Tag Archives: easy entertaining

FRIDAY FEAST with Cathryn Hein

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Greetings once more from the food and book marvel that is Friday Feast. This week: an important announcement, a tasty tagine and I bore entertain you once again with that most splendiferous of rural romance novellas, Summer and the Groomsman.

Did you know this series has been going for over four years now? That’s a loooong time in bloglandia. Every week for eleven months of the year we’ve had Australian authors sharing their latest releases and mouth-watering recipes, and it’s been a blast!

ARRA Booksigning - Cathryn HeinBut it’s also been quite time consuming and has on more than one occasion taken me away from my writing. Given that I have plans for world literary domination (and, really, who doesn’t?) I need to take a bit more care of my writing time, so it is with no little sorrow that I inform you that Friday Feast will soon be ending as a regular blog post. It will, however, pop up from time to time when I or one of my lovely author friends are in the mood for some foodie fun.

Righty-o, let’s return to normal programming with the dubious joy that is Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf.

Steady is the way I’d describe my golf game at the moment. Nothing special but kicking along nicely, which is good. One doesn’t want to peak too early when next week sees the ladies Medal of Medals playoff, and this one is going to be hard-fought, let me tell you. This competition takes all the year’s monthly medal winners and pits them against each other in one round, like a best of the best battle. It’ll be tough and competitive, and as convivial as all our games are. I’ll probably get all nervous and screw it up as usual, but that’s okay. The sun will hopefully be shining and the ladies will be their normal lovely selves and we’ll all have a great day regardless.

And now, another gawp at Summer and the Groomsman because I know you can’t get enough of Mr Sexy on the cover. I certainly can’t!

SUMMER AND THE GROOMSMAN

Cover of Summer and the Groomsman by Cathryn HeinIt’s Levenham’s wedding of the year but unlucky-in-love Harry Argyle has more on his mind than being groomsman.

After yet again nearly colliding with an escaped horse while driving home to the family farm, Harry Argyle comes face-to-face with its pretty owner, and doesn’t hold back his disapproval.

Confronted by a bad-tempered giant on a dark country road, beautician and new arrival in town Summer Taylor doesn’t know who to be more afraid for: herself or her darling horse Binky. It’s not her fault Binky keeps escaping. The alcoholic owner of the paddock she rents won’t fix the fence and Binky can be sneaky when it comes to filling his stomach. But no matter how big and muscled the bully, she refuses to be intimidated.

When Harry’s wedding party book a session at the day spa where Summer works, both she and Harry are horrified to be paired together. Grudgingly, they agree to make the most of it – only for the session to spiral into disaster. Realising he’s made a dill of himself in front of sweet Summer yet again, Harry vows to set things right.

Summer isn’t about to easily forgive the man who called her horse stupid, no matter how brave and kind, but with everyone on Harry’s side, even fate, resistance is hard. Can these two find love or will Summer’s wayward horse put his hoof in it again?

Mr Sexy is available right now from Amazon.com, Amazon.au, Amazon.uk, iBooks, Kobo and Nook. Go on. You know you want him.

Can’t stand ebooks? Stay tuned for news on the print edition, coming soon!

Now for some talk about…

Tantalising Tagines

We love a good tagine in the Hein house. They’re so easy and great for a Friday night when we’re after something set-and-forget. With their lovely spices and addition of dried or fresh fruit these are the casseroles of the Middle-East and Mediterranean, but unlike normal casseroles which tend to favour the cooler months, tagines suit warm weather dining too.

Terracotta Tagine

My trusty terracotta tagine

I probably don’t need to tell you that tagines are named after the conical cooking vessel in which they’re cooked. I have two of these now. The first tagine is a traditional terracotta version that you have to soak overnight in water to ensure the pottery is moist enough to cope with cooking heat, and, I suspect, also adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the end dish.

Stupidly not having brought one home from France with us (where we could have snaffled one for about €5), back then we had to hunt around to find our terracotta tagine. Now these things are everywhere and made out of everything from stainless steel to ceramic, cast iron, copper and combinations in between.

One of the things that disappointed us about our terracotta version was its small size and shallow bowl. More than half a kilo of meat and it would overflow. As we like to cook double amounts and freeze the rest for lazy times this was a bit of an inconvenience, leading us to keep an eye out for a new one.

Scanpan tagine

My shiny new Scanpan tagine

Cast iron looked cool but would have weighed a tonne. Because of the soaking necessity, a large terracotta one would have been bothersome and require too much forward planning. The ceramic ones were okay but… nah. Then we spotted the Scanpan version and were lovestruck. So shiny, so pretty, so perfect in its sleek dimensions. Best of all, so easy to clean and no overnight soaking required. We had to have it.

And it’s proved a cracker! I’m your basic overexcitable home cook and don’t for one second consider my food authentic to any cuisine, and our tagines probably don’t even come close to the unique flavours of the traditional, but they’re pretty bloody tasty all the same. Lamb with dates, beef with raisins, meatballs in tomato sauce with baked eggs… we’ve made all sorts.

One of our favourites though, is the one I’m going to share today: Chicken Tagine with Lemon and Dates. I have a feeling the original recipe was torn out from a newspaper but, as usual, we’ve tweaked the ingredients and method to suit our own tastes and cooking laziness. With its gold and lemony hues it looks like a summer dish, and the flavours? Sweet, spicy and lovely. And now we have a larger tagine we can make it in the full amount and have leftovers.

No tagine? Never fear! Simply use a normal casserole.

Chicken Tagine with Lemon and Dates

Serves four

Chicken Lemon and Date Tagine

4 chicken marylands, thigh and leg separated

Olive oil

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 teaspoons paprika dolce

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

2 teaspoons ginger, freshly grated

1/2 preserved lemon, flesh removed, rinsed and pith sliced finely

1/2 lemon, finely sliced

Salt and pepper

2 onions, finely chopped

8 fresh dates, pitted and cut into halves crossways

Coriander leaves.

Mix spices, garlic, ginger, preserved lemon and lemon slices together with a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Throw in chicken pieces and toss until well coated in the spice mix. Leave to marinate for an hour.

Heat the tagine base over medium heat. Add a splash or two of olive oil and throw in sliced onions. Cook, stirring, until a few minutes until softened then add 250ml of water and mix. Add chicken and stir then top with tagine lid and simmer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add dates and bake a further 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Season well, sprinkle with coriander and serve with couscous to mop up all the lovely spicy juices.

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So Feasty ones, what’s your favourite cooking vessel? Or maybe you prefer a no-fuss barbecue or not to cook at all?

Besides my tagine, which I luuurve, and my wok which I’d be useless without, my favourite dish is probably my super-sized copper pan. It makes the best casseroles, even beating the enamel-coated cast iron pots for delicious results. No idea why but I imagine it has something to do with the evenness of its heat distribution. I also have a thing about my Le Creuset terrine. It just looks fab!

What about you? Share away. You might convince us of the need for something shiny and new.

If you’d like to learn more about me or my books, have a potter around the website where you’ll find cool things like The Story Behind pages for each of my books, and more. You can also connect with me on Facebook, Twitter using @CathrynHein, Google +, Goodreads and Pinterest.

Friday Feast recipe index link.

FRIDAY FEAST with Louise Reynolds

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Hello food and fiction lovers, and welcome to another aromatic edition of Friday Feast. This week: a charming contemporary romance from a favourite Australian author along with some delicious figgy goodness.

But first, news from Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. Despite occasional lapses of concentration and some appalling putting, I’m actually rather pleased with how my game’s Author Louise Reynoldsimproving at the moment. The winter golfing blues appear to have been well and truly cleared away. An enormous relief, let me tell you, because with the club championships now in progress, four weeks of horror play would have been too awful to contemplate.

What IS wonderful to contemplate, however, is today’s guest. Louise Reynolds has fast become a very popular contemporary romance author, with good reason. Her books have great dialogue, fantastic settings, memorable characters, and lots and lots of romance. Perfect. Oh, and beautiful covers too. So beautiful that her previous novel, Red Dirt Duchess, was announced best rural romance cover at the recent Romance Writers of Australia conference. Fair enough too. That one’s a stunner.

Louise’s brand new release is If I Kissed You. Prepare to be charmed!

IF I KISSED YOU

Cover of If I Kissed You by Louise ReynoldsRaised by a pair of hopeless hippies, Nell Connor had to grow up quickly. But now her father, awash in whisky, has handed her the reins of his Irish pub. After obliterating every trace of Ireland, Nell has transformed it into a smart, and trendy bar. Business is booming but, outside of work, things aren’t going so smoothly.

When gorgeous musician Declan Gaffney arrives, it’s clear he’s definitely not Nell’s type.  He’s Irish (therefore must be feckless and unreliable), he sings romantic Irish ballads (which Nell hates) and his nomadic lifestyle reminds her of some of the most painful parts of her childhood.

After Declan helps Nell out of a tricky situation, her father takes a shine to him and starts matchmaking. And when her aura-reading mother turns up, Nell’s carefully ordered life is thrown into chaos. She’s losing control but the biggest shock of all is yet to come … 

In a story that shines a light on the unusual forms family can take, Nell must accept that sometimes love takes you in unexpected directions.

Doesn’t that sound enticing? Hard to resist an Irish hero. If I Kissed You is available right now from Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, and Booktopia. Grab your copy today!

Now please welcome Louise, who is going to delight you with one of the world’s most beautiful fruits.

Two Simple Ingredients

Thanks for hosting me again on Friday Feast, Cathryn. As you know I’m a keen reader of your blog. What better entertainment than books and food, with a side helping of the Hein’s golfing triumphs and tribulations.

Fig, Prosciutto, MintBut, you know, I’m a little bit peeved. Recently you hosted Amy Andrews with her smarty-pants throw-it-together-no-cooking-needed recipes and her two-ingredient crockpot soup, all of which look wonderful for next to no effort and the blurb for her Gazillionth fabulous book!

I was ogling that soup when the penny finally dropped. This is why the woman is a writing powerhouse. She spends next to no time in the kitchen. While I’m boning rabbits and scouring Melbourne for the freshest burrata, I’m not banging out the words. I’m a kitchen goddess, not a writing machine, Nigella not Nora (oh, why can’t I be both?).

So I’ve taken a leaf out of Amy’s book. No more elaborate Friday Feast recipes from me. Today, in the spirit of friendly competition, I offer a two-ingredient recipe of my own (two because everyone has mint in the garden, right?). It’s my throw-it-together, no cooking needed appetiser and it’s a crowd pleaser.

It’s the sort of dish my heroine, Nell, in If I Kissed You, would prepare for herself and friends on a night off from the Fitzrovia, her fashionable St Kilda hotel. She might have a two-hatted chef in the kitchen at work but what girl doesn’t want to pare it back to basics, kick off her heels, open a good bottle of wine and serve a simple meal she hasn’t slaved over?

But stop! I’m me. Because that fictional chef downstairs at the Fitzrovia needs a job, and because I just can’t help myself, I’m going to add value to those ingredients with the addition of two simple ingredients, lemon and cream.

So here’s that recipe, two ways.

Nell’s Fresh Figs and Prosciutto

Fig, Prosciutto, Mint

Quarter lusciously ripe figs and lay in a tumble on a plate. Twist curls of prosciutto by the side. Garnish with tiny mint leaves. That’s it.

Fitzrovia’s Fresh Figs and Prosciutto with a Minted Cream Sauce (with thanks to Richard Olney)

Crush 6 mint leaves in the juice of 1 lemon and leave for 30 mins. Discard the mint. Dissolve a pinch of salt in the juice then stir in ¼ cup of thick heavy cream and whisk till smooth. Drizzle around the dish as above and garnish with additional mint leaves.

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Oh, Louise, you’re a woman after my own heart. I adore figs. They’re so succulent and gorgeous and versatile, as you’ve shown. I have to say I love the minted cream sauce idea. Definitely one to try.

So Feasty lovelies, how do you like to use or show off fresh fruit like figs? I know it’s a bit naff but I really enjoy melon and prosciutto. They just seem to team so well. Grapes in salads are yum too, like little bursts of sweetness. As for desserts, sour cherry strudel, anyone?

So what’s your favourite way with fruit? Sweet or savoury, we’d love to hear.

If you’d like to learn more about Louise and her wonderful books, please visit her website. You can also connect on Facebook, Twitter using @LouiseHReynolds, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Friday Feast recipe index link.

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

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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.

FRIDAY FEAST with Melanie Scott

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Greetings, food and booklovers, and welcome to another session of Friday Feast goodness. This week we’re getting sporty (and not with golf either), plus share a super delish and easy to bake dinner and offer a super-hunky giveaway!

But first, Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf news. Alas, as predicted, my newly lowered handicap proved a psychological barrier too high and I failed to play to it. This was to be expected. As my father – bless him – has proven many times, when it comes to the sport we love but are cursed by, us Heins have no mental strength. We are, however stubbornly persistent. A personality fault we can’t seem to remedy. Sigh.

Now onto the promised funstuff!

Author Melanie ScottThis week’s guest is Melanie Scott, whose novel Devil in Denim, the first in her New York Saints baseball series, I read and adored. The second, Angel in Armani, has just released and looks an absolute cracker. That smokin’ cover doesn’t hurt either (although wait until you see book three, Lawless in Leather. Phwoar!) .

You don’t have to be a sports or baseball fan to enjoy these steamy contemporary stories because while the settings centre around a baseball team, the plots concern the Saints’ sexy alpha male owners and the equally determined women in their lives. Yep, it’s all about the luurve.

Rightly so, too.

ANGEL IN ARMANI

Cover of Angel in Armani by Melanie ScottWILL A LOVE OF THE GAME

Sara Charles is trying not to strike out. With her dad out of commission, Charles Air has only one helicopter left-and only one Sara to fly charters. With the family business in jeopardy, Sara needs all the clients she can get and the newest one is New York Saints team surgeon, Lucas Angelo. When an unexpected flirtation escalates into a night of pure blind passion, Sara realizes she may have just blown the game. To stay in play, she vows to avoid Lucas and keep her mind on her business and only her business. But there’s a catch: she needs him–in more ways than one.

LEAD TO A FIELD OF DREAMS?

Lucas thought he had his head in the game until his night with Sara throws him off balance. Spring training is upon him, and his schedule is madness but he can’t forget her. So he makes an offer she can’t refuse. Be his personal pilot and earn the money she needs to save Charles Air. She intends to keep him at arm’s length–especially when she discovers just how different their worlds are. Little does Sara know that, for Lucas, the only thing more important than business is pleasure. He only plays to win. And he intends to hit it out of the park…

How cool does that sound? If it’s anything like the reviews are saying then it’s going to be as good, if not better than, Devil in Denim.  Secure your copy of Angel in Armani now via BooktopiaBookworld, Book Depository, Amazon.com, Amazon.ukAmazon.au, iBooks US, iBooks Aust, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Kobo, JB Hi-Fi or your favourite retailer.

Sorted? Time to enjoy a tasty meal then!

Lazy Cooking or Yay For Nigella And Jamie

I’ve always loved a good roast dinner. My mum does a great one and we’d have it for weekend dinners fairly regularly (and she still does them when I go home to visit, yay). Roast lamb or chicken with roast potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, parsnip and all the trimmings. Delicious. But for some reason it’s something I rarely bother to cook at home. It always seems like a bit of a drama with having to time everything to be ready together etc. Plus lots of washing up that needs to be scrubbed. So when I was watching Nigella Lawson one day and saw her do a tray bake of chicken pieces with chorizo and potatoes, I was kind of intrigued. Cooked all in one pan, not huge amounts of meat left over. Shorter cooking time. Right up my alley. And about the same time I saw Jamie Oliver do the same thing. Since then a lazy chicken tray bake has become one of my favourite weekend dinners. Feels like a roast without any of the fuss. Genius.

My heroine in Angel in Armani, Sara Charles, is definitely a no kind of fuss dinner gal. She’s a helicopter pilot who’s struggling to keep the family business afloat so no time for fussing in the kitchen. This would be exactly her kind of thing.

Easy Chicken Tray Bake

Inspired by Nigella Lawson (see an example here and Jamie Oliver here).

Melanie Scott's Chicken Tray BakeIngredients

8 chicken thighs or wings. Skin on is better, take the skin off after cooking if you don’t want to eat it. You can also use chicken Maryland pieces.

Handful of cherry tomatoes

1 sweet potato or a few potatoes

Other vegies to taste (I use carrot/zucchini/onion/pumpkin)

3-4 cloves of garlic (unpeeled)

Olive oil or spray

Pepper and salt

Optional pancetta or chorizo (roughly sliced for the pancetta and chopped into inch or so chunks for the chorizo)

Heat oven to 180 Celsius.

Line a roasting pan with baking paper (makes clean up lazy too!)

Season the chicken with whatever you like (sage or thyme, spicy rub or just good old salt and pepper) and place in the tray

Chop the vegetables other than the tomatoes and garlic into smallish chunks (maybe an inch or so wide). If using pancetta or chorizo chop as well.

Put vegies in the pan around the chicken then add the tomatoes and garlic cloves and chorizo/bacon if using.

Add a good splash or two of olive oil (or spray well with olive oil spray)

Season with pepper and salt to taste

Bake in oven for 30 minutes then turn chicken and vegetables over. If using olive oil spray you may need to spray again. Bake another 30 minutes or so until chicken is done.

Serve with gravy or chutney or on its own.

Bonus tip, if cooking for one person use just 2-3 pieces of chicken and cook the same amount of vegies and use the leftovers later to make frittata or in a salad or on pizza etc. If you don’t want to do this, then just use a smaller tray or a small square casserole dish to roast in.

After you’ve served up, whip the baking paper out of the tray, put the tray to soak and there will be minimal scrubbing required in the clean up stage!

 

Thanks, Melanie. That sounds seriously yum. I love how easy it is to put together and can be adapted to whatever happens to be in your vegie keeper. Recipes like that are gold.

Speaking of gold, we have a…

GIVEAWAY!

Yes, folks, it’s time to share the sporty love. Melanie has generously offered a copy (ebook or paperback) of Angel in Armani to giveaway to one lucky commenter.

All you have to do is answer this simple question: What’s your favorite easy delicious dinner?

Ooh, I have several! Pastas and stir fries are at the top of the list, but I’m a terrible sucker for a good soup and with the pressure cooker fired up they can be whipped up in no time. What about you, dear Feasters? Maybe you have a one pot recipe for when you don’t feel like cooking much, or perhaps a healthy salad that can be assembled in seconds. Share away and we’ll pop you in the draw.

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday AEST, 17th February 2015. Open internationally. Rah!

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

 

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Jillian who has won a copy of Melanie’s fabulous Angel in Armani. Thanks to everyone who joined in the Friday Feast fun. As always there were some wonderful suggestions for easy dinners. Thanks!

FRIDAY FEAST with Jodie Blight

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Season’s greetings! Or should that be summer greetings? Either way, welcome to the plumptiousness that is Friday Feast.

I am SO EXCITED TODAY! Seriously, you have no idea. Why? Because today we host our first cookbook author. *cue much squeeing and stamping of feet* Yes, my little puddings, the Feast is going professional.

But first, to the utter unprofessionalism that is Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf… Oh, who cares? I don’t. I played poo, yada yada. Good. Now that’s out of the way we can move on to our guest.

Jodie Blight is a Melbourne mother of two young boys who has just launched Summer TABLE, a beautiful and accessible cookbook designed to make your life easier.

Jodie Blight, author of Summer TableJodie’s book draws on her experiences of having been a high flyer in finance, turned full-time mother, living in and out of Australia. During four years in Holland raising her family, she lived in a small Dutch village, with no takeaway food shops and where the supermarket closed at 5 pm on weekdays and didn’t open on Sundays. Jodie was forced to creatively plan and prepare her family meals. This is where the concept of Summer TABLE was born.

And what a concept! Summer TABLE shows how leftovers can be easily transformed, plus half the recipes take less than 15 minutes to prep and cook, and Jodie offers a step by step guide to cooking, storing and keeping food to help time-poor people get the most out of each supermarket visit.

Seriously, you do not want to miss this…

Summer TABLE

Summer TABLE cookbookSummer TABLE answers the age old question, ‘What’s for dinner tonight?’ with over 100 recipes for fast, delicious and healthy meals for every night of summer.

Not only does it solve the dinner dilemma but the shopping dilemma too! Incorporated within the book is a free App – scan a QR code from a recipe in the cookbook and produce a shopping list on your smartphone, with all the items you need sorted into the supermarket sections. A brand new concept of bringing the old world of a hard copy cookbook and combining it with the new world of technology. A first in the cookbook world!

The reviews from those who have purchased Summer TABLE have been nothing short of fantastic. Founder of Carman’s Fine Foods Carolyn Creswell says Summer TABLE provides helpful inspiration for her and her husband juggling work and family: “With a busy family, we struggle with the challenge of creating interesting and healthy dinners every night of the week. Getting dinner on the table fast is a necessity, but being suitable for both kids and adults is essential. The homemade pizzas are a favourite in our family. Summer TABLE will inspire you for a summer of family meals with fantastic flavours”.

Summer TABLE is available from many independent bookstores across Australia, Dymocks, Big W and www.hellotable.com.au.

A perfect Christmas present for yourself, friends or family.  Maybe even a Kris Kringle!

So, now that we’ve solved your Christmas present buying dilemmas (you’re welcome, my darlings), please give a big Feasty hello to Jodie. And enjoy!

For Some Strange Reason My Family Insist

On Being Fed Every Single Night!

Summer is my favourite time of the year. The incredible lime green of the leaves, the warm sun high in the sky, the birds singing in the trees – ahhh life is good … but the serenity is always broken by those three chilling words: “What’s for dinner?”

For some strange reason my family insist on being fed every single night!

Coming up with interesting, quick and healthy recipes for dinner every night is enough to send even the best cook into the depths of despair. And when it comes to the Christmas feast, it doesn’t matter whether you are cooking for a few or for a whole tribe, it can be extremely daunting.

So as I see it, my options are:

-prepare for weeks and spend all Christmas day in the kitchen (ignoring the children’s requests for batteries, or assistance to assemble the latest gadget) or …

-relax with a glass of champagne, dodging the toy helicopter hovering above while my ankles get battered by the remote control car below.

Need I say more?

Allow me to take a step back for a moment. The idea for Summer TABLE began back in 2005 when we moved to Europe with my husband’s work. I was a young mum living in a foreign village where there was no takeaway food, the supermarket closed at 5 pm on weekdays and there was no Sunday shopping. I often got ‘caught out’ and had to produce interesting and tasty meals with whatever I had in the fridge. Out of necessity I needed to think ahead, and through my desperation came innovation.

In my attempt to be the ‘hostess with the mostest’ I always cook way too much and our tradition of Sunday roasts with family and friends results in lots of leftovers. As a lover of good food (and I admit, a little frugal), I became accomplished at creating tasty, quick and healthy meals with the abundance of beautiful food left over from Sunday. The best part was no one knew they were eating leftovers (well, not until now).

I set myself the task to use all the leftovers in innovative new ways. As the personal challenge grew, I found myself deliberately making extra for the Sunday roast, since it required no more time or effort. My husband was often surprised at how much food there was and regularly asked, with a concerned look and a quiver in his voice,  “How many people are coming today?”

And Summer TABLE was born.

Anyway, I digress. Back to Christmas. Just in case it does need to be said “I choose the glass of Champagne, while dodging miniature attack missiles”. Surprised????

I have to admit, the best Christmas lunch we have ever had, (and when I say best, I mean most delicious and most enjoyable) was last year. For entree, I bought lots of cooked prawns, already peeled by our wonderful fishmonger Phil, and served them with a Mango and Avocado Salad. It took less than 10 minutes to throw together.

For the main fare, sliced ham and a roast chicken, served with Haloumi and Watermelon Salad and Orange and Fennel Salad. Both salads ooze summer, so beautifully fresh and ridiculously quick to prepare.

I thought I would share all my easy Christmas recipes with you today. Ooops – did you say only one recipe Cathryn? I have never been very good at following the rules when it comes to talking about my favourite topic – FOOD and WINE!

Prawns with Mango and Avocado Salad

Prawns with Mango and Avocado Salad from Summer TABLEPrep time 10 minutes   Cook time 0 minutes   Total time 10 minutes   Serves 4

4 handfuls mixed lettuce leaves

2 mangoes, cut into cubes

½ red onion, thinly sliced

20 cooked prawns, peeled and deveined

2 avocados, cut into cubes

1 handful coriander leaves, chopped

1 long red chilli, chopped (optional)

Dressing

2 tablespoons white condiment (white balsamic vinegar)

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

½ tablespoon wholegrain mustard

In a large bowl or on a platter, arrange lettuce, mango, onion, prawns and avocado.

To make dressing, shake ingredients in a jar until combined. Taste and adjust to your liking. Pour over salad, and sprinkle with coriander leaves and chilli.

Juicy Roast Chicken

Juicy Roast Chicken from Summer TABLEPrep time 2 minutes  Cook time 1 hour 20 minutes  Total time 1 hour 30 minutes  Serves 8

2 chickens

2 lemons, cut into quarters

4 thyme sprigs

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 240C. Place a rack over a deep baking tray and fill tray with water until just below the rack (make sure the chickens are not touching the water). Place a small strip of baking paper down the middle of the rack to stop the chicken skin from sticking. Fill the cavities of the chickens with the cut lemon and thyme and place chickens (starting breast side up) on the rack. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in oven for 20 minutes.

Take the chickens out of the oven, remove from the tray, turn them over and put them back on the paper over the rack, breast side down. Then reduce the temperature to 190C and cook for a further hour or until the juices run clear. When cooked remove from oven, cover and rest for 10 minutes.

This method will produce the juiciest roast chicken you have ever tasted. Serve with some gravy using the juices from the tray, with its subtle lemon flavour.

Haloumi and Watermelon Salad

Haloumi and Watermelon Salad from Summer TABLEPrep time 10 minutes   Cook time 2 minutes   Total time 10 minutes   Serves 4

¼ watermelon

180 g haloumi, 1 cm thick slices

1–2 tablespoons olive oil

lemon juice

Yoghurt dressing

2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt

1 tablespoon mint sauce

1 handful mint leaves, chopped

Cut watermelon and haloumi into 1 cm thick slices with a similar shape and size.

Heat olive oil in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat. Toss haloumi slices in the oil, then fry the cheese for 1 minute each side until golden brown.

In a small bowl, mix dressing ingredients. Taste and adjust to your liking.

Arrange the haloumi and watermelon in alternating layers across a plate. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and top off with a squeeze of lemon juice. Best served while the cheese is still warm.

Orange and Fennel Salad

Orange and Fennel Salad from Summer TABLEPrep time 10 minutes   Cook time 0 minutes   Total time 10 minutes   Serves 4

4 handfuls mixed lettuce leaves

2 oranges, peeled and thinly sliced

1 bulb fresh fennel, finely sliced

½ red onion, finely sliced

1 handful coriander leaves, chopped

Dressing

3 tablespoons orange juice

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons white condiment (white balsamic vinegar)

1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard

Place lettuce, oranges, fennel and onion in a salad bowl or on a platter.

To make dressing, shake ingredients in a jar until combined. Taste and adjust to your liking. Pour over salad and toss together.

Sprinkle with coriander.

There you have it. A Christmas feast ready in moments. For the sake of completeness, I feel the urge to give you a few ideas on wines to serve with these dishes. Everyone has different tastes when it comes to their favourite beverage and any of these dishes would be perfect served with bubbles or beer. But in case you are looking for some inspiration, these are my suggestions:

Prawns served with a crisp Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2014 SA (my personal favourite)

Juicy Roast Chicken served with a fruity Fraser Gallop Chardonnay 2013 WA

Ham perfectly matched with the Christmassy flavours (raspberry, cherry and spice) of a NV Seppelt Original Sparkling Shiraz Vintage.

And my final thoughts on the Christmas Feast, what to do with the leftovers? Surely I can’t be the only one who cooks way too much for Christmas day. How about using the leftover chicken for a Chicken and Nectarine Salad the next day?  Or try Vietnamese Chicken Noodles, Chicken San Choi Bow or a Caesar Salad, just to name a few. When you have eaten all the ham sandwiches you can eat, and you can’t face one more morsel, why not make Pea and Ham Soup and freeze it for winter! Crazy huh!

We are all busy and want quick, healthy and delicious meals. Thoughts of planning the Christmas feast shouldn’t drag us down. Christmas means fun, soaking up the sun, laughing with family and friends, and enjoying fresh, delicious food without the stress. Hopefully Summer TABLE will inspire you to put variety and zest back on your table.

Jodie

 

Thank you, Jodie. You have been wonderfully generous giving us not only ideas for stress-free Christmas cooking, but a great insight into what Summer TABLE has to offer. And suggested WINES!!! *faints*

So, my darling Feasty lovelies, time for a little sharing. What are your tips for a stress-free Christmas?

I’ll let you in on mine: let someone else do it. Yes, I know, not very helpful but it does make for enjoyable entertaining. Other than that, seafood n salad. Can’t beat it.

What about you? Maybe you buy delectable items in or make gourmet delights and freeze them in advance. Share your tips and help us all get through the silly season. God knows, most of us need all the help we can get!QR Code for Summer Table

If you’d like to learn more about Jodie and her cookbooks, please visit her website Hello TABLE. You can also find her on Facebook and on Twitter using @HelloTABLE

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