Ajo Blanco or White Gazpacho

This is a Spanish dish with Moorish influences. There are probably many similar recipes, I don’t claim it to be unique – but the story behind it is unusual. (the origin of this image is a series of sixteen recipe postcards I drew many years ago)

recipe for ago blanco or white gazpacho

I was in Córdoba in Spain for a few days (for work and many years ago) and staying at a five star hotel (not at my expense). Being by myself I wanted to make my evening meals more interesting, so chose things from the menu when I had no idea as to what they were. This was where I first ate Ajo Blanco.

IT came, looked nice and with my first spoonful was pretty sure that there was a fly in my soup (not the start of that joke). I edged it onto my spoon and put the half chewed beast on the side of the plate.

Before calling a waiter I thought I’d stir the soup up make sure there were no more. There were about a dozen of them. That’s when I realised it was a half chewed raisin. The soup was fabulous and the raisins gave it that note of sweetness against the drier flavours of garlic and almonds.

Notes
I always buy ground almonds now. They come much finer than I can grind them and give a less ‘grainy’ finish to the soup.

Pearls

paperback cover of a blurred girl's face wearing several strings of pearls
original image of blurred girl

Seeing in black and white
This image caught my eye because, being blurred, the identity of the woman is not too precise. But as a mono image (posh term for black and white) and lacking sharp contrast, it didn’t have the necessary impact for a cover. I put a couple of colour filters over two versions of the image and combined them. Then took the colour of the pearls to that they ‘zinged’ out of the image a little more. The pearls could easily be made to drift into less significance or be replaced by a scarf – it depends on the book it’s used for.

This is a royalty free image and the main typeface is Charme. The original photo file came from unsplash.com.

Book cover design costs vary depending on whether it’s an ebook or paperback but around £80 ($100) is a good guide.

If you need a cover for your new novel or if you’re short of an idea for a plot? Browse these imagined book covers and strap lines for ideas.

Nothing Matters

(flash fiction – 500 words)

Nothing Matters

I’ll try to explain but I doubt you’ll get it. The thing is there’s no point to anything. That’s what people don’t understand, that nothing matters. Nothing makes any difference. That’s why I want to do this, that’s why I have to do this, to show you, to make you understand.

Today is not special. It’s not my birthday or anything like that. People will try to explain, but they won’t get it, that’s the point, it doesn’t make any difference, there is nothing to get. We’re all worms grubbing through the earth, eating what comes our way and leaving our shit behind.

It’s sunny. My back is hot while I wait. I like that I’m alone, that nobody knows I am here, but then nobody cares, nobody really cares for anyone else. They pretend, they make noises like they care, but they don’t and I don’t. I don’t need their sympathy, their concerns, boring repetitive words. They go home and forget everything. But they won’t forget me now.

This is the most peaceful I have felt for years, maybe ever. There is nobody up here to tell me what to do, to look at me like I’m not one of them, like I’m not normal, a freak, an outsider, a waste of space, somebody they don’t want to acknowledge or talk to. Today I am truly alone

I have a counsellor. She talks to me. It’s her job. Then she goes home and forgets. She always has to read her notes when I’m there. I’m just a file, a collection of words on a piece of paper. If I tore up the paper and threw it in the bin I’d still be there, but she wouldn’t know who I was. She doesn’t hear what I say, only what she wants to hear, only what fits into the box she’s put me in.

There’s noise below me now. Not individual voices, but lots of voices. Random noise, it comes in waves, in ripples, up to where I am. It washes over me. The time is right. My time. I don’t hate anyone. I don’t know anyone well enough to hate them. I don’t want to know anyone that well, there’s no point.

Today is the day. I don’t why today. It just felt right when I got up. I knew. I dressed, checked myself in the mirror in the hall. My mum said goodbye.

The sun is really hot now, burning through my coat. The metal is cool against my finger. There’s no sweat on my palms, no excitement and no fear in me. I thought I might feel something, but I don’t.

I feel it smooth against my finger, a perfect fit as I pull carefully against it, testing the pressure, the resistance. The noise is louder than I expect, a clean noise, cracking my ear, mixing with the shouts below. If anyone had listened they would understand.

The Poet and the Painter

book cover or paperback cover of lighthouse on clear day
original image of lighthouse for book cover

Strengthening colours is sometimes beneficial. In this case it was a beautifully simple image but the colour was washed out. I overlaid two versions and added a blue filter to the top half of the sky to bring it to life and give that gently graduated tone in the top half of the image.

This is a royalty free image and the main typeface is Garamond Narrow. The original image is from pexels.com

Book cover design costs vary depending on whether it’s an ebook or paperback but around £80 ($100) is a good guide.

If you need a cover for your new novel or if you’re short of an idea for a plot? Browse these imagined book covers and strap lines for ideas.

The baked stew that never was

This is a family recipe. There are probably many similar recipes, I don’t claim it to be unique – but the story behind it is unusual. (the origin of this image is a series of sixteen recipe postcards I drew many years ago)

a postcard recipe for a baked stew

When my wife and I were first married we visited my parents frequently on a Saturday. We had the same meal every time, which was this baked stew followed by a cherry tart with cream.

Decades later we were reminiscing and about that first year of our marriage. We both laughed at the memory of being served the same meal on every visit and decided that we ought to cook it ourselves. So we asked my mother for the recipe – she had already entered the first stages of dementia and her reply was a firm and angry denial.

“Don’t be so stupid, I’ve never cooked anything like that in my entire life.”

So one cold winter evening we sat down and tried to write the recipe from memory. On Saturday my wife went shopping and I prepared the meal from our notes. With one or two minor alterations this has become a staple winter warmer and an ever popular supper party treat (in the absence of vegetarians). Both our children use the recipe and other family and friends have also borrowed and cooked it.

The length of time it takes to cook allows the meat to tenderise beautifully and the flavours blend and enhance. There is rarely any left.

Notes
We always use a cast iron pot to cook this in.
Chuck steak is a cheap cut. Names of cuts of meat vary around the world.
You brown the meat a small batch at a time or the steam will prevent it from browning.
You do need to check that it doesn’t dry out and burn in the final stages, just add water.
Temperatures are for a fan assisted oven.
The first stage can be done in the morning if for a supper party (less hassle later).

No Time for Sorrow

book or paperback cover with couple in old town
original image for No Time for Sorrow

Cropping changes everything. What started as an image on a sunny day with no sense of mystery changes when you cut out the blue sky. The whole feel becomes more threatening with a sense of the couple being observed from behind closed curtains. The modern signpost on the right could easily be removed for a more period novel, but the couple could be straight out of the 1930s as they are.

This is a royalty free image and the main typeface is Latin Extra Condensed. The photos is from pexels.com

Book cover design costs vary depending on whether it’s an ebook or paperback but around £80 ($100) is a good guide.

If you need a cover for your new novel or if you’re short of an idea for a plot? Browse these imagined book covers and strap lines for ideas.