Tag Archives: Mills and Boon

FRIDAY FEAST with Annie West

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What a magnificent Friday! And made all the better with a fabulous guest, some feasting, a fantastic book giveaway.

But before we get onto that… DID YOU SEE MY DARLING SWANNIES? Yes, my beloved footy team, the Sydney Swans, is into the AFL Preliminary Final. One step from the Grand Final and premiership victory. Oh, the thrill!

Which kind of makes up for my rather lacklustre golf. I say lacklustre because that’s how it felt to me, but somehow, thanks to that newfangled handicapping system Golf Australia has implemented, I played well enough last week to knock 0.2 of a stroke off my handicap. Weird. Very weird indeed. I am, as we like to say here in the Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf house, bumfuggled.

I’m super excited this week because I’m hosting a very lovely lady on Friday Feast. Annie West is a USA Today best-selling author of many hugely popular and sexy books. She is queen of the alpha male, writing sumptuous romances populated with handsome jet-setting billionaires and feisty heroines who prove more than a match for them.

I’ve just finished reading Annie’s latest, Damaso Claims His Heir, and it was a cracking read. Alpha heroes normally make me want to kick them in the shins, but Damaso was so undone by the heroine, Princess Marisa, that I nearly felt sorry for him. The dialogue was slick, the settings wonderful and the story full of intense, heartfelt emotion. I honestly loved this book and I’m sure you will too.

DAMASO CLAIMS HIS HEIR

Damaso Claims His Heir by Annie WestWhen opposites attract!

Damaso Pires should have known better than to get involved with Marisa—the scandalous princess of Bengaria! Yet soon he sees her true beauty and flawless virtue, which touches a place in him he thought ruthlessly destroyed by his childhood on the streets of Brazil.

But their brief affair becomes permanent when Marisa reveals she’s pregnant.

Damaso knows the sting of illegitimacy and, having fought tooth and nail to claw his way up to the dizzying heights of international success and financial infamy, he won’t let his child slip from his grasp. There’s only one way to claim his heir, and that’s marriage!

Doesn’t that sound fun? Probably because it is! You can indulge in a bit of loving with your own sexy Brazilian billionaire with just a few clicks. Buy Damaso from Booktopia, Bookworld, Bookdepository, Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, Barnes & Noble, JB Hi-Fi and direct from the publisher Mills & Boon.

Now please give a warm welcome to Annie.

The Tartiest of Tarts

Hi Cathryn! Thanks for having me to visit, especially now, in your launch month. I had the most fabulous time reading your French Prize. Sigh. Loved the story and that includes the setting, the gorgeous, enigmatic Raimond, the danger, the quest, the history, the intelligent heroine, the food… I’m on tenterhooks now waiting for your next.

In the meantime, here’s my contribution to the Feast series. Coincidentally it fits your French theme!

Sweetness seems to be ‘in’. Everywhere I look people are drooling over sexy men argh, no, wrong Facebook posts – over chocolate. Photos of chocolate desserts, melted chocolate for dipping fruit, choc biscuits or truffles with champagne. Friends send chocolate as a thank you or a ‘thinking of you’ gift (hey, I have some great friends), and guests who visit for a meal usually bring something sweet for afters (they’re well-trained – what can I say?).

Don’t get me wrong, I love nice chocolate. A super-dooper, industrial-sized block of finest Lindt once powered the final part of one of my books (thanks, Ms V!). I’ll happily indulge in a sweetness binge with the right goodies. But there are times when even chocolate won’t do it.

Yes, I admit it – I love tart things. Even my favourite home-made jam is plum rather than strawberry. Yum as strawberry can be, it’s just…well…sweet. But get a good bucketload of plums or – sigh – raspberries, and there’s a hint of tartness to offset the sweet. That’s what I crave: something with taste as well as sugar. Yu-um.

So, in hopes that there’s someone out there like me, who adores something tart once in a while, I’m sharing my all-time favourite dessert: Tarte au Citron. Sigh. Forgive me as I pause for a moment, remembering. I made this recently and the memory is making me salivate. I’d actually planned to write today about a delicious Brazilian meal I researched when writing my current release (set in Brazil in case you’re wondering), but I got side-tracked by that Tarte au Citron. It tasted so good I just had to share it instead.

A good friend and super-foodie made this version for me years ago and it’s been my treat of all treats ever since. It’s not some tame little dessert you gobble while chatting and barely notice it going down. Oh no. This is a full-flavoured whack of sensation. You concentrate when you eat this baby because it makes your lips zing. It’s so chock a block full of citrus I think one slice before a voyage would have staved off scurvy for those old time sailors who took a year to circle the globe.

It’s a dessert to be shared with like-minded friends. Make sure you have either good quality cream or ice cream on hand. This is a dessert that needs accompaniment – a little something to complement the tartness of this tart. So here it is, my friend Maurice’s

Tarte au Citron

Tarte au citron

Pastry

1 ½ cups plain flour

2 tablespoons caster sugar

125 g cold butter, chopped

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

Filling

4 eggs

¾ cup sugar

2/3 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup orange juice

zest of 2 lemons

60 g butter

¼ cup cream

2 extra lemons

Icing sugar (not icing sugar mixture)

Pastry

Sift flour and sugar. Add butter and egg yolk and mix. Knead to form a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Roll out the pastry to the size of a fluted, shallow quiche tin that you’ve greased. I find it easiest to roll it out between sheets of plastic.  Prick the pastry with a fork and allow to rest (but I’ve been known to ignore this). Bake blind in a 200 degrees C oven for 10-15 mins or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Filling

Beat together eggs, sugar, lemon juice, orange juice and zest. Melt the butter with the cream over a low heat. Add egg mixture and continue cooking until it thickens, stirring constantly (do not allow to boil). Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and cool. Pour custard into the pastry and cook on top shelf at 190 degrees C for 20 mins.

Peel and segment the 2 extra lemons (cut off as much pith as possible) and arrange on the top. (Can you see now why this tarte is so tart?). Cover the edge of the pastry with aluminium foil to prevent it burning. Sift icing sugar very generously (seriously – use lots) over the filling. Place under a preheated grill until the top is glazed (the sugar will caramelise).

Remove foil and serve warm with cream or ice cream.

You’ll see from my photo that I had some trouble with my grill last time and the sugar was only just starting to caramelise. If you have a kitchen blowtorch you can use that to finish off and get the scrumptious caramelised top.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. My only gripe is that my family and guests all want to finish it for me.

 

How could I possibly resist a French lemon tart, Annie! And that one looks and sounds beautiful. I like the addition of orange juice for depth of flavour. I wonder if blood oranges would work. I have a real thing about them at the moment…

Now, my dear Feasters, because Annie is such a sweetheart and because we both think you should all read Damaso and fall in love with him and Marisa as we did, she’s offering a…

GIVEAWAY!

Yes, you could win your own hot Brazilian, and we don’t mean waxing. There is zero pain with this alpha male.

So, lovely people, to be in the draw to win a copy of Damaso Claims His Heir, what’s the best recipe a friend has given you?

Mine has to be from my good friend Carol, who shared a beautiful recipe for chicken and pistachio terrine that’s dead easy to make and delicious to eat. I also still have the lemon butter recipe from the mum of a childhood friend in my collection, Mrs White’s peppermint cream chocolates, my aunt’s cream puffs and my mother-in-law’s ANZAC biscuits to name a few.

What about you? What’s the most treasured recipe someone has shared with you? Share with us and you’ll go into the draw.

Giveaway closes midnight AEST, Tuesday 16th September 2014. Open internationally. Rah!

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

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Kim of the potato bake, who has won herself a copy of Annie’s wonderful book and is in for a fabulous reading time. Thanks to everyone who joined in the Friday Feast fun. A delight to hear all your recipes and experiences, as always.

FRIDAY FEAST with Annie West

Ahh, it’s Friday again which means delicious food and delicious people!

(And footy, but I’ll try not to bore you too much with the news that this weekend sees my darling Sydney Swans in a MUST-WIN clash against Carlton. Saturday night at 7-45 if you want to tune in and cheer, cheer the red and the white. Oh, go on, you know you want to.)

Er…back to delicious people!Annie West romance author

My guest today is the ever delightful Annie West who writes award-winning romances, featuring hot alpha males that make your toes curl with their powerful sexiness matched against women who are more than their equal in brains, looks and passion, and know exactly how to keep them on their toes. And all wrapped up in exotic settings. In other words, romantic fantasies that take your emotions on a heart-tumbling thrill-ride.

Annie’s latest release is An Enticing Debt To Pay (what a title!) and if you keep reading, you may just discover a giveaway on offer. But first, enjoy a taste…

 

AN ENTICING DEBT TO PAY

 

An Enticing Debt to Pay by Annie WestDial R for Revenge…

Forgiveness is a foreign concept to wealthy investment trader Jonas Deveson. Someone has been stealing from him. He’s got a good idea who it is and she’s going to pay….

Seeing the harsh lines that bitterness has carved into Jonas’s handsome features, Ravenna Ruggiero knows he’ll never see the shades of gray in her actions.

Jonas blackmails Ravenna into working as his housekeeper to pay off her debt, but living under the same roof leads to unexpected yet forbidden temptation, and Jonas is no longer sure who is being punished!

 

Ooh, I get the shivers just thinking about how exciting that read will be and from September 17th you’ll be able to own your own copy. Simply visit that most awesome Platinum ARRC sponsor Booktopia, or check your local bookshop or chainstore. You’ll also be able to purchase direct from Harlequin Mills & Boon, Kobo, Google Play, Amazon, iTunes, Bookdepository, or your favourite retailer.

Now prepare yourself for more deliciousness with Annie!

 

French Fancies

aka It’s Got Fruit In It So It Must Be Healthy, Right?

 

Cathryn, thanks so much for allowing me a sought after spot on your scrumptious Friday Feast. FFs always make my mouth water and I vow to try the new recipes but only in a responsible, not-getting-fat way. Ha! The result is that I Window display of a French patisseriedrool shamelessly then have to go off and scoff delicious things. So here’s my revenge…

No, no, not revenge. I’m just bowing to logic. I looked at my calendar and thought ‘Friday Feast, wow! I’d better think of something yummy to share.’ Then I got distracted by the fact I’ve got a new book out next week. I’m a writer, I’m allowed to be easily distracted. Then I started thinking, as one does, of both at the same time, the book and food, and of course I had no choice then but to share my absolute love affair with that masterpiece of French cuisine, the fruit flan. It’s probably got a suitably wonderful and throatily sexy French name that does justice to the lusciousness that is fruit and sugary, creamy sweetness on a rich yet then buttery crust. I leave that to others. I just want to eat it.

My logic makes sense, truly. My book starts in Paris. To be specific it begins in an apartment in the ultra-upmarket Place des Vosges. The square is beautiful and symmetrical and a jewel of French history and architecture. I have several photos of it, but the one I look at the most is this one – the close up of my picnic morning tea there. Sigh. It’s a mini fruit flan (well, I call it mini) complete with berries and a fig so fresh I suspect someone plucked it from the tree that morning, then lovingly coated it with a delicious sugary glaze.

Another delicious French patisserie window displayFor Ravenna and Jonas, my heroine and hero, the Place des Vosges means a showdown that will change their lives – passion and anger and defiance and an undercurrent of attraction that plays havoc with their once neatly ordered lives. For me, it means sitting in the sun on a neatly painted green garden seat, with the sound of French schoolkids racing around the place, while I sink my teeth into perfection.

As you can see from the other couple of photos here I can’t stop at one when it comes to fruit flans. Wherever we went I’d stop and leer at shop windows and take photos of them so I could drool later. And the French know how to dress a window, believe me.

My advice, if you want to try the deliciousness that is a fruit flan, is to get someone else to make it while you relax in the sunshine with a glass of bubbly. Always a good plan.

Sadly it doesn’t always work so I’ve been forced to make my own. Be warned, it does take a little while. I don’t find the recipe difficult (and it has always worked), just time consuming. The perfect thing to do on a weekend when you’d rather immerse yourself in French fruity goodness than write a difficult chapter or clean the house or wax the car (I’ve never waxed a car but it sounds tiresome).

French Fruit Flan

Annie West's French Fruit Flan

Pastry:

1 cup plain flour

1 tablespn icing sugar

90 g butter

1 egg yolk

Approx. 1 tablespn lemon juice

Crème Patisserie:

1 ¼ cups milk

1 egg

2 egg yolks

1 tablespn plain flour

1 tablespn cornflour

1/3 cup castor sugar

1 teaspn vanilla essence (preferably the real thing)

Topping:

Your choice of fruit but you could use

Kiwifruit and or a punnet of strawberries

425g tin of apricot halves (or whatever takes your fancy)

425g tin of pitted cherries

Vanilla essence to taste

1 tablespn arrowroot

1 tablespn brandy (optional)

Pastry:

You could use bought shortcrust pastry but if you have time, try this.

Sift flour and sugar in a large bowl. Rub in butter. Add egg yolk and only enough lemon juice to make a firm dough. Press into a ball, cover and refrigerate 30 mins. Roll on lightly floured surface to line greased 23 cm flan tin. Cut off any excess pastry and refrigerate 20 mins. Bake blind for 7 mins at 220 celsius (ie. Line with greaseproof paper and cover with rice so pastry doesn’t bubble up). Then remove paper and rice and bake another 7 mins till golden. Cool.

Filling:

Combine egg, egg yolks, ¼ cup cream, flour, cornflour and sugar in food processor till combined. Bring remaining milk to boil in a saucepan. Pour hot milk gradually into other mixture while the processor is running. Process till smooth. Return mixture to saucepan, stirring over heat till it boils and thickens. Take off heat, add vanilla essence and cool to room temperature. Spread over pastry case.

Drain apricots, slice and keep the syrup. Arrange all the sliced fruit as you like on top of the crème patisserie (concentric circles work well). Mix arrowroot with a couple of tablespoons of syrup in a saucepan and stir in brandy and remaining syrup. Stir till it boils and thickens. Brush over fruit. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.

 

Oh, Annie, that fruit flan sound fantastically luscious, just like one of your books!

Now, my darling Feasters, because Annie is generous and lovely as well as an excellent cook and author, she has a giveaway on offer. Simply share your favourite patisserie treat and you’ll go into the draw to win a copy of An Enticing Debt To Pay.

Me, I bags pain aux raisins as my favourite treat. You can have all your croissants and pain au chocolats, gateaux, macarons and lemon tarts. A cuppa and one of those sweet flakey babies and I’m in breakfast naughtiness heaven. Délicieux!

So what’s yours tastebud tingling favourite?

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday AEST, 17th September, 2013. Open internationally. Rah!

If you’d like to learn more about Annie and her gorgeous books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and keep up to date through her newsletter.

 

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Khi Pha who has won a copy of Annie’s latest release An Enticing Debt to Pay. Thanks to everyone who joined in the Friday Feast fun!

FRIDAY FEAST with Amy Andrews

Look out, we’re hosting another million plus seller on Friday Feast this week! Hmm, a girl would feel a tad jealous if these weren’t such fabulous women, and we only allow nice people on the Feast. It’s a house rule.shortdo

Today my guest is Amy Andrews, multi-published author and Romantic Book of the Year winner. Amy’s written 30 plus romances for publishers as diverse as Harlequin Mills & Boon, Entangled Publishing, Harper Collins Australia and Momentum, and been translated into over a dozen languages, including Manga! She also spent six years on the national executive of the Romance Writers of Australia, including two years as president, and organised two national conferences. If that isn’t enough, Amy’s married with two teenagers and works part-time as a paediatric intensive care nurse. I don’t know, these overachievers…

Amy’s latest release is from Harlequin’s KISS series, which is all about the gooey delirium of new love, and heroes and heroines who can’t get enough of one another. Guaranteed fun reads!

 

GIRL LEAST LIKELY TO MARRY

 

Girl Least Likely To Marry coverTalk nerdy to me

Samuel Tucker is absolutely the last person scientist Cassie Barclay would ever date. Yes, he’s gorgeous, but he’s also far too cocky for his own good and thinks that Pi is a tasty afternoon treat. So when he asks her to dance at her friend Reese’s non-wedding she’s wondering why on earth she says yes!

Tuck is used to people assuming he’s all brawn and no brain, and amuses himself by winding Cassie up. But when he finally takes her to bed, suddenly it’s Tuck who can show Cassie a thing or two! Can he convince her that love and sex have nothing to do with logic and everything to do with chemistry?

 

Now, that sounds like a lovely romantic romp, perfect to warm your winter-jaded cockles. Buy Girl Least Likely To Marry now direct from Harlequin or Amazon.

Now here’s Amy!

 

Claytons Cooking

 

So I have a confession to make. Well, two actually. I don’t really like to cook. And, having poured over all the previous bloggers here at Friday Feast, I’m going to admit to feeling slightly intimidated.

You see, the thing is, I used to love to cook. Loved it! Dinner parties were my forte and desserts my specialty! I have a hundred recipe books and probably a thousand recipes ripped out of magazines. My mother was an excellent cook. I can remember at school fete time every year Mum baking eight tarts (yes, proper pastry and all!) of different varieties which meant we could all carry two each during the transportation to said fete. She was a tuckshop convenor for years, she cooked two chooks every Saturday morning for the netball raffle, she catered for my engagement party of a 100+ people.

This is the stock I come from.  We cook in my family.

So, what happened?

I had a child who wouldn’t eat anything from about the age of two. The fussiest boy alive (almost not alive actually on many, many occasions!)  All my gourmet creations knocked back. Tinned food made specifically for fussy little eaters spat out.

And oh the advice I was given.

Useless advice #1

You just need to persevere. Trust me, after having stuffed his mouth full of something one time (damned if I can even remember what it was now), clamped it shut and held his nose, I have learned, to the detriment of my clothes,  that you can get food in a fussy eater’s mouth but you cannot make them swallow!

Useless advice #2

You just need to offer a variety of food from an early age. All I have to say to that is my next child, (a girl if it makes any difference) was eating olives at 8 months and if anyone thinks for a minute that I didn’t try that with fussy boy child, then they’re wrong.

Truly. This is a child who wouldn’t even eat chocolate cake – yes, chocolate cake – until he was 8 years old. Then he looked at me like I had hidden the wonders of this particular food from him deliberately all that time. Ha! If he’d shown even the slightest inclination towards eating it the multiple other times I’d offered it to him (read begged and pleaded) I’d have cooked it morning noon and night!

So yeh…I had the joy of cooking sucked right out of me. Cooking is something I do for us all to survive. Don’t get me wrong I can still make a mean anything I set my mind to. I’m great with profiteroles and I made an apple and rhubarb pie recently that almost made my daughter weep (my son, now almost 18, didn’t eat it).

The point is – I just have no inclination to do it anymore. None. I look at it as a complete and utter chore.

So I was slightly at a loss as to what to write about in this blog. I did think wine might be a subject on which I could converse much more knowledgeably and I know Cathryn’s quite partial so…. And then I thought maybe I could talk Amy's vodka cookbookabout my two favourite cookbooks – The Vodka Cookbook and The Liquid Kitchen but I didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea about me…

Which is why, even though it will probably get me kicked off this blog in disgrace, I thought I’d talk about the one thing I am passionate about in the kitchen – food construction. This is when a combination of already prepared food is thrown together to make a different dish – it’s quick and easy and I highly recommend it.  It’s Clayton’s cooking. The cooking you look like you’ve done when you haven’t really done anything at all.

For example – a bag of lettuce, some cherry tomatoes, some olives and feta cheese from the deli and a bottle of balsamic dressing equals a delicious fresh salad done in under two minutes. Cook up some pasta, a jar of pasta sauce, some pre-grated parmesan cheese, stir it all together and ta da! Some brandy snap baskets, a tub of chocolate mousse and a punnet of raspberries  – the perfect dessert.

This, dear readers, is the way I roll.  Or as much as possible anyway. Certainly when I’m having people over or if I have to take a dish anywhere, I do. Once upon a time I would have made chocolate mousse. Shudder. Once upon a time I would have bought a lettuce and ripped the leaves off and washed them – nope, not any more. Once upon a time I would have hand-cut my own coleslaw from scratch – finely shredded all the cabbage, grated the carrot etc etc. Not anymore. Now I buy a bag of the pre-mix, slap in some dressing (and some currants cos I think they add a little zing) and hello coleslaw!

So I’m going to share a quick and easy food construction “recipe” that I totally nicked from my sister who is a brilliant cook (and writer) but also has construction tendencies – what can I say it runs in this generation of women… It’s mini Banoffee tart, it requires only 4 ingredients, takes about two minutes and looks amazing.

Plus, trust me, wherever I go, these suckers disappear before my eyes.

MINI BANOFFEE TARTS

Mini Banoffee Tarts

Ingredients – 1 packet of sweet plain biscuits. (I use butterscotch snaps but you can use Gingernuts or whatever takes your fancy.)

1 banana. (You might need 2 depending on how many of the biscuits you use and how big the banana.)

1 tin of caramel (Or you can boil a can of condensed milk for like a zillion hours like my Mum used to do but…why?)

1 can of whipped cream. (Dollop cream works too.)

Method – Take a biscuit. Scoop on a blob of caramel. Place a slice of banana on the caramel. Top with a squirt of cream. Repeat.

Finito.

Easy-peasy lemon squeezy. They look great and ooh la la they taste bloody good too.

Help me out here guys, please tell me I’m not the only one who cheats in the kitchen? If anyone out there wants to admit to it – even just a little – you can go in a draw for my latest book Girl Least Likely To Marry and it’s the US cover version as well because it’s so bloody dazzling I need to share that sucker around, plus now it’s been plastered all over a lift in the Marriot in Atlanta it’s famous, don’t you know.  It’s true – I have the picture on my FB page if you want to see for yourself. Of course you  could also like my page while you’re there too – that would be lovely 🙂 but not necessary to go into the draw. I don’t care where you come from or how far I have to post my pretty little baby, if you’re into  a bit of Clayton’s cooking then your name goes into the hat!

 

See? Told you we only have nice people on Friday Feast. Not only has Amy given you a great read, some fantastic feeding children hints and a super easy banoffee tart recipe, she’s giving you a chance to win her book. So get commenting!

Giveaway closes midnight AEST, Tuesday 6th August 2013. Open internationally. Rah!

If you’d like to learn more about Amy and her thirty-plus books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter.

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Fiona McArthur

Feeling pretty chuffed this week. My beloved Sydney Swans are still perched very nicely near the top of the AFL ladder, my book is finished (at least until edits come), and I’m playing decent golf for a change, but I’m also super thrilled to introduce a new Friday Feast guest, lovely Australian author Fiona McArthur.

Fiona’s a country midwife who knows all about babies, which is why she writes gorgeous Medical Romances for Harlequin Mills & Boon. And they’re popular. Like over two million copies worldwide style popular. Yup, this is a lady who knows her stuff!

Fiona’s next release is Two Tiny Heartbeats (isn’t that a beautiful title?) and it sounds wonderful. Check it out.

 

TWO TINY HEARTBEATS

 

Two Tiny Heartbeats by Fiona McArthurGold Coast City Hospital

First-day baby bombshell!

Discovering she’s pregnant—with twins!—is not how midwife Lucy Palmer imagined her first day in her new job. Worse is that it took her gorgeous new colleague Nikolai Kefes to suggest a pregnancy test and scan. As they watch those tiny heartbeats on the monitor, Lucy knows instantly that her two little babies are the only things she can focus on. And that her highly inconvenient attraction to the hunky Greek obstetrician—with his legendary reputation for short, sweet, emotionally unavailable relationships—definitely has to be ignored…!

 

Doesn’t that sound fun? I bet it’s gorgeous. Keep your eye out for the release of Two Tiny Heartbeats in October. In the meantime, Fiona has many other novels to warm your heart.

Speaking of warming hearts, try this fantastic post on for size!

 

Train Journeys and Falling In Love With Them

 

Thank you Cathryn, for asking me to join you on your Friday Feast. Not known for my culinary skills but I do like eating so thought I’d share a food journey with a difference.

Early start at the station on the Spirit of the Outback trainFancy a Trip on the Spirit Of the Outback? Longreach to Brisbane. Ever wondered about the cost, the time it takes, the sleepers and the meals?

You have to love being a writer because research trips are definitely perks of the trade. Not often I can drag my husband on trips so we went the whole hog. I thought it was worth saving up for, sleeper class, which included all meals in the Tuckerbox Dining car, and we put the car on the train (ours was the only one on there – it looked so cute) and it meant I could be back at work a day earlier if we drove home from Brisbane – so more time out west. Vote one. Queensland Rail. Seriously. They do it right.Fiona's car on the train

This was the final stage of our recent ten day trip around the amazing red earth of western Queensland, an absolute joy, and more of that coming on my new webpage soon, and a whole lot more in my next book, but I know Cathryn loves to hear about something in the food department.

The good thing is you can’t talk about the Spirit Of The Outback without talking about the meals. A skillful chef, a huge kitchen and a unique and fabulous setting makes the cuisine as tasty and elegant as any restaurant. But in the beginning…

Longreach station

Longreach at sunrise is a little chilly in June while the excitement of looking for your carriage makes up for it. When you leave Longreach, you’ve got half an hour to settle in and admire the glorious colours of those first Fiona enjoying the view on the Spirit of the Outbackgolden rays on the plains and the contents of your little hessian comfort bags – sigh for the days airlines used to give you half what was in these little packs – with eye masks, washers, organic lip balm, plus the usual’s. I love stuff like this as my friends will laughingly tell you. Sniff. Anyway, the views are magic as you peer out the windows, and wave at the traffic when we run alongside the road.

Then your delightful hostess, in our case, Raylene of the endless goodwill – will encourage you to make your way to the dining car and take a seat at the beautifully set alcoves complete with white linen tablecloths, wildflowers and silverware, and best of all, lovely big windows that showcase the reds, browns and orange of outback Queensland.  Truly we are blessed by our beautiful country. Especially arid and sparse it takes my breath away.Fiona's husband Ian at the table

But back to food. Breakfast was all hubby could wish for, (because I had fruit and water – NOT!)  crisp bacon, soft eggs, buttery mushrooms and sausage, grilled tomato, fresh juice and hot, freshly brewed coffee. Groan. And no gym to work it off, still, probably wouldn’t have used it if they had one. But leisurely, and fun.

Then it’s back to your private cabin or into the spacious lounge car. Next time, I’d spend more time in the lounge car because a carriage full of windows give the best view of the surrounding countryside and it’s too easy to stay comfortably antisocial in your own little lounge cabin although the windows are lovely there too.The Tree of Knowledge

Rattle, rattle, rattle for a couple of hours and then a leisurely meander off at Barcaldine to admire the cleverly created replacement Tree of Knowledge, didn’t notice Kevin or Julia poking around up there just outside the station, and a walk along the platform and cheeky peer in the window by my DH. Then back on board where we took the chance for us to go through the hundreds of photos we’d taken over the last week and a half, a joke about the fact that I’d been keen to visit the Qantas Museum in Longreach when hubby decided I’d seen more planes than he’d had breakfasts, and a few more notes on my computer.

Before we knew it lunch was on, must admit I had a wee glass of Sav Blanc to go with my Barramundi Fillet with citrus butter and garden salad. Divine. Ian had Backstrap Lamb and we both daintily nibbled at the Pavlova. Actually not dainty at all. There was also Haloumi salad and Chicken terrine so lots of choices.

It was nice to go for a wander when we paused at Emerald, one of my boys had spent a bit of time working at the feed lot up here for Australian Ag, and I’d heard a lot about Emerald and wanted to see it. Looks like a great town. Love the way the station steps are in the middle of town. Couldn’t believe the agricultural equipment for sale. Must have been millions of dollars worth which illustrates the amount of food produced in this area.Fiona enjoying bubbles in the lounge car

Back for a quick freshen as the afternoon sun was casting long shadows away to the mountains and then I was sipping bubbles in the lounge car chatting to fellow travellers. It wasn’t quite as formal as the Orient Express, God Bless Australia,  but we’d all spruced up and the sun was casting  golden halo around Blackwater. We flew through Comet, but I hear (from that son) it had a good pub, but I digress.

Sunset out of Blackwater (apparently the creek ran black – from the tree roots but now it’s coal miners heaven – and as evening and dark arrived we went through to dinner to find tender grain fed pepper steak and sticky date pudding. Amongst others, and seriously I think I’ve eaten enough.Sunset from the train

When we came back, after a desultory discussion with our fellow travellers,  our lounge had been made into two surprisingly wide and comfortable bunk beds with crisp white sheets and bottled water. Did they know about that second glass of bubbles? After the early start (my car climbed on the train earlier than we did) we were well ready for bed. Loved snuggling down to the peaceful rattle of the rails – apparently it’s better to get a middle cabin as it’s quieter not perched above the wheels but –  zzzzzzzzzz.

And in the morning, (sounds like one of my books) by the time we’d washed and changed (and yes there is a shower with wonderful hot water), captured a great pic of one of the ?Glasshouse Mountains, and it was time to disembark in Brisbane.One of the Glasshouse Mountains

To retrieve our own car we simply walked to the end of the train, were escorted to a driveway, and within twenty minutes it appeared beside us. A little meander through only a couple of Brisbane streets and we popped out on the freeway to Gold Coast. Easy Peasy for this country bumpkin. So twenty four hours flew and I adored it all.

Have you any train stories? Been on any scenic train journeys?  I’d love to hear because I fear I am now addicted. Xx Fi

Spirit of The Outback leaves Longreach 0715 Monday (and Thursday) Arrives Brisbane 0710 Tuesday (or Friday) So 1325 kms in 24 hours.

Cost from Longreach:

Economy non-sleeper between $152-235 depending when you buy the ticket – purchase food from the snack bar

Economy with sleeper – $244-315 depending when you buy the ticket – purchase food from snack bar

First class with sleeper-$427-529 depending when you buy your ticket – all meals but purchase wine and beer

Car -$299 and unaccompanied $499.

There are good discounts for seniors and concession and unlike lots of other telephone booking services Queensland rail sales people are awesome.

Ph 1800 872 467       And no, I didn’t get this journey compliments of QRS. 🙂

 

Thanks so much for sharing your journey, Fiona. It sounds absolutely wonderful. I’m a sucker for train travel after living overseas. It’s such a great way to explore a country and an easy way to cross long distances in comfort. A bit of bubbly while watching the world pass by? That’s my kind of travelling!

So, Feasters, enjoyed any iconic or scenic train rides that you’d like to tease us with? Or maybe your relaxing foodie adventure was on a cruise. Maybe you flew to an exotic tropical island for a picnic (in which case I shall hate you a little bit). We’d love to hear.

Given my last trip anywhere was on the Blue Mountains train into Sydney Harbour to meet up with faaaabulous authors Christine Stinson and Jaye Ford for lunch, I need a bit of armchair travel!

If you’d like to learn more about Fiona and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Twitter and Facebook. You can also write to Fiona direct at fionamcarthur2@gmail.com

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Michelle Douglas

Oh, it is most certainly the season to be jolly now. And roly-poly from all that Christmassy food and drink. But after being good all year why not cut loose in December? Perhaps even go a little bit fruity?MichelleD

Which is what my Friday Feast guest this week is doing. But lovely Australian romance author Michelle Douglas isn’t swearing. No, no, no! As with all our fabulous Feasty guests, she’s sharing. Wonderful things, like her latest release, The Nanny Who Saved Christmas.

Take a look!

 

THE NANNY WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS

 

9781743068397-1212 SW NANNY WHO SAVED XMAS

This Christmas, Nicola McGillroy will:

1. Be a great nanny to Cade Hindmarsh’s two adorable little girls, and give them the best Christmas they’ve had since their mother left.

2. Enter into the Christmas spirit and forget the fact she should have been planning her own wedding right now.

3. Keep a straight head in her attraction to her gorgeous off-limits boss… Surely this is just a rebound thing and not true love—for both of them?

 

 

Doesn’t that sound gorgeous? A perfect heart-warming Christmas read. And it’s available right now from your local chain store, as well as online in paperback or ebook format from Mills & Boon Australia or Harlequin.com, Booktopia, Amazon, Bookdepository, Barnes and Noble and many other places. So get a clickety-clicking!

All bought? That’s the Christmas spirit. Now as reward you can have Michelle!

 

A Fruity Feast

 

When I confided to an old work colleague that I thought making a fruitcake would be hard, she handed me this recipe and ordered me to give it a go. I did. And now I’ve been making it for… Well, I had to sit down and work it out, but it must be twenty years. Twenty years! It only feels like six or seven…I’d even believe ten, but twenty? Sheesh.

It must be said, though, that at the time I was not an experienced cook. So this particular recipe has, umm…gone through some trial and error.

Error #1: Look at the size of that ingredient list. There’s a kilo of fruit there for a start. How on earth did I think I was ever going to fit all of that in a normal sized mixing bowl? The first time I made this I had to transfer the mixture halfway through to the stockpot I use for making soup. It’s the only thing I had that was big enough (other than the blanket box and even I wasn’t that inexperienced).Fruit

Oh, and the painstakingly prepared cake tin? Yep, it was washed up and put back in the cupboard. That first year my Christmas cake was baked in a very large glass casserole dish. Until a couple of years ago I continued to employ the stockpot for mixing—after all, it had deputised most ably—but I did go out and buy a big cake tin for the next year.

Error #2: The first time I made this the DH and I had friends over that evening. With much expectation in my heart, I served us all up a slice (with the appropriate amount of fanfare, of course). Cue disappointment. It was bleh. I couldn’t believe I’d gone to so much trouble for this! Still, I cut it up into four manageable-sized portions and stored it in the pantry in trusty Tupperware containers. OMG! Storing this for a fortnight (though a month is better) makes so much difference. Really truly. It went from bleh to stunning. Really truly. I’m not joking. I couldn’t believe it.

Error #3: A few years ago I absent-mindedly misread the recipe. I put in 2 ½ cups of brown sugar (the flour amount) instead of 1 2/3 cups. I’d become blasé. After all, I’d been making this cake for 6 or 7 (or 15!) years by now and I was an old hand, wasn’t I? But guess what? It still tasted great. Thank heavens as this is one of the DH’s all-time favourite things in the world. He looks forward to the annual Christmas cake with the fervour of every ding-dong merrily on high you’ve ever heard. For him, Christmas is this Christmas cake.

The recipe makes four more than adequate sized squares. My DH hates sharing this with anyone. So he gets to decide the fate of 2 squares, and I decide the fate of the other two. 🙂

Oh, and something else I’ve learned along the way. Very few things beat nibbling homemade fruitcake late on Christmas night with a glass of red in hand (or whatever happens to be your poison) whilst congratulating yourself on getting through yet another crazy Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone!

 

Rich Fruit Cake

 

Fruitcake

1kg fruit

1 cup chopped pecans (the recipe asks for brazil nuts, but I couldn’t find them the first year so I substituted pecans and they’ve done so well I haven’t looked back)

¾ cup of brandy or orange juice (I ALWAYS use brandy J)

250g butter, softened

2 tsp vanilla essence

1 2/3 cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed

5 eggs

2 tsp grated orange rind

¼ cup of orange juice

2 Tbsp strawberry jam

2 ½ cups of plain flour

1 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger

¼ cup of brandy or apple juice extra (I ALWAYS use brandy J)

Combine fruit and nuts in a bowl, pour brandy over top, cover and stand overnight.

Grease a deep 20cm square cake pan and line with 3 layers of greaseproof paper. Bring paper about 5cm above top edges of the pan.

Beat butter, essence and sugar in a bowl with electric mixer until combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating only until combined between each addition.

Stir in rind, juice and jam, and then stir in sifted dry ingredients in 2 batches.

Stir in fruit mixture and mix well.

Spread mixture evenly into prepared cake tin. Bake in slow oven (150C) for approximately 3 hours (test with a skewer—it’s cooked if it comes out clean). Brush top of cake evenly with extra brandy. Cover with foil and let cool in pan overnight.

 

Thanks, Michelle, and wow. How easy does that sound? A perfect cake for the Christmas rush while keeping nicely in the seasonal spirit.

So what keeps you in the seasonal spirit? For me it’s cherries and fruit mince tarts, and that sweet moment in a shop when I catch a little-un fretfully asking mum or dad whether Santa will make it to their house and I just can’t help thinking how cute it all is. What about you? Is it that first sip of totally inappropriate for the weather eggnog? The dreaded work Christmas party? That glittery angel on the Christmas tree or spotting a beautifully made Nativity? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you’d like to learn more about Michelle and her many wonderful romances, please visit her website.

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Annie West

Good morning, Feasters, and what a gorgeous one it is too, not least because we have one of my favourite guests returning to Friday Feast.

How lovely it is to have Annie West back. Not only is Annie an excellent cook, she writes intensely romantic and emotional best-selling novels and lives in a gorgeous part of the world – Lake Macquarie, right near and all those magnificent New South Wales beaches and the wine growing heaven that is the Hunter Valley. I tell you, if Annie weren’t so nice I’d be horribly jealous.

Annie’s new release is the delicious sounding and sensually covered Defying Her Desert Duty. Check it out.

 

DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY

 

Chained by silk and jewels

Across the bustling nightclub, bodyguard Zahir El Hashem watches his latest charge swaying temptingly on the dance floor, his pulse quickening. Returning the Princess to her bridegroom might not be such a simple operation after all…

Soraya Karim has always known one day she must resume her royal obligations-just not so soon! Clinging to the last shreds of her freedom, Soraya insists they take the long way back to Bakhara – and their attraction reaches a dangerous fever pitch…

Once they reach the gates of the palace such a liaison will be utterly forbidden. From then duty must reign…

 

Oooooh, that sounds sexy! I feel the need to fan myself just reading the blurb. Defying Her Desert Duty is out now in the UK and Australia. UK readers, try Amazon and Bookdepository. For Australian readers, you can also use Bookdepository, look it up on the Australian Mills & Boon site, or rush to your local book or chainstore. For US readers, keep your eye on Annie’s website for release dates and buy links.

And now here’s Annie!

 

Biscuit Blessings!

 

Hi Cathryn and Feasters. Thanks for having me back again to chat. I love visiting here, though it always results in me salivating over food I don’t really need, but want.

I told myself I was going to blog about the joys of French food. I know you’d appreciate that, Cathryn. Not that I’m a cordon bleu cook, but time spent in France last year inspired my current book ‘Defying Her Desert Duty’. I know, I know, it sounds like it’s set in an Arabian Desert, doesn’t it? The truth is there’s a fair bit of France in that story.

So there I was, all set to discuss the wonders of French garlic potatoes and cherry ice cream (not together) and delicious sauces, not to mention soufflés, when something happened. Something in the nature of a pantry crisis. We’d run out of biscuits! Or to those from North America – cookies.

How it happened I don’t know, but I was faced with a lanky son in study mode (ie. distracted and in dire need of refuelling) and he’d already has his fill of fruit and cheese on toast. Briefly I thought about a cake but it seemed like too much time and effort. As for slices – I was missing some ingredients. It was biscuits that saved the day.

Biscuits are an integral part of our lives – at least in this neck of the woods. Now we tend to graze on savoury crackers more than sweet biscuits. Nothing quite like a triple cream brie with a little fig paste on a lovely rosemary and salt cracker. Or five… But biscuits, of one sort or another are always in the pantry. They’re a lifesaver when someone stops in for a cuppa, or when inspiration is lacking and a sugar hit at morning tea time is needed to stir the brain.

My mum cooked everything from cakes to pickles, from roasts to jam, even toffees for the school fete, but for some reason never biscuits. I remember Rich Tea biscuits and shortbreads and especially Iced Vovos (yes, they HAVE got smaller over the years).

When I got a place of my own, biscuits soon overtook cakes in the baking department. They were the perfect size and portable for hungry adults or kids. Said kids could take a hand in making them – whether rolling the dough or pressing it down or mixing. They were easy to pack and I could convince myself they were healthy if I added fruit or nuts.

A Canadian friend introduced me to home made Chocolate Chip Cookies. Sigh. And Sugar Cookies for Christmas. Another friend made Banana in Pyjamas biscuits for all the children at birthday time – plain biscuits iced in blue, white and yellow. I understand her 21 year old still insists on them for his birthday.

After living in Germany I started making Lebkuchen (gingerbread) at Christmas. The picture of the Christmas plate includes Gingerdead Men (gingerbread but stamped to show the men’s skeletons) and some truly, truly delicious little Cinnamon Stars. Never let anyone tell you the Germans can’t cook sweet things! There are also little Christmas trees – made of shortbread stars with cachous for extra sparkle. For me making biscuits is a chance for a little family bonding. For some reason making the Christmas biccies is still seen as a treat by the family – long may it last!

So in the spirit of sharing, here’s a recipe I snaffled from a magazine years ago. It’s the one I cooked just a couple of days ago to feed my starving lad. It’s quick and dead easy. Let’s not talk about the calories.

 

Lemon Shortbread Biscuits

250g butter

grated rind of one lemon

1 cup icing sugar, sifted

2 cups plain flour, sifted.

Beat the butter and rind until creamy. Add the icing sugar and beat well. With a metal spoon stir in the sifted flour.

Take level teaspoons of the mixture (I know it’s tempting to take more but in this case small really is best) and roll lightly into balls. Place on ungreased baking trays and press down with a fork dipped in cold water to prevent sticking.

Bake in a modern oven (180C or 350F) for 10-12 mins or until only very slightly coloured. Cool and store in an airtight tin. Makes about 4 dozen.

Do you have favourite biscuits/cookies? Are they home made or bought? Do you crave Tim Tams or go for something plain? What’s the most unusual biscuit you’ve come across?

 

Thanks, Annie! Those biscuits sound divine. I’m a terrible sucker for anything lemon and anything shortbread.

I must admit I’m not much of a Tim Tam craver, although I’ll happily scoff one when offered. Plain biscuits are more my go but tease me with a home-made ANZAC biscuit and I’m yours. My mother in law makes some beauties.

So what about you, Feasters? Share your biscuity tale and you could win a copy of Annie’s delicious new release, Defying Her Desert Duty!

Giveaway closes midnight, Tuesday 6th November 2012, AEST. Open internationally. Rah!

If you’d like to learn more about Annie and her sexy books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and keep up to date through her newsletter.

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to fitzroylou who has now won a copy of Annie’s wonderful Defying Her Desert Duty. Thanks to everyone who joined in the Friday Feast fun. Hope to see you here again!

FRIDAY FEAST with Paula Roe

Friday, Friday tra-la-la-la-la!

It really is the best day of the week, isn’t it? Not least because I get to introduce my next Friday Feast guest. This week Harlequin Desire author Paula Roe makes a very welcome return to the blog and with good reason, too. Paula, along with five fellow Australasian authors, Yvonne Lindsay, Jan Colley, Bronwyn Jameson, Tessa Radley and Maxine Sullivan, are celebrating the re-release of Harlequin’s hugely successful Diamonds Down Under series.

Paula’s story in the series is the deliciously sexy sounding Boardrooms & a Billionaire Heir which, on its initial release, was a Borders bestseller and a 2009 Romance Writers of Australia Romance Book of the Year finalist. Understandable when a book receives reviews like this:

Oh. Wow! This fifth title in the Diamonds Down Under series does not disappoint! …a rugged and emotional ride…  James’s return to the family is an emotional story too good to miss.” Robyn Lee, Romance Reviews Today

Check it out.

 

BOARDROOMS & A BILLIONAIRE HEIR

 

 

“I’m a man you sleep with, not fall in love with.”

Jake Vance was danger in a designer suit, a charming corporate raider. When he set his sights on Blackstone’s, Australia’s richest diamond dealers, Holly McLeod’s primary assignment was as his assistant; her secondary was as a spy. To her amazement, she learned her dangerously sexy boss was the long-lost Blackstone heir. And then Jake did the unthinkable: To save his new company, he proposed marriage…an intimate one…to her!

 

 

Ooh la la! How’s that to get your reader juices flowing? And of course you want to buy it right now, so get a clickety-clicking.

Done? Excellent. Now here’s Paula…

 

Birthday Treats

 

One of the most awesome things about being a kid (apart from Christmas morning and having no financial debt) is the excitement of your birthday.  And seeing as mine was this past Tuesday, I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane and share what was on the menu when I was young.

The first party I remember throwing was in Kindy when, to my mother’s horror, I invited every child in my class.  All thirty of them.  To our tiny three-bedroom home.  Thirty screaming, sugar-hyped kids running amok.  (And yes, my mother vowed ‘never again.’)

Aside from being the lucky recipient of 30 separate presents (yessss!) the food was your typical early 70s fare.  No kids birthday party would be complete without one – or more! – of the following:

Fairy bread

Twisties

Plumrose cocktail frankfurts (on toothpicks)

cubed Coon (on toothpicks)

Salt and vinegar chips

coconut ice

Minties

Smarties

red frogs

Chocolate Crackles

A themed birthday cake

After about 10, I migrated to McDonalds for a few years, then when I hit 18 I requested proper dinner at a restaurant.  Chinese, Thai, Indian, even Sizzler.  This went on for quite some time, way into my twenties and thirties.  Nowadays, give me a good Thai takeaway or my favourite Crust pizza and I’m happy!  There’s only one stipulation – NO store-bought cake: it has to be made from scratch every time.

So what food do you remember from your childhood birthdays?  What did you love?  Or hate?  Make a comment and you could win a copy my latest release, book 2 in the Diamonds Down Under rerelease from Mills & Boon Australia.

 

Ahh, over-sugared kids’ parties. Now that brings back memories. Definitely honey joys and chocolate crackles, and bags of lollies to take home afterwards. They weren’t sweet, but I used to also love that pizza bread type stuff. Not sure how they were made but they were a kind of grilled cheesy-toasty thing, cut into soldiers. Oh, and themed birthday cakes! They were the best. My absolute favourite was the one I had which had a Cindy-type doll plonked in the centre of a beautifully decorated cake skirt. Sigh. Loved that.

Anyway Feasters, you heard Ms Paula, start sharing your favourite childhood birthday party memories – good and bad – and you could win a copy of book 2 in the Diamonds Down Under re-release series.

But you’d better get those comments in quick because this giveaway closes midnight Tuesday, 12th June 2012 AEST. Australian addresses only, sorry.

If you’d like to know more about Paula and her books please visit her website. You can also connect via her blog, on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Goodreads.

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Annie West

Happy Friday, Feasters. And what a most joyous day it is too. After yesterday’s freezing misery the sun is once more shining on Melbourne, and mornings like this make me feel happy and bright. But today I’d feel that way even if

photo © Fiona Vaughan 2006

conditions were Arctic. Why? Because I have the loveliest guest on Friday Feast this week, multi-published Mills and Boon author Annie West.

Annie hails from Lake Macquarie way, north of Sydney and nestled at the edge of the Hunter Valley and the glorious coastline of the Lake and the surrounding beaches. A beautiful part of the world and the perfect environment for writing the intense, sensual romances so adored by Annie’s many fans.

Annie’s latest release is the sexily titled Undone By His Touch. Makes you want to read the book for the title alone, doesn’t it? Well, check out this cover and blurb, and I promise you’ll be even more sucked-in and saying, as I did, “Thank you, world, for one-click book-buying!”

 

UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH

 

Cast into a world of black, Declan Carstairs is a man in torment. Consumed by guilt, he sees no way out of the darkness his world has become. Only one thing drives him – finding the woman who caused his brother’s death, and the accident that took his sight.

Housekeeper Chloe Daniels refuses to pity her devastatingly gorgeous boss, but treating him as the strong, capable man he is soon proves dangerous. As Chloe falls deeper under Declan’s spell, awakened by his touch, she forgets all about the secret she keeps that may destroy them both…

 

You can read about the inspiration for the book (including some pictures) and an excerpt of it on Annie’s website here. To read the whole first chapter, visit Mills and Boon UK here.

 

Ha! Told you it’d grab. Now, off clickety-clicking with that mouse you go.

Right. Reading and bookbuying done? Excellent. Now it’s time to get your fingers sticky with Annie’s luscious Friday Feast post.

 

THE COMFORTS OF CHILDHOOD FOOD

 

Hi Cathryn! Thanks so much for inviting me along to join your feasters. I love talking about food as much as I enjoy talking books. Congratulations too on your new release.

I toyed with the idea of featuring some exotic meal I’d attempted, but in the end nostalgia won out and I’m chatting about a favourite childhood comfort food.

Not so long ago I came across plums – lots of them and very cheap. They sat there tempting me with their lush roundness and that lovely straight-from-the-orchard cloudiness on the skin. I was very busy at the time, shopping in a rush while adding to a mental list of things to do when I got home, yet I heard their siren call. I circled, trying to tell myself I wasn’t interested but I could still hear it – those wonderful words – home made plum jam. And I was lost. I’ll tell you why.

I grew up in what’s now a pretty ordinary suburban street. When I was young though, it wasn’t so built up. We had over an acre of land and most of it was remnant rainforest gully. We ran wild outside almost every day and it was a brilliant place to play, despite the venomous snakes who also shared the place. Closer to the house was a very, very old garden with a couple of apple trees two storeys high, all sorts of flowering shrubs and bulbs as well as what seemed to me enormous plum trees.

I’m not sure how many plum trees we had but they covered a lot of ground. When the fruit was ripe our neighbours would gather then leave laden with multiple buckets of plums. Narabeen Plums, Blood Plums, Santa Rosa Plums and others whose names I never knew. Despite the neighbourhood feeding frenzy there was always an abundance left for us. And, being the housekeeper she was, mum made jam. Lots and lots of jam.

Mum made so much jam we never ran out. I remember the first time I tasted store bought jam – on an interstate caravanning holiday when I was around 10.  I didn’t know jam could taste so….nothing. I’d grown up assuming all jam was flavourful and downright delicious.

When I recently cooked up my batch of plums it had been a while since I’d made jam. Tasting the end product transported me in a flash to my childhood. The taste and scent, even the consistency of it, was pure nostalgia. And, though I’m biased, I can report it was delicious. Others say so too! I know it wasn’t my jam making skills but the taste of the fruit.

We all know that smells can evoke powerful memories of the past yet t I hadn’t realised taste had the same power. The sensation was quite incredible and brought back so many things I’d half forgotten.

That got me thinking about comfort foods from childhood and how they make you feel so much better, whether you’re feeling sick, or just ready for a little boost. Apart from ‘real’ plum jam my childhood comfort eats include Christmas pudding, corned beef with veges and white sauce on the onions, and old fashioned chocolate cake. And how could I forget…potatoes cooked in the coals of an outdoor fire (Dad did a lot of burning off at our place). Shove the potatoes in the coals and cover them. Haul them out when they’re black on the outside. Cut them in half, add salt and pepper and scoop out the insides with a teaspoon. Yum!

If you’re interested in trying your hand at jam, try this (and the recipe can easily be halved). It makes a sweet yet slightly tart jam.

 

PLUM JAM

2kg dark plums

4 cups water

1/3 cup lemon juice (but have extra just in case)

1 ½ kg sugar

Quarter plums and remove stones. Add with water to large saucepan. Bring to boil then cover and simmer for an hour.

Add juice and sugar to the saucepan. Stir over heat without boiling until the sugar is dissolved. Then boil, uncovered without stirring for around 20 mins or till jam sets when tests. (Depending on the type of plums it can take longer or you could add a little more juice if it’s not setting).

Pour into hot sterilised jars and when cold, seal.

 

Do you have favourite comfort foods? Ones that remind you of your childhood, or perhaps of some other place or time that you like to revisit? Is there some food that instantly takes you back and makes you feel good?

I’ll be giving away a signed copy of UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH, (my Mills and Boon May release in Australia and New Zealand) to someone who comments. As I write this I’m smiling as I’ve been shopping today and saw it on the shelves. Such a good feeling.

 

A good feeling indeed, Annie, especially with that title and cover, and the reviews have been fantastic too.

So, Feasters, you heard Annie. Start delighting us with your childhood comfort foods. I’m voting for caramel tart, the boiled tin of condensed milk kind. World War Three would almost break out in our house over who was going to lick those tins clean! I’ll also always have a soft spot for my grandmother’s rabbit stew. It wasn’t anything special, just a bunny cooked up with vegies, but one of those simple, delicious and satisfying dishes that sticks with you. Or maybe it was just the pain of crunching on a shotgun pellet that’s stuck with me…

Get those comments in quick because Annie’s giveaway closes midnight, Tuesday 8th May, 2012 AEST. Open internationally.

If you’d like to learn more about Annie and her sexy books, please visit her website. You can also keep up to date by signing up to her newsletter.

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Juanita who has won a signed copy of Annie’s gorgeous Undone By His Touch. Thanks to all who commented – great convo on jam! – and who helped make Annie’s Friday Feast such fun.