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+.


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