FRIDAY FEAST with Cathryn Hein

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Hello, Feasters, and welcome to a fantastique Friday Feast. It’s my turn again this week because what better way to celebrate the release of  my romantic adventure The French Prize than with a delicious dose of French food? Champagne I suppose, but I’ve already done that!

Before we get down to foodie fun, let’s talk footy. After a very wobbly start to the year and a rather uninspired (and losing – argh!) performance in Saturday night, my darling Sydney Swans managed to finish the season as minor premiers. Brilliant! But now we need to take it all the way, which means much nail biting and fretting in the Hein house as finals play out.

If you’re wondering what happened to Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf news, remember the quote “Golf is a good walk spoiled” from Mark Twain? I’m seriously beginning to think it’s true. Yeah, things have been that bad. Stuffit.

Enough of that and on to Feasty business. The French Prize officially hit the shelves this week – rah!  – and I’m racing along writing the next romantic adventure and having a ball. These books are such FUN!

Take a look at The French Prize. I’m so excited and proud.


The French Prize by Cathryn HeinAn ancient riddle, a broken vow – a modern-day quest for a medieval treasure.

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.

Out now at your favourite book shop or chain store. Or you can buy from these excellent retailers: Booktopia, Bookworld, Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, and JB Hi-Fi. For more stores, or to read an extract (or the entire first chapter), check out The French Prize page on my website.

And now for some French foody fun!


I couldn’t help it. I had to include food in The French Prize. The book is set in Provence where the produce, markets and cuisine are utterly divine. How could I possibly leave it out?

Plus I had the perfect character to indulge myself with in Christiane, the hero Raimund’s godmother. This is a lady who rules her kitchen ruthlessly and woe betide anyone who dares arrive late to dine and spoils one of her meals.

Here’s a snippet to explain…

‘Where’s Raimund?’ asked Olivia, sitting at the table and accepting a glass of wine from a still grinning Edouard.

The kitchen smelled delicious, filled with the distinctive aroma of tomato and basil. Olivia’s stomach let out a hearty grumble. Without asking, Edouard cut a slice of baguette and handed it to her.

‘He hasn’t returned,’ came the huffy retort from the stove.

‘He has special business today,’ said Edouard.

‘That boy always has special business. He should be here with his girlfriend. I made petit farci especially.’ Christiane smiled beatifically at Olivia, as though she’d spent the afternoon martyring herself for her godson. Given the smell of the kitchen, she probably had. ‘It’s his favourite.’

Olivia returned her smile and then focused on Edouard. ‘What special business?’

But Edouard simply puffed up his cheeks, blew air over his pouty bottom lip, and shrugged. The French equivalent of ‘who knows?’.

Although she hadn’t ventured outside that day, Olivia could feel the heat emanating from the terrace. Every now and then, the breeze would curl its way inside, swirling delicious aromas and adding to the overwhelming warmth. After the cool of the archives, the kitchen began to feel uncomfortably hot.

A dribble of sweat snaked down her back and Olivia became aware that, despite her heavy-duty deodorant, she might not smell as fresh as she would like. She cleared her throat, unsure if she should ask, but desperate for a shower and some clean clothes.

‘As Raimund is late, perhaps I have time for a shower?’ she asked gamely.

Christiane considered her request as though she was an haute cuisine chef and this a Michelin-starred restaurant. She gave her pot of tomato sauce a stir and taste, then opened her oven door and inspected the contents, her nose scrunching as she inhaled. A poke of the stuffed vegetables, some more contemplation and the decision was made.

‘Fifteen minutes.’

Olivia did it in ten.

One of the dishes Christiane makes for Raimund and Olivia is hachis parmentier. This is one of my favourite simple meals to have with a green salad or wilted spinach. It’s very much like cottage pie and another of those dishes where everyone has their own recipe. Some include tomato puree, some don’t. Traditional versions appear to have only onions in the mix and no other veg besides potato. A few have wine. Most use only stock.

Frankly, all I care is that it tastes good. And this, my own version, does (if I do say so myself)!

Hachis Parmentier

Hachis parmentier

2 tablespoons olive oil

100g finely chopped pancetta, speck or bacon

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 kg beef mince

1 tablespoon tomato paste

300ml dry red wine

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1 litre beef stock

2 large thyme sprigs, leaves picked

3 bay leaves

1.25kg floury potatoes, peeled, roughly chopped

50g butter


Dried breadcrumbs

Heat oil in a large heavy-based pan over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and fry for 1-2 minutes until lightly golden. Add onion, celery, and carrot, reduce heat to medium and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring, until soft and lightly browned. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add mince and cook until lightly browned and all the mince is broken up. Add the tomato paste, wine, cloves, stock, thyme and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has almost evaporated but mixture is still nicely moist.

Simmering mince for hachis parmentierMeanwhile, place potatoes in a large saucepan of cold salted water over high heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain well, cool slightly, then mash or pass through a ricer or mouli. Stir in butter and enough milk to create a nice creamy mash. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 200C. Remove the bay leaves from the mince. Season to taste. Spoon mixture into a large baking dish. Spread potato over beef and run a fork over the top to give it a rough surface, then sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.

This makes enough to feed 6 people easily with sides. If you don’t need that much the recipe halves well. It also freezes without problem. I make the full batch but cook it in two smaller trays, cool it in the fridge overnight, then slice it into individual portions. I wrap each portion in cling film, bag them up and freeze. Perfect for emergencies. A defrost and heat in the microwave, and dinner is done.

And now, because it’s release week and cause for celebration, let’s have a…


Would you like to win a signed copy of The French Prize? Here’s your chance. I’m looking for freezer meals. You know, those recipes that are perfect for making extra and freezing the rest. Hachis parmentier is one of mine, but I also make big batches of casseroles and soups, as well as pasta sauces. Oh, and moussaka. That works a treat.

What about you? What’s your freezer speciality? It can be sweet or savoury, I don’t mind. Reveal all and I’ll pop you into the draw.

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday AEST, 9th September 2014. Australian postal addresses only.

If you’d like to read more about The French Prize or my rural romances, simply explore the website. There’s plenty to see. And while you’re there sign up to my newsletter. Subscribers get special things because they’re special people.

You can also follow me on Twitter via @CathrynHein, Facebook and Google Plus.

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Nicole who has won a signed copy of The French Prize. Thanks to everyone who joined in the Friday Feast fun. A delight as always.

23 thoughts on “FRIDAY FEAST with Cathryn Hein

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      I agree, Karen. And so comforting! I can highly recommend Jamie Oliver’s Spicy Slow-Cooked Lamb Shanks from his very first cookbook. We’ve been making that for years and it freezes a treat.

      Thanks for visiting Friday Feast. All the best in the giveaway draw!

  1. Avatarbrendat59

    This is a favourite and freezes well 🙂
    Mouth watering Lamb Shanks – The perfect warming winter meal.
    Guide to cooking lamb shanks in the oven:
    One shank is all you’ll need per person.
    Sauté a diced carrot, onion and three sticks of celery in a large baking dish (to fit the shanks in).
    Brown the shanks and place them over the vegetables.
    Add a few bay leaves and a few large sprigs of rosemary.
    Add a cup beef stock and a cup of red wine.
    Cover the baking dish with foil and tuck the edges tightly around the dish.
    Cook in a slow oven for 2 – 2.5 hours.
    Check occasionally – top up with more stock to cover the base of the dish. Turn the shanks so they cook evenly.
    When they are ready to enjoy, the meat should fall from the bone.
    Serve lamb shanks over hot, buttery mashed potato or polenta. Spoon over the pan juices, and sprinkle with chopped herbs.

    Guide to cooking lamb shanks in a slow cooker:
    Follow the steps listed above. One hour in the oven is equivalent to about 6-8 hours on low in a slow cooker.
    Slow cookers don’t lose as much moisture as conventional methods like casseroling does, so there’s no need to add more liquid than the recipe calls for.
    Try to avoid removing the lid to check on the dish’s progress – moisture will escape and you’ll increase the cooking time. Just one look and you lose 20 minutes cooking time!

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      Ah, lamb shanks. Who doesn’t love those, Brenda. All that gooey, melt-in-your mouth goodness. So luscious. So lovely!
      Which is just how your recipes sound. Mmmm. And it has veg for extra healthiness too! I tell you, if I didn’t have tonight’s dinner already planned out I’d be cooking those lamb shanks of yours. And making crusty bread to go with it. Speaking of which, I need to make bread anyway…

      Thanks so much for sharing your delicious recipes for lamb shanks and all the best in The French Prize draw. The slow cooker version sounds nice and easy too. Wonder if it would work in the pressure cooker in an emergency?

  2. AvatarShelley Russell Nolan

    Will have to give your recipe a try. Sounds delicious and I can serve the rest of the bottle of red wine with it.
    For freezer meals I cook lasagne or bacon and egg pie. One of my nieces has requested bacon and egg pie for her birthday present next month, and I can tweak the recipe and make individual ones which are great for nibbles at parties.
    For a full size pie all you need is to line a greased baking dish with puff pastry, add a layer of bacon, sprinkle chopped onion and tasty cheese over top and then break in 6 – 8 eggs, depending on the size of the dish. Season and then pop on another layer of puff pastry, prick it a few times with a fork, and then cook in a moderate over for 40 – 60 min, until nice and golden.
    Even tastes good cold.

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      Ha ha ha. Most excellent idea on the wine, Shelley. Can’t let good wine go to waste, can we!

      That pie sounds beautiful, and SO EASY! Love recipes like that, especially those you can adapt into other serving sizes. I’m going to give that a go. Sounds like a lovely picnic or summer dish to have with salad. Thanks!

  3. AvatarChristine Stinson

    Love Hachis Parmentier, it’s a family favourite and such great winter comfort food. The freezer specialty here is lasagne, and also soup – I make a big pot, freeze what we don’t eat for a later date. The French Prize sounds like fun, can’t wait to read it.

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      Hachis parmentier was my go-to meal in France whenever Jim headed back to Australia and I was left to fend for myself, Christine. Picards, the frozen food supermarket chain, used to make a beauty. And I could be all lazy and not have to bother with the washing up.

      Lasagne is such a perfect freezer meal. I don’t make the meat one often but in the summer, when the basil goes crazy, I make a pesto and ricotta one that freezes surprisingly well. Lovely in the autumn when it’s turning cool and you need a reminder of warmer days.

      Thanks so much for visiting. Always lovely to see you. And good luck in the draw!

  4. AvatarLouise Reynolds

    That hachis parmentier recipe looks great. We’re rather fond of a bit of shepherd’s or cottage pie here (I make Caroline Conran’s) but yours has extra oomph so must give it a go. We’ll bung any leftovers of reasonable quantity in the freezer – right now we have lamb shanks as well – Terry Durack’s Curried lamb shanks – fab recipe. With some (frozen) roti, a pilau and some green beans it’s delish. Otherwise it’s pasta sauce, soups, chicken broth, some frozen chinese dumplings (for the broth), sticky date pudding and its sauce, salt cod balls.
    Don’t put me in the draw. I’m reading The French Prize right now and loving it!

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      I imagine your freezer is loaded with all sorts of gourmet deliciousness, Louise! Now you’ve given me a hankering for sticky date pud. I haven’t made that for yonks. Very remiss!

      I made hachis parmentier using duck confit once. Oh, man. That was sooo good. Really naughty though…

      Delighted that you’re reading and enjoying The French Prize. Lovely!

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      You’ll have to come and stay when you’re over east one time, Rach. Always a bed here for you.

      Thanks for the congrats on The French Prize. So thrilled this book is out!

  5. AvatarAnne Gracie

    Looks yummy, Cathryn. I never make the same version of shepherd’s pie twice — it’s always based on what’s in the fridge. 😉 Congratulations on the release of The French Prize. Looking forward to reading it.

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      Thanks, Anne!
      I thinks that’s the same with hachis parmentier – whatever’s in the fridge. I think the Larousse version uses leftover cook meat, like shepherd’s pie does. Whatever the case, anything with mashed spud on top has to taste good!

  6. AvatarBeck

    Congrats on the release!! Was super excited to shelf-spot it last week.
    Love that excerpt, I can ‘see’ it from those words. And the recipe will have to go on my list of new to try.


    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      I love a good shelf spot, even when it’s not one of mine. Makes me kinda gooey and giggly and want to point out to everyone within range that I KNOW THAT AUTHOR! Weird, but also fun.

      You’ll have to try the hachis, Beck. It’s lovely and comforting. And a great meal to have stashed in the freezer.

  7. AvatarKim Foster

    would loveeeeeee to win a copy of your new book please………..I hope this is the right place to enter now, tyyyyyyyyyy

  8. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

    Here’s a comment and giveaway entry from Nicole Harris:

    Huge congratulations! I absolutely love the cover of The French Prize 🙂
    My favourite dish to make and freeze for later is Chicken Curry … a nice spicy one, with lots of chillies so no one else steals it!

    Thanks, Nicole. I’m a big fan of the cover too. It’s so atmospheric. And excellent idea on spicing up the curry so no one nicks it. Not really a problem in our house though. We love chillied up things.

  9. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

    And the winner of The French Prize, drawn by random number generator, is…


    Congratulations, Nicole. An email will be shooting your way shortly. Huge thanks to everyone who played along in the Friday Feast fun. Always a joy to see you here and read your lovely comments.

    Stay tuned for another Friday Feast giveaway this week from my special guest. Plus a recipe that will have your mouth truly watering.

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