Tag Archives: Greek food

FRIDAY FEAST with Annie West

71 Replies

Hello, darling Feasties. Have you all recovered from your Easter chocfests? I hope so, because this week on Friday Feast we have even more luscious things to delight you, including a Greek classic, a sexy sheik, and not one but two book giveaways!

But first, the ongoing  debacle that is Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. Sigh. Deep, deep sigh. Can someone please buy me a new putter? Actually, a bit of concentration would probably work if you have any to spare, because I while I seemed to have recovered a little (and it’s a very little) Romance author Annie Westof my ball striking mojo, the same cannot be said for my putting. I am the three-putt queen right now, and it’s a painfully thorny crown. Never mind, I suppose it’s better than dunking balls into the water. Oh. Hang on. I still do that too.

Our guest today is the delightful Annie West, a USA Today best-selling author with a reputation for producing passionate romances set in exotic locations that abound with sassy, smart heroines, hot alpha male heroes, and deeply emotional storylines.

Annie’s latest is The Sheikh’s Princess Bride, her second Desert Vows story which began with The Sultan’s Harem Bride.

It looks a beauty too. Check it out.


The Sheikh's Princess Bride by Annie West Wanted: royal bride and mother

For Sheikh Tariq of Al-Sarath, one miserable marriage was enough. With a kingdom to rule, he has no time—or wish—to find a bride, but his children need a mother. 

Could Princess Samira of Jazeer be the answer? Samira has sampled passion, and it left a bad taste. With the knowledge she can’t have the children she’s always wanted, Samira steps into Tariq’s ready-made family. Her only condition? No sex!

Samira thought royal duties and her love for Tariq’s children would fill the hole in her heart, but a craving is building that only the sheikh’s touch can cure…

Doesn’t that sound fabulous? And with Annie you know you’re in the hands of a romance expert. The Sheikh’s Princess Bride is available right now from that most excellent of bookstores Booktopia, also Bookworld and Angus & Robertson. You can also purchase from Bookdepository, amazon.com, amazon.au, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, iBooks, and direct from the publisher Mills & Boon.

Prepare yourselves now, my lovelies, because Annie is a not only an expert romance author, she’s also a seriously good cook and the recipe she’s sharing today is mouthwatering.

What’s better than baking baklava? Eating it, of course!

Cathryn, thanks so much for inviting me to a spot on your coveted Friday Feast. I’m almost ready to claim you’re responsible for my waistline battle, with so many gorgeous goodies featured here, but the truth is I’m too lazy to go and cook them all. The real reason I have to keep an eye on the threat of authorly spread (a danger since I sit and write for a living) is that I love food.

My taste runs most often to savoury treats but I’ve got in the habit of sharing sweets here, and I’m not one to break a food-related habit, so I thought I’d share my tried and true recipe for baklava. I’ve been cooking this (admittedly less frequently in the last few years) since the 80s. You can imagine me, perched on a chair as in infant, dealing with filo pastry… Okay, okay, maybe not an infant, but definitely young!

Why baklava this time? The short answer is because of my Desert Vows duet. First ‘The Sultan’s Harem Bride’ was published in February and this month the sequel, ‘The Sheikh’s Princess Bride’. In both cases I found myself writing about palace life in the Middle East, where gorgeous food delicacies abounded. As I wrote I drooled over memories of sweet Egyptian tea, rich Turkish coffee, delicious vegetable dishes, skewered meats, sweet pastries and so on and so on. That, naturally lead me to my favourite sweet pastry – baklava. Okay, I know it’s Greek but my taste buds ignore that distinction and it’s so closely related to the syrup laden treats from further east that it fits the bill.

So, without further ado, here’s my


Annie West's baklava on Friday Feast

500 g filo pastry (refrigerated)

¾ cup melted, unsalted butter

1/4 cup caster sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup finely chopped almonds

2 cups finely chopped walnuts

For Syrup:

2 cups water

2 cups sugar

a couple (no more) of whole cloves

a cinnamon stick (about 5 cm)

a thin strip of lemon rind

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

First up, if you’ve never used filo before, make sure it doesn’t dry out. Take 3 clean tea towels. Lay one on a bench then lay the sheets of filo flat on top of it. Lay another tea towel over that. Take the 3rd teatowel and dampen it (but not till it’s sopping wet as wet filo just sticks together) then lay it over all the rest to keep it from drying out. This sounds fiddly but it’s actually quite easy and means the filo is good to work with. When you need a sheet, flip back the top two tea towels, take some and immediately cover again.

Butter the base and sides of an oven dish (mine’s about 5 cm high and 23 by 33 wide and long). It doesn’t have to be exactly this size.

Mix sugar, spices and nuts and put aside.

Take a sheet of filo and brush it with melted butter. (You don’t have to be terribly precise as long as most of it is covered). Then lay the sheet in the oven dish. Repeat this till you’ve got about nine sheets of filo in the dish.

Spread half the nut mixture into the dish.

Add another two sheets of filo (brushing each separately with butter as before) then top with the remaining nuts.

Finish the filo, brushing one sheet at a time and adding to the dish. (If you’ve got a little less than 500g this will still work).

Brush the top sheet in the dish with melted butter and trim any rough edges. Gently score the top layers of pastry in diamond shapes. You can feel when the tip of the knife cuts through to the nut layer and that’s as far as you need to go. Sprinkle lightly with water. This stops the top layers curling.

Bake on centre shelf at 160 degrees  for 30 minutes, then move up a shelf and cook another 30 minutes. (Cover with foil if it’s colouring too fast).

When you put the baklava in the oven, make the syrup so it has time to cool by the time the baklava comes out. To make the syrup you add all the ingredients to a heavy based saucepan and stir till the sugar dissolves. Bring to boil and boil for 10 minutes. Cool then remove the cloves, lemon peel and cinnamon stick.

When the baklava comes out of the oven spoon the syrup over it (I love the sizzle of sweet syrup on hot pastry). Then comes the hard part. Don’t eat it yet! Of course you can, but the flavour improves and the syrup is absorbed if you leave it for a couple of hours. Great with coffee or as a dessert. I like to make this when family come to dinner. We all have some, then they take some home and we’ve still got leftovers – not that they last long!


As a huge fan of baklava, I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this recipe, Annie. It sounds beautiful and if I get the chance I’m going to attempt a batch next week. Cos one can never have enough nutty sweetness in one’s life. Or romance for that matter.

Speaking of romance goodness, how about a…


We’re so spoiled here on Friday Feast by our guest authors but even more so today because Annie has kindly offered not one, but TWO books to giveaway to two lucky commenters. Yes, book one and two of Annie’s Desert Vow stories.  That’s a copy of The Sheikh’s Princess Bride plus The Sultan’s Harem Bride. Two books, two winners.

PicMonkey CollageAs always, you’ll have to work a little. I think we’ll go for something a little different this time and ask you to reveal your ultimate exotic romantic setting.

I think mine would have to be Venice. I simply adored that place, probably because we visited in winter when the crowds were at a minimum and at night the streets turned misty and secretive. But I’m sure there are plenty of other places I could choose and thousands more I have yet to see, or even hear about.

So what’s yours? Perhaps you find the bright lights, bustle and excitement of New York romantic. Or maybe an isolated tropical island is more your go. Simply share in the comments and we’ll pop you into the draw to win either The Sheikh’s Princess Bride or The Sultan’s Harem Bride.

Giveaway closes midnight AEST, Tuesday 14th April 2015. Open internationally. Rah!

If you’d like to learn more about Annie and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Goodreads.

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Debbie and Juanita who have each won a copy of Annie’s new releases, The Sheikh’s Princess Bride and The Sultan’s Harem Bride. Thanks so much to everyone who joined in the Friday Feast fun. What a great line-up of exotic romantic settings. Looks like Annie and I need to organise a writer’s retreat to Greece and Venice, so we can really capture the authenticity of the setting. Ah, one day…


FRIDAY FEAST with Lisa Heidke

17 Replies

Greetings food and booklovers, and welcome to another exciting edition of Friday Feast. We have a cracking line-up today, including one of Australia’s leading popular women’s fiction authors, a beautiful pasta dish and a book giveaway!

But first, the self-flagellation that is Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. In good news, my putting demon partner and I won (by a whisker) the ladies ambrose competition last week, while I also somehow managed to win longest drive. Rah! In bad or, rather, typical news, it was all downhill from there with me failing to play to my new handicap in the mixed comp. Again. Mind you, that didn’t stop the computer stealing another 0.2 of a stroke off me. No compassion those computers. None. Phht.

But on we go to much more uplifting news!

Lisa Heidke has been at the forefront of Australian popular women’s fiction for a number of Author Lisa Heidkeyears now, catapulting onto the scene with Lucy Springer Gets Even and continuing that success up with What Kate Did Next. Claudia’s Big Break and Stella Makes Good followed to great reviews as well, which should come as no surprise. Lisa studied journalism, has worked in the book and magazine publishing industries, and teaches popular women’s fiction workshops at the Australian Writer’s Centre. In other words, she knows how to tell a good yarn and her stories sparkle with good humour, warm characters and clever observation.

Lisa’s new book is It Started With A Kiss and it looks GORGEOUS. Check it out.


It Started With A Kiss by Lisa HeidkeIt Started with a Kiss is about shattered hearts, secrets and the lies that tie Friday and Liam and their teenage daughters, Evie and Adelaide together.

Naturopath, Friday Jones, feels betrayed when Liam, her husband of almost twenty years, announces that their marriage is over. On the brink of a mid-life crisis and crippled with a fear of missing out, Liam moves in with his bachelor brother, Brad, and pursues his secret ambition of becoming a stand-up comic.

Months later, Friday, still heartbroken, meets an unavailable man, but unable to control her desire, embarks on an intense secret affair.

When her best friend, Rosie, discovers that Friday is flirting with a danger that can only lead to further heartbreak, she signs Friday up with KissMeCupid.com and Friday dives into the murky, unknown, online dating world.

Friday soon starts receiving anonymous letters and gifts and quickly realises that one of her flings has taken obsession to the next level…

Doesn’t that sound like fun? And being a Lisa Heidke book you can be sure there’ll be plenty of twists, drama and laughs as the story unfolds. It Started With A Kiss is available right now from Booktopia, Bookworld, Angus & Robertson, QBD The Bookshop, Boomerang BooksAmazon.au, Kobo, Google Play, iBooks, JB Hi-Fi, chain stores or your favourite book retailer.

Now please give a very hearty welcome too Lisa, and prepare to drool!

Memories Of Santorini …And My Spaghetti Vongole

Hi Cathryn,

Thanks for having me over! I must say, when you invited me the Friday Feast I was a tad daunted. You see, rather like Nicki Edwards, one of your previous Friday Feast guests, I’m not much of a cook. Like Nicki, I dislike cooking, mainly because I’d rather be writing or reading – and also because my kids are fussy. Give them a roast chook and salad or sushi every night and they’d be happy!

Unlike Nicki, I do have recipe books. Hundreds of them. People give them to me for Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day…and largely, they remain unopened. I was once given a subscription to Gourmet Traveller. Pretty pictures!

santoriniHowever, one of those Gourmet Travellers (I think it was a February edition) inspired me to travel to Santorini. Three whole weeks of bliss!  Whilst I was there, I had one of the most amazing dishes ever – Spaghetti Vongole.

Simple but so delicious and tasty.

The kids begrudgingly eat it though it can get messy, but I don’t care. Every time I smell it cooking, the flavours remind me of Greece and I am transported back to that cute little restaurant in Santorini, on the waters’ edge with the red and white checked tablecloths and the pretty white geraniums haphazardly arranged in pottery vases…heaven. The restaurant’s signature Spaghetti Vongole was to die for!

Claudia's Big Break by Lisa HeidkeSantorini was also the inspiration for my second novel, Claudia’s Big Break but that’s another story.

In my latest book, It Started with a Kiss, the protagonist, Friday Jones isn’t a great cook. I’d say she’s poor to middling. In fact, all my characters seem to be very average in the kitchen. Funny that!

Still, I’d have to say when it comes to the Vongole, it’s hard to go wrong. Even Friday could do it. So here’s the recipe!

Spaghetti Vongole



1 kilo Vongole (pipis)

4 whole red chillie4 garlic cloves

1 cup parsley

500 gm spaghetti

Wine or water…depending on your preference


  1. Boil enough water for the spaghetti
  2. Finely chop garlic and thinly chop chillies
  3. Roughly chop parsley
  4. Cook pasta according to instructions
  5. While pasta is cooking, sauté garlic, chilli, parsley and pipis in deep frypan for two minutes
  6. Add a couple of tablespoons of water (or white wine) to the frypan and cover.
  7. Steam pipis for approximately five minutes until all have opened.
  8. Drain pasta and add to frypan…toss through…
  9. Sprinkle parsley on top
  10. Enjoy with a glass or two of chilled white wine.


Wow! You sure know the way to a girl’s heart, Lisa. Spaghetti vongole is one of my favourite dishes. The shellfish is so sweet and sea-tasting, with the other flavours enhancing the vongole rather than taking over. And it’s so much fun to slurp up the pasta and suck on the shells. Beautiful. I bet your Santorini one tasted even better. Oh, to be there. Sigh.

Enough wistfulness. Let’s make this even more delicious by having a…


Yes, my Feasty darlings, Lisa has very generously offered the chance for one lucky commenter to win a copy of It Started With A Kiss. Naturally you’ll have to work for it. So, to be in the draw, answer this:

Which dishes remind you of a favourite holiday or time in your life?

Me? I have a thousand! Eating sea bass on the Cinque Terra. The jungle curry I helped make at a cooking school in Thailand. Endlessly scoffing crayfish legs and tails at our beach shack during childhood summer holidays. Visiting Rick Stein’s seafood restaurant in Cornwall. Urk. I must stop. All this reminiscing is making me want to go on holiday.

What about you? What dishes remind you of holidays or special times? Reveal all and we’ll pop you into the draw to win It Started With A Kiss.

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday AEST, 24th February 2015. Australian postal addresses only.

If you’d like to learn more about Lisa and her heart-warming books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter using @lisaheidke.


This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Meredith who has won a copy of Lisa’s gorgeous new release, It Started With A Kiss.
Thanks so much to everyone for visiting and sharing your lovely holiday food memories.