And another busy week has passed. I hope yours was a beauty.
I’m stupid with excitement today because one of my favourite authors is visiting for Friday Feast. Prepare yourself for a touch of fan-girl silliness.
Before that though, let’s all give a big cheer for my magnificent Sydney Swans, now perched in 3rd on the AFL ladder after their win over the Gold Coast Suns. They’re pecking away at that top spot! And I’m pecking away at my golf handicap too. Yes, the news from Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf is once again positive. I’ve lost another 0.3 off my handicap. Incredible!
Which leads me nicely into my fangirl rave. Michelle Diener is an auto-buy author for me. I love her books. LOVE! The Susanna Horenbout & John Parker series is brilliant. Like James Bond in a Tudor court! Go buy In A Treacherous Court now. You’ll love it I promise and become a total fangirl/boy like me. Then there are her Regency-era set books, all with juicy conspiracies and wonderful romances. Even food! Sigh. I get gooey just thinking about them…
Michelle has a new book out which I can’t wait to sink my teeth into. This one’s going to be a cracker…
The Duke of Wittaker has been living a lie…
He’s been spying on the dissolute, discontented noblemen of the ton, pretending to share their views. Now he’s ready to step out of the shadows and start living a real life…but when the prime minister of England is assassinated, he’s asked to go back to being the rake-hell duke everyone believes he still is to find out more.
Miss Phoebe Hillier has been living a lie, too…
All her life she’s played by society’s rules, hiding her fierce intelligence and love of life behind a docile and decorous mask. All it’s gotten her is jilted by her betrothed, a man she thought a fool, though a harmless one. But when she discovers her former fiancé was involved in the plot against the prime minister, and that he’s been murdered, she realizes he wasn’t so harmless after all.
And now the killers have set their sights on her…
The only man who can help her is the Duke of Wittaker–a man she knows she shouldn’t trust. And she soon realizes he’s hiding behind a mask as careful as her own. As the clock ticks down to the assassin’s trial, the pair scramble to uncover the real conspiracy behind the prime minister’s death. And as the pressure and the danger mounts, Phoebe and Wittaker shed their disguises, layer by layer, to discover something more precious than either imagined–something that could last forever. Unless the conspirators desperate to hide their tracks get to them first.
How exciting is that! I already have my copy but what about you? Get clicking, Feasters. Michelle’s books are amaaaazing!
Bought? Excellent. I’m wriggling in excitement for you because I know what fun you’ll have. Now why not have even more fun with some fabulous food.
Travel By Taste Bud
I have always loved discovering new places. That’s probably why I love reading and I love travelling. Both activities transport me away, and introduce me to new places, times, characters and food. Ever since I was little, I loved hanging out in the kitchen with my gran, who was from Glasgow, Scotland, and baking with her.
As I grew older, I realized you could travel just as easily by taste bud as by actual plane, and embarked on a lifelong love of cooking exotic (to me) dishes and trying new recipes.
Because I write historical fiction, part of that has included making recipes that were popular during the time my books are set. I was absolutely glued to the screen when Heston Blumenthal did his Renaissance feast episode, in the Heston’s Fantastic Feasts series, because I wanted to see what recipes he’d found from the time of my Tudor-set historicals. I had actually found some of the same ones, although, of course, being Heston, he took it all to another level.
For my Regency historical novel, Banquet of Lies, my main character works as a French cook in the home of a viscount in London. It was freeing that she was French, it meant I didn’t have to cook anything over-boiled 😉 and scoured the internet and cookbooks for recipes that would have been popular at the time. I read the menus and recipes of French celebrity chef, Antonin Careme, who cooked for the Prince Regent as well as Napoleon and Talleyrand, although I chose to go a little more low-key with my fiction menu 🙂 .
My latest book, A Dangerous Madness, doesn’t have as much food in it as Banquet of Lies, but it does include some of the characters from Banquet of Lies, including the French chef from Banquet of Lies, and I do include a few dishes, such as petit fours and lemon brioche (which I try to have every time I’m in Hong Kong, as the pastry chef at the hotel I stay at makes it JUST like my character in A Dangerous Madness).
But that’s all time-travelling by taste bud. I also do some real-life travel through taste bud, as well. I love Moroccan food, I love Indian food, I love Thai food. And when I make dishes from these countries, I feel transported to them.
One recipe I’ve been making a lot recently is a macaroon from the Middle East, which a friend from Tunisia also assures me it authentically Tunisian as well. I love this recipe because it is so easy and quick, and really, really delicious. I have Nigella Lawson from her book Feast to thank for it.
200g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
sprinkle of ground cardamom
2 egg whites
whole blanched almonds
Preheat the over to 200 deg C. Use a food processor to whiz up the almonds, sugar, egg whites and cardamom until it forms a thick paste. Get a large baking tray and cover it with baking parchment, then splash a little rosewater onto your hands, rub them together, then pinch off small pieces of the paste, roll into a ball then squash flat on the tray, and then top with a blanched almond. Keep refreshing the rosewater as you go. I usually do four or so, then splash on a little more. The mixture should make about 30 macaroons. Bake for 10 or so minutes, until then macaroons start to go golden at the edges. Leave to cool completely. These keep in an airtight container, although they never really last that long in my house :).
They wouldn’t last long in my house either, Michelle. Macaroons are so delicious and the perfect thing to enjoy with a cuppa and one of your brilliant books.
Speaking of brilliant, we have a giveaway.
Yes, Feasters, this is your chance to win a Michelle Diener book. Your choice of Banquet of Lies or a Dangerous Madness, in ebook or paperback form. How cool is that? But you have to work a little. That is the Feasty way!
So… what is your favorite travel by taste bud recipe?
Mine is black olive tapenade. I make this when I feel the need for a bit of Provence. It’s so punchy and delicious and reminds me of the restaurants and bars we frequented in Aix-en-Provence when we lived there. Nothing like a glass of rosé, a pot of tapenade and a few grissini to put you in a relaxed mood.
What about you? How do you travel with your taste buds? Share and you’ll go into the draw to win a copy of either Banquet of Lies or A Dangerous Madness.
Giveaway closes midnight AEST, Tuesday 17th June 2014. Open internationally. Rah!
This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Margareta who has won a copy of either A Dangerous Madness or Banquet of Lies. Fantastic reading ahead. Thanks to everyone who joined in the travelling with our tastebuds fun. Fab foodie ideas, as always!