So, my lovely Feasters, how are your Christmas preparations going? Completely disorganised like me? Not to worry, help is at hand. Not only does Friday Feast showcase the best books for presents, we have recipes for foodie gifts too! See, you knew there was a good reason for visiting this blog.
This week I’m absolutely delighted to welcome best-selling historical fiction author Deborah Challinor. A New Zealander, Deborah now lives in Australia where she’s writing a series of novels based around four girls transported to Australia in the 1830’s, and with a PhD in history she knows her stuff!
The first in the series, Behind the Sun, is in bookshops now. Take a look…
BEHIND THE SUN
1828: Irreverent and streetwise prostitute Friday Woolfe is in London’s notorious Newgate Gaol, awaiting transportation. There, she meets three other girls: intelligent and opportunistic thief Sarah Morgan, naive young Rachel Winter, and reliable and capable seamstress Harriet Clarke.
On the voyage to New South Wales their friendship becomes an unbreakable bond — but there are others on board who will change their lives forever. Friday makes an implacable enemy of Bella Jackson, a vicious woman whose power seems undiminished by her arrest and transportation, while Harriet is taken under the wing of an idealistic doctor, James Downey. Rachel catches the eye of a sinister passenger with more than honour on his mind.
When they finally arrive on the other side of the world, they are confined to the grim and overcrowded Parramatta Female Factory. But worse is to come as the threat of separation looms. In the land behind the sun, the only thing they have is each other …
How compelling does that sound! And Behind the Sun is available to buy now in Australia from Dymocks, Collins, QBD, Big W, K-Mart and your favourite independent bookseller. Online you can try Booktopia, Bookworld or Fishpond. If you like ebooks, visit Amazon Kindle, Kobo or Google Play.
Now please welcome Deborah.
There was a time, it seems, when almost all women could cook. Of the four girls in Behind the Sun, Harrie Clarke, Sarah Morgan and Rachel Winter can – Harrie and Rachel because they expect one day to feed husbands, and Sarah because she has to feed herself. Friday Woolfe can’t, though. Before her arrest, she eats out every day at her local London ordinary, which serves bread, cheese, sausage, pickles, eggs and small beer.
It’s ironic, therefore, that I’ve so generously been invited to guest blog on Friday Feast – thank you, Cathryn – because I can’t cook either. I only ever do it when I absolutely have to. When the kids (my step-children, actually) were small and their father was going to be late home from work, I’d try to rustle something up, but never very successfully. In fact, sometimes they’d cry, especially when I made my mystery chicken.
I just can’t see the point. Hours and hours of slaving over a hot stove, ten minutes to eat it, and two days looking at the dirty dishes. Now that the kids have grown up and scattered in all directions, my man and I have an arrangement – he does the cooking, which he enjoys, and I clean up the (stonking great) mess afterwards. If he’s away, I eat yoghurt, tomato on crackers, and chocolate (and maybe an anchovy-stuffed olive, to cover all the food groups). Or if I’m absolutely starving I’ll go so far as turning on the oven and heating up a pie. On the other hand, if I have a deadline looming, I might forget to eat altogether. Except for the chocolate.
Somehow, I missed out on learning to cook. In Girl Guides, I know I got a badge for making a soufflé (and it must have been a good one – those badges aren’t handed out willy-nilly, you know). And I attended Home Economics in Form 1 and 2 and did stuffed tomatoes and the like, but that was about it.
I can, however, make excellent fudge. Here’s my best recipe. It’s a bit of a tedious process, but the end product is rich, velvety and very more-ish. And possibly not for those on a diet.
SWISS MILK CARAMEL
4 oz real butter (not soft versions or blends)
2 measuring cups white sugar (don’t overfill cup)
¼ tin of Highlander sweetened condensed milk (not lite)
1 tsp vanilla essence
½ cup milk
1 dstsp golden syrup
Dump the lot in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Turn down to a simmer, continuing to stir gently (if it catches you’ll get black bits all through it). When it’s gone a deep, golden tan colour, which will take around 15 minutes, remove from heat and beat with a wooden spoon. When the mixture has thickened noticeably, and is adhering to the side of the pot rather than running down it (NB: if your arm isn’t sore you haven’t beaten long enough), turn out into a dish lined on the bottom with baking paper. Put in fridge, cut before completely set.
Fudge is nice, but my all-time favourite is merengues. Does anyone have an idiot-proof recipe for ones that are crunchy on the outside but soft in the middle? If so, can you please leave in comments? Thank you. Have a fantastic Christmas, everyone!
And a fantastic Christmas to you, Deborah. Thanks so much for coming on Friday Feast and sharing your new release and that delicious-sounding caramel recipe. Anything with condensed milk in it has to be a winner!
So, lovely Feasters, anyone have a great meringue recipe? I have a fantastic pavlova one but I’m not sure if it would create the texture Deborah is after.