FRIDAY FEAST with Alison Stuart

22 Replies

Thank goodness for another weekend! Between Eurovision Song Contest awesomeness, my darling Sydney Swans soaring to a magnificent victory, and me playing (mostly) excellent golf, last weekend was exhausting.

Have you seen where my beautiful boys are on the AFL ladder? Fourth. FOURTH! And this after a terrible start to the year. Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf news is equally upbeat. Alison Stuart author photoI’m on fire. Fire, I tell you! Not a single ball lost last week; not duffed into a dam, not pinched by a crow. It’s an omen!

Now, to this week’s guest. Australian author Alison Stuart wrote one of my absolute favourite reads of last year, Gather The Bones, a beautifully written story set after the Great War and a book I can’t recommend highly enough. With her latest release, Alison has dipped her toe into the hugely popular Regency period and it sounds wonderful.

Take a look…

LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR

Cover of Lord Somerton's Heir by Alison StuartCan the love of an honourable man save her from the memory of a desolate marriage?

From the battlefield of Waterloo to the drawing rooms of Brantstone Hall, Sebastian Alder’s elevation from penniless army captain to Viscount Somerton is the stuff of dreams. But the cold reality of an inherited estate in wretched condition, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his cousin’s death, provide Sebastian with no time for dreams, only a mystery to solve and a murderer to bring to justice.

Isabel, widow of the late Lord Somerton, is desperate to bury the memory of her unhappy marriage by founding the charity school she has always dreamed of. But, her dreams are shattered, as she is taunted from the grave, discovering not only has she been left penniless, but she is once more bound to the whims of a Somerton.

But this Somerton is unlike any man she has met. Can the love of an honourable man heal her broken heart or will suspicion tear them apart?

Knowing how beautifully Alison writes, this will be another amazing story. You can own a copy right now with just a few clicks of your mouse. Try Amazon for the Kindle version, Barnes & Noble for Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play, JB Hi-Fi or your favourite ebook retailer.

All stocked up with another great read? Good. Now have fun with this foodie treat.

Take A Stag’s Heart…

It’s wonderful to be back on Friday Feast talking about food. Thank you for the invite, Cathryn.

I have finally stretched my historical wings and ventured into the magical world of the Regency with my May release of LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR. I say magical because I think one of the reasons Regency is such a perennial favourite with readers is because it is a fantasy world inhabited by the men and women of the mystical “ton”. Gracious manners, beautiful clothes and a world that is a little more accessible to the modern reader than the earlier periods of history (such as my own particular passion, the English Civil War).

I have to say it was a wonderful period to write about. In my own version of “Cinderella”, the battle scarred professional army officer of parlous means, wakes to find he is now Lord Image of The Housekeeper's InstructorSomerton, owner of a London town house and an elegant estate in Lincolnshire so as I wrote I discovered the world through his eyes.

Food paid a huge part in Regency life and I am fortunate to have an original 1808 (14th) edition of “The Housekeepers Instructor; or universal Family Cook” by W.A Henderson “Many years eminent in the culinary profession”.  You can buy a reproduction of this book on AMAZON for $27.98 but I love the yellowing pages and the leather bindings of my own copy William Augustus Henderson was the Mrs. Beeton his day and his book remained in print well into the Victorian era.

While I can recall my son and I spending a couple of evenings in fits of laughter as we read Sample of hand notes in The Housekeepers Instructorthrough the household instructions for feeding cows and trussing Woodcocks and Snipes, a previous owner (not my grandmother’s handwriting – although there are a few notes of hers in the book) had obviously studied it in detail and scattered through the book are scraps of paper, written in a confident hand in blue fountain pen with comments on them that are almost as amusing as some of the recipes. Against the recipe for “Surfeit Water” he/she has written “What a terrible brew. I wonder why they called it water? Much understatement makes the sufferer game to try it… I’ve got all the ingredients. If scurvy grass is lemon grass should I try?” I wonder if she did. On making icings for cakes my unknown commentator says “Whisk them well for TWO or THREE HOURS” followed by an enormous exclamation mark. For the recipe for “Stag’s Heart Water” which includes the instruction “Take a stag’s heart, and cut off the fat…”, my commenter drily notes “I’m glad you cut the fat off the Stag’s heart”.

More sobering, in among the instructions for managing the dairy, the author of the book notes “The practice of keeping milk in leaden vessel, and of salting butter in stone jars, is Example of ball supper for 20 peoplevery detrimental; the well known effector of the poison of lead are bodily debility, palsy, death…” So interestingly lead poisoning was in fact well known by the end of the eighteenth century.

We may laugh at the quaintness of it all but in fact the advice is generally sound and the recipes sensible and on the whole, edible. Henderson also includes wonderful suggestions of seasonal menus for suppers and small courses… of up to 10 dishes per course! The first course, we are advised, should consist of soups, boiled poultry, fish and boiled meats; the second course of different kinds of game, high seasoned dishes, tarts, jellies etc and the third course, to be considered dessert comprises fruits and “various kinds of ornamental pastries.”

In LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR, food does not play a huge part, although at one stage, poor Sebastian is forced into eating three breakfasts by a populace determined to “feed him up”. William Augustus Henderson’s book doesn’t really touch on the subject of breakfasts but one of the great favourites of a “proper” English breakfast was “Devilled kidneys”, a dish popular since the 18th century when a thrifty housewife invented a spicy sauce to add some interest to an otherwise bland dish. Devilled Kidneys are not as horrible as you might think and I had a housemate who did rather good devilled kidneys (until the day he cooked kidneys that had gone off… but that’s a whole other story).

This recipe comes from my own copy of “The Cookery Year” by Readers Digest”.

DEVILLED KIDNEYS

Devilled kidneysFor four portions, clean and halve 8 lamb kidneys.

Prepare a devil sauce by mixing 2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce, 2 teaspoons ketchup and 1 level tablespoon dry mustard with 60g melted butter. Season with salt, white pepper and cayenne.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil or butter in a pan and fry the kidneys for 3 minutes on each side.

Arrange them in a flameproof serving dish, spread the devil sauce evenly on top of the kidneys and put under a hot grill for 1 minute.

 

Now how’s that for a bit of English breakfast goodness, Feasters? Not my favourite thing, kidneys, but the devil sauce certainly sounds delicious. Perhaps over a few pork sausages instead for a breaky to really get your heart started. Hmm. Maybe I need a kick like this before golf…

GIVEAWAY

For the month of May Alison is running a Rafflecopter giveaway to win an author’s goody bag worth over $50. Details of what it contains can be found on Alison’s website but it includes a copy of Alison’s collected short stories, Tower of Tales, a Mesopotamia bracelet, a notebook, a book voucher, and other goodies. To enter, simply use the Rafflecopter widget below using your Facebook log-in or your name and email address. Easy.

The giveaway is open worldwide, so have a go and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you’d like to learn more about Alison and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via her blog, Facebook and Twitter using @AlisonStuart14.

22 thoughts on “FRIDAY FEAST with Alison Stuart

  1. AvatarHelen

    Hi Alison and Cathryn

    I have read this book and I loved it don’t miss this one 🙂 I am not a fan of kidneys either lol but I agree the sauce sounds wonderful 🙂

    Have Fun
    Helen

    1. AvatarAlison Stuart - Writer

      Thanks, Helen. I don’t think a lot of people are fond of offal of any description! I am very partial to liver with bacon, onion, brown gravy and mashed potato but I fear even that would make some stomachs turn. It must be my northern English roots coming through!

      1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

        Ooh, a lovely endorsement, Helen. If Lord Somerton’s Heir is as wonderfully written as Gather the Bones (WONDERFUL book) then it’ll be a cracker.

        Yes, kidney’s not my thing either. Liver is okay if it’s foie gras or in a pate but fried on its own…er…not for me. I’m a big sook!

  2. AvatarAlison Stuart - Writer

    Hi Cathryn… thanks for having me over for a Friday feast. I had great fun sourcing a recipe I thought would appall most of your readers 🙂 We are not great offal eaters these days but I must confess to being quite partial to a bit of steak and kidney pie. I was going to put up “kedgeree” but I think that is a later breakfast staple whereas Devilled Kidneys was definitely a contemporary of this period.

  3. AvatarLouise Reynolds

    Hands up as a devilled kidneys fan, although I haven’t had them in years. Yours look delicious, Alison. Congratulations on the release of Lord Somerton’s Heir. I’m looking forward to reading it!

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      Funny, but I somehow guessed you’d enjoy these, Louise. I agree, they look delicious, but I’m not sure even its good looks will be enough to get me to eat a plate!

  4. AvatarHelene

    Capt G loves devilled kidneys, Alison, but I won’t be encouraging him to whip up this little dish no matter how yummy the sauce might sound. Something about the texture of kidneys… On the other hand I do love finely sliced liver, soaked in milk and garlic, then flash fried in a hot frying pan and served with mash potato spinach and crispy bacon so not all offal is off my list!

    Your book sounds fabulous! Just need to find some reading time again!!

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      I’m with you on the texture of kidneys, Helene. Not so keen on the smell either. Had an awful encounter with kidneys cooked rare in France, wafting a rather unpleasant smell, and never recovered!

      Lord Somerton’s Heir sounds a wonderful read, doesn’t it? Everyone should go buy a copy now. The links are all there!

    2. AvatarAlison Stuart

      You are either an offal man or not (I am sure there is a pun there). I can generally eat offal as long as I don’t have to prepare it but I do draw the line at tripe… now there is something with a weird texture!

      1. AvatarAnne Gracie

        The Vietnamese cook trip so that it’s delicious. I’ve never been able to eat up before — something about the smell when my grandmother cooked it — but I was served it by Vietnamese friends once, so ate it to be polite — and it was delicious.

          1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

            Ha ha. Took me a bit to work that typo out, Anne. Interesting about the Vietnamese way of cooking it. Tripe is something I’d have a go at. It seems less… I don’t know, ick somehow. When it’s all cleaned, that is.

        1. AvatarAlison Stuart

          My son worked at a famous Melbourne Club which used to host a dinner composed entirely of offal once a year. It was not his favourite gig. The smell of tripe made him retch but my north of England mother assures me tripe is fabulous with onions… but she likes black pudding too.

  5. AvatarCathleen Ross

    Wonderful blog Cathryn. I always read yours with interest. Alison, I love the set up and look forward to reading another of your books.
    Best
    Cathleen

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      Thanks, Cathleen. The recipe index is becoming quite a resource. Speaking of which, I must update it!
      Thanks for dropping by. Lovely to see you here.

  6. AvatarAnne Gracie

    I actually love steak and kidney and kidneys with bacon and mushrooms so I’m sure I’d love this recipe, too. I think you need to be brought up on offal to get past the squick factor. That said my mother was a big fan of lambs fry (ie liver) and I never liked it. OTOH I love chicken liver pate and I make it often. so…

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      See, now pate is totally delish. But I’m not sure that counts, Anne, because it’s like offal in disguise!

      I think these things are all mind over matter anyway. I’ve eaten stuff that I thought was marvellous until I learned what was in it. Then my brain rebelled. Silly, really. So yes, I do think being brought up with offal helps a lot.

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