Category Archives: Heart of the Valley

Teaser Tuesday!

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Teaser Tuesday 2017 logoWelcome to Teaser Tuesday, the series where I share snippets from new and past releases and works-in-progress and occasionally con author buddies into doing the same.

I spent the weekend in gorgeous Newcastle, a city that will always hold a special place in my heart, not least because of the wonderful friends I’ve made there.

It’s also a place we’re likely to move back to, and sooner rather than later. That means I’ll be once again close to one of my favourite regions – the Hunter Valley.

If you’ve never been to the Hunter, I highly recommend it as a place to visit. The landscape is glorious, ranging from lush river flats to rugged ranges, and while mines also scar the area, they’re tempered with magnificent thoroughbred studs, dairy and beef farms and, of course, vineyards.

Oh, and it’s also home to some excellent golf courses. Very important.

I love the place so much I wrote a kind of extended love letter to it with my second release, Heart of the Valley. I’d always planned to set more books in the Valley but with Rocking Horse Hill and the advent of the Levenham Love Stories, I haven’t had the chance.

Somehow, when we move back, I suspect I’ll remedy that. No guarantees, but I can already feel myself mulling over ideas. Perhaps a Heart of the Valley sequel? With Brooke’s amiable older brother Angus as the hero? Never say never!

Now, while I’m on the subject of the Hunter, I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be appearing at the Scone Writers Festival – “The small rural writers festival with big names and big ideas” – on Sunday November 12th, on a panel called This Rural Life: Rural and regional stories from around Australia.

The festival runs over the whole weekend, from Friday 10th November until Sunday 12th. For the full program and tickets visit the Scone Writers Festival website.

Hope to see you there!

I’ve also just had new supplies of Heart of the Valley arrive, and they look super pretty. If you’d like to order a personally signed print copy of this book for yourself or as a gift, simply email me at cathryn@cathrynhein.com or contact me via the Contact page of this website and we’ll work out the details.

And that all leads, in a roundabout way, to this week’s Teaser Tuesday snippet which is, of course, from Heart of the Valley.

This book… oh this book!

There I was happily flicking through it looking for a suitable passage and next minute I’m reading and getting all emotional about Lachie and Brooke and all the things that happen, and all I want to do plunge back into their world and stay there. Which makes it very hard to choose a passage because I love them all.

But after much mulling (and drooling over Lachie) I’ve selected this one. Enjoy!

 

With the horse saddled, bridled and booted, Brooke led her toward the ménage, mind drifting to Lachlan, her skin prickling with heat as she recalled how close she’d come to exposing herself. The Heart of the Valley by Cathryn Heinmoment when she’d almost kissed him.

One more breath and she would have reached up on tiptoe, slid her arms around his neck, pressed her body against his and tilted her mouth for a kiss like a drunk, desperate spinster. What a fine reward that would have been for him after all he’d done. Lachlan had shown her nothing but kindness, and all she seemed capable of was embarrassing him and humiliating herself.

Except . . .

Brooke halted and touched her lips, remembering the way he’d cupped her face and run his thumbs gently under her eyes, across her mouth. The swirls of green-gold in his beautiful hazel eyes as they’d gazed at her. For a heartbeat she thought . . .

 

If you want to know what Brooke thought you’ll have to read the book!

Purchase your ebook or paperback copy now from:

Amazon.com | Amazon.au | Amazon.uk

iBooks

Kobo

Google Play

Nook

Bookdepository

Booktopia

As mentioned above, personally signed print copies are also available for purchase direct from me. Email me at cathryn@cathrynhein.com or via the contact form on this website for details.

Learn the story behind how I came to write Heart of the Valley in A Story from the Heart, or read another excerpt on its book page.

 

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Teaser Tuesday!

Teaser TuesdayWelcome to Teaser Tuesday, the tantalising blog series where I share snippets from my works-in-progress, up-coming releases and published novels, and occasionally let good writing buddies take the reins.

Greetings from South Australia! I’m visiting my home state for the annual Romance Writers of Australia conference. The conference is being held in Adelaide but I’ve flown to Mount Gambier to see my family beforehand and will head north later in the week. The RWA conference is the best fun, with lots of learning, networking and catching up with new and old buddies. Usually I can barely speak at the end my voice is so worn out. Worth it though.

I’ll try to do up a blog post with lots of piccies when I get back, so keep your eye out for that. In the meantime, you can enjoy this little snippet from Heart of the Valley, and its totally sighworthy hero Lachie. Oh, how I love that man!

 

Brooke woke on Thursday morning at first relieved to find the last of the aches and fever gone, only to discover a few seconds later they’d been replaced with a cough so deep each convulsion felt like fish hooks jerking inside her lungs.

The humiliation seemed endless. She hung over the side of the bed, hacking and moaning, aware Lachlan would be in to check on her any second, but unable to stop. Cough or no cough, Heart of the Valley by Cathryn Heinshe had plans for today. Plans that required his cooperation, and she wouldn’t earn it by sounding like an emphysemic hag.

Bare footsteps padded across the polished floorboards. ‘Here,’ said Lachlan, handing her a glass of water.

She clutched it in her shaky grip and drank between half coughs and ragged, heaved breaths. The fit over, she sank back onto the mattress with her palm on her aching chest. Lachlan stood at the edge of the bed in a pair of faded jeans, the zip done up but the top button still loose, and a dark blue twill shirt hanging open over his chest. A fine line of inky hair ran up from his waistband and curled around his neat belly button before trailing toward his chest. The pale bronze skin of his torso stretched smooth over taut, well-developed muscles of the type seen more often in elite-sports change rooms than farm cottages.

Brooke blinked, wondering if this was a cough-induced hallucination. Two-metre-tall rugby-playing rural types didn’t stand by her bed looking sleep-ruffled and concerned and unbelievably sexy every day. Yet there Lachlan stood, evaporating every drop of water from her mouth and turning her insides fluttery and hot.

©Cathryn Hein

Heart of the Valley can be yours right now from Amazon, iBooks, Kobo or Google Play. For print copies, visit Booktopia or your favourite book store.

Want to learn more about Heart of the Valley? You’ll find story behind the book, reviews, and more excerpts on its book page on this website.

 

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Teaser Tuesday!

Teaser TuesdayWelcome to another Teaser Tuesday, the blog series where I tantalise you with snippets from works-in-progress, past and upcoming releases, and occasionally let writing buddies play around too.

This week we’re going back in time to Heart of the Valley.

Some of you may be aware of the terrible crush I developed on Lachie, the hero of this book. Sigh. WHAT a man. Honestly, it’s a toss-up between Lachie from Heart of the Valley and Tristan from April’s Rainbow who I’d marry, should either be real and I wasn’t, you know, attached and very much in love with my Jim.

But what some of you may not know is that I once bumped into a real life Lachie in a pub in Newcastle. We’d ventured down for lunch and there, at the bar, was this enormous, fit-looking bloke with long legs and broad shoulders and brown hair. Immediately my brain went ‘OhmyGodit’sLachie!’ which was impossible because my Lachie isn’t real and this bloke clearly was. Very, very nicely real. Of course, this meant some subtle stalking investigation was in order. Yup, there in the pub was Lachie in the flesh and he didn’t even know it.

No, I did not go up to Lachielookalike and tell him he was a fantasy man from one of my rural romances. That would have been just a touch too weird.

But I wanted to.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s a little teaser from one of my favourite books, Heart of the Valley.

 

Heart of the Valley by Cathryn Hein‘Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. I’ve lost jobs before. There are others around.’ He smiled and leaned in close. ‘The most important thing is you.’

She stared at him. He wore that expression again, the one that made her wonder, made her heart do that excited dance and set her tongue sticking in her mouth. For a few seconds he held her stare before breaking away to shove his hands in his pockets and look back at the paddock, leaving Brooke overwhelmed and electrified by that intangible something she thought had passed between them.

©Cathryn Hein

 

Heart of the Valley is a book that will make you barrack madly for the hero and heroine, reach for the tissues in parts, and sigh and smile with satisfaction at the end, and it can be yours right now from Amazon, iBooks, Kobo or Google Play. For print copies, visit Booktopia or Bookdepository.com.

Want to learn more about Heart of the Valley? You’ll find story behind the book, reviews, and more excerpts on its book page on this website.

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Teaser Tuesday!

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It’s Teaser Tuesday again, the series where I share snippets from my novels, upcoming releases and works-in-progress.

Teaser TuesdayThis week we’re venturing back in time to my second novel, Heart of the Valley. This book is a favourite of many, including me. The crush I had on the hero, Lachie, was agonising and lasted for months. He was so tender and understanding of the heroine, Brooke. Complete sighworthiness, but as I’ve said before when discussing my heroes, I’m shockingly biased!

Heart of the Valley is available now in paperback and ebook from Booktopia, Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play or your favourite retailer. You can also discover more about the story and how I came to write it on my ‘The Story Behind’ page.

Now for a little taste of Lachie’s niceness. Enjoy!

 

Brooke is at the family property, Kingston Downs, attempting, yet again, to cure herself of the phobia she developed after a terrible accident…

Her stomach clenched as Venus’s annoyed whinny sounded through the car’s open window. Despite the cold, Brooke’s hands were sticky with sweat. No sound came from the Land Cruiser’s engine and unless she took hold of herself and turned the ignition key, none ever would.

Gritting her teeth, she closed her eyes and rested her forehead against the steering wheel, trying to channel the resolve that had seemed so intense on leaving Willowgrove. Andrew and Chloe had faith; why couldn’t she?

Heart of the Valley by Cathryn Hein‘You okay?’

She looked up to find Lachlan standing near the door, eyeing her with a worried expression, and quickly looked away again. ‘I’m fine.’

‘If you don’t mind me saying so, you don’t look it.’

‘I said I’m fine.’ She closed her eyes. ‘Oh God, I’m sorry. I’m just . . .’ She threw up her hands, hating her rudeness, this awkward, horrible situation.

‘Grieving,’ he said, tossing the word she’d used before back at her.

He took a step closer and curled his hand over the door. She stared at him. His eyes were doing that tortoiseshell thing, and his mouth held a gentle curve. Standing there, he seemed big and safe and strong and kind. Like Angus, except musclier and with much, much longer eyelashes.

‘It’s not grief,’ she said suddenly. ‘I’m scared, like you said. It’s Oddy’s screams. I can’t make him stop. He just gets louder and louder and then I can’t breathe . . .’ She slapped the wheel in frustration. ‘I need to beat this but he just won’t stop.’

‘Maybe I can help.’

‘How?’

He shrugged. ‘I don’t know. I don’t know anything about psychology but I can offer big shoulders to cry on. I could even be your punching bag if you’d think it’d help.’ He bent and picked up Billy, who greeted her with an excited doggy grin. ‘Or you can just borrow my dog. He doesn’t mind being cried on.’

‘How do you know?’

A shadow stole the brightness from his eyes. He glanced away. ‘Long story.’

©Cathryn Hein

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FRIDAY FEAST with Cathryn Hein

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Greetings from the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference in vibrant, footy-mad Melbourne! The conference kicked off last night with publisher drinkies and everyone had a ball. But enough of that. I’ll be telling you aaaaall about the conference later, when I’m home and recovered. Today it’s Friday Feast time, once again with yours truly, and a Country Women’s Association morning tea favourite.

First, news from Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. Did I tell you about my new putter grip? The super fat one that is supposed to do wonders for your putting? The one that didn’t fit in my old golf bag so I had to buy an expensive new one just to accommodate it? Yeah, that putter grip. Romance author Cathryn HeinWell… it doesn’t work. Either that or it has an allergy to one-putting and can only two, three and *sobs hysterically* four putt. If it can’t find some immunity soon, it may not be long for this world.

We had my latest release, The Falls, as feature book last week, so to keep things interesting, let’s go back in time to my second novel, Heart of the Valley. I love this book. Luuuuuurve it. I love the gutsy heroine Brooke, the truly babelicious hero Lachie, the horses, the heroine’s friends, even Billy the dog.  The crush I had on Lachie took about a year to get over and even now I still sigh when I think about him. If you haven’t read this book, please do. It’s lovely, I promise!

Take a look.

HEART OF THE VALLEY

Heart of the Valley  by Cathryn HeinA vivid, moving and passionate story of love and redemption.

When a tragic horse float accident leaves young showjumper Brooke Kingston unable to properly manage her family’s Hunter Valley property, she believes nothing worse can happen. Until she discovers her well-intentioned family have employed a new farm manager for her beloved Kingston Downs. But stubbornness runs in the family, and Brooke isn’t about to leave her home or abandon her darling horse Poddy. Working on the principle possession is nine-tenths of the law, she digs in her spurs and stays put.

Lachie Cambridge is unimpressed to arrive at his new job and find the boss’s sister still in residence. Lachie immediately classifies Brooke as yet another spoilt brat, but to his surprise Brooke proves nothing of the sort. She’s clever, talented and capable, but it’s her vulnerability he can’t resist and after a shaky start they develop a friendship. A friendship that soon evolves into something more.

As his feelings for Brooke deepen, and the Valley and its people wriggle further into his affections, Lachie starts to question what he really wants. He’s always believed that home is where your heart is, and his lies in the soil of his family property Delamere. Torn by his love for Brooke, Lachie must make a decision – to chase his dream or follow his heart.

But Fate has other plans, and Brooke and Lachie are left reeling when the very things that brought them together now threaten to tear them apart.

Sigh. Did I mention how much I love that book? Heart of the Valley is available right now from Booktopia, Bookworld, Angus & Robertson, Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play, JB Hi-Fi or your favourite book store or e-tailer.

All set? Excellent. Now grab a cuppa and settled down for some old-fashioned goodness.

Fluffy Fun!

My mother-in-law is a pretty handy baker. She makes beautiful cakes of all sizes and flavours, her peanut biscuits are seriously moreish, and there’s an ongoing argument over who makes the better ANZAC biscuits in the family – Alice or Essie. As you can imagine, I’ve snaffled a few recipes from her over the years.

Those of you who receive my newsletter and read the Christmas edition will know that my in-laws run a livestock transport company, carting cattle (and other things) all over from their north Queensland small country town base. Here’s me with one of their giant trucks, of which they have a lot. The one below is only a B-double but they run up to triples as well, which are seriously long.

Romance author Cathryn Hein with one of her in-laws' trucks

Anyway, back to foodie goodness and country kitchens. Morning smoko is a bit of a ritual around the yard, with everyone stopping for a cuppa and whatever sweet goodies happen to be on hand. Alice makes it all – cakes, biscuits, slices – and there are usually at least a couple of things to choose from.

Now, my mum and grandmothers used to home bake everything too, and occasionally we’d have pikelets. As country people know, buttered pikelets are standard CWA fare. They’re delicious and dead easy to make, and rarely do you find any left over after an event.

But did you know all pikelets aren’t created equal?

Seriously, they’re not. And I never knew until I discovered my mother-in-law’s Fluffy Pikelets. They’re the same as the ones I ate as a kid, only lighter and better and oh so scrumptious.

In fact, you could whip up a batch now. Go on, I dare you…

Fluffy Pikelets

Fluffy pikelets on Friday Feast

1 cup self-raising flour

Pinch salt

¼ teaspoon bi-carb soda

2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg

½ cup milk

1 dessertspoon melted butter

Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Add egg and milk and whisk well. Fold in melted butter.

Heat a flying pan over a medium heat. Add a little butter to coat the base of the pan, pouring off any excess then drop in tablespoon amounts of the batter. Turn pikelets over when bubbles appear on the surface and cook until lightly golden.

Makes approximately 12

*

Okay Feasties, what’s your favourite morning tea snack?

Are you a gingernut and a cup of tea person or perhaps a healthy piece of fruit muncher? Maybe you… *gasp* skip morning tea. Me, I have a coffee and a wholemeal Salada, and kid myself it’s healthy. Otherwise there are always home-made goodies in the freezer, like banana and oat cake, muffins and the like, that I make for Jim. But I try to be good and avoid those. Writing is an unhealthy enough occupation as it is without adding that naughtiness too it.

If you’d like to learn more about me and my books, please feel free to explore my website. There are plenty of cool things to discover, especially on the blog, my about page and each book’s “the story behind” page. You can also connect via Facebook, Twitter using @CathrynHein, Google+, Goodreads and Pinterest.

For all the latest news and new releases, plus free short stories and other goodies, please sign up to my newsletter.

Friday Feast recipe index link.

Mark your diaries!

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I’m really looking forward to this evening. Expect a lot of insight and many laughs. Kylie Griffin (author of the amazing Light Blade fantasy romance series) and Karly Lane (Bridies Choice, Morgan’s Law, Burnt and other awesome Australian-set stories) are lovely people as well as being fantastic authors, and I think we’ll have a fine time. So will you!

In other news…

I’m Cooking the Books with Australian romance author Louise Reynolds. Come on over for a slice of delicious date and walnut loaf, a snippet from Heartland and more!

Heartland has scored another wonderful review, this time from Lauren Murphy at The Australian Bookshelf.

Heartland is the kind of book that draws you in and makes you not want to put it down and if you do, then the characters will haunt you until you pick it up again. Hein knows how to create characters with depth in communities that come alive on the page. This one’s definitely a keep among my rural lit shelves.”

 

Tomorrow I’ll be here again with Friday Feast, revealing some secrets from my week with Hugh (ahh, I see your mind boggling already).  I’ll also be over on Alissa Callen’s blog answering 10 Teaser Questions.

And in case you missed my non-stop squeaking elsewhere, yesterday I discovered that my rural romance Heart of the Valley hit number one on Google Play’s paid ebook store. And it’s still there this morning. Good thing no one was here to video me doing the muppet-flail when I saw that. Could’ve have been rather embarrassing!

 

THIS WRITING LIFE: A Christmas Bargain

First up, some exciting news. For a very limited time, the ebook of Heart of the Valley will be made available in all formats at the bargain price of $2-99. So if you, your family or friends are after a heart-warming Australian story to read over summer, here’s a great chance to pick one up at a super sharp price.

Don’t have an e-reader, tablet or smartphone? That’s okay. Simply download Kindle or Kobo app for your desktop and away you go.

Now, click, click and be merry!

Amazon (Kindle)

Kobo

iTunes

Google Play

Bookworld

 

Also available at other good ebook retailers.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a truly magic-filled Christmas and a wonderful New Year.  Thank you for all your support through 2012 and I look forward to having more fun with you in 2013.

O

This Writing Life: E-book Update

A quick heads-up for e-book readers. My debut rural romance PROMISES is now available on Kindle and from Kobo, Borders and other ebook retailers for $10. Bargain!

Here are the links:

If you have a Kindle, you can buy Promises here. Currently $10-03

If you own a Kobo, Sony or other e-reader that accepts the ePub format then you have a wider choice of stores and the book is slightly cheaper at $9-99.

Kobo

Booktopia

Borders.com.au

Angus & Roberstson

Dymocks

 

HEART OF THE VALLEY is also available as an ebook from the same retailers for around $19-99

 

 

FRIDAY FEAST with me…again!

Greetings, Feasters, from (sort of) sunny South Australia. I’ve been on a library tour all week around the south east of the state, chatting about Heart of the Valley and my journey to publication, plus whatever else I go off on a tangent about. And it’s been huge fun! Delightful crowds who ask lots of questions, and the hospitality of the library staff has been wonderful. There are links on my Facebook page to photos if you want to take a look, and a radio interview I did which was rather fun.

Heart of the Valley has been earning some amazing reviews, which is really heart-warming. How about this one from Shelleyrae at Book’d Out.

Heart of the Valley is a novel about letting go and moving forward that mixes tender romance with heartfelt drama. I finished Heart of the Valley with a contented sigh for a story well told and a longing for a horse of my own. Cathryn Hein has joined my ever growing list of must read Australian women writers.

And this from 1 girl… 2 many books!

Heart Of The Valley is an excellent addition to the ever-growing rural lit genre – it showcases a beautiful area, contains wonderful, well thought out characters that I really, really enjoyed and I felt the story was rounded and well paced.

And the Facebook comments keep coming too. So on the off chance you haven’t seen Heart’s cover or read the blurb, and to keep the Friday Feast posts consistent and me from getting twitchy about them not matching, here it is again!

 

HEART OF THE VALLEY

 

Brooke Kingston is smart, capable and strongwilled ­ some might even say stubborn ­ and lives in the beautiful Hunter Valley on her family property. More at home on horseback than in heels, her life revolves around her beloved ‘boys’ ­ showjumpers Poddy, Oddy and Sod.

Then a tragic accident leaves Brooke a mess. Newcomer Lachie Cambridge is hired to manage the farm, and Brooke finds herself out of a job and out of luck. But she won’t go without a fight.

What she doesn’t expect is Lachie himself ­ a handsome, gentle giant with a will to match her own. But with every day that Lachie stays, Brooke’s future on the farm is more uncertain. Will she be forced to choose between her home and the man she’s falling for?

A vivid, moving and passionate story of love and redemption from the author of Promises.

 

Right, enough promo, it’s FOOD TIME!

I had planned to write another Heart of the Valley themed post, maybe sharing another Nancy Burrows-style, hearty country recipe, but then I realised that Sunday was Mother’s Day. Given Jim and I move around quite a bit, and sometimes reside long distances from our families, we don’t get to see our mums as often as we’d like and it’s rare for us to spend Mother’s Day with them. Things are easier for me now we’re in Melbourne because that makes Mount Gambier only a 4 ½ (give or take a bit) hour drive away, but it’s still not pop-around-the-corner easy.

So this will be the first Mother’s Day I’ve been able to spend with Mum for donkey’s. To celebrate, we’re planning a nice family brunch on Sunday morning at Mum and Dad’s. There’ll be fresh eggs from my brother’s chooks, maybe a bit of bacon or some chipolatas if I can track some tasty ones down, fruit, cereal, toast and whatever else we can think of. Simple, but good. Anyway, like most celebrations the food won’t really matter. It’s the company that counts.

If I was home, though, and had all my cooking toys at hand, I’d probably try something a bit fancier. In fact, I’d probably make it a Mother’s Day lunch instead of a brunch because then I’d have an excuse to crack a bottle of fizz. Always feels a bit naughty to drink fizz in the mornings, even for a champagne breakfast on Melbourne Cup day, but lunch is another matter. There’s something deliciously indulgent about it, and let’s face it, Mother’s Day is all about indulging Mum.

But if you’re considering lunch for your mum and have a bit of time to prepare, here’s a recipe that might appeal. Serve with a nice green salad, and a glass of crisp white wine, rosé or even fizz, throw in good company, and you have yourself the makings of a perfect afternoon.

 

LEEK, FETTA AND TOMATO TART

 

Serves 4

Pastry

This will make much more than you need, but it’s very hard to measure half an egg. Refrigerate or freeze the rest for another time.

225g (1 ½ cups) plain flour

90g butter, chopped

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon cold water (you may need more)

Place flour and butter in a food processor and whizz until crumbly (or use the tips of your fingers to rub butter into flour). Add egg and water and pulse until a ball forms. You may need to add extra water. Tip out onto a floured surface and knead lightly. When smooth, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180°C

Take a 35cm by 13cm loose bottomed tart tin and line it with pastry. Rolling out the pastry can be extremely painful so just use your fingers to press balls into the tin until a nice shell forms. Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden.

Filling

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 leek, halved, washed and white part very thinly sliced

200g pancetta or good smoky bacon, cut into small fine batons

1 clove garlic, crushed

A few good handfuls of baby spinach

100g fetta, crumbled

6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved

3 eggs

180ml cream

3 or so tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Add leek, garlic and pancetta and cook over medium heat until the leek is nice and soft and starting to caramelise a little. Add spinach and wilt.

Spread leek mixture over the cooked pastry case. Top with fetta.

Whisk eggs with Parmesan cheese and then stir in cream until well-combined. Pour over leek mixture. Dot surface with halved cherry tomatoes.

Bake 30 minutes or until set. Serve warm.

 

I’d love to hear what would make a perfect Mother’s Day for you, or even how you plan to celebrate with your mum. Maybe you get to flop around in your PJs all day with people waiting on you hand and foot. Perhaps you’ll be picnicking or adventuring or doing something completely indulgent. Maybe Sunday will find you whipping up your favourite recipe for your mum. I bet there are some wonderful ideas out there we could all gain inspiration from.

FRIDAY FEAST with me!

This week on Friday Feast we have a very special guest… me!

Heart of the Valley released yesterday and as I want as many people as possible to buy and read it, I’m taking over this week’s Friday Feast to mercilessly plug my book. Well, not mercilessly – I’m not that enamoured with self promo – but I’m going to make sure you know aaaaall about this wonderful, emotional read.

Yes, emotional. I have it on good authority that people have been so moved by Heart of the Valley and the fate of its characters that they’ve cried. As Michelle, book editor of online magazine Beauty and Lace warns in her recent review, “…regardless of how tough you think you are you are going to need the tissues.” I also shed many tears during its writing, although not always for the same reason. As any (normal) author will tell you, writing can be bloody stressful!

So in keeping with the established Friday Feast format, and because I’m painfully pedantic and like to keep things ordered, here’s the cover and blurb. You can also read the opening chapter at my website.

 

HEART OF THE VALLEY

 

Brooke Kingston is smart, capable and strongwilled ­ some might even say stubborn ­ and lives in the beautiful Hunter Valley on her family property. More at home on horseback than in heels, her life revolves around her beloved ‘boys’ ­ showjumpers Poddy, Oddy and Sod.

Then a tragic accident leaves Brooke a mess. Newcomer Lachie Cambridge is hired to manage the farm, and Brooke finds herself out of a job and out of luck. But she won¹t go without a fight.

What she doesn’t expect is Lachie himself ­ a handsome, gentle giant with a will to match her own. But with every day that Lachie stays, Brooke’s future on the farm is more uncertain. Will she be forced to choose between her home and the man she’s falling for?

A vivid, moving and passionate story of love and redemption from the author of Promises.

 

Vivid, moving and passionate… yup, that about sums it up. But I should also mention that the hero, Lachie, is a complete and utter babe. There’s this bit where he… Oh, just go and buy the book and you’ll soon see what I mean.

Right, enough of that. Let’s talk FOOD!

 

There’s a sweet character in Heart of the Valley named Nancy Burrows who’s a gun country cook and one of those wonderfully generous souls who loves nothing more than to spoil those she holds dear with her delicious food.

Nancy doesn’t do fancy food. Nope, Nancy makes hearty country fare like beef casseroles, chicken and vegetable soup, and Lancashire hot pot. And she bakes. Oh, does she bake. There are ginger biscuits, apple and rhubarb crumble, and Lachie’s favourite, bread and butter pudding.

So I thought I’d dedicate this Friday Feast to Nancy Burrows and share the sort of recipe that she’d make. Which is rather fitting now that fickle Melbourne has finally abandoned its Indian summeriness and instead decided to blast us with cold and rain. I don’t know about you, but when the weather turns horrid, my stomach craves old-fashioned winter comfort food, and what better warming food is there than a rib-sticking soup?

My mum, bless her, isn’t the most enthusiastic of cooks, although she can whip up a damn fine pavlova. My grandmother taught me how to bake but, overall, I’d call myself a self-taught cook. However, one of the recipes I did learn from Mum growing up was her pea and ham soup. There was no recipe as such; Mum just knew how to make it. I assume she learned from watching her mum, which is exactly how I learned too.

This is perfect winter fare. Thick, delicious, warming and satisfying. I loved coming in from the freezing cold, soaked and mud-smeared after a game of hockey or hair-covered and reeking of horse after a morning spent riding, and being served a great bowl of this soup with buttery toast. It was so damn homely. Nearly as good as a hot shower or a loving cuddle.

Mum always made her soup with bacon bones, but I use a smoked ham hock because I enjoy having all that gooey meat to chew on. Just make sure you allow plenty of cooking time so the meat completely falls away from the bone. I also occasionally substitute some of the soup mix for plain barley simply because I love the stuff.

Oh, and all quantities are variable. Adjust to however you prefer or to the ingredients you have on hand. As for how much this recipe makes… um, a lot. Enough at least to feed a ravenous family with some left over.

There you have it. A recipe even Heart of the Valley’s Nancy Burrows would be proud of.

So what are you waiting for? Go grab that stock pot and start simmering!

 

MUM’S PEA & HAM SOUP

1 smoked ham hock

6 stalks celery, finely chopped

3 large carrots, diced

5 onions, peeled, halved and each half cut into thirds

Enough water to cover

300g soup mix (McKenzies)

Salt

Place ham hock, onions, carrots and celery into a stock pot and pour in enough water so the hock is covered. Place on the stove and simmer, lid on, for three hours or until the meat is falling off the bone and a good stock has developed, adding more water if necessary to ensure the hock is always covered.

Remove ham, peel off the skin and discard. Shred the meat, then return meat and bones to the pan. Test the soup for salt – usually quite a bit is required.

Add soup mix, and simmer with the lid on for another two hours or until the pulses are soft.

Serve piping hot with good crusty bread or hot buttered toast.

 

Now, my feasty lovelies, it’s giveaway time and what a prize I have on offer. Oh yes indeedy! One lucky commenter has the chance to win a signed copy of my brand spanking new release, Heart of the Valley, that vivid, moving and passionate book you see above, which is already earning rave reviews (I have proof!).

Winter is just around the corner (or already here if you live in Melbourne) and I’m on the hunt for some comfort food inspiration. Winter-perfect meals are what I’m after. Casseroles, puddings, soups – whatever makes your mouth water. Just share your favourite winter dish and you’ll be in the running to win a copy of Heart of the Valley. So get commenting!

 

I’m going to use my blog owner’s prerogative and add a few more days to the normal giveaway closing time so I can pimp this post and my book for longer. Hey, a girl has to do what she can! Anyway, this time you have until midnight, Thursday 3rd May, 2012 to leave your comment. Australian addresses only, sorry.

Now, in case you haven’t interacted enough with me yet, besides this blog I also play around on Twitter and Facebook, but only when I’m not hard at work daydreaming of bestsellerdom.

 

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our lucky winner, Beck! Your copy of Heart of the Valley will be winging it’s way to you very soon. Thanks to all who entered. Some great comments as always.