Category Archives: Heart of the Valley

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.