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of America conference where she took out the Hearts Through History Chapter’s Romance Through The Ages Award for an unpublished manuscript.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!
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)
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Lastly stir in the garam masala powder and turn off flame. Sprinkle with lemon/lime juice and garnish with coriander leaves.
- 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.