Tag Archives: lamb casserole

FRIDAY FEAST with Fleur McDonald

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Greetings my book and food loving lovelies, and welcome to another bright and shiny edition of Friday Feast. This week we’re playing host to one of Australia’s most popular rural authors, revealing her stunning new novel, and setting your mouth a-watering with a comforting lamb shank recipe.

But first, the horror story that continues to be Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. Sliding backwards, folks. Backwards, fast and red-faced and silently screaming. I laughed at the end of my round last week but that only to stop myself from crying. I played so terribly that my nett score was worse than what my gross score should have been had I played anywhere near my handicap. In non-golfing terms, I was poo. Oh, well. Dare I say it again? The only way is up!

Author Fleur McDonaldAnd so we go upwards and onwards to this week’s Friday Feast guest, Fleur McDonald.

I’m sure Fleur needs little introduction. Since her debut novel Red Dust boomed on the Australian literary landscape her books have been best-sellers and Fleur has earned a special place in many reader’s hearts. With stories that reflect and celebrate our Australian heartland and farmers, Fleur has indeed become the “Voice of the Outback”.

Fleur’s latest novel is Emerald Springs. Check it out.


Cover of Emerald Springs by Fleur McDonaldAfter finishing university, Amelia Bennett returns to her home town. Determined to lose her old reputation for being scatty, she works hard to prove herself as the treasurer of the local rodeo committee.

Flushed with triumph on the evening of the best rodeo in the town’s history, Amelia is driving the bags of cash into town when she becomes the victim of a terrifying smash and grab. Injured and distraught after her ordeal, she’s even more devastated when she finds out that she and her boyfriend Paul are the objects of suspicion.

To prove her innocence and that of the man she loves, Amelia must convince a sceptical detective that her account of what happened does add up and that he must help her track down the real culprits . . .

With its cracker plot, feisty heroine and engaging love story, Emerald Springs will have you reading well into the night.

Doesn’t that sound a page turner? And you know being from Fleur the story will have real authenticity. Emerald Springs is published by Allen & Unwin and on sale now. But you can buy right this moment with just a few clickety-clicks from Booktopia, Bookworld, Angus & Roberston, Dymocks, Boomerang Books, QBD the Bookshop, or your favourite independent book retailer or chainstore. Also try Amazon.au, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo and JB Hi-Fi.

All loaded up? Time to get comfortable with Fleur.

Fire Food

Cathryn, thanks so much for having me on. I often read your Friday Feast blog and mouth is usually watering by the end of it all!

I have to admit I come from a family don’t really enjoy cooking or the finer details of food, so I think it surprised everyone when I announced my love of cooking (and certainly eating!)

My mum is a standard chops and three veg type lady, where as I love to experiment and play around. I love it even more when my partner helps me in the kitchen. Garry tends to be my sous chef. We really enjoy mucking around while we’re cooking and of course we always cook dinner with a glass of wine or a beer in hand.

I’m going to share one of my hearty winter recipes that kids love, today. Esperance has been experiencing a bit of winter in the last week, so I’ve started to drag out the old favourites.

Also I’ve got to admit, this is the time of year I really love writing and brain food is needed. When writing Emerald Springs, I spent a lot of time sitting next to the wood fire, which has a grill on top of it and cooking on it. Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks was cooked more than once, on top of the fire (which I know goes against the recipe but it still works – and isn’t that the best thing about cooking? The trial and error part!).

So here you go…

Slow-Cooked Lamb Shanks

1 cup of plain flour

8 large French-trimmed lamb shanks

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 large onions

2 cloves of garlic

2 cups of beef stock

¾ of red wine (and I give you permission to drink the rest of the bottle!)

1/3 cup of maple syrup

2 tablespoons of corn flour

2 tablespoons of cold water.


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Coat the lamb shanks with flour and cook in bathes on the stove until browned, then pop them into a large roasting pan.
  2. Add onions and garlic to the saucepan and cook until soft, then add stock, wine and maple syrup, stirring to combine. Then pour over shanks. Before roasting for about an hour, covered.

I love serving this with mashed potato (with grated onion in it) and steamed cabbage. Now not just any steamed cabbage. If you fry up a bit of bacon and add some Worcestershire sauce, before putting the cabbage in, it changes the whole idea of steamed cabbage!


You’re a woman after my own heart, Fleur! Lamb shanks are a huge favourite in our house, especially in the winter months. They’re wonderfully comforting. I love the addition of maple syrup to yours. I can imagine that adds even more sticky lusciousness to the final dish. Will definitely have to test this out. And I particularly adore your cabbage tip. That’s a good one!

So, my cuddly little Feasties, running with Fleur’s tip, what’s yours for brightening up a plain veg?

Do you add balsamic and bacon to your Brussels sprouts (learned that one from Helene Young) or perhaps sprinkle your asparagus with butter and toasted flaked almonds? Maybe you jazz your carrots up with a drizzle of honey?

I’m a firm believer in cheese sauce on cauliflower. That is heaven. Pure, mouth-watering heaven. Sigh. Want some now.

Enough of my drooling. Let’s get sharing our vege brightening tips and make each others’ days!

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




O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

Don’t mind me, just channeling a little Lewis Carroll to celebrate the release of my new rural romance, Heartland. Cathryn Hein Author PhotoBooks always seem to take so long to birth that it’s wonderful when they finally pop out, all pretty, pink (or in Heartland’s case, blue), and shiny.

Yes, yes, I know it’s my baby and I’m terribly biased, but Heartland really is a comely thing. I love its soaring black cockatoos, stunning sky and summer-parched landscape. And the model? She’s the perfect Callie.

But it’s the content that matters, and Heartland has been earning praise. Oh, yes it has!

9/10 from 1 girl, 2 many books and this gorgeous comment:

“It’s easy to overhype books in your mind sometimes, which can lead to them not living up to expectation. That was definitely not the case with this one – it was everything I thought it would be and more. It’s a beautiful story of finding courage to be happy and letting go of the past but without forgetting it.”

And 5/5  from Marcia at Book Muster Down Under.

“Cathryn so skilfully combines atmosphere with location, creating a world which offers authenticity and a full range of sensory stimuli.  As I felt the sun stinging my shoulders, the red dust settling on my tongue and licked the saltwater from my lips, I was immediately pulled in by her fluid and easy writing style and a narrative which has a well thought-out pace, enabling this reviewer to live vicariously through her well rounded human (and animal) characters.”

But you know what else is really cool about release time? I get to take over Friday Feast.

Ahh yes, tis a frabjous day indeed!




Heartland_cvr_640x480A powerful, passionate and moving rural love story from Cathryn Hein, author of Promises and Heart of the Valley.

When Callie Reynolds arrives at Glenmore, the property she’s recently inherited, the last thing she wants is to be saddled with a warty horse, an injured neighbour and a mad goose. Haunted by her sister’s death and her fractured family, all she wants is freedom.

But Callie hasn’t counted on falling for Matt Hawkins, an ex-soldier determined to fulfil his own dream of land and family. Nor could she predict the way the land, animals and people of Glenmore will capture her heart.

Callie is faced with impossible choices. But she must find the courage to decide where her future lies, even if it costs her everything she holds dear.


Heartland is available now from chain stores (it’s in this week’s BigW Catalogue) and your favourite book retailers, including Booktopia (who, as you recall, we luuuurve because of their most splendiferous ARRC2013 sponsorship). You can also buy the ebook from Amazon (Kindle), Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. For a longer list of retailers please visit the Heartland page on my website.

And now please welcome… er… me!


My Kind Of Research


Novels take research. Some more convivial research than others and such was the case with Heartland. There’s a fun scene in the book where the heroine, Callie Reynolds, learns to drive Glenmore’s old Fiat tractor. As a child she’d watched her grandfather work machinery plenty of times but she’d never actually done it herself. The Fiat, with its gears and knobs and PTO, leaves her flummoxed, so she calls on Heartland’s sexy hero Matt Hawkins for help. But Callie doesn’t ask outright. Instead, in one of my favourite scenes of the book, she leaves a bemused Matt sifting through their flirtatious banter, trying to decipher what she’s really come over for.

Now, because you’re all special Feasty lovelies, I’ll reveal a bit of a secret. I nicked part of this scene from an old unpublished manuscript. The tractor in that instance was my brother’s ancient Massey Ferguson, but I needed a few more details and wouldn’t be travelling to Mt Gambier for a while to check. Rather fortuitously, I was heading to Stawell for a library talk, and had planned to spend the rest of the weekend out of town on a farm with my girlfriend and her gorgeous family, who also just happened to have the perfect tractor hiding in a shed.

And so ensued a weekend of research merriment!

Ahh, country kids. They’re classics. This lot insisted on being photographed with a stinky dead sheep.

Ahh, country kids. They’re classics. This lot insisted on being photographed with a stinky dead sheep.

The Fiat, now immortalised in a rural romance.

The Fiat, now immortalised in a rural romance.

Stawell, if you’re unaware, is in the Victorian Wimmera, two hundred and fifty or so kilometres from Melbourne and close to the magnificent Grampians National Park. It’s also very close to the Great Western wine growing region. So what’s a girl to do on a Saturday in a wine region? She goes a-tasting, of course!

Where else to venture than historic Seppelt at Great Western, which not only has a wonderful history, it has amazing drives (cellars) you can tour. Seriously, if you’re cruising around the region do not miss this tour. It’s fascinating, enlightening and afterward you can sample wines not normally on Seppelt’s tasting list. Details of the tours, history and wine on Seppelt’s website.

By the time of completion in 1932, Seppelt's drives extended 3km

By the time of completion in 1932, Seppelt’s drives extended 3km

Mould creeps onto every surface in the drives. A bit War of the Worlds red weedy but harmless.

Mould creeps onto every surface in the drives. A bit disturbingly War of the Worlds red weedy but harmless.

The drives were dug by goldminers for sparkling wine maturation. Seppelt's most iconic (and tasty!) fizz is their Salinger range which is made using the best grapes of the year's vintage.

The drives were dug by goldminers for sparkling wine maturation. Seppelt’s most iconic (and tasty!) fizz is their Salinger range which is made using the best grapes of the year’s vintage.

Where some of the special wines are kept locked. Legend has it Dame Nellie Melba took a bath in champagne here.

Where some of the special wines are kept locked. Legend has it Dame Nellie Melba took a sparkling wine bath here. The bathfizz was later poured back into 152 bottles and recorked. One hopes the contents were all wine!

Naturally, enthused by the sight of those bottles and the post-tour tasting, we stocked up and tonight, to celebrate Heartland’s release (because celebrations are indeed warranted!), I’ll be popping the cork on the very nice bottle of Seppelt Original Sparkling Shiraz that I bought post tour. Lovely!

Now, what does one eat when one has built a red wine appetite? A deliciously flavoured casserole, of course! And this one is a beauty.


Slow Cooked Lamb casserole

You’ll need to begin this recipe the night before.

1.5 kg trimmed, boneless lamb (leg or shoulder), cut into 4-5cm pieces

4 cloves garlic, crushed

250ml shiraz – use something decent!

A good slug or two of olive oil

1 red onion, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons smoked sweet paprika (I use La Dalia brand Pimentón de la Vera dulce)

2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves stripped and chopped finely

3 red capsicums roasted, deseeded and peeled and cut into strips. Or for speediness and rather excellent flavour, use a jar of wood-roasted piquillo peppers.

300 g tomato passata

1-2 bays leaves

½ cup shiraz, extra

½ cup beef stock

Place the lamb in a bowl with the garlic and red wine and marinate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 160° C (or whatever temperature equates to ‘slow’ on yours).

Strain off the shiraz marinade and discard. Heat the oil in a large heavy casserole (an enamel-coated cast iron Le Creuset style pot is perfect) and brown the lamb in batches until a rich, dark colour. Remove browned meat and juices and set aside.

Add the onion and paprika to the pan and stir together for 30 seconds or so, then return the meat and juices, along with the chopped rosemary, peppers, tomato puree and bay leaves. Season well with salt and pepper and mix.  Add the extra shiraz and stock, and bring to a simmer. Cover and place in the oven for 1 ½ to 2 hours, checking occasionally to ensure the meat is covered in liquid. When meat is tender, taste and adjust for seasoning.

Serve with lots of crusty bread to mop up the delicious gravy. And don’t forget a nice red wine to match!

And now, because I’m all dosed up with red fizz cheer and book release excitement, I’m going to run a giveaway. Simply reveal a wine-y tale – anything from your favourite cellar door, to a much loved wine-including recipe, to dear old Uncle Albert’s infamous port barrel dunking – and the one that tickles my fancy most will win a signed copy of Heartland.

But get in quick. Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday AEST, 30th April 2013. Australian addresses only, sorry.

If you’d like to learn more about me or my books, including the story behind Heartland, please visit my website. You can also find me chattering away on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.