FRIDAY FEAST with Fleur McDonald

Oh, my lovely Feasters, what lucky people we are. Why? Because today on Friday Feast we’re off to the country, that fecund (ooh, I do so adore that word) land where so much of Australia’s fabulous produce originates. And who better to talk about country food and cooking than rural lit queen and best-selling author of Red Dust, Blue Skies and Purple Roads, Fleur McDonald.

Now, if you haven’t read any of Fleur’s books then someone ought to take you over their knee and paddle your bottom with a stale Iced VoVo because these are WONDERFUL books. Not only wonderful but important, because they’re stories about the people we so often take for granted – Australia’s farmers.

Here’s a look at Fleur’s latest release, Purple Roads, to give you a taste…




Anna and Matt Butler were childhood sweethearts with a dream of owning their own land, a dream they achieved through hard work and determination.

But as the seasons conspire against them and Matt is involved in a terrible accident, the couple face financial ruin and the loss of their farm.

As they fight for everything they hold dear, they suddenly find themselves caught up in events much bigger and more dangerous than they could ever have imagined.

Purple Roads is a story about maintaining faith in yourself, staying true to your ideals and, most of all, the belief that some things are worth fighting for.


Told you. A must-read. As is Fleur’s post!

Thanks Cathryn, for having me over today and especially to chat about one of my favourite things in the world; FOOD!

I am a foodie from way back, but I didn’t start off that way. Uh uh! My mum can’t cook anything but chops and three veg or chops and salad, so I didn’t have the best start into the world of food. However, both of my Nana’s were brilliant cooks – Nana Heaslip’s sponges, homemade bread rolls and chocolate chip biscuits were the world’s best and fed many a hungry shearer or workman. Nana Parnell’s Russian Toffee and pancakes were sublime.

Both Nana’s were also great gardeners (as all good station wives were) and in fairness to my Mum, she got the gardening gene as did my Aunty Jan, but she managed the cooking gene too. I only go the cooking one – can’t stand gardening.

My husband actually taught me to cook – oh I could do small things like chocolate cakes and pancakes, but anything else was a challenge, when I first met him. I remember cooking bacon and eggs for my brother one morning and he sent it back! ‘I like mine cooked a bit more.’ What? How rude!

So painstakingly and carefully, Anthony set about teaching me to read recipes and cook meals.

After a few dinner parties I realized how important food was in the social setting and making people feel comfortable. I announced no one was ever going to leave my house hungry, I was going to serve hearty home-cooked meals that people couldn’t get enough of. And I did. Well, still do. Lamb casseroles cooked on the grill of our tile fire, a joint in the Weber, chicken curries or crumbed lamb chops or steak. All served with homemade bread rolls… Yum! I admit I enjoy the eating side as much as I do the cooking!

I love to experiment with cooking and the place I like to visit most in my kitchen is Italian – an old friend turns forty the same year as I do (we have a little way to go yet, mind you!) but we’ve made a pact we want to go to Italy for our fortieths and eat. Not look at the scenery or anything like that, just eat! (I’m hoping I don’t come back the size of a house… That’s if I actually get to go!)

I think I have more recipe books than anyone I know! Maggie Beer is my all time favourite cook (along with my aunty and sister).

So, even though you may be met at the front garden with a pile of weeds knee high or a dead rose plant, you will be assured of a ‘good feed’ at my house. When are you coming?


Nana Heaslip’s Choc Chip Biscuits

Brilliant for hungry kids or shearers!

4 0z butter

2 oz sugar

2 tablesp Condensed Milk

6 oz SR Flour

2 oz dark chocolate (I put mine through a food processer so we get LOTS of little bits!)

Beat butter, sugar and condensed milk to cream.

Add flour and chocolate

Add a little bit of milk if you need to

Roll into balls and place on a tray

Cook in a hot oven for about 10 min until golden on top.


Thanks, Fleur. Those biccies sound wonderful. Mind you, anything with condensed milk in it is a winner in my book. AND  this recipe has the added bonus of only using 2 tablespoons of that moreishly sticky-sweet nectar, which leaves the rest of the tin for finger dipp—  er…I mean more *cough* cooking.

So, Feasters, how did you learn too cook? My grandmother taught me to bake but everything else I pretty-much learned myself. What about you? Were you one of those lucky children who, thanks to your foodie family, knew how to make a plate of pasta or cook a roast to perfection before you could walk? Perhaps you’re still learning the basics. Or maybe you’re a trained chef!

Share your experience and you could score one of Fleur’s gorgeous bookclub packs, including a shopping list notepad, bookmarks with bookclub questions, and a fridge magnet.

Closes midnight, Tuesday 17th April 2012 AEST. Australian addresses only.

If you’d like to learn more about Fleur and her rural literature please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.


This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Bec who has earned herself a Fleur book club pack. Thanks to everyone for your wonderful comments. It’s been fun as always.


0 thoughts on “FRIDAY FEAST with Fleur McDonald

  1. AvatarKeziah Hill

    Ah, Italy! Nothing like a plate of pasta, a tumbler of wine and a good strong coffee in a little trattoria. With lots of bread to soak up the sauce. Carbs heaven.

    I learnt to cook from my mum after she did the 70s thing and started to get into cooking French food. She gave all us girls a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking when we moved out of home. I found that even if the recipe failed, it still tasted good. All that butter I guess.

    I like the sound of your Purple Roads, Fleur. Another to add to the TBR Pile of Death (in that it’s so big it’s threatening to crush me).

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Oh, yeah. I’m with you, Keziah. Italy is foodie heaven. Sigh. I had some amazing meals there, and the people are so gorgeous and friendly. Wonderful atmosphere, which does so much to make any food experience special.

      How cool that your mum was a keen cook. That was such a thing, wasn’t it? I remember in primary school my friends’ parents having this dinner party group where they all used to try and out do each other with fabulous fancy meals. I would have loved Mum to have been in on that but cooking has never held any interest for her.

      The TBR Pile of Death. Now that’s a perfect title!

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      He he. I think I might too, Rach. I have HUNDREDS!

      What’s most important, though, is whether they’re used. I always consider a cookbook perfect if I get one keeper recipe out of it. Fleur’s books look as though they’ve given her many.

  2. Avatarbec

    I learnt to cook from my mum and my nana who are both italian. while i was a very fussy eater as a kid i’ve definately inherited my love of cooking for others from my nana who’s favourite saying was definately mangia! mangia! (for those non-italians – EAT EAT EAT!) My favourtie thing to cook is still spaghetti & meatballs for visitors, along with my aunty (my mums sister) pav with chocolate & rum cream (so good!). A love of cooking definately came from mums family and i still can’t go to someones house and not bring something – even if its only shop brought. I have fond memories of “national wog day” making home made tomato sauce in my nana & pa’s backyard with the family, cleaning the tomatos (that was our job) and the uncles would bottle them in old beer bottles (the big ones) and then cook them in a big gallon drum my pa had rigged up. I can’t say i really learnt anything from my dad’s side of the family, although his sister does make the most yummy anzac buscuits with the chewy centres. Dad never once said to mum that “my mum cooks better than you” because she definately didnt! Even my sister is a pretty good cook although she does like to experiment a bit to much for most of our tastes sometimes!

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Don’t tell my parents, Bec, but I always harboured a secret wish to have been born into a food loving Italian family, so your upbringing sounds heavenly to me. I love that whole idea of family and community spirit where everyone gets together to bake or bottle, and best of all eat!

      That was one of the things Jim and I adored about Italy – people kept feeding us. We’d sit down at a bar and order a drink and next minute there’d be a plate of something delicious plonked in front of us. Spain was the same. We loved it!

      Thanks for popping by the blog and for your wonderful comment. It’s so great to hear about people’s experiences.

  3. AvatarHelene Young

    My mum was a meat and three veg cook so my grandma was the biggest influence in my cooking life until a girl friend’s mum took me under her wing. She was Fijian and made the most wonderful curries and salads. Her roti was to die for!

    After that it was a succession of chefs in the many restaurants that paid for my flying lessons who shared their tips. I still love cooking elaborate dinner parties but don’t get to do it often enough!

    Love the recipe, Fleur, and looking forward to reading Purple Roads!!

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      How wonderful of your friend’s mum to help with your culinary education, Helene. That must have been such an eye-opener.

      Thanks for visiting. Lovely to see you here again.

  4. Avatarlouisecusack

    Condensed milk? I’m in! Those biscuits sound awesome. And yes, Italian food is dreamy. I did a research trip to Rome and Florence in 2010 and fell in love with the vegetarian food there. Simple and so flavoursome. But everything had olive oil, and after two days my digestive system was running like a Forumula One racing car! Definitely keeping close to the bathroom. But I got used to it, and everyone said I had fabulous skin when I came home. Did so much walking/sightseeing I didn’t put on any weight, and that was with two gelatos a day! (when in Italy…)

  5. AvatarAretha zhen

    Hi fleur and Cathryn my parents were very busy so I learned to cook all by myself. I am a fast learner so I just need to watch then I know how to do it or to cook spmething :).

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Lucky you, Aretha. I wish I learned that fast. I had a lot of experimentation and disasters, which was fun but not good for the tastebuds!

      Thanks for dropping by.

  6. Avatarjindivickwildlifeshelter

    I love watching all the cooking shows on tele and learn quite a bit from them – my kids are unadventurous so I often end up making two versions of the same thing – one basic and one spiced up with some more flavours for us! I can cook fairly basic meals – love roasts and can do a killer corned beef with white sauce and mash! Yumm!

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Corned beef? Oh, I love corned beef! And cooking shows. It’s incredible what you can pick up. Little techniques on how to prepare things. I learned one of my all-time favourite recipes from a TV show.

      Lovely to see you here again, JWS.

  7. AvatarCathryn Hein

    Hi Feasters,

    The blogosphere is having a hissy fit again and Fleur is experiencing trouble leaving a comment. Hopefully it’ll sort itself out and she can call in to say hi. In the meantime, Fleur wants to let you know that she’s loving reading about how everyone learned to cook.


    And for anyone else with commenting issues, try a different browser. Sometimes that helps.

  8. AvatarNatalie Moress

    Hi Fleur
    Thanks for the great recipe, I’m going to give it a try later. Heaslip is a lovely name, I haven’t seen it before. Any chance of the Russian caramel recipe next time?
    Smiles, Natalie

  9. AvatarKerri/Kaz

    Hi Fleur! I’m with everyone else on the condensed milk thing! I have a fabbo choc chip cookie recipe – one that’s been passed around with the title: ‘Best Ever Choc Chip Cookies’ – and I think they are, so I was a tad blase when I started to read your recipe. And then I saw those magic words! 🙂 Condensed Milk!!

    Now I can’t wait to try them out!!! LOL. Thank you and thank you too, for knocking me off my cocky perch. Always a dangerous spot to sit…

    Learn to cook? My mum is a superb cook – and trained as a chef in middle age. When we were little kids she was a great experimenter and we were eating international cuisine way before it was fashionable. Other kids who came thought our food was odd – until they tasted it… hehehe

    A lot of her experiments featured southern European and Asian flavours, but then we had a German family live with us for several months when they were suddenly displaced. Gerda took over the cooking at home (as mum was working) and so for those months (and well after the family returned to Germany) we enjoyed authentic German food. An old Russian friend who loved to cook, also inspired Mum and then there were the French concoctions that Mum loved to whip up. Magical, yes?

    Well, the downside is that mum couldn’t and still can’t, stand other people in the kitchen with her. So, I learned to cook while hovering in the kitchen doorway watching her prepare! I was amazed when I got married and started cooking for Rob that I could actually put them together almost as well as she did and had most of the recipes in my head! But then again, it helps that I inherited her love of food and food preparation – and I think that’s the secret. It’s a bit like writing: we can probably all do it to varying degrees – but if we love it – then we seem to be better at it.

    Wow – look at me! Rambling! Wouldn’t think I’m in full stress mode with this looming deadline! Back at it!

    Thank you Fleur – this was such a delightful post! And thank you Cathryn! Indeed a Feast for all the senses!

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Ramble away, dear Kaz. Your comments are always hugely entertaining.

      Oh, how lucky you were to have such a foodie mum! Her cooking sounds wonderful and so full of influence. I bet she’s very generous person. I always think that people who love to cook and share food have big hearts.

      Thanks for visiting. As always a pleasure to see you here.

  10. AvatarJuanita Kees

    OOH yum – two of my favourite things! Chocolate AND condensed milk :D. Sadly, no matter how much training I receive, I remain a lousy cook. Luckily, I have a husband who grew up working in the family takeaway so we don’t starve. I can make a successful fruit jelly…oh and microwave fudge 😉

    A lovely post Catherine and Fleur. Hubby dragged me out of Dymocks kicking and screaming yesterday as I was drooling over the table they had Purple Roads on. Mmmm…might have to sneak back there on Monday.

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      You know, I’m not sure I believe you’re that bad of a cook, Juanita. I bet you can whip up some pretty fine food when you choose. Although, possessing a mad-keen cook for a husband, it’d be easy to leave all the work to him!

  11. Avataranniewest

    Hi Fleur and Cathryn. What a fun post. Since condensed milk got a mention I have to just say ‘caramel chocolate slice’! My mum is a fantastic cook and we ate well always, and I learned so much helping her from an early age. However when it came to cooking for myself it was difficult to get access to the kitchen to cook a meal alone so I found myself starting out with cakes and slices before persuading her to let me take over for a meal occasionally. Not that she wanted to keep me out of the kitchen! It was just that she had it all down pat. One of the first things I learned to make was caramel chocolate slice, from a recipe snaffled from one of her friends. That later morphed into ‘Wellington Squares’ which are a richer, utterly decadent version of the same thing. Fortunately for our cholesterol levels I lost that recipe somewhere in my early twenties with various moves but I still have the original condensed milk caramel chic recipe and it still brings a smile to everyone’s face. Not that I’ve made it in years… Maybe next weekend.

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Oh, caramel chocolate slice! I was always so jealous of my schoolfriends whose mums made that little wonder. Whenever it was featured at a fete or CWA stand I’d always plead for a slice. All that sugary loveliness. Sigh.

      What a shame the Wellington Squares recipe has been lost. A richer, decadent version of caramel chocolate slice? That’s something I’d definitely want to eat!

      Thanks so much for popping by. Annie. You always have fab foodie tales to share.

  12. AvatarFleur McDonald

    I’m going to try and leave a reply again! I’ve loved reading all of these and everytime i get on here, my mouth just starts to water! I have a lovely Banana Carmel Tart that I make with condenced milk too – one of my dearest friends (who died 4yrs ago) gave it to me. She called it Ned’s Carmel Slut!!! I’ll see if I can dig out the Russian Toffee rec.

  13. AvatarCathryn Hein

    Congratulations to Bec, who is the lucky winner of a Fleur McDonald book club pack.

    Thanks everyone for taking the time to visit Friday Feast and sharing all your fun food stories.