Tag Archives: River Cottage

FRIDAY FEAST with me… again!

Well, Heartland has now been out a week and what a week it’s been. So much going on, with interviews and blog posts and all sorts of fun things, including another stint on Friday Feast.

Rather pleased to be here too, because I have suffered for this post. Oh, yes. For this Friday Feast I spent an entire week with HUGH.

Hah! I bet that has you intrigued. But first, another look at my splendiferous new rural romance, Heartland.




Heartland_cvr_640x480When 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 your favourite book retailer, including Booktopia (which, as Platinum sponsor of ARRC201, I like to support). You can also buy the ebook from Kobo (a Gold ARRC2013 sponsor and most excellent e-reader maker), Amazon (Kindle), Google Play and iTunes. For a longer list of retailers please visit the Heartland page on my website.

Now here’s me and Hugh!


My Week With Hugh

(And A One Night Stand With Neil)


Yes, it’s true. I spent an entire week with Hugh. No, not all-singing, all-dancing, all-looking-verra-sexy-in-a-pair-of-moleskins Hugh. The other, earnest ‘real food’ campaigning cook one, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River??????????????????????????????? Cottage fame.

Back in December of last year, thanks to the wonderful folks at The Essential Ingredient (marvellous shop for foodie types and mad home cooks) I won a copy of Hugh’s new cookbook, Hugh’s Three Good Things. Thanks to house moving mayhem, I didn’t get to play with it much before we left Melbourne but now we’re settled in our new house with its brilliant new kitchen, it’s time to test Hugh out. And test I did!

The whole idea behind Three Good Things is that you take three ingredients, mainly fresh, seasonal produce, and turn them into something special with minimum additions. Not a bad idea in theory. In practice? Well let’s find out…


Day One: Chicken, Plums, Soy


Okay, so it’s not very pretty – blame the photographer – but this was a winner in the flavour stakes. Dead easy, really tasty, with a sweet, sour and spicy syrupy sauce to liven up the chicken, and I got to spend most of my usual cooking time reading the latest Romance Writers of Australia Hearts Talk newsletter instead of mucking about. I’d definitely make this again. And Hugh says that if plums are out of season, you can substitute prunes or dried apricots.


Day Two: New Potatoes, Herbs, Olive Oil


Another nice one. And I was able to use herbs from my recently planted garden. I love that. Anything with home-grown produce seems to taste better. I used rosemary, mint, thyme and chives but Hugh reckons you can use pretty much whatever you like. I served this as a side with grilled pork cutlets and a rocket salad. An easy weeknight meal.


Day Three: Oh, look, there’s Neil!


I can’t help it. I’m a total Neil Perry fangirl. His recipes are awesome, especially the Asian ones, and his restaurants are amazing. So when I spied his recipe for  Veal Involtini with Herbed Orzo and Roast Tomato and Oregano Sauce I was seduced. Sorry, Hugh, Neil has it all.

I’m a shocking food photographer and these don’t look anywhere near as attractive as I’d hoped, but boy, oh, boy did they taste good.  Veal escalopes, flattened out and layered with a mixture of pecorino, breadcrumbs, herbs, pine nuts and currants, then rolled up, browned and served with a roast tomato and oregano sauce. Yum. Just… yum.


Day Four: Back to Hugh and Beef, Shallots, Tomato


Thanks to the addition of star anise, Hugh has taken a basic casserole and turned it into something really delicious. I used chuck steak, which was a mistake. Shin would have been better but it didn’t matter. A great hunk of crusty bread and we were happy.

So far, so good for Hugh’s Three Good Things


Day Five: Chocolate, Prunes, Brandy



Okay, these were a disappointment. The prunes, despite being well soaked in cognac, didn’t impart any of the lusciousness I thought they would. The first fondant wasn’t cooked enough and then the others were  overcooked. Yes, my fault and I realise ovens differ, but the stated timing didn’t work for me.

What we did discover though, is that these things are gobsmackingly good cold! I tipped them all out, cut them in half and froze them for morning tea treats. Naughty, but absolutely delicious.


Day Six: Bacon, Beans, Tomato


Bottom line is that I have much, much better recipes than this for baked beans. I wouldn’t make these again.


Day Seven: Stuff it. Let’s go out.

And that ended the week!

So what do I think of Hugh’s Three Good Things? Hit and miss, but that can be said for most cookbooks. I’m currently working my way through Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course and have so far had one total dud and one excellent recipe. All the recipes I’ve tried out of Two Greedy Italians Eat Italy have been brilliant. I’ve yet to try a single one out of Heston Blumenthal At Home but I will… one day. The way I look at it, if a cookbook has one keeper recipe then it’s a winner. If it’s a book I like to pluck it off the shelves and do nothing more than goggle at the pictures and recipes because they’re so fascinating or entertaining, then that makes it a winner too (although my other half tends to think otherwise).

Hugh wins on both counts. The funny thing is, this isn’t a book I would have normally bought or even picked up in a bookstore, despite having enjoyed his TV shows, but I’m glad it’s now a part of the collection. I can’t help it. I just like cookbooks and cooking magazines. A girl’s allowed her hobbies!

Because Hugh’s beans weren’t up to snuff (in our humble opinion), here’s our favourite recipe. Perfect for that indulgent weekend lazy breakfast, or for serving on toasted crusty bread as an easy lunch.


Simple Baked Beans


2 tins cannellini beans, drained

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 red onions, finely chopped

120g speck, pancetta or good quality bacon, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tin chopped tomatoes (you can use puree if you prefer a smoother texture)

100 ml espresso coffee (or good, strong instant)

1/2 tablespoon brown sugar (taste during cooking and add more if needed)

1 tablespoon cider vinegar (taste during cooking and add more if extra sharpness required)

Heat oil over medium heat, add onion, speck and garlic and cook, stirring, until nicely softened and coloured. Add remaining ingredients along with 400 ml water and cook over a low heat for a few hours until the beans have a rich thick sauce, tasting and adjusting sugar and vinegar  if necessary throughout.

Taste, season and enjoy.


Now, Feasty lovelies, what’s your favourite cookbook? I have about a dozen, with Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes pretty high on the list. A couple of CWA cookbooks make it on too (how could they not?), as does Delia Smith’s Winter Collection and Gordon Ramsay’s Just Desserts (fantastic cookbook although all the timings are up the spout – not everyone cooks in a commercial kitchen, Gordon!). But the ultimate is the household “bible”, the special folder containing all our favourite recipes, typed-out and adjusted to our tastes, food stained and with extra scribbled notes. ‘Tis a precious thing, that! So what’s yours?


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+.


FRIDAY FEAST with Barbara Hannay

Super excited this week, Feasters, oh yes I am! Because best-selling and award-winning Australian author Barbara Hannay is delighting us with her presence.

Barbara is author of more than forty novels published in twenty-six languages worldwide. She’s been a RITA winner and multiple finalist (that’s the romance world’s equivalent of an Oscar), a Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Book of the Year winner and finalist, and an Australian Romance Readers Award finalist. If that isn’t enough to make your jaw drop, she also lives in gorgeous tropical north Queensland!

Now she has a wonderful new rural romance to add to her collection, and it’s a cracker!




Three women … two families … one secret …

When Zoe, restless black sheep of the Porter family, discovers that her biological father is a North Queensland cattleman, Peter Fairburn, her deep desire to meet him takes her from inner city Brisbane to a job as a stockcamp cook.

Zoe’s mother, Claire, is wrestling with guilt and shock over Zoe’s discovery. She swears Zoe to secrecy, fearing that the truth could ruin the career of her high profile politician husband. When she is forced to confront her past, Claire also reassesses her marriage.

Virginia Fairburn is happily married to Peter, but she’s always lived with the shadow of the other woman her husband loved and lost.

On the muster at Mullinjim, Zoe meets brooding cattleman Mac McKinnon, who knows from painful experience that city girls can’t cope in the bush. Every instinct tells Mac that Zoe is hiding something. As the pressure to reveal her mother’s secret builds, Zoe fears she must confide in him or burst.

The truth has the potential to destroy two families. Or can it clear the way for new beginnings?


Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? If you have taste for more you can read an extract on Barbara’s Website. Better still, zip down to your local bookstore and buy a copy. Or you could order online right now from Booktopia. For ebook lovers, there are Amazon, Google Play, Kobobooks and many other retailers. So hop to it!

And now here’s Barbara!



Like most households, I guess, we’re pretty interested in food, but since we moved to the country, that interest has progressed from the mere consumption of food to producing it – in very modest amounts, mind you.

Those you who are “real” farmers will have to forgive me for getting excited about picking our own fruit and vegies (and sometimes putting them in jars), or turning our own pigs into sausages and bacon. Yes, I’ll admit there’s a novelty element, but we’re also big believers in eating fresh, unprocessed food and we also support the idea of low food mileage, so we’re lucky that we now live in a very fertile area with great farmers’ markets and lots of truly wonderful local produce.

Needless to say, we’re huge fans of the ABC’s River Cottage program.

If I wasn’t so busy writing, I’d probably throw myself into this way of life totally, but I have this thing hanging over my head called a deadline, and it’s a bit like the magic pudding – knock one off and there’s another one looming.

Each year, while I’m away at the Romance Writer’s Conference, my husband holds a huge (Secret Men’s Business) feast at out place. A host of his mates from Townsville, plus our sons and some of their friends, and now also our son in law and his friends come – some of them flying quite a distance.

The men take their cooking very seriously and they’ve built an Argentian asado style barbecue for cooking whole beasts (or parts thereof), as well as a smoking box. They’ve also invented their own water powered sausage maker – and one friend has taken one of our hams back to hang in his wine cellar in Townsville so it will cure slowly at the right temperature like those amazing Spanish hams.

When it comes to sharing recipes, however, I think the recipe that gets the best reception from my friends and family is this Greek Lemon Cake (which actually came via my daughter, via a distant family cousin.) Why eat all that meat when you can have cake? 🙂

This cake is easy and delicious. You can serve it for morning tea or for dessert, and if you grow your own lemons, all the better.

Greek Lemon Cake

125 g butter

1 cup caster sugar

4 eggs

1 cup coconut

1 cup SR flour


1 lemon (juice and grated rind)

1 cup sugar

½ cup water

Preheat oven 160 º-180º C. Greaseproof a round 20 cm cake time. Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time with a wooden spoon. Stir in coconut and flour. Bake in oven 45 mins to 1 hour.

Make the syrup after the cake is cooked. Combine the sugar, water, lemon juice and rind on stovetop and bring to boil. Let cake stand for 15 mins and then gently spoon syrup over cake while syrup is still hot. Spoon syrup little by little to prevent cake from collapsing.


Thanks, Barbara. I am in awe of your barbecue. What a unit! I bet those boys have a ball with their Secret Men’s Business weekends. Oh, to be a fly on the…er…paving.

And now, my Feasty lovelies, Barbara has very generously offered a signed copy of Zoe’s Muster to one lucky commenter.

All you have to do is reveal your favourite TV cooking program or what you’d most like to grow yourself and you could win!

But get in quick. Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday, 7th August 2012 AEST. Australian addresses only, sorry.

If you’d like to learn more about Barbara and her award-winning novels, please visit her website. You can also connect via Twitter and Facebook.

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Gemma, who has won a copy of Zoe’s Muster. Congratulations! And thanks to everyone who joined in the Friday Feast fun.