FRIDAY FEAST with Alison Stuart

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Ahh, my Feasty Friends, are you in for a treat this week! My guest today is award-winning Australian author Alison Stuart, recently home from the Romance Writers of America conference where she took out the Hearts Through History Chapter’s Romance Through The Ages Award for an unpublished manuscript. That’s not the first award Alison has won either. In 2008 her novel, By The Sword, won an EPPIE for Best Historical Romance. Yup, she’s an achiever, our Alison.

Alison began her writing career as a result of a skiing accident, which left her stranded in a snow-bound chalet in the Australian Alps with nothing for company but a notebook computer and a long-brewed story itching to be told. A good lesson that opportunities can arise anywhere. Or perhaps that skiing is bad for your health…

Anyway, she has a wonderful new release out, and it’s one you won’t want to miss. Seriously. Think Downton Abbey with ghosts. If that doesn’t convince you, Anna Campbell, Australia’s queen of Regency noir, says of Alison’s book: …breathtakingly romantic. This moving and dramatic love story will haunt you long after you turn the last page. For me, I can’t see how anyone could possibly go past a book titled Gather The Bones. It’s so deliciously evocative!

 

GATHER THE BONES

 

War leaves no one untouched

The horrors of the Great War are not the only ghosts that haunt Helen Morrow and her late husband’s somewhat reclusive cousin, Paul. Unquiet spirits from another time and another conflict touch them.

A coded diary gives them clues to the mysterious disappearance of Paul’s great-grandmother in 1812, and the desperate voice of a young woman reaches out to them from the pages. Together Helen and Paul must search for answers, not only for the old mystery, but also the circumstances surrounding the death of Helen’s husband at Passchandaele in 1917.

As the mysteries entwine, their relationship is bound by the search for truth, in the present and the past.

 

Doesn’t that sound exciting? Coded diaries, mysterious disappearances, the tragedies of war… Ooh, you want this book. Oh, yes you do! So get a clickety-clicking. Gather The Bones is available now from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

And now I bring you Alison’s WONDERFUL post.

 

Where Does The Bwana Sleep?

Thank you for inviting me on to Friday Feast, Cathryn.

In my new release, Gather The Bones, set in 1923, my hero, Paul Morrow, was born in Malaya and as I was born into Colonial East Africa (Kenya to be exact), I thought a hark back to my own colonial past may in order.

My mother’s parents had gone out to Kenya in the late 1920s.  My grandfather worked in the civil service and my grandmother bore three children and ran a household that could not have been more removed from her life in working class Barnoldswick.

In 1928 St. Andrews Church Women’s Guild produced THE KENYA SETTLERS COOKERY BOOK and HOUSEHOLD GUIDE.  My grandmother had a copy and my mother, likewise had her own copy of this invaluable little book which for a young wife in the colony would have been a veritable bible.

This useful book (or at least my mother’s 1950s version of it) contains handy household advice on preparing for a safari: “It really pays to have special place in each box for each thing…and to insist the boys (and I don’t think she means small children) return things to their proper places”/ “A couple of chargals (whatever they were) slung outside the car, and kept filled with water will give a constant supply of cold water”…

There are instructions to servants (given in Swahili) that just curl our 21st century toes! “Do not be sulky” / “You are insolent! You must look pleasant”/ “Every day the bwana wants hot water for shaving” and (oddly) “Where does the bwana sleep?”

We were an unusual family, in that we did not have a resident domestic staff, only a daily home help and a gardener. Mum did all the cooking and brought up her children without the aid of an “ayah”. Consequently my brother and I were deprived of the chance to learn Swahili. Just as well I didn’t resort to the Kenya Settler’s Cookery Book for language guidance!

Our favourite Sunday lunches were curries and Mum had an alternate of a beef/mutton curry or a chicken curry. There was a large Indian community in Nairobi and I loved going on trips to the “bazaar” where the exotic smells of spices have stayed with me all my life. It was only when I went to live in Singapore and visited “Little India” that the smells returned to me, evoking the memories of the little “dukahs” that sold everything from pots and pans to vegetables. Smell is a very powerful stimulant.

Mum’s curries would always be followed by a light cold lemon soufflé (for want of a better description) we called LEMON SNOW, a recipe in the Kenya Settlers Cookery Book. I make a variation known to my family as LEMON THING.

Today large family gatherings are nearly always curry parties. Everyone brings their variations. My brother makes fantastic dahl and my youngest son, the best curry puffs.

So after much thought, the recipe I have chosen is not one of my mother’s but one of my own curry recipes. While I was living in Singapore I did some Indian cooking classes with a wonderful woman called Kirti Diyani.  Of all the dishes she taught me, this has now joined the family repertoire and no family gathering would be complete without it.

 

KIRTI’S CHILI PRAWN MASALA

(for 3-4 people – I always make double quantities)

Ingredients:

500g unshelled green prawns

2 large onions (cut lengthwise)

2 medium tomatoes (cut into wedges)

1 tsp of tomato paste

½ tsp ginger paste

½ tsp garlic paste

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

¾ tsp turmeric powder

½ to 1 tsp red chilli powder

¾ tsp garam masala powder

Salt to taste

lime or lemon juice to taste

1-2 tblsps coriander leaves (chopped)

3 tblsps vegetable oil

Method:

  1. De-shell and clean prawns, leaving tails intact (I buy the frozen packets of green prawns and defrost them). Wash and pat dry. Marinate with salt and ¼ tsp of turmeric powder.
  2. In a heavy based pan, fry the onions in oil until they change colour. Add the garlic and ginger paste, crushed garlic and the chilli powder.
  3. Add in the salt, turmeric powder, tomatoes and tomato paste and fry well. You may cover the pan and cook on a low flame for 5 mins so that the tomatoes will get soft.
  4. When the masala is aromatic and richly coloured, add in the prawns. Keep on stirring until the prawns are well coated with the onion and tomato mixture.
  5. If mixture is too dry, add water. Stir and then allow the dish to simmer by covering and cooking on a low heat. Cook for around 10 minutes. DO NOT OVERCOOK THE PRAWNS.
  6. Lastly stir in the garam masala powder and turn off flame. Sprinkle with lemon/lime juice and garnish with coriander leaves.
  7. Serve with rice or Indian bread.

 

How awesome does that curry sound? Alison’s recipe has definitely made it on my ‘try’ list.  Nothing like a bit of spice to perk up your life!

Now, Alison – lovely author that she is – has a wonderful giveaway for Friday Feast readers. All you have to do to be in the draw to win a Gather The Bones notebook and pen is share your favourite childhood food memory. Like me, you probably have plenty. Caramel tart, anyone? What about a honey joy or two? Perhaps you loved your Nanna’s rabbit stew (we loved ours – stew and nanna) or special vege soup or lamb roast. Simply add your comment and you could win.

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday, 11th September 2012 AEST. Australian authors only, sorry.

If you’d like to learn more about Alison and her books, including her utterly compelling Gather The Bones, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter.

 

26 thoughts on “FRIDAY FEAST with Alison Stuart

  1. AvatarJanni Nell

    Your recipe sounds so yum. Will have to make it. As for childhood memories..it’s hard to beat my Nanna’s salmon patties. Mashed potato, onion and red salmon covered in breadcrumbs and fried. Simple but delicious. Over the years I’ve had salmon cakes in many cafes and restaurants. None have come close to my Nanna’s recipe. Guess it was because hers were made with love.

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Apologies, everyone, for my lack of responses. I’ve been gallivanting around Mildura and not online much.

      Janni, I agree, that recipe sounds terrific. Love a good curry.

      Ahh, there’s nothing quite like Nanna-food, is there? It always seems to be full of warmth, like a big foodie cuddle.

  2. AvatarAlison Stuart

    Thanks, Janni. It’s dead easy to make! I think you are dead right about food being made with love. I know the nights I’ve flung together a meal when feeling out of sorts with the world in general and my family in particular, its never tasted quite right.

  3. AvatarJoan Kilby

    Alison, that prawn curry looks delicious. I’ll definitely be trying that. My favourite food memory is of Saturday afternoons when my mother would bake bread and buns. Nothing beats fresh bread rolls straight from the oven dripping with real butter.

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Jenny, they sound awesome. Baaaaad, but awesome!

      Are these the treats that Tatiana cooks in Paulina Simons’ The Bronze Horseman series? Not in the first book – they’re all starving! – but in the last, The Summer Garden? For some reason the name rings a bell…

  4. AvatarMum

    Thanks for the link. Funnily enough, I have a curry of sorts cooking at trhe moment.. With age, I have become intolerant to essential ingredients for a curry (eg onions, garlic) so have experimented with a nice piece of blade.

  5. AvatarAlison Stuart

    LOL…welcome to “Mum”…yes Marjorie, my darling mother and cooker of curries. Also fearless protector of children’s welfare in 1950s Kenya (I am trying to persuade her to write her memoirs!). Food intolerances or not you are still the best cook I know!
    She did write down her own mother’s story of a young wife in Kenya in the 1920s and you can download the ebook here: http://www.oportetvivere.com/

  6. AvatarJuanita Kees

    Yum! Love curries. This one looks awesome, Alison. Prawns are hubby’s speciality, so I’m pinning this one to the fridge door.
    Growing up in Africa was certainly an adventure, especially in Kenya. I’m off to download your mum’s ebook!
    My favourite treat growing up was Ouma’s ‘Koeksisters’, a plaited dough, drawn through very hot oil and then soaked in spiced syrup until soggy. Finger-licking good! We’d end up covered in syrup.

    “Gather the Bones” sounds like an awesome read, Alison. It’s on my list.

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      That’s the way to prod him, Juanita. Nothing like pinning a recipe to the fridge door to get your message across.

      And that sticky dough sounds fantastic. Things steeped in syrup tend to be seriously delish, and that sounds no exception.

      Thanks for dropping by and sharing your memory!

  7. AvatarLouise Reynolds

    Hi Alison,
    What an amazing book! In the slightly different vein I have a book from the 1930’s with advice on how to give parties and this always cracks me up “Do invite your impecunious country cousin but make sure you send her a black lace frock and the money for a permanent wave.”
    Growing up, there was nothing very exotic in our house but a perennial favourite was Mum’s Lemon Meringue Pie.
    Congratulations on the release of Gather The Bones. You know I’m a fan of your previous books and I can’t wait to read this one.

  8. AvatarAlison Stuart

    Louise, that is too funny! Shades of Agatha Christie. I can imagine the impecunious cousin in her borrowed black dress and permanent wave being #1 suspect in a cosy murder. Lemon Meringue Pie was my late FILs favourite food of all time. At his funeral we managed to provide tiny little Lemon Meringues for the wake. He would have approved.

    Juanita…another artery hardening childhood food memory! A Dutch background? It’s interesting how international our food is becoming. Apart from curries Mum did produce some interesting variations on food…such as spaghetti served with tomato sauce and grated cheese. Not one of her culinary successes!

  9. AvatarNatalie Moress

    Hi Alison
    What a wonderful exotic life you’ve led! The prawn recipe sounds delicious, but I must admit I was hoping for the “lemon thing” recipe as I read the blog! Reminded me of when my son (around age 2, I think) asked for some “wet yellow stuff” with his salad. Turned out he wanted pineapple!
    My favourite childhood food memory is the Sunday night lamb roast. Potatoes in their jackets, peas and carrots, smothered in Mum’s gravy and mint sauce. We’d eat, then snuggle down in front of the TV to watch the wonderful world of Disney. Happy times.

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      I agree, Natalie. I’ll have to get Alison back on so she can share the “lemon thing”. It’s just too intriguing!

      As for a lamb roast, oh yeah, that’s a hard to beat one. I always loved how Mum would take the shank out early to stop it from overcooking and we’d get to pull the gooey bits off it. It was my favourite bit. Still is now I think about it!

      Thanks so much for calling in.

  10. AvatarROB HAMOND

    Hi Alison, Yes the memories come back, to the old days of wood stove going all year round, and the sweet smell of cooking. My grandmother even though along with my father they ran a grocery store (not supermarket), but my grand mother would always be baking as well, she made great sponges and cakes, even for morning tea at the store she would cook up a tray of scones made perfect, I wish one of her grand children would have learnt the way she cooked.
    All sweet memories, no such a thing as TV then either.

    1. AvatarAlison Stuart

      Hi Rob. What wonderful memories. That generation worked hard, didn’t they? I have only just mastered the sponge cake!
      Sadly I grew up away from my grandmothers so I don’t have those memories and the one grandmother I did know well (I had 3) was really not a very good cook! However my grandmother-in-law was a wonderful cook (in the sense of an Australian country woman) and no-one, but no-one made lamingtons like her!

      1. AvatarCathryn Hein

        Sweet memories, indeed, Rob. How lovely. I have similar ones with maternal grandmother who took the time to teach me old-fashioned country baking. They were great days.

  11. AvatarAlison Stuart

    Hi Nathalie…I tossed up between the Lemon Thing and the Prawn Curry. Maybe I will save Lemon Thing for another post. It appears in the picture of the last curry feast we enjoyed. It’s basically just lemon jelly with egg whites!
    Lamb roast with heaps of garlic and rosemary is one of our family favourites too. Sunday nights was always a light meal eaten in front of the TV and yes, it was indeeed the wonderful world of Disney! What a terrific show that was (as long as it was Adventureland!).

  12. AvatarHelene Young

    The recipe sounds divine and the book sounds fabulous!

    Every birthday up until I left home Mum cooked roast lamb followed by home made pavlova for dessert. It’s still my go to comfort food! 🙂

    1. AvatarAlison Stuart

      Pavlova has long ranked with sponge cake as “the thing I can’t cook”. The best pav maker I know is a male friend of mine who uses his mother’s recipe. It’d to die for!

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