FRIDAY FEAST with Helen Lacey

It is with great delight that I welcome this week’s guest, Helen Lacey, to Friday Feast.

Helen hails from from a small coastal town at the southern most point of the Great Barrier Reef, where she lives with her husband, many horses, three spoiled dogs and writes her gorgeous books. Which, I have to say, sounds all rather blissful!

Anyway, from the moment I heard about Helen’s debut novel, Made For Marriage, I couldn’t wait for its release. I mean, she could have written this book just for me!

Take a look and you’ll see why…

MADE FOR MARRIAGE

Equestrian Callie Jones was used to difficult parents at her riding school. But Noah Preston took the cake. How dare he question her teaching abilities, after his headstrong daughter paid no heed to rules—her teacher‘s or her father’s?

Single dad Noah was ready to apologize for overreacting. But he wasn’t sorry for the way the stunning American riding instructor made him feel. And he soon learned that there was more to Callie than her smarts, sass and fire: a shattered heart that threatened to splinter even further. Could he make her see that he—and his family—were for keeps?

See? Romance and horses. What more can you ask for?

Made for Marriage is available now from: HarlequinAmazonAmazon UK and Book Depository 

And now, please welcome Helen.

Thank you Cathryn for inviting me to be a part of Friday Feast. It’s fabulous to be able to talk about two of my favourite things – romance novels and food.

Heroes . . . love them in the bedroom and boardroom.

But what about the kitchen?

I’ve been reading romances since I was eleven years old. One fateful day I‘d picked up two novels that were on the bookshelf at my oldest sister’s house – one was called Winds of Enchantment by Rosalind Brett, the other, Bride at Whangatapu by Robyn Donald. I read them quickly and fell hopelessly in love. In the first book, the hero was a tall, blond, rubber plantation owner in Africa named Nick. In the second book, the hero was a tall dark and handsome self made businessman from New Zealand called Logan. These two heroes set me on my path for wanting to read about strong willed, broad shouldered men who have raw vulnerability when it comes to the heroine. The love affair has lasted a few decades, and now as a Harlequin author, I get to spend my days falling in love over and over again with my very own heroes.

And while I like to shake up the occupations of my heroes – cops, cowboys, carpenters, CEO’s  etc, it occurred to me that I never really make them accomplished in the kitchen. Kind to kids and animals, for sure. Good at their job, yes. Skilled in the bedroom, for sure. But in the kitchen – not so much. Which, considering I love to cook, has me wondering why. My heroines do tend to fair a little better – well, some of them. Callie, the heroine in Made For Marriage can’t cook at all and even despairs over slicing and chopping the ingredients for a cold salad. Perhaps it’s my way of making them less than perfect, or some subconscious anti-feminist thinking that I don’t want them intruding into what my mother always called a traditional female domain . . . the mighty kitchen. But since my very talented critique partner is currently writing a book about a chef hero, it’s got me thinking that men who can cook are actually very sexy.

A couple of years ago one of my sisters attended a very fancy function in honour of an uber successful and well known celebrity chef. Now, this gentleman isn’t what I’d call handsome. He has a kind of lived-in, craggy face and what can only be described as an interesting public demeanour. My sister, however, assured me that up close and personal he was certainly attractive. So I asked her why. Self assurance, she quickly explained. The man simply oozed charisma and confidence while he demonstrated his culinary expertise in front of a room full of people. He stood on stage and filleted and flipped and whisked and created dishes with an easy going charm. According to my sister he even made an apron look manly.

Right, so it’s charm and confidence . . . the qualities of many a romance novel hero. Remember Aaron Eckhart’s character Nick, in the romantic comedy/drama No Reservations?  Sexy? Totally. His character had charm and confidence by the bucket load. So my sister and critique partner are clearly onto something. A man who can cook is a man to hook. Wouldn’t a romantic dinner be even more romantic if the meal was prepared by the same man who can close a business deal or rope a steer? I’m thinking absolutely.

So my next hero is definitely going to know his way around the kitchen. I might even give him a speciality dish – like sauces, or spaghetti and meatballs. Or . . . cakes. Right up my ally, because I love cake. I don’t think I’ve ever had a cake I didn’t like. There’s something supremely satisfying about cake. Cupcakes, mud cakes, fruitcakes . . .  a list of endless possibilities. When my husband and I had our sea/tree change a few years ago, I discovered something I’d never had before . . . time. Time to write of course. But also time to make cakes from scratch. No longer was I slave to the quick cooking packet variety. I made Hummingbird cake, banana and walnut cake and an obscenely sweet coconut ice cake. But my favourite was a simple but scrumptious peach upside down cake. Here it is, and I hope you enjoy.

PEACH UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

Ingredients –

Topping  

– 500g of ripe peaches (or 1 pound) You can use the tinned variety if fresh are out of season. You have to peel and pit them.

– 75g unsalted butter (or ¼ of a cup)

– 1/3 cup granulated sugar. (Just use normal white if you can’t find)

– 1/3 cup brown sugar

Cake

1 ¼ cups of plain flour

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ cup of unsalted and softened butter

A good pinch of nutmeg and salt

1/3 cup of low fat milk

2 large eggs

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon of vanilla extract

Prepare

  1. Preheat oven
  2. To make topping – melt butter, add sugars, crumble the brown sugar through. Cook over medium heat, simmering until mix looks smooth and creamy. Remove from heat.
  3. Pour into cake pan (You can touch the sides of pan with a little melted butter) Arrange peaches in pan in concentric circles.
  4. To make cake – Mix dry ingredients together. In an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Then beat in eggs. On low speed beat in half flour mixture. Add milk, extracts then the remaining flour mixture until batter is smooth.
  5. Spoon batter into cake pan and gently spread an even layer over peaches. Bake for 35 – 40 mins until top is golden brown and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  6. Cool on rack and then run knife around edge. Invert onto a serving dish (you might have to replace any peaches that have stuck to pan) Serve warm or cold with whipped cream, ice cream or custard!

So, do you like a man who can cook? Or what has been the best meal the man in your life has cooked for you?

Thanks again Cathryn for having me here today. To celebrate the release of my novel Made For Marriage, I am giving away a copy to one commenter today. Also, everyone who leaves a comment goes into the draw for a chance to win the grand prize of a $50.00 Amazon voucher, and for those who like a little bling, a fabulous silver Pandora Bracelet.

Helen, thanks so much for coming on Friday Feast and sharing your gorgeous recipe. And I concur, a man who can cook is indeed a man to hook!

Want to know more about Helen? Then pop on over to her website for a crawl around. You can also keep in touch via Twitter, Facebook, Helen’s blog and her page at RomanceWiki.

If you’d like to follow the rest of her Made For Marriage Celebration Tour then you’ll find the full itinerary here.

As for the best meal the man in my life has cooked for me, well, I have to say he makes the BEST beef in beer casserole. But he’s also learned to poach eggs just the way I like them. Throw in a nicely brewed cup of tea and a slice of toast, and we’re talking a perfect lazy Sunday breakfast.

And he does the dishes afterwards!

Can’t wait to hear about your kitchen-whizzing menfolk. Don’t forget there’s a great prize up for grabs. Entries close midnight Tuesday, Australian time (which I think is 8am EST in the US), so comment away.

 

UPDATE: Congratulations to Serena who has won a copy of Helen’s debut release Made For Marriage. Please check the comments on how to collect your prize. And a hearty thanks to everyone who joined in the fun!

0 thoughts on “FRIDAY FEAST with Helen Lacey

  1. AvatarSuzi Love

    Helen,
    Love the idea of a man who ‘make an apron look sexy’- sigh!
    Can you send him my way, please??
    But must admit, my DH is one of Australia’s best breakfast cooks, from scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, to potato cakes and bacon- sigh!
    Our (adult) children’s friends still come to our house for sleep-overs so they can have one of his famous cure-your-hangover Bar-B-Q brekkies.

    Love your peach upside down cake! I’m going to be fat…eh, fatter?…from all Cath’s fabulous guests and their recipes.
    Suzi

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Isn’t there a scene in Mama Mia where one of the “fathers” is wearing cooking breakfast while nothing but an apron? Loved that bit. Sexy and funny.

      And you can tell that lovely husband of yours, Suzi, that I’m booking in for a conference time breakfast now. He has been warned!

  2. AvatarBeck

    That cake looks delicious! I don’t need more fattening recipes!
    =)
    i love a man who can cook. Hubby doesn’t cook heaps but when he does it’s all out. He gets rather intense about the whole thing but the results are worth it!

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      I know, Beck, I know. *groan* I’m still recovering from Shona’s Toblerone brownies. But this has fruit and is therefore completely free of guilt.

      My hubby’s the same. He doesn’t cook a lot but he’s quite good when he does. Although his slavish following of recipes rather upsets my arty-farty, lets-adjust-this-a-little sensibilities!

  3. AvatarLouise Reynolds

    Hi Helen and Cathryn,
    Congratulations on your release, Helen. I can’t wait to read this book.
    I love men who can cook and luckily one loves me. My DH is an amazingly good cook. Actually we’re both pretty good but I cook less since I met him. Maybe I’ve become a bit lazy since I have all that talent in the kitchen. He has two faults though. He walks away from the mess at the end with a careless ‘my work here is done’ attitude and he makes a helluva mess of the floor.

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Must be such bliss to have an enthusiastic and excellent cook in the house, Louise. Although I’m not so keen on the resulting mess. That might take the shine of it a bit.

      Helen’s book looks completely gorgeous, doesn’t it? I’m sure the designer made that cover just for me.

  4. AvatarAretha zhen

    Hi helen and Cathryn ! Helen congrats for the release if your book, true romance and horse perfect combination :). Totally love your peach upside- down cake. I wish the man in my life can cook but unfortunately it’s just my dad that can cook very wonderfully . He can cook almost anything so to say what’s his best cooking seems to be unfair because he just need to saw a receipt book and voila he can make it just like what the receipt book commands it to be

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      A dad who cooks and can make anything? Now that’s a bit special, Aretha. Mine used to make us either scrambled eggs or sausages and mashed potatoes with too much black pepper in them. Hate mash with black pepper!

      As for Helen’s yumptious looking cake, peaches are beautiful and plentiful here at the moment. Definitely one to get your dad onto!

  5. AvatarHelen Lacey

    Hi Suzi -yes, the ‘sexy in an apron’ thing has got me thinking about possible storylines. Love the sound of your DH’s breakfasts. Lucky you! Thanks for dropping by today. 🙂

  6. Avatarlouisecusack

    There is absolutely something sexy about a man who can cook. It shows he’s independent and not looking for a wife to take over from his mother. Great topic, Helen! And BTW, I loved MADE FOR MARRIAGE. Can’t wait for the next in the series.

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      I agree, Louise. I like a man who can look after himself and not expect you to baby him. Mind you, I also like a man who can fix a washing machine, wrestle bulls, has a good brain in his head, and can show a pair of moleskin jeans off to perfection so not fussy at all!

  7. AvatarJane Beckenham

    I sure wish my husband can cook – useless. would even heat the beans in the tin on the gas element rather than open it and put it in a pot!
    Your upside down cake remeinds me of a recipe (Orange u/side down cake) i used to make in Israel. just so moist and yummy

    jane

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Okay, Jane, curious minds wish to know: how many times has he made that tin explode? Hmm. Perhaps none, which is why he does it.

      Ahh, they’re cute things our menfolk, aren’t they?

      Thanks for visiting and joining in the fun.

  8. AvatarHelen Lacey

    Hi Louise – so glad you liked Made For Marriage. Great to see you here. And congratulations on the re-release of your awesome fanstasy trilogy with Momentum Books – can’t wait to fire up my Kindle and download.

  9. AvatarRiya

    Hi Helen and Cathryn,

    Congrats on the release of a fabulous book, Helen and that photo of Peach Upside down looks so yum!

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Hi Riya, and thanks for dropping by. I, too, have been admiring that cake. And peaches are so beautiful at the moment, so the flavour would be wonderful. Nothing like cooking with seasonal produce.

  10. AvatarSerena Tatti

    I always believed that a man who could cook was a piece of fiction. My Papa couldn’t cook and neither can my hubby. So I taught my sons to cook the things they love, and it is apparent that some men can cook.
    I’ve made pineapple upside down cake – but this peach version looks super yumbo!!

    Can’t wait to read Made For Marriage!!

    Great blog. Thanks for having Helen as your special guest, Cathryn!

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Believe me, Serena, it’s been my absolute pleasure to have Helen and all the other generous, interesting guests who have appeared on Friday Feast. Not to mention all the wonderful comments and feedback! The recipes have been amazing and the food talk such fun. Loving it!

      Cooking is a bit like knowing how to wash your clothes and so on – a pretty basic life skill. I don’t know any female who’d tolerate the expectation that it’s all women’s work.

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      I make an apple one that’s similar, Rach, but I really like the idea of peaches. They’re one of my favourite fruits. And the beauty of this is that you can make it out of season with tinned if you need to.

      I reckon your boys would love this. And you can use the excuse that it has fruit and is therefore super-healthy, and feel no guilt what-so-ever!

  11. AvatarJuliet

    There are no cake cooking men in my life unfortunately, but I love whipping things up in the kitchen. This recipe is good timing, because I just received a home delivery of organic fruits and veges, and I ordered nectarines but they sent peaches instead! So I will have to make use of them 🙂

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      None in mine either, Juliet. No Adriano Zumbo to whip me up an eye-popping gateaux, but at least my man can make a tasty breakfast and he’s a pretty fine steak cooker.

      That home delivery service sounds wonderful. I thought of signing up for one when we lived in Newcastle but with the markets here in Melbourne I don’t need to. My main dilemma now is choosing what to make when there’s so much on offer.

  12. AvatarSusie Medwell

    There’s something sexy about a man in command in the kitchen! My OH loves to cook (though he can get a bit bossy!) and the highlight of the week is Friday night when we usually stay in, open the wine and cook something fancy together, it tastes so much better than something I’ve made on my own.

  13. AvatarHelene

    To come home from a week away with work and find a roast dinner filling the house with wonderful aromas always makes me gooey 🙂 My man does cook – roast dinners and english breakfasts being his specialty – and he cleans up after himself.

    He was never very good at saying ‘I love you’ and it took me a few years to work out he was a man who said it by his actions. His latest craze is googling ‘the best ever recipe’ for whatever dish he wants to cook. So far he hasn’t had any failures!

    Can’t persuade him to wear an apron though…

    And love the peach recipe, Helen!

  14. AvatarAmanda Gardner

    My older brother loves to cook and bake. He is a cook at an American national chain restaurant, that does American BBQ and Grill food. He recently made a Lemon Meringue Pie with home-grown Meyer Lemons and homemade meringue and it was really nice and tart.

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Hi Amanda, and thanks for dropping by Friday Feast. Mmm. Lemon meringue pie, now that’s a wonderful dessert. Does your brother make those sticky, smokey BBQ ribs as well? Love those things. They’re great for footy watching at home in the winter.

      Speaking of which, it’s less than three weeks until my beloved Sydney Swans play their first pre-season match. Not that I’m counting or anything…

      1. AvatarAmanda Gardner

        Yes, he makes BBQ Ribs and a dry rub style(can be a seasoning or it can be brown sugar). The food that the restaurant makes are BBQ Ribs, Pork, Brisket (meat that is slow cooked over indirect heat from charcoal or wood such as oak or mesquite and it is normally the breast or lower chest of beef or veal), Chicken, some steaks and other meats)

        Here is the restaurant’s website and the food Menu -http://www.smokeybones.com/menu/

  15. AvatarHelen Lacey

    Jane – cooking isn’t everything. You’re DH can fix things – that’s always a winning edge. 🙂

    Hi there Riya – glad you like the cake. It does taste fab.

    Thanks for stopping by ladies!

  16. AvatarHelen Lacey

    Hi Serena – thanks for stopping by. I’ve never made the pineapple version – must give that a try 🙂 Yay to you for teaching your boys how to cook.

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      I remember the pineapple version being hugely popular in the 70s, Helen. I even have a suspicion my mum made a pineapple upside-down cake. Mind you, anything with tinned pineapple was popular back then!

      1. AvatarCathryn Hein

        I tend to bake first thing in the morning, Juliet. We’re early risers though, which helps. And the other downside is that I then have to try and get through morning tea without cutting a slab of something bad. I usually fail. SIgh.

  17. AvatarNatalie Moress

    Love that recipe, Helen. I’m a little partial to cake in all its forms, too. Have you seen cakepops? Like a cake lollipop, usually really funkily decorated.
    As for my man – when we met, he told me “I don’t cook”. In fact, he had a list of things that he wanted in a woman, and one of the things on that list was, “Someone to cook my tea.”
    Sounds like a Neanderthal, but you have to remember these country boys tend to have been spoiled a bit by old fashioned country mothers.
    And, true to that, the only thing he cooks is a barbie. Luckily, I love to cook, but if I don’t feel like it, I just don’t and we eat tinned beans!
    These country fellas don’t tend to complain much as long as their tummy is full!

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Cakepops!!! Oh, I sooo want to try them, Natalie. There’s a cookbook just out called Popsicles which I’m hanging out to buy, featuring lots of delicious gourmet icecreams on sticks. Wonder if there’s one for cakepops too.

      So funny about your man. At least he can BBQ!

  18. AvatarHelen Lacey

    Hi Susie – you’re Friday night’s sound fab. Thanks for dropping by 🙂

    Helene – so your lovely man is an acts of service person, that’s so romantic. And he can cook, too – how lucky are you 🙂 Great to see you here.

    1. AvatarAmanda Gardner

      It’s fun seeing what he will come up with dessert wise…….

      For the baking temperature for the PEACH UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE, what is it because the recipe only says preheat oven (no temperature is given)?

      1. AvatarCathryn Hein

        Meant to say thanks for the website address of the restaurant where your brother cooks, Amanda. I’m still recovering from that description of loaded cheese fries. Then there’s leaning tower of chocolate cake… Phew!

  19. AvatarHelen Lacey

    Natalie – Cakepops? Am off to google now. Can’t believe there is a cake I’ve not heard of 🙂 But something new to try, yay! Thanks for dropping by with a great comment.

  20. AvatarJillian

    This sounds lovely, Helen. I’ m imagining it with some nice hot custard.
    I’ve been lucky enough to have some nice meals cooked by men including neighbours and friends, some first introduction to food from various cultures. Remember being surprised to see pappadams puff up for the first time.

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      I remember being delighted by pappadams too, Jillian! They were just so different. The closest thing I’d ever encountered as a kid was prawn crackers hitting hot oil and doing their exploding growth thing.

      Thanks for joining in the fun of Friday Feast.

  21. AvatarHelen Lacey

    Hi Jillian – it’s great with custard. I love trying foods from different cultures. My husband an I went to Vietnam a couple of years ago – the food was amazing. Thanks for stopping by.

  22. AvatarKellie Schache

    Hi Cathryn & Helen,
    My husband of 20 years does most our cooking in our home … and he is quite good at it!!! His speciality is a roast with all the vegies. I really appreciate this as I can spend more time reading to my 2 boys (aged 11 & 8), however the downside of it all is the cleaning up as he is not too good at that. Can’t have everything!!!!
    Thanks for the recipe, will give it a go later in the week as we still have a bit of banana bread to enjoy.
    Much love to you both.

  23. AvatarHelen Lacey

    Hi Kellie – great to see you here. Lucky you having a hubby who can cook. And dishes aren’t such a bad trade off for a roast 🙂 Hope you enjoy the cake. Thanks again for dropping by.

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Your husband sounds very well trained, Kellie! So kind of him to take care of things so you can read to your boys. Although, perhaps some extra instruction on the cleaning up side of things is needed. But, as you say, you can’t have everything!

      Thanks for commenting and good luck with the Helen’s delicious recipe.

  24. AvatarHelen Lacey

    And the winner is . . . . Serena Tatti !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Serena, you can reach me via the contacts page on my website, and I’ll send you a copy of Made For Marriage.

    Thank you to everyone for stopping by Friday Feast, and thank you to Cathryn for having me.

    Helen

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Congratulations, Serena!

      Helen, it was a delight. Wishing you all the very best with Made For Marriage.

      And a warm thank you to everyone who dropped by and shared their loved one’s cooking adventures. Sure sounds like there are some good sorts out there!