FRIDAY FEAST with Cathryn Hein

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Hello, my lovelies, and welcome to this Romance Writers of Australia annual conference edition of Friday Feast. Yes, I’m at Romance Rocks which is indeed totally rockin’. Hope to have lots of photos and fun news to share about it over the next few weeks, once I’ve recovered. RWA conferences are brilliant but exhausting.

Cathryn Hein in front of a statue of King Rene in Aix-en-Provence

Me in front of a statue of King Rene in Aix-en-Provence

In footy news, my darling Sydney Swans had another win last Friday night. It wasn’t the prettiest but a win is a win, and we’re streaking gallantly toward the end of the season and finals. Gallant streaking is not something that’s happening in Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf news, however. It was ugly last week, very ugly. Balls in the water. Balls out of bounds. Every ball seemed to have a death wish, which is nearly the way I felt by the end of my round. But with this week dedicated to all things romance writing, maybe the time off will do me good. I can only hope…

And now to this week’s guest: Me!

With so many of our talented authors busy at the conference, I’m taking over the Feast. Which means I get to talk about my upcoming release, The French Prize, because I’m REALLY SUPER-DUPER EXCITED ABOUT IT! And all the pre-order links are now live, which means you can book your copy now. Wheeee!

Take a looksie. It’s faaaaaaabulous!

THE FRENCH PRIZE

The French Prize by Cathryn HeinAn ancient riddle, a broken vow – a modern-day quest for a medieval treasure.

Australian-born Dr. Olivia Walker is an Oxford academic with a reputation as one of the world’s leading Crusade historians and she’s risked everything on finding one of the most famous swords in history – Durendal. Shrouded in myth and mystery, the sword is fabled to have belonged to the warrior Roland, a champion of Charlemagne’s court, and Olivia is determined to prove to her detractors that the legend is real. Her dream is almost within reach when she discovers the long-lost key to its location in Provence, but her benefactor – Raimund Blancard – has other ideas.

For more than a millennium, the Blancard family have protected the sword. When his brother is tortured and killed by a man who believes he is Roland’s rightful heir, Raimund vows to end the bloodshed forever. He will find Durendal and destroy it, but to do that he needs Olivia’s help.

Now Olivia is torn between finding the treasure for which she has hunted all her life and helping the man she has fallen in love with destroy her dream. And all the while, Raimund’s murderous nemesis is on their trail, and he will stop at nothing to claim his birthright.

Doesn’t that sound rollicking? Rollicking AND romantic and you can pre-order the print version right now from Booktopia, Bookworld, Angus & Roberston, QBD The Bookshop, Abbey’s Bookshop, Fishpond.com.au, or the ebook from AmazonGoogle Play and iBooks.

Right, now you’re all sorted, let have a scrumpy French recipe.

Tarting About

Besides our sexy, stoic hero Raimund and gutsy heroine Olivia, there are some fun secondary characters in The French Prize. Christiane and Edouard, Raimund’s godparents were a hoot to write.

Edouard adores a drink, and is always thrusting a glass of something alcoholic at Olivia. His wife, Christiane, rules her kitchen like a haughty queen, and god help you if you’re late for a meal. She’s a wonderful cook and takes great joy in making Raimund’s favourite meals for him. There’s hachis parmentier, salade de chevre chaud, petit farcis, moules, and tarte de chevre –  all classic French dishes.

Petit farcisWhen we lived in Provence, I was lucky enough to attend a cooking school at a local lady’s house south of Aix-en-Provence. For two days, myself and two friends were picked up from Aix and carted off to the markets. Laden with beautiful produce and wine, we’d then head to her kitchen to cook ourselves silly before sitting out in the sunshine to savour our lunch and drinks. I enjoyed one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten during this time, a dish called petit farcis – stuffed Provencal vegetables – served with a fresh tomato sauce.

It’s weird, but as much as I loved that meal I haven’t made it again, although I’ve thought about doing so many times. I think I’m too scared it won’t taste the same. That it will taint that special memory. Every time I think of those two days I’m struck by how amazing they were. How bright the sun, how lovely the company, how incredible the food and wine tasted.

One French dish I have made many times since our return home is this onion tart. I first tried this in Strasbourg and fell completely in love with the creamy filling and flavours of caramelised onion and lardons. It’s really rich and bad for you but phht. So what? It’s not like you’re going to be eating it on a daily basis, is it?

Alsatian Onion Tart

A slice of onion tart served with saladPâte brisée or shortcrust pastry – bought or your favourite recipe – rolled to fit a 27cm tart tin with removable base

25g butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

700g brown onions, peeled

200g good quality, thick smoked bacon (rind removed), flat pancetta or speck, chopped into 5mm x 2cm long pieces (or thereabouts – don’t get too fussy, it’s a simple dish)

Salt, pepper, nutmeg

6 egg yolks

300ml cream

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Line the tart tin with pastry. Place a sheet of baking paper on top and fill with beans, rice, or ceramic baking weights and blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove rice/beans and bake another 5 minutes. The pastry should be lightly golden.

onion tart straight from the ovenMeanwhile, halve the onions and then slice very finely into half moons. In a large saucepan, melt butter and oil over low heat and add onions. Cook, stirring regularly, with lid on for an hour or more, or until the onions are very soft and only slightly golden. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Heat a small pan over medium heat and lightly fry the bacon. Add to onions.

Season onions and bacon with salt and pepper and a few scrapes of freshly grated nutmeg.

Whisk the egg yolks with the cream and then mix in the onions and bacon. Pour into the baked pastry case and pop into the oven for half an hour, or until set.

Serve warm with salad and a nice glass of white wine.

Now, because I’m feeling all nostalgic and convivial, I think we should have a…

GIVEAWAY!

Who would like to score a signed copy of The French Prize? Well, here’s your chance to snag one. And it’s an easy giveaway too. All you have to do is share the best dish or meal you’ve eaten while on holidays.

Maybe it’s… fish and chips with a special someone on the beach, or that unreal curry you sampled on your last trip to Thailand. Perhaps the meal you ate at a famous restaurant or the barbecue you had in a mate’s backyard. Simple or flash, it doesn’t matter as long as you share you’ll be in the random draw!

And because I’ll be away all weekend and too knackered when I return home to promote it widely, I’ll leave this one open a little longer. So…

Giveaway closes midnight THURSDAY 14th August 2014, AEST. Australian postal addresses only.

If you’d like to learn more about me and my books, just keep tooling around the website. There’s funstuff like The Story Behind, where I reveal the inspiration behind my books, and plenty to explore on the blog and elsewhere. Why not sign up to my newsletter while you’re here?  (Scroll down to the bottom of the Home page) Subscribers get all the news plus exclusive giveaways and my undying affection.

You can also connect with me via Facebook, Google + and Twitter using @CathrynHein.

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Astrid, who has won herself a copy of The French Prize. A big warm thank you to everyone who joined in the Feasty fun and shared their best holiday meals. You all made me jealous!

21 thoughts on “FRIDAY FEAST with Cathryn Hein

  1. Paula Beavan

    I think I’m yet to have my best meal on holidays as I’m only days (23) away from flying to London. But here in Oz, Dave and I went to a motel restaurant in Albury and I had the nicest Sticky Beef ever. I’ve tried to make it myself and have never quite managed it. Unfortunately, I can’t even remember the name of the motel or restaurant, and it wasn’t a holiday, but a truck buying expedition LOL, so I’m not sure if that counts. but I’m going to try your onion tart, in GF kind of a way. As always, great post, thanks, and win or not, I’ll be ordering your book. As you and Diana Gabaldon are my favourite authors 🙂

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      Of course that counts, Paula! Sure, it wasn’t strictly a holiday but you were away from home. Wonder where it was. We stop occasionally in Albury on our travels…
      This is VERY remiss of me I know, but I’ve never read Diana Gabaldon despite the best efforts of friends trying their hardest to get me to. I really must do it. People who read her books LOVE her, and Jamie, of course.
      Hope you have a ball in the UK and that the weather is kind. Very jealous!

  2. Sue Gerhardt Griffiths

    I can’t just mention one I’ve actually had three best meals while on holidays. The first one was 30 years ago in this cute restaurant in the Blackforest in Germany – Venison and spätzle ( german pasta), it was to die for! 2nd best meal was at the Fan Palm Boardwalk cafe at the Daintree Rainforest (5 yrs ago) – Mud crab and prawns with this amazing tropical sauce on a bed of lettuce. It was so delicious we went back to the Daintree from Port Douglas the next day just so I could have the same meal again LOL. And the 3rd was at the Mount Misery Gold Mine and Cafe in Nundle not far from Tamworth (3 yrs ago). A gorgeous town well worth visiting. I had fish cocktails (made like no other) and home-made chips like I’ve never tasted before. Those three dishes are ingrained in my brain. I’d love to have them again!

    I’m not an onion person but I do love the look of the salad arranged on the plate lol.

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      Those meals sound awesome, Sue. And still a bit goggle-eyed about Nundle. I’ll have to investigate that next time I’m wandering the area! Being a seafood fangirl I love the sound of the mud crab and prawns but venison in the Black Forest sounds perfect too. Travel and good food, just perfect.

      I do like a good plate of salad, Sue. Speaking of which, after all the naughty food over the conference weekend I might have to make a nice healthy one for dinner…

  3. Andrea Cook

    Well that’s a tricky one as I’ve had some nice meals while on holidays. But this one tops it well I was in Launceston Tassie for Tasmanian whipcracking championships 2011 in which I tied in the ladies section and had to have an accuracy crack off and got 2nd by two points. Anyway my friend and I went to an Irish pub in launceston to have a meal before we went on a ghost tour. The Irish bar/restaurant had specials and it was a chicken parmajama but it had different toppings to choose from. I had the Hawian Parma and it also came with a pot glass of beer. I can’t drink beer so we asked if we could have a different drink. So I ended up with a baileys and milk instead. And from memory it was about $20/22. The meal was so delicious I went to the same place the next night for a meal but it wasn’t as good the night before.

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      You’re a whip cracking gun? I’m seriously impressed, Andrea!!! This is something I’d like to see… In fact, that’d make a pretty cracking (ha!) hobby for one of my heroines. I may have to make a note of this!

      I love a good pub meal. It’s all so easy. Nothing fancy, just something to hit the spot. And there are usually some great deals around.

      Thanks for sharing and good luck in the draw!

      1. Andrea Cook

        Yeah I sure am. Love my whipcracking it’s fun. Have state championships coming up in oct we have three state titles in 11 days not sure if I can make Tassie this year though. But yes I agree that would make a funny hah had for a character in one of your books. Totally loved it when Margareta Osborn used whipcracking in her one of her books it just added that different touch to the book. Looks like you had a great week at the writers conference. Hope your voice comes back.

  4. Helen

    Hi Cathryn

    I love the sound of this pie 🙂

    One of the best meals I have had was while we we on a cruise a couple of years ago we went to Madigans Salt Grill and the steak just melted in your mouth and the vegies were perfect 🙂

    It was great catching up on the weekend I had such a great time and I am really looking forward to reading this new book 🙂

    Have fun
    Helen

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      WONDERFUL to catch up with you too, Helen. The signing was fab as was the whole conference. My voice has disappeared though. Jim said it’s because I crammed a years worth of talking into 3 days. He’s probably right.

      Can’t beat a good, juicy steak. Mind you, I bet everything tastes good when you’re on a cruise.

      Counting down the days to The French Prize’s release. Can’t wait!

  5. Astrid

    Tartiflette on the top of Mont Blac while it was snowing and we were quietly tucked away in a chalet eating and drinking while the snow glistened outside our window. A night, and snow, I will never forget!

  6. J'aimee

    Most memorable foodie experience was traipsing through the markets in Paris, three kids under 9 & huge picnic basket in tow, finding every single French treat we’d ever dreamed of tasting then collapsing on the gorgeously green grass of the Champ de Mars and enjoying a diabetes-inducing, belt-busting picnic! After finishing, the kids played soccer with some local Parisian kids and hubby & I stretched out and relaxed.

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      Ha ha ha! Wonderful, J’aimee. Although carting 3 kids under 9 through markets must have been an interesting experience. They’re so colourful though (markets, not kids… although kids, of course, can be!). So much to capture your attention. I bet you did have a ball, and lovely stuffed bellies afterwards.

  7. Fiona Palmer

    Ohh, I can’t wait for this book!!!!!!!!
    Of course when I went to Italy it would have to be the pizza’s. I can’t single one out as each place we went seemed better than the last. And so big, I couldn’t eat it all!! I might just have to make this pie, looks and sounds divine Cathryn. (Even better if someone else made it for me!) 🙂

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      Me too, Fee! Can’t wait for it to hit the shelves and for everyone to have (hopefully) as much fun with The French Prize as I did.

      You should try this tart. It’s beautiful. A tad rich but sometimes you have to indulge. I have gorgeous goat’s cheese one I’ll have to share one day too. Trouble is, it’s never quite the same as when I made it over there because I can’t get the same stinky wrinkly cheese. And stinky wrinkly cheese is important in these things!

      Thanks for popping over. Lovely to see you!

  8. Lucy Waterhouse

    The French Prize reminds me of fresh baguettes, Roquefort cheese and Moet in Paris – they are such wonderful memories for me for a best meal!
    For my all time favourite drink whilst travelling, I went to Raffles Hotel in Singapore this year and had the original Singapore Sling in the Long Bar there – absolutely divine!!!

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      Oh! Drinkies at Raffles! I soooo want to do that, Lucy. It’s like a bucket list thing I want to tick off. That and eating Singapore chilli crab in situ.

      Love the smelly cheese and fizz memory. Especially the baguettes. There is no bread like French bread…

  9. Louise Reynolds

    Hi Cathryn! Love reading about the petit farcis as I’ve wanted to do small stuffed vegetables for ages. I will definitely try this summer. Most memorable meal was in Chartres 30 yrs ago. I was travelling with my mother and we’d left Paris in a brand new deux chevaux. Bloody stressful. We had lunch in a very simple bistro where there was a set menu, no choices. It wasn’t fancy or expensive. First course, oeufs durs with mayonnaise. Main course, stuffed veal neck and a vegetable I no longer remember. UNBELIEVABLE cheese board which went around the room – I couldn’t wait till it got to our table. Then an apple tart. A bottle of Vouvray to wash it all down. Have never forgotten it. Everything was so right, and I expect it was one of the old school country cafes such as the blessed Elizabeth David described.
    Can’t wait to read The French Prize!

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      I would never forget that either, Louise. WHAT a meal and WHAT a memory! Simple food like that is the best. The was one of the things I adored so much about the cafes and restaurants of Aix and others in our travels – so much simple food done well with perfect ingredients. It really changed the way I thought about food and cooking.

      Sigh. All this talk of awesome food is giving me itchy feel. I need a research trip NOW!

  10. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

    This giveaway has now closed. Thanks so much for joining in the Feasty fun, even if some of you did make me horribly jealous with your foodie experiences.

    Astrid is our lucky winner. I hope she has a wonderful time with The French Prize.

    Stay tuned though, with only a few weeks until release day there may be more giveaways!

Comments are closed.