It’s always a joy to welcome debut authors on Friday Feast, and this week it’s even more special because our guest writes one of the best genres out there: Australian rural fiction!
‘The smell of hay and horse manure floated in the air like the steam from some organic herbal potion. She hadn’t smelt that for such a long time, that unique mix of animals and earth, a reminder that everything was alive and growing. You could almost hear life bubbling away beneath the ground.’
Isn’t that lovely? But so we should expect good prose from Pamela. She runs writing workshops through her business JustWrite Publishing. And now she’s proven the adage that teaching is the best way of learning with the release of Blackwattle Lake.
Check it out.
For Eve Nicholls, walking up the driveway of her childhood home brings up many emotions, and not all good. The horses that she loved still dot the paddocks but the house is empty, and the silence inside allows her memories to flood back. She’s glad to have her best friend Banjo the kelpie with her . . . and a bottle of bourbon. Her plan is simple: sell the farm, grab the cash and get the hell out.
Despite Eve’s desire to keep a low profile, within days of her return she runs into all the people she hoped to avoid. At the house she is surrounded by memories and worse. But with a lifetime of clutter to sort out, there’s plenty to take her mind off it all. Slowly, she begins to discover the girl she used to be: Angie Flanagan – adventurous, animal-loving, vulnerable. When tragedy strikes, Eve realises that changing her name all those years ago in an attempt to hide from her past has not changed the truth of what happened or who she really is.
All set? Excellent. Now give Pamela a big welcome…
FOOD AND FAMILY
Thanks for having me on Friday Feast, Cathryn. It’s lovely to be here and lovely to be where I am actually writing this post – my getaway house at Little Forest in Milton. As you can see from the picture below it has the most exquisite view over the bush and farmlands and right the way out to the ocean.
This is where I come to escape the rat race, spend time with my family, relax and write. We’ve had the place for about 12 years now and being only two and a half hours away from the southern suburbs of Sydney where we live it’s not too far to come for a weekend and is our home during school holidays. And it’s not just the human members of the family who enjoy the pace down here. When we come for extended stays we bring our horses, and the dog and cat are regular visitors. Here they are lapping up the morning sunshine:
It’s the perfect place to write and where I found a lot of the inspiration for Blackwattle Lake. We’re about ten kilometres away from Milton which is a great town with some wonderful shopping opportunities! There are wonderful eateries too. Pilgrims, a vegetarian café is an institution and does the best milkshakes on the south coast (but don’t tell anyone!). For a special dinner there’s Bannisters out at Mollymook run by Rick Stein and serving scrumptious seafood. My latest favourite is Cupitts Winery which not only produces great wine but serves the most amazing food (especially the desserts) and is part of the slow food movement so you can while away a good few hours enjoying the view, the food and the company.
Which brings me (finally) to the subject of this post: food and family. The house here at Little Forest has been the site of many a feast. Sometimes we bring visitors from “the big smoke” to share our special part of the world with; other times we enjoy a barbeque with local friends we’ve met. Today as it’s Good Friday there will be a smaller feast, an opportunity for my immediate family – my three daughters, my husband and myself – to relax and enjoy the blessings of food and family together. Prawns, calamari, fish, crusty bread, fresh salad and to finish it all off Aunty Elsie’s Cheesecake.
I can’t really remember the first time I made this dessert but I do know that it’s been a favourite ever since. It always makes an appearance at Christmas as an alternative to pudding and is often requested for birthdays and other celebrations.
I grew up in a house where good food was taken for granted. My mother was – and still is at 88 – an exceptional cook, especially when it comes to desserts. From Strawberry Sponge to Apple Charlotte, Chocolate Logs to Lemon Meringue Pies, she’s filled many stomachs to bursting point over the years. Sadly, I’m not such a brilliant cook. Having a penchant for all things well done I tend to over-cook just about everything. But so far I have managed to turn out pretty good versions of this cheesecake, if I don’t say so myself! It’s pretty fool proof – if I can do a good job of it anybody can. I use a food processor to do both the pastry and the filling which makes it all fairly simple.
Aunty Elsie’s Cheesecake
Preheat oven to moderate.
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup self-raising flour
3 ounces(85 grams) of butter (softened)
1 whole egg
4 level tablespoons of icing sugar
1-2 desert spoons of water (add one and see if the mixture starts to clump if not add one more)
Mix all the ingredients in the food processor until the pastry forms into a ball or clumps together. Remove and roll into a ball on a floured surface. Wrap in glad wrap and place in the fridge for half an hour. Roll the pastry out on floured surface until it looks large enough to fit the base and sides of the tin. Press into the base and up the sides of a medium sized cheesecake tin. This can be a little tricky – don’t worry if the pastry breaks up just pressed up the sides of the tin making sure there are no cracks. I like to leave the top edge rough or you can smooth off with a knife.
2 packets of cream cheese
¾ cup of caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Soften the cream cheese and add to the food processor with the other ingredients. Mix until smooth. Pour into the pastry case.
Bake in a moderate oven for half an hour. If it looks a little underdone cook for another 10 mins.
1 tin blueberries
Separate the berries from the juice, place the juice in a small saucepan with 2 teaspoons of sugar (to taste) and thicken with cornflour. Keep stirring in the cornflour as the mixture simmers so lumps don’t form,
Allow the mixture to cool then gently add the blueberries to the sauce
Pour over the top of the cheesecake while it is still hot.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Aunty Elsie is my mum’s sister, still also going strong at 86. I’m hoping I have the same genes as these two wonderful women and that my cooking skills improve to be as good as theirs.
I hope you enjoy the cheesecake. For me it’s associated with good times, family, smiles and a deliciously full stomach.
Wishing you the same.
Ooh, thanks, Pamela. I love a good cheesecake and this one sounds completely delicious, especially with that blueberry topping.
So, my ever-so-clever Feasters, what’s your favourite cheesecake? Or are you a closet cheesecake loather? As of last week I have a new cheesecake love – Antonio Carluccio’s Ariciolata di Pesche or Peach and Ricotta Crumble, from his Two Greedy Italians cookbook. Not a traditional cheesecake, admittedly, but a bloody good one! Seriously, it’s worth buying the book just for that recipe.
Bum, I just made my sweet tooth throb.