with cream cheese, butter and icing sugar. As I am watching my weight, I decided that, because I wanted the cream cheese icing, I would make it my way. I used Philadelphia Lightest cream cheese – 100g – and mixed this with enough icing sugar for my palate. I can’t tell you how much, if you want to have a go at making these, just keep beating the icing sugar into the cream cheese until you get to the taste that you want. I didn’t add any butter and I’m not sure what butter would have added – apart from calories.

When the rolls came out of the oven, beautifully risen, I put the icing straight over so that it would melt a little. My husband and I didn’t wait for them to cool down, we dived straight in and wow, they were good. Wonderfully sticky.

As for calories – I tried to work it out and as far as I can get, because I used semi-skimmed milk, low fat cream cheese and NO butter in the icing, I think – and again this are just my calculations – that each roll is around 250 calories.

So, at long last, I can have a taste of Canada in my very own home. Wonderful!

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