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.

 

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