Hello, my lovelies, and welcome to this Romance Writers of Australia annual conference edition of Friday Feast. Yes, I’m at Romance Rocks which is indeed totally rockin’. Hope to have lots of photos and fun news to share about it over the next few weeks, once I’ve recovered. RWA conferences are brilliant but exhausting.
In footy news, my darling Sydney Swans had another win last Friday night. It wasn’t the prettiest but a win is a win, and we’re streaking gallantly toward the end of the season and finals. Gallant streaking is not something that’s happening in Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf news, however. It was ugly last week, very ugly. Balls in the water. Balls out of bounds. Every ball seemed to have a death wish, which is nearly the way I felt by the end of my round. But with this week dedicated to all things romance writing, maybe the time off will do me good. I can only hope…
And now to this week’s guest: Me!
With so many of our talented authors busy at the conference, I’m taking over the Feast. Which means I get to talk about my upcoming release, The French Prize, because I’m REALLY SUPER-DUPER EXCITED ABOUT IT! And all the pre-order links are now live, which means you can book your copy now. Wheeee!
Take a looksie. It’s faaaaaaabulous!
Australian-born Dr. Olivia Walker is an Oxford academic with a reputation as one of the world’s leading Crusade historians and she’s risked everything on finding one of the most famous swords in history – Durendal. Shrouded in myth and mystery, the sword is fabled to have belonged to the warrior Roland, a champion of Charlemagne’s court, and Olivia is determined to prove to her detractors that the legend is real. Her dream is almost within reach when she discovers the long-lost key to its location in Provence, but her benefactor – Raimund Blancard – has other ideas.
For more than a millennium, the Blancard family have protected the sword. When his brother is tortured and killed by a man who believes he is Roland’s rightful heir, Raimund vows to end the bloodshed forever. He will find Durendal and destroy it, but to do that he needs Olivia’s help.
Now Olivia is torn between finding the treasure for which she has hunted all her life and helping the man she has fallen in love with destroy her dream. And all the while, Raimund’s murderous nemesis is on their trail, and he will stop at nothing to claim his birthright.
Doesn’t that sound rollicking? Rollicking AND romantic and you can pre-order the print version right now from Booktopia, Bookworld, Angus & Roberston, QBD The Bookshop, Abbey’s Bookshop, Fishpond.com.au, or the ebook from Amazon, Google Play and iBooks.
Right, now you’re all sorted, let have a scrumpy French recipe.
Besides our sexy, stoic hero Raimund and gutsy heroine Olivia, there are some fun secondary characters in The French Prize. Christiane and Edouard, Raimund’s godparents were a hoot to write.
Edouard adores a drink, and is always thrusting a glass of something alcoholic at Olivia. His wife, Christiane, rules her kitchen like a haughty queen, and god help you if you’re late for a meal. She’s a wonderful cook and takes great joy in making Raimund’s favourite meals for him. There’s hachis parmentier, salade de chevre chaud, petit farcis, moules, and tarte de chevre – all classic French dishes.
When we lived in Provence, I was lucky enough to attend a cooking school at a local lady’s house south of Aix-en-Provence. For two days, myself and two friends were picked up from Aix and carted off to the markets. Laden with beautiful produce and wine, we’d then head to her kitchen to cook ourselves silly before sitting out in the sunshine to savour our lunch and drinks. I enjoyed one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten during this time, a dish called petit farcis – stuffed Provencal vegetables – served with a fresh tomato sauce.
It’s weird, but as much as I loved that meal I haven’t made it again, although I’ve thought about doing so many times. I think I’m too scared it won’t taste the same. That it will taint that special memory. Every time I think of those two days I’m struck by how amazing they were. How bright the sun, how lovely the company, how incredible the food and wine tasted.
One French dish I have made many times since our return home is this onion tart. I first tried this in Strasbourg and fell completely in love with the creamy filling and flavours of caramelised onion and lardons. It’s really rich and bad for you but phht. So what? It’s not like you’re going to be eating it on a daily basis, is it?
Alsatian Onion Tart
Pâte brisée or shortcrust pastry – bought or your favourite recipe – rolled to fit a 27cm tart tin with removable base
1 tablespoon olive oil
700g brown onions, peeled
200g good quality, thick smoked bacon (rind removed), flat pancetta or speck, chopped into 5mm x 2cm long pieces (or thereabouts – don’t get too fussy, it’s a simple dish)
Salt, pepper, nutmeg
6 egg yolks
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Line the tart tin with pastry. Place a sheet of baking paper on top and fill with beans, rice, or ceramic baking weights and blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove rice/beans and bake another 5 minutes. The pastry should be lightly golden.
Meanwhile, halve the onions and then slice very finely into half moons. In a large saucepan, melt butter and oil over low heat and add onions. Cook, stirring regularly, with lid on for an hour or more, or until the onions are very soft and only slightly golden. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Heat a small pan over medium heat and lightly fry the bacon. Add to onions.
Season onions and bacon with salt and pepper and a few scrapes of freshly grated nutmeg.
Whisk the egg yolks with the cream and then mix in the onions and bacon. Pour into the baked pastry case and pop into the oven for half an hour, or until set.
Serve warm with salad and a nice glass of white wine.
Now, because I’m feeling all nostalgic and convivial, I think we should have a…
Who would like to score a signed copy of The French Prize? Well, here’s your chance to snag one. And it’s an easy giveaway too. All you have to do is share the best dish or meal you’ve eaten while on holidays.
Maybe it’s… fish and chips with a special someone on the beach, or that unreal curry you sampled on your last trip to Thailand. Perhaps the meal you ate at a famous restaurant or the barbecue you had in a mate’s backyard. Simple or flash, it doesn’t matter as long as you share you’ll be in the random draw!
And because I’ll be away all weekend and too knackered when I return home to promote it widely, I’ll leave this one open a little longer. So…
Giveaway closes midnight THURSDAY 14th August 2014, AEST. Australian postal addresses only.
If you’d like to learn more about me and my books, just keep tooling around the website. There’s funstuff like The Story Behind, where I reveal the inspiration behind my books, and plenty to explore on the blog and elsewhere. Why not sign up to my newsletter while you’re here? (Scroll down to the bottom of the Home page) Subscribers get all the news plus exclusive giveaways and my undying affection.
This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Astrid, who has won herself a copy of The French Prize. A big warm thank you to everyone who joined in the Feasty fun and shared their best holiday meals. You all made me jealous!