Food Review: Vegetable Masala by Sara at Paddington Library

Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products and a philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. Any individual who follows the diet or philosophy is known as a vegan. This cultural and lifestyle movement is proving very popular amongst our customers and even staff.

In celebration of World Vegan Month, my colleagues and I wrote food review blogs about the vegan dishes we have cooked and ate. As a meat-eater, having the opportunity to cook and eat vegan dishes intrigues and excites me.

To start, I chose a Vegetable Masala as my first dish- it is easy to prepare and cook- and includes a vegetable I am not fond of but wanted to eat again- Cauliflower. This recipe was from the cookery book Healthy Indian Cooking for Diabetes by Azmina Govindji & Sanjeev Kapoor- in association with Diabetes UK– which can be borrowed from Paddington Library or be bought from Amazon.

Yes, I know this recipe wasn’t taken from a vegan book, but I would say that anyone can enjoy this meal whether you are a curry-lover, vegan or like me; someone wanting to learn a new recipe, have a change from eating meat and want to include more vegetables in my diet.

As I said, I was excited to make this dish- all the ingredients or alternatives were sourced from Tesco, but you can go to any supermarket or local Halal or Asian store that sells what you will need, especially the spices. The preparation time was approximately 30 minutes and the cooking time 40-50minutes. The masala paste had a wonderfully earthy and warm aroma that came from the blender as I lifted the lid. The peel that was left over from the cauliflower could be used in another meal i.e., soup or as a side to the main course, but along with the carrots and ginger peel, it will be given to a colleague so they can add it to their compost heap. So, all in all, the vegetable isn’t going to waste.

Dinner was comforting and delicious; not spicy but creamy due to the coconut milk used instead of water. To serve the Vegetable Masala, I also bought plain rotis. The sauce was thin, which allowed my mum, brother and I to dip the rotis in- you could say, it was like having a soup. If it were thinker, I would have served white basmati or brown rice with it.

I would cook the dish again but reduce the amount of lemon juice added or instead, try it with lime juice as it is a smaller citrus fruit. I would also like to use aubergines and spinach next time and see if that works well with the masala spices. The leftover masala was frozen, so I could use for another meal and because I made plenty, I offered my colleague some as well.

Sara’s verdict:

Enjoyment: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Preparation Time: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Cooking Time: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Spice level: ⭐⭐

I have included the recipe below for you to try at home. Alternately, there is another Indian cookery book called The Indian Vegan Kitchen by Madhu Gadia, which can be borrowed through our online resource- the Cloud Library app.

Now, get stuck in and enjoy!

The Ingredients and the alternatives

2 teaspoons olive oil or *pure coconut oil

1 medium sized onion, sliced

500g cauliflower, broken into florets (depending on the size of your cauliflower, you may need more than one)

25g peas (I put a whole tin- 175g- as I like peas)

1 medium sized carrot, diced or 3 small carrots (I preferred having them chopped)

5-6 French beans, chopped (I used a handful- so about 20)

1 teaspoon salt

½ tamarind pulp or *lime juice (I used lemon juice as I couldn’t a lime, but vinegar with a little sugar can do the trick)

2 tablespoons of fresh chopped coriander leaves or *dried coriander leaves (stir in before serving)

200ml of water or coconut milk*

*alternative ingredients

For the Masala

2 tablespoons of grated fresh coconut or desiccated coconut

½ tablespoon ground coriander

½ tablespoon of red chilli powder (All I could find was extra hot chilli powder, so I used ½ teaspoon measurement)

½ tablespoon garam masala powder*

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon minced ginger and garlic

*If you cannot find garam masala powder, there are substitutions- 2 of which are:

Option 1:

1 tablespoon Cumin powder and ¼ teaspoon Allspice

Option 2:

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 ½ tablespoon ground cardamom

1 ½ tablespoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon nutmeg

Cooking Method

  • Grind all the ingredients for the masala, adding water as required, into a fine paste
  • Heat the oil in a non-stick Kadai or saucepan and sauté the onion on a medium heat until golden.
  • Stir in all the vegetables one by one. Add the salt, 200ml water* and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and cook until the vegetables are tender.
  • Stir in the tamarind* pulp, the masala paste, then simmer for 2 minutes. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve with plain rotis or whole-wheat rotis.

For more information about Diabetes visit the NHS website:

For advice or for other health information, visit the Oneyou Westminster website.

Books we love

The Dress Circle, by Laurie Graham 

This week, Ron from Pimlico Library will be reviewing The Dress Circle, by Laurie Graham. 

The Dress Circle Book Cover

Over to Ron to tell us more! 

Great read from my favourite author. A middle-aged couple are forced to reassess their relationship when a long-buried secret comes out of the closet with a vengeance. Things have to change in order for their relationship to survive. 

A catastrophic family event gives clarity as to what really is important in life and changes everything, including the way in which the secret is dealt with.  

“And so what if I love with each sparkle and each bangle, 

Why not try to see things from a different angle”. 

Enjoy with an open mind! 

If Ron’s review has your interest piqued, borrow The Dress Circle using Select and Collect.

For a full list of our sites and their opening times, click on the link below:

Booker Prize Shortlist Review – Part 2

In the second part of our series reviewing the books shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, this week Fiona from Brompton Library is reviewing Real Life by Brandon Taylor and this week’s book of the week, The New Wilderness by Diane Cook.  Over to Fiona…

This novel is set on a university campus and the story of Wallace, a young, black man studying on scholarship.  Set over a few days, what happens proves to be pivotal for Wallace.  The novel includes elements typical of classic, campus novels such as Catcher in the Rye, including coming of age, friendship, loneliness and isolation, and growing up.  While it has these very classic elements, it is also very subjective and specific to the central character’s experience.  We get to understand what it’s like for a young, gay, working-class, black male to be in the world now – we get to see the world through Wallace’s eyes.

It’s a very readable novel, engaging and emotionally raw which looks at issues, such as racism, in the eye. Taylor paints each scene carefully, and at the same time, the writing has an intensity and an energy not unlike the calm before a storm and I read it in a couple of sittings.   It is both classic and current – students who spend every hour they can get studying and striving to succeed seems very of today.  At times very painful, and sometimes ironic, with an ambiguous ending that leaves us wondering about Wallace’s future, it’s a powerful novel that packs a punch or two.

Set somewhere is North America in dystopian future where there is no longer any vegetation in cities, meat is manufactured, and the pollution is so severe that children are dying.  When research scientist Glen is given the chance to take his partner Bea and her sick daughter Agnes to The Wilderness State, they make the difficult choice to leave the city and live as nomadic hunter-gatherers in the uninhabited wilds of America.  The story focuses on Bea and Agnes, both on their relationship as mother and daughter and their roles within the group. Bea is a fierce woman and a natural leader.  Her daughter Agnes, similar in many ways, does not really remember life in the city and has adapted to her life in the wilderness, learning to read the people around her as well as the landscape and the animals.

 The book is readable and enjoyable and gets more thrilling as it goes on.   The author did a lot of research into how native tribes lived on the land, as well as the habitats that the characters find themselves in, and the wildlife is very vivid.

If you want to find out more about The New Wilderness, or you have read it and want to chat about it with other readers, join us this Friday for our book club.

Both of these books are available in our libraries and can also be downloaded from cloudLibrary via the app. All you need is your Westminster library card.  Not a member?  No problem.  It’s quick and easy to join here.

Books we love

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo 

Book cover of Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

 This week’s book review is on Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo. Over to Fiona from Brompton Library to tell us more about this fantastic read! 

Three Women is a non-fiction book written as a novel, based on the lives of three women from different backgrounds. We hear from Lina, a bored suburban mother, Maggie, a seventeen-year-old high school student in North Dakota who becomes involved with her teacher, and Sloane, a successful restaurant owner from New York State whose husband has interesting sexual tastes.   

Taddeo spent eight years interviewing these women and becoming immersed in their lives.  The book explores the women’s emotional lives and their desires, showing how women keep themselves hidden and how they are judged by society.  As a piece of non-fiction written as fiction, it manages get into the inner lives of these women.  The external reality of their looks, their lives, and their selves are much less important than what is happening for them internally. Their perceptions of themselves and what they want are often in conflict with how society sees them and what it allows them to be and to have.   

I really enjoyed this book.  The stories are great, the characters are interesting and relatable, and I think what Taddeo has done is quite unique; having used real women, she keeps the authenticity of their stories and them as women, while making it into a very readable book.  My only criticism would be that the writing at points is a little clunky, but it didn’t stop me enjoying the book. 

Fiona, Brompton Library  

Three Women is available to borrow in our libraries and to download with your Westminster library card here. 

Have you read Three Women? What did you think? Let us know in the comments 


Booker Prize Shortlist – Part One

As we approach the announcement of the winner of this year’s Booker Prize, we will be reviewing the six shortlisted books. This week, Sabina from Marylebone Library is reviewing Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi, and  Lee from Westminster Reference Library is reviewing The Shadow King, by Maaza Mengiste.


Burnt Sugar

Burnt Sugar is the story of a dysfunctional family, specifically, the relationship between a mother and daughter.   Set in India, Antara Lamba’s mother, Tara, is developing dementia.  Both mother and daughter seem to dislike each other, but Antara now has responsibility towards her mother.  Antara’s internal battle is the story.  Antara is caring for a mother she feels abandoned and neglected her as a child.  How do you care for such a mother?  The story portrays the complex relationships many girls have with their mothers and also their mother-in-laws – the love, the hate.  Unfortunately, the story seems likely to be repeating itself with Antara’s daughter Anikka.  The reason the book is called Burnt Sugar is not

revealed until about three quarters of the way through the book and is a revelation, if not humorous, so I won’t spoil it by telling you the reason why.

Although well written, I personally felt it was a bit long/convoluted and lost its way before getting back on track. It’s the debut novel by Avni Doshi and weaves between the past and the present. The non- linear storyline helps the reader to perhaps understand both Tara and Antara and why they act the way they do.

The writing style is evocative, the author brings everyday India to life.  You almost feel you are there, hearing the traffic and seeing the crowds walking and talking. The minute details of sight, smell and hearing awoke memories of India, the smell of coconut oil on someone’s hair, the grandma’s Bata shoes that squeak, the maid sweeping the floor.  Although the descriptions are really good, I think focussing a little bit more on the storyline and developing the story would have been beneficial.

The story is at times funny and at times painful, as the subject of dementia is tackled. I like how Doshi takes a depressing subject, dementia, and weaves a funny tale e.g. her mother waiting for her at the door with a rolling pin.  However, there are times when it seemed to be a list of situations.  Nevertheless, it doesn’t take away from the fact the book is on the short list of the Booker Prize and it is an entertaining, well-written, at times a funny read.

Themes include: identity, mother-daughter relationships, dementia and relationships, dysfunctional families.

I would give this book 3 out of 5.


The Shadow King

The book opens in 1930’s Ethiopia. The country has been invaded by Italian troops, celebrated Emperor Haile Selassie sits in exile in Bath, and hope is fading fast for Hirut and the household she serves. As Kidane, Hirut’s master, is called up to serve, his wife, Aster, offers up herself to fight alongside her husband. Kidane refuses; Aster and Hirut must serve in ‘women’s roles’, tending to the wounded and looking after the troops. However, as the war takes a devastating toll on Kidane’s forces, gender lines blur as the women fight back against colonial invasion.

From this tumult rises The Shadow King. Minim, whose name literally translates to ‘nothing,’ is unremarkable in ever way but one; his strong resemblance to exiled emperor Haile Selassie. To boost morale, Kidane and his troops resolve to dress Minim up as the Emperor, and parade him across the battlegrounds. Minim rises to ghostly power as The Shadow King, aiming to turn the tide of Ethiopia’s fortunes against the Italian colonialists.

This is a story of women in warfare, of tactics and bravery, and moreover about the nefarious web of colonialism spreading across a country. I would definitely recommend this book.

Download the Shadow King with your Westminster library card here.  

Both The Shadow King and Burnt Sugar are available to borrow in our libraries.  Not a member, don’t worry!  It’s quick and free to join online here.

Books we love

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister by Jung Chang 

This week, Marion from Chelsea Library will be reviewing Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister, a biography by Jung Chang. 

Book cover for Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister

Over to Marion to tell us more!  

This biography of sisters Meiling, Ailing and Qingling Song offers a glimpse into the tumultuous political events of 20th century China. From their early years studying in America, to surviving extreme political changes leading up to and after the Chinese revolution, the sisters remained at the centre of political power. 

I enjoy getting my history from reading biographies and I recommend Big Sister, Little Sister and Red Sister not just as a biography but as a good history read too. 

If Marion’s review has you interested, you can pop into one of our libraries today and borrow a paper copy of the book.

If you have a PC or eReader, you can download Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister instantly as a digital read here.

National Inclusion Week and Black History Month at Paddington Library

Written by Lacey Baker, Monica Casale and Sara Ashbourne on behalf of Paddington Library

 Diversity, Inclusiveness and Libraries

What does Diversity mean? What does Inclusiveness mean?

 These are rhetorical questions to ponder over but at the library, Diversity to us means, “Creating an environment within our society where everyone feels welcomed, accepted and recognised for the uniqueness, skills, traits, creativity and personalities; therefore, reaching their full potential not matter their physical or mental disabilities, beliefs or ideologies, age, ethnicity or gender” and Inclusiveness to us means, “A community hub enriching everyone’s connection, knowledge and understanding on multiculturalism, background and personal history, interests and languages by learning, talking, sharing, listening and reading in spaces such as Libraries, schools, clubs and centres.”

Westminster City Council embraces everyone’s differences, to bring new perspectives to the present and future challenges within our city; our communities and to play our part in this, we celebrated National Inclusion Week Monday 28 September- Sunday 4 October and Black History Month exhibiting photography by Youmanity. Our colleague Paulo was the creative mind that put together the photographic display and in addition, we showcased a variety of topical books such as The Book of Pride by Mason Funk, They Don’t Teach This by Eniola Aluko, Open: Why asking for help can save your life by Franki Bridge and many more.

Display for Inclusion Week

Who is Youmanity?

Youmanity are a charity registered in England and Wales; based in London. They are run entirely by volunteers and an unpaid Board of Directors. Their efforts celebrate equality, cultural diversity, supports social inclusion and promotes human rights. Youmanity devise and deliver cultural projects throughout the year and their Annual Photography Award is designed to raise awareness of important social issues. Participants from all over the world submit photographs that tell important human stories. The most outstanding photographs are selected and showcased in exhibitions open to the public. Themes explored have included: human trafficking, social identity, gender discrimination, age discrimination and disability.

Over the past ten years Youmanity has produced and directed several educational short films, which convey powerful and positive content to a wide audience. Celebrating the importance of cultural diversity and social inclusion, The Windrush Generation is a film that traces the arrival of the Afro-Caribbean community in the UK. All films are made available to the public, charities and NGOs via Youmanity’s social media channels- Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

With education at the forefront, Youmanity is championing a pioneering project to develop a more inclusive student-centred teaching approach. Funded by the European Commission, the 2Smile Project aims to care for youths at risk of abandoning education. To date, Youmanity’s projects have received the patronage of Amnesty International, the European Commission, the British Council, the International Organisation for Migration, the Metropolitan Police and the Royal Photographic Society.


Black History Month with the Paddington Staff

Black History Month has been celebrated for over 30 years. Yet, it took the death of American civilian-George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter protests and for a 17th Century statue of a slave trader for many people to acknowledge the depths of racism and the legacy the slave trade has had on our country- from our banks, businesses and our cities. Black history in Britain didn’t start with the Windrush generation, it goes far back as to the Romans, the Elizabethan times; to Black immigration to cities such as Bristol and Liverpool circa the 19th century.

For Lacey, the words that come to mind on Black History Month are “Achievement. Empowerment. And uplift through Education.” And she also said, “Black history should not be relegated to one month in the calendar, we should constantly be celebrating, understanding and learning about black history as we do any other history. We learn about black artists, musicians, educators, lawyers, inventors, politicians and authors. And as a library service we can be enablers of this, through narrative and history e.g. Mansa Musa, Nanny of the Maroons, Olaudah Equiano, Frederick Douglass, Mary Seacole, Black WW1 and WW2 soldiers, Marcus Garvey, Harold Moody and Mangrove Nine.”

Monica, on behalf of the library, created a vibrant and inspiring display with a collection of books and DVDs to celebrate Black History Month throughout October and she said, “With our Read, Learn, and Connect ethos in mind we focused on celebrating British history with a selection of modern, captivating authors for adults and children. Together, with the latest fiction titles, we had a selection of classics; biographies, cooking books, lifestyle and travel books that we hoped would interest and excite all readers. It’s the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the commitment and support to the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion agenda of all Westminster libraries and the precious contribution Black Britons have made to our dynamic multicultural city”.

Our colleague, Ann, suggested sharing stories and experiences for Black History Month which delighted staff- of which Sara did a piece on her family and recorded a reading of a childhood story called My Skin is Brown by Paula Dejoie, alongside her caption on why she chose to read the book for Black History Month. The Storytime video can be viewed on our  Westminster Libraries & Archives Facebook page.

As our team discussions continued, it led to Annette and Sara making an advert for our community notice board because we wanted not only staff to contribute but the public to participate in this month’s celebration. Annette also felt we should focus on the positives towards the Caribbean Islands and African countries by producing a wall display full of geographical information. Our colleague Charles wrote a piece on a Ugandan game called Omweso (also known as Mweso)- a traditional mancala -2 player turn-based strategy board game- of the Ugandan people.

Notably, we must remember that History is not just about the past, with rooted connections between all ethnicities from our ancestral lineages. More and more, it is also about the present and what we as a community and society want to achieve for ourselves and the next generation’s potential to truly flourish brightly and proudly. Fundamentally, our skin is a diverse range of colours and our souls carry our own individual uniqueness, but as American educator Jane Elliot said, “We all one race: The Human Race”.


Recommendations- We encourage you to watch!

There is a Netflix documentary series called Journey of an African Colony, the Making of Nigeria; produced and narrated by Olasupo Shasore, the former attorney general and commissioner for justice in Lagos State, historian and writer. Shasore’s books, A Platter of Gold and Possessed: A History of Law & Justice in the Crown Colony of Lagos 1861-1906, form the basis of the documentary. The series which had it world premiere earlier this month, traces Nigeria’s history of slave trade and colonial occupation- and then independence. To read more about it, visit the NPR website.

On BCC iPlayer, you can catch up with the four-part documentary programme- Enslaved with Samuel L Jackson. In this series, Samuel L Jackson alongside a group of journalists and drivers explore 400 years of slavery, hot the trans-Atlantic slave trade become the world’s greatest money-generating machine and to tell the stories of the many enslaved Africans who resisted.

Yinka- an ex-colleague who worked at Queen’s Park Library- her father was a member of Mangrove Nine and BBC1 will be airing a film about Mangrove as part of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe collections of films which are set between the 1960s to 1980s telling stories involving London’s West Indian community. Read more about it on what’sontv website for details about the film. Also, there is an obituary in the Independent newspaper about Frank Critchlow who played a central role in Notting Hill black community; setting up the Mangrove Restaurant.

Showing at the Lyric Hammersmith theatre next year  Thursday 25February- Saturday 20 March 2021; in front of a socially distanced audience, will be the restaged production of Sancho: An Act of Remembrance. In the solo play he wrote, the actor Paterson Joseph, will reprise his role of Ignatius Sancho – an 18th century Black British writer and composer. Head over to Timeout to read the review the review from Wilton Music Hall.

Lastly, there is a video on AJ+ Facebook page where you can find out more about Theodor Michael Wonja, one of the last Black survivors of the forced labour camps in Germany during the Second World War. Theodor sadly passed away 19 October 2019 at the age of 94.

Food for thought- some last words

In Season 2 Episode 4: A Lighthouse in the Sea of Time of a 90s kids show -Gargoyles- that Sara watched alongside her brother, the writers- Brynne Stevens and Lydia Marano- gave one of the fictional characters- a blind black veteran-turned-author, an aspirational and inspirational monologue about the importance of books and I believe you’ll agree with that it is true:

“The written word is all that stands,

Between memory and oblivion.

Without books as our anchors,

We’re cast adrift, neither teaching nor learning.

They are the windows on the past,

Mirrors on the present,

And prisms reflecting all possible futures.

Books are lighthouses erected in the dark sea of time.”

Recommended Reads

This week, our Book of the Week is The Shadow King, by Maaza Mengiste. Set during Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia, The Shadow King is an exhilarating tale of a band of female fighters refusing to submit to European colonisation. If you’ve already been wowed by Mengiste’s novel, we’ve selected some empowering reads for you to enjoy.

Continue reading “Recommended Reads”