Thank goodness for another weekend! Between Eurovision Song Contest awesomeness, my darling Sydney Swans soaring to a magnificent victory, and me playing (mostly) excellent golf, last weekend was exhausting.
Have you seen where my beautiful boys are on the AFL ladder? Fourth. FOURTH! And this after a terrible start to the year. Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf news is equally upbeat. I’m on fire. Fire, I tell you! Not a single ball lost last week; not duffed into a dam, not pinched by a crow. It’s an omen!
Now, to this week’s guest. Australian author Alison Stuart wrote one of my absolute favourite reads of last year, Gather The Bones, a beautifully written story set after the Great War and a book I can’t recommend highly enough. With her latest release, Alison has dipped her toe into the hugely popular Regency period and it sounds wonderful.
Take a look…
From the battlefield of Waterloo to the drawing rooms of Brantstone Hall, Sebastian Alder’s elevation from penniless army captain to Viscount Somerton is the stuff of dreams. But the cold reality of an inherited estate in wretched condition, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his cousin’s death, provide Sebastian with no time for dreams, only a mystery to solve and a murderer to bring to justice.
Isabel, widow of the late Lord Somerton, is desperate to bury the memory of her unhappy marriage by founding the charity school she has always dreamed of. But, her dreams are shattered, as she is taunted from the grave, discovering not only has she been left penniless, but she is once more bound to the whims of a Somerton.
But this Somerton is unlike any man she has met. Can the love of an honourable man heal her broken heart or will suspicion tear them apart?
Knowing how beautifully Alison writes, this will be another amazing story. You can own a copy right now with just a few clicks of your mouse. Try Amazon for the Kindle version, Barnes & Noble for Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play, JB Hi-Fi or your favourite ebook retailer.
All stocked up with another great read? Good. Now have fun with this foodie treat.
Take A Stag’s Heart…
It’s wonderful to be back on Friday Feast talking about food. Thank you for the invite, Cathryn.
I have finally stretched my historical wings and ventured into the magical world of the Regency with my May release of LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR. I say magical because I think one of the reasons Regency is such a perennial favourite with readers is because it is a fantasy world inhabited by the men and women of the mystical “ton”. Gracious manners, beautiful clothes and a world that is a little more accessible to the modern reader than the earlier periods of history (such as my own particular passion, the English Civil War).
I have to say it was a wonderful period to write about. In my own version of “Cinderella”, the battle scarred professional army officer of parlous means, wakes to find he is now Lord Somerton, owner of a London town house and an elegant estate in Lincolnshire so as I wrote I discovered the world through his eyes.
Food paid a huge part in Regency life and I am fortunate to have an original 1808 (14th) edition of “The Housekeepers Instructor; or universal Family Cook” by W.A Henderson “Many years eminent in the culinary profession”. You can buy a reproduction of this book on AMAZON for $27.98 but I love the yellowing pages and the leather bindings of my own copy William Augustus Henderson was the Mrs. Beeton his day and his book remained in print well into the Victorian era.
While I can recall my son and I spending a couple of evenings in fits of laughter as we read through the household instructions for feeding cows and trussing Woodcocks and Snipes, a previous owner (not my grandmother’s handwriting – although there are a few notes of hers in the book) had obviously studied it in detail and scattered through the book are scraps of paper, written in a confident hand in blue fountain pen with comments on them that are almost as amusing as some of the recipes. Against the recipe for “Surfeit Water” he/she has written “What a terrible brew. I wonder why they called it water? Much understatement makes the sufferer game to try it… I’ve got all the ingredients. If scurvy grass is lemon grass should I try?” I wonder if she did. On making icings for cakes my unknown commentator says “Whisk them well for TWO or THREE HOURS” followed by an enormous exclamation mark. For the recipe for “Stag’s Heart Water” which includes the instruction “Take a stag’s heart, and cut off the fat…”, my commenter drily notes “I’m glad you cut the fat off the Stag’s heart”.
More sobering, in among the instructions for managing the dairy, the author of the book notes “The practice of keeping milk in leaden vessel, and of salting butter in stone jars, is very detrimental; the well known effector of the poison of lead are bodily debility, palsy, death…” So interestingly lead poisoning was in fact well known by the end of the eighteenth century.
We may laugh at the quaintness of it all but in fact the advice is generally sound and the recipes sensible and on the whole, edible. Henderson also includes wonderful suggestions of seasonal menus for suppers and small courses… of up to 10 dishes per course! The first course, we are advised, should consist of soups, boiled poultry, fish and boiled meats; the second course of different kinds of game, high seasoned dishes, tarts, jellies etc and the third course, to be considered dessert comprises fruits and “various kinds of ornamental pastries.”
In LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR, food does not play a huge part, although at one stage, poor Sebastian is forced into eating three breakfasts by a populace determined to “feed him up”. William Augustus Henderson’s book doesn’t really touch on the subject of breakfasts but one of the great favourites of a “proper” English breakfast was “Devilled kidneys”, a dish popular since the 18th century when a thrifty housewife invented a spicy sauce to add some interest to an otherwise bland dish. Devilled Kidneys are not as horrible as you might think and I had a housemate who did rather good devilled kidneys (until the day he cooked kidneys that had gone off… but that’s a whole other story).
This recipe comes from my own copy of “The Cookery Year” by Readers Digest”.
For four portions, clean and halve 8 lamb kidneys.
Prepare a devil sauce by mixing 2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce, 2 teaspoons ketchup and 1 level tablespoon dry mustard with 60g melted butter. Season with salt, white pepper and cayenne.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil or butter in a pan and fry the kidneys for 3 minutes on each side.
Arrange them in a flameproof serving dish, spread the devil sauce evenly on top of the kidneys and put under a hot grill for 1 minute.
Now how’s that for a bit of English breakfast goodness, Feasters? Not my favourite thing, kidneys, but the devil sauce certainly sounds delicious. Perhaps over a few pork sausages instead for a breaky to really get your heart started. Hmm. Maybe I need a kick like this before golf…
For the month of May Alison is running a Rafflecopter giveaway to win an author’s goody bag worth over $50. Details of what it contains can be found on Alison’s website but it includes a copy of Alison’s collected short stories, Tower of Tales, a Mesopotamia bracelet, a notebook, a book voucher, and other goodies. To enter, simply use the Rafflecopter widget below using your Facebook log-in or your name and email address. Easy.
The giveaway is open worldwide, so have a go and good luck!