Welcome, food and book lovers, to the blog series that satisfies both mind and body. This week on Friday Feast, you have me. I’m sharing a childhood memory along with an easy picnic food recipe, and showing off my upcoming release Summer and the Groomsman.
But first, the rollercoaster ride of Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. After flopping dismally in the ladies premier competition, the Goblet, I’m now focusing on the club championships. Three rounds in and I’m sitting pretty in second. And no one can catch me! That might have something to do with the fact that there are now only two ladies left in the contest, but we won’t talk about that. Second is still second, even if is also technically last. And who knows, if the gun player ahead of me also pulls out, I might even win!
Enough of golf silliness. It’s time to wax lyrical about next week’s release of my rural romance novella Summer and the Groomsman. To say I’m excited about it is an understatement. This sweet, heart-warming story has been in my head for so long I thought it would never get out, yet here it is, all golden and lovely, and ready for you.
Take a looksie…
SUMMER AND THE GROOMSMAN
After yet again nearly colliding with an escaped horse while driving home to the family farm, Harry Argyle comes face-to-face with its pretty owner, and doesn’t hold back his disapproval.
Confronted by a bad-tempered giant on a dark country road, beautician and new arrival in town Summer Taylor doesn’t know who to be more afraid for: herself or her darling horse Binky. It’s not her fault Binky keeps escaping. The alcoholic owner of the paddock she rents won’t fix the fence and Binky can be sneaky when it comes to filling his stomach. But no matter how big and muscled the bully, she refuses to be intimidated.
When Harry’s wedding party book a session at the day spa where Summer works, both she and Harry are horrified to be paired together. Grudgingly, they agree to make the most of it – only for the session to spiral into disaster. Realising he’s made a dill of himself in front of sweet Summer yet again, Harry vows to set things right.
Summer isn’t about to easily forgive the man who called her horse stupid, no matter how brave and kind, but with everyone on Harry’s side, even fate, resistance is hard. Can these two find love or will Summer’s wayward horse put his hoof in it again?
All sorted? Good. Now come on a picnic with me.
A Rocky Tale
Who doesn’t love a good picnic? There’s something about eating al fresco that increases your appetite and makes everything taste better. Throw in great company and you have the best of days.
About 100 kilometres from my home town of Mount Gambier, parallel to the Coonawarra wine region but across the Victorian border toward the small town of Dergholm, there’s a state park. On its western edge is a camping area called Baileys Rocks. This has great significance to our family because it’s where my maternal ancestor John Bailey settled with his wife Frances in 1888. Probably to escape his 5 brothers and 5 sisters in Portland (they bred well in those days).
When Mum, who was mad about genealogy, discovered that the old homestead’s foundations could still be seen at the site, she ordered my family up for a look, dragging my godparents and their family along for the ride.
The area contains the most amazing rock formations: 500 million-year-old boulders of granite that look like giant marbles, and possess an eeriness that just begs you to hum the haunting Picnic At Hanging Rock movie theme tune under your breath as you walk around.
I was quite young at this point. Perhaps around age 10, I can’t be sure, but I recall having a great day. Running around the giant rock formations, exploring the bush, following the creek, breathing in the scents of eucalyptus and scrub… what better adventure for a kid? Some of the boulders had drill holes and blast marks where attempts had been made to mine the granite, only to be foiled by the hardness of the rock. We had picnic food and cordial and found the original house foundations. I have a feeling we may even have played bush cricket. All was good.
As everyone who lives in Australia knows, picnicking is not without its perils. Besides sunburn, we have pesky wildlife to contend with. There wouldn’t be too many of us who haven’t been annoyed by flies, spiders, snakes, wasps, bees, dive-bombing birds, even the occasional fearless emu, when dining outdoors. And everyone has had trouble with ants.
Baileys Rocks had the usual small black ants – those determined, pesky creatures that can sniff a sausage from a mile away – but it also had bull ants. Great big fat aggressive ones. The territorial sort that attack and take about ten heavy stomps to kill, and even then the buggers keep twitching.
Unfortunately my poor godfather got bitten by one.
To be fair, it could be my faulty child’s memory but I swear he went red, then purple, then his neck went missing as his entire upper body swelled up like a provoked toad. Bemusement was followed by concern and mutterings about how bad it truly was, what his laboured breathing meant, whether a hospital trip to Penola was in order. These days, we’d probably recognise his condition for what it was – an allergic reaction that needed medical attention, but this was the 70s and in my experience it took more than an ant bite and a touch of anaphylaxis to put people in a flap.
So my godfather was left wheezing, and we carried on having fun before eventually packing up and tottering off home, happy and tired from the day and filled with wonder for those amazing rocks. He survived – god knows how – but a lesson was learned: watch out for bull ants. They can spoil your day and make you look freaky.
Fortunately I already knew that thanks to an experience I had when I was little and out rabbitting with my dad. I needed the loo and being in the middle of a paddock, Dad just told me to go. So I did. Straight on a bull ant’s nest.
But that’s a story for another day.
Eh hem. Time to get back to the subject, which is picnic food!
Here’s a recipe for a dead easy frittata that’s as good cold as it is hot, can be made well in advance, and is perfect for an outdoor meal. It’s also very adaptable. As long as you have the main ingredients you can tweak it however you like. The photo below has the frittata made in an enamel-coated cast iron pan, but life’s much easier using non-stick.
I made this recipe last night for dinner (that’s the slice of frittata photo) using red onion because I didn’t have any spring onions, and served it with salad. Delish!
1 kg waxy or all-purpose potatoes, skin on, cut into 2 cm chunks
2 chorizo sausages, halved lengthways and cut into 1 cm slices
100 g baby spinach
10 eggs, beaten
6 spring onions, finely sliced
Heat a good wodge of olive oil in a 27 cm non-stick pan over medium heat and throw in the chorizo (you can also chuck in roughly chopped red onion at this stage, if you want). Cook until lightly browned and the oil has lots of flavour from the chorizo, then remove the meat using a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the pan.
Meanwhile, steam the potatoes until just tender. Allow to dry out a little, then add to the flavoured oil and sauté until slightly crispy and the potatoes have taken on the spiced oil.
Add the spinach and stir until wilted. Return chorizo to the pan and combine.
Mix the spring onions with the whisked eggs. Season with salt and pepper.
Lower the heat and pour egg over the potato mix. Stir to even out the ingredients, plonk on a lid and cook until the egg is set, about 10-15 minutes or so, depending on thickness. If you’re feeling excited, finish it off by lightly grilling the top.
Cut into slices and serve warm or cold.
No chorizo? No problem. Simply swap with any other kind of spiced sausage, ham or bacon. No spinach? Leave it out. Honestly, as long as you have eggs and spuds, you’ll be right. The rest is up to your imagination.
So, clever Feasties, what’s your favourite picnic food? Do you have something special you make for outdoor events? Please share. We’d all love to hear!
If you’d like to learn more about me or my books, why not tootle around the website for a while? There’s lots to explore. You can also connect with me on Facebook, Twitter using @CathrynHein, Google +, Goodreads and Pinterest.