Tag Archives: France

FRIDAY FEAST with Elizabeth Ellen Carter

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Hello munchkins, and welcome to another tasty edition of Friday Feast. This week we travel back in time with an historical romance author, French it up, and give away TWO books. How’s that for warming your winter soul!

But first, news from Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. As the sun continues to shine, so does my golf game continue to brighten. I know. AMAZING! I’ve been playing so well that I managed to drop a stroke off my handicap. I even won the ladies competition last week and qualified for an end of year district playoff event. Whoop! It won’t last, of course. The curse will undoubtedly return, but until it does I’m going to savour this good form while it lasts.

Enough crowing. To our guest we must go!

EECarterSX200_Please give a big welcome to historical romance author Elizabeth Ellen Carter on her debut Friday Feast. Elizabeth’s debut novel, the French Revolution era set Moonstone Obsession, was published in 2013 by Etopia Press. Earlier that year, the adventure romance had been shortlisted in the Romance Writers of Australia Emerald Awards for Best Unpublished Manuscript. Her second novel, Warrior’s Surrender, was voted Favourite Historical Fiction in the 2015 Readers & Writers Down Under Readers Choice Awards.

Elizabeth has a new book out, a sequel to Moonstone Obsession and another action-packed historical adventure. Take a look.

MOONSTONE CONSPIRACY

Moonstone Conspiracy by Elizabeth Ellen CarterRevolution in France, rebels in England, and one woman caught in the crossfire…

For her unwitting participation in a plot to embezzle the Exchequer, Lady Abigail Houghall has spent the last two years exiled to the city of Bath. A card sharp, sometime mistress, and target of scandalous gossip by the London Beau Monde, Lady Abigail plots to escape her gilded cage as well as the prudish society that condemns her. But the times are not easy. France is in chaos. The king has been executed, and whispers of a similar revolution are stirring in England. And because of her participation in the robbery plot, the Spymaster of England is blackmailing her into passing him information about the members of London’s upper crust.

When the dashing English spy Daniel Ridgeway takes a seat at her card table and threatens to expose her for cheating, she has no choice but to do as he demands: seduce the leader of the revolutionaries and learn what she can about their plot. As she’s drawn deeper into Daniel’s dangerous world, from the seedy backstreets of London to the claustrophobic catacombs of a war-torn Paris, she realizes an even more dangerous fact. She’s falling in love with her seductive partner. And the stakes of this game might just be too high, even for her.

Doesn’t that sound fantastic? Having a soft spot for all things French, this is right up my alley and I bet it’s up yours too. Which means you should buy a copy of Moonstone Conspiracy right now! Try Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, All Romance Ebooks or direct from the publisher Etopia Press.

Now get your spoon out for Elizabeth’s delicious recipe!

Taking It Slow

At this time of year, time turns home and hearth, simple comforts that warm the heart and warm the soul.

I was guilty (perhaps still am guilty) of trying to do things in a rush – waiting for the next big project, the next excitement, the next thrill.

I am learning to slow down. Appreciate each moment for its own sake, valuing the here and now, knowing that this day, this hour, this second, once gone is gone forever.

One of the things I was guilty of taking a shortcut on was this ubiquitous dish. I didn’t treat it with respect. It was just something that came out of a pack – often as a flavouring for other dishes – Apricot Chicken, for instance.

French Onion Soup is simplicity itself, but taking the time makes you appreciate the little things.

One of the things you’ll need for this recipe is time, but that’s a good thing. In this fast-paced world we need to unplug from technology and spend time thinking, reflecting or even gathering the family or friends around the kitchen for a chat.

This French Onion Soup recipe is just the thing to bring people together.

French Onion Soup

Elizabeth Ellen Carter's French Onion Soup

60g butter

2 tbs olive oil

1kg thinly sliced brown onions (you’ll need about 8-12 depending on size)

2 tsp brown sugar

2 tbs plain flour

4 cups beef stock

Weighing onions for the soupOnce you’ve sliced the onions, add your olive oil and butter. Wait for the butter to melt and start bubbling away.

Then add the onions (I use a mix of brown, white and red – whatever’s handy) and turn the heat down to medium-low.

Caramelising onions

It may look like a lot of onions but over the next 40-50 minutes they will break down, releasing beautiful aromatics that will have people wondering when dinner will be ready.

Chat, enjoy a glass of red wine (I prefer a dry Shiraz), but be sure stir the onions regularly

This step cannot be rushed. The onions need to wilt, brown and begin to caramelise.

Caramelised onions

Add the brown sugar to aid the caramelising process. The savoury of the onion and sweet of the sugar is just delicious.

After 10 minutes of stirring, add the flour to help add a little thickness to the soup. Stir for two minutes and add the beef stock.

Beef stock added to onions

Allow the flavours to combine on a low simmer for the next 15 minutes.

Serve with cheesy bread – but any bread will do. We had ours with olive sourdough. Delicious!

I’d like to give away a copy of Moonstone Conspiracy and Moonstone Obsession.

Just tell me what recipe brings your family together?

*

Oh, I ADORE French onion soup, Elizabeth. Thanks so much for sharing your recipe. You are spot on about taking the time to caramelise the onions. That is definitely a stage that can’t be rushed. Hmm. I have a real hankering for this soup now. Might have to put it on this week’s menu!

By the way for anyone who’s interested and looking for a treat, if you happen to be in Melbourne check out Bistro Guillaume at Crown Casino. The French onion soup there is divine. Actually, everything at the restaurant is beautiful. I may have to sneak in a visit when I’m down for the Romance Writers of Australia conference this month.

Now, lovelies, did you see that Elizabeth has a…

GIVEAWAY!

To be in the draw to win an ebook copy of both Moonstone Conspiracy and Moonstone Obsession, simply reveal what recipe brings your family together.

Perhaps you have a favourite soup or maybe it’s the good old roast that makes you think family. I’m not sure we really have a recipe that gets our family together but you can’t beat a good old barbecue for family fun, burnt snags and all. And it saves on the washing up!

So what recipe or food gets your family together? Reveal all and you’ll be in the draw. Easy!

Please note: Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday AEST, 11th August 2015. Open internationally. Rah!

Don’t have an e-reader? That’s okay. You can easily read ebooks on your phone, tablet or computer via any one of the many apps available.

If you’d like to learn more about Elizabeth and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook, Twitter using @EECarterAuthor and Pinterest.

Friday Feast recipe index link.

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Cathryn Hein

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Greetings, Feasty lovelies, and welcome to another tastebud tantalising edition of Friday Feast. This week: rocking on with a bargain priced Rocking Horse Hill, getting stoned with fruit (well, maybe not high but certainly very happy), and a book giveaway you will luuuurve.

First, news from Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf. I’m on the improve, oh yes I am. And I can Cathryn ready to golfprove it because I only hit ONE ball into a dam on the weekend… I think. It’s entirely possible I blocked memory of the others. All this ball loss does get traumatic at times. Not to mention expensive.

But onto some Feasty goodness. This week you have ME as the guest and I have a treat for you too. A few of them, in fact.

Now, in case you haven’t heard, the ebook of my fourth rural romance Rocking Horse Hill is currently on sale for only $4-99 across all platforms. A saving of eight dollars of the normal retail price. How’s that for a bargain? And it’s a great read, if I do say so myself!

Take a look…

ROCKING HORSE HILL

Rocking Horse Hill by Cathryn Hein coverWho do you trust when a stranger threatens to tear your family apart?

Ever since she was a little girl, Emily Wallace-Jones has loved Rocking Horse Hill. The beautiful family property is steeped in history. Everything important in Em’s life has happened there. And even though Em’s brother Digby has inherited the property, he has promised Em it will be her home for as long as she wishes.

When Digby falls in love with sweet Felicity Townsend, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Em worries about the future. But she is determined not to treat Felicity with the same teenage snobbery that tore apart her relationship with her first love, Josh Sinclair. A man who has now sauntered sexily back into Em’s life and given her a chance for redemption.

But as Felicity settles in, the once tightly knitted Wallace-Jones family begins to fray. Suspicions are raised, Josh voices his distrust, and even Em’s closest friends question where Felicity’s motives lie. Conflicted but determined to make up for the damage caused by her past prejudices, Em sides with her brother and his fiancée until a near tragedy sets in motion a chain of events that will change the family forever.

Like the sound of that? Then grab it now at a rocking price. Try Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play and JB Hi-Fi. Prefer the smell and feel of paper, then clickety-click on over to Booktopia, Bookworld or Angus & Robertson. Or why not pop into your favourite local bookshop or chain store?

Stocked up? Excellent. You can now come and get stoned with me.

Ahem.

Summer Lovin’

Today I made my first cherry purchase of the season.

What? Not impressed? Huh. Fine. I know this may not sound much to you, but it matters bigtime to me. You see, I don’t just love cherries, I worship them. They are by far my favourite fruit. Come cherry season I cannot stuff enough of those babies into my mouth.

I like the way they burst. I like the intensity of their flavour. I like that funny sensation I get when my front teeth pierce the skin. I like how they colour my fingers all pink. I like how you can be munching through a bowl, thinking how delicious they are, and then suddenly get one whose sweet amazingness outshines all the others and makes your brain go all bright like it’s been filled with sunshine. I like how deeply, almost sexily red they are. I like to stroke them…

*cough*

Sorry, but I did say that I worshipped them.

Anyway, today I scored my first batch of new season cherries and I had plans for these things. Cooking type plans. I was going to turn those plump little morsels into a beautiful French dessert. Until I ate one…. um, okay, I ate many. Then I thought: Why waste my darlings on a dessert when I can scoff them pure and whole, the way nature intended?

So I turned to summer’s third best stone fruit, the humble apricot (the second being nectarines). Now normally it’s hard to go past a beautifully blushed apricot but when there are cherries being all Eat me! Eat Me! it’s easy. I mean, apricots  are all demure peachy blush while cherries are vibrant and siren-like. If cherries were a man they’d be… I dunno. Think of someone dark ‘n hot ‘n dangerous maybe. Someone sultry and sexy, with smooth skin and taut muscles and long lashes and brown come-hither eyes.

Washed new season cherries and apricots

But I digress… cherries kind of have that effect.

Because this Feast is about Rocking Horse Hill, and with the heroine Emily Wallace-Jones being such a wonderful cook and gardener, I needed a recipe that she would make and share with friends and family. She’s a seasonal girl, our Em. She likes to let nature dictate what’s on the menu. And in summer, with her orchard in full production, you can bet she’d be inundated with stone fruit.

I think – no, I know cos she is, after all, my invention – that a lovely French clafoutis would be exactly the dish she would cook.

Have you ever had a clafoutis? It’s one of the world’s easiest desserts to make and one whose success relies almost entirely on the quality of the fruit used. So choose that fruit wisely. You can use anything really, but beautifully ripe stone fruit always works well. Cherries are traditional but I just couldn’t bring myself to cook my precious batch. So apricots it is. I can sacrifice them.

This recipe has been adapted from the clafoutis recipe in Bien Cuisiner du marché à votre table by Marie-Claude Bisson, a lovely big fat 800 recipe cookbook that’s well worth buying if you love French family food and don’t mind a bit of translating. Some recipes I’ve seen call for almond flour and whatnot but that sounds far too heavy. This clafoutis produces a silky light custard with the fruit juices running through. It’s easy and beautiful and very moreish.

Apricot Clafoutis

The baked apricot clafoutis served with a drizzle of cream.

Ingredients

4 eggs

Pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

125g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

80g plain flour

60g butter

250ml milk (or use 125ml cream and 125ml milk for a richer result – but straight milk works fine)

500g apricots or the fruit of your choice

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C.

If using smaller fruit like cherries, stone and keep whole (there’s a special depipping gadget for this – or you can halve them, whatever you like). For larger fruit, remove the stone and cut in half and place in a ceramic dish cut side down (or up, if you prefer that look).

Beat the eggs, salt, vanilla and sugar until pale and creamy.

Sift the flour nice and high over the egg mixture and fold in. Melt 30g of the butter and gently stir that into the egg mixture along with the milk. The mix will be quite liquid but airy.

Pour over the fruit. Dot with remaining butter. Bake for 30 minutes, depending on the shallowness of your dish, your oven’s temperament, the alignment of the stars etc etc. Remove and sprinkle with extra sugar while it’s still hot.

Serve with cream and smiiiiile at all that summer goodness.

Serves 6.

 

Doesn’t that sound easy and delicious? Believe me, it is.

And because this post is about Rocking Horse Hill being bargain priced and not just my cherry obsession, I think we should celebrate the fact with a…

GIVEAWAY!

Yes, you could win a pretty purple paperback copy of Rocking Horse Hill, signed to you or whomever you like in case you want to give it away as a present (now there’s a Christmas gift idea for the reader in your circle). But as always you have to work to be in the draw, oh yes you do!

I want to know your favourite summer fruit and how you like to prepare and eat it. Naturally, there will be bonus points for anything involving cherries.

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday AEST, 18th November 2014. Australian postal addresses only.

If you’d like to learn more about me or my books, then take a leisurely stroll around my website. While you’re there, sign up to my newsletter which delivers all my book news direct to your inbox along with exclusive goodies and giveaways. You can also connect with me via Facebook, Google+ and Twitter using @CathrynHein.

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Maria who has won a signed copy of Rocking Horse Hill. Thanks to everyone for joining in the fun. Lots of fruity ideas! 

FRIDAY FEAST with Annie West

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What a magnificent Friday! And made all the better with a fabulous guest, some feasting, a fantastic book giveaway.

But before we get onto that… DID YOU SEE MY DARLING SWANNIES? Yes, my beloved footy team, the Sydney Swans, is into the AFL Preliminary Final. One step from the Grand Final and premiership victory. Oh, the thrill!

Which kind of makes up for my rather lacklustre golf. I say lacklustre because that’s how it felt to me, but somehow, thanks to that newfangled handicapping system Golf Australia has implemented, I played well enough last week to knock 0.2 of a stroke off my handicap. Weird. Very weird indeed. I am, as we like to say here in the Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf house, bumfuggled.

I’m super excited this week because I’m hosting a very lovely lady on Friday Feast. Annie West is a USA Today best-selling author of many hugely popular and sexy books. She is queen of the alpha male, writing sumptuous romances populated with handsome jet-setting billionaires and feisty heroines who prove more than a match for them.

I’ve just finished reading Annie’s latest, Damaso Claims His Heir, and it was a cracking read. Alpha heroes normally make me want to kick them in the shins, but Damaso was so undone by the heroine, Princess Marisa, that I nearly felt sorry for him. The dialogue was slick, the settings wonderful and the story full of intense, heartfelt emotion. I honestly loved this book and I’m sure you will too.

DAMASO CLAIMS HIS HEIR

Damaso Claims His Heir by Annie WestWhen opposites attract!

Damaso Pires should have known better than to get involved with Marisa—the scandalous princess of Bengaria! Yet soon he sees her true beauty and flawless virtue, which touches a place in him he thought ruthlessly destroyed by his childhood on the streets of Brazil.

But their brief affair becomes permanent when Marisa reveals she’s pregnant.

Damaso knows the sting of illegitimacy and, having fought tooth and nail to claw his way up to the dizzying heights of international success and financial infamy, he won’t let his child slip from his grasp. There’s only one way to claim his heir, and that’s marriage!

Doesn’t that sound fun? Probably because it is! You can indulge in a bit of loving with your own sexy Brazilian billionaire with just a few clicks. Buy Damaso from Booktopia, Bookworld, Bookdepository, Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, Barnes & Noble, JB Hi-Fi and direct from the publisher Mills & Boon.

Now please give a warm welcome to Annie.

The Tartiest of Tarts

Hi Cathryn! Thanks for having me to visit, especially now, in your launch month. I had the most fabulous time reading your French Prize. Sigh. Loved the story and that includes the setting, the gorgeous, enigmatic Raimond, the danger, the quest, the history, the intelligent heroine, the food… I’m on tenterhooks now waiting for your next.

In the meantime, here’s my contribution to the Feast series. Coincidentally it fits your French theme!

Sweetness seems to be ‘in’. Everywhere I look people are drooling over sexy men argh, no, wrong Facebook posts – over chocolate. Photos of chocolate desserts, melted chocolate for dipping fruit, choc biscuits or truffles with champagne. Friends send chocolate as a thank you or a ‘thinking of you’ gift (hey, I have some great friends), and guests who visit for a meal usually bring something sweet for afters (they’re well-trained – what can I say?).

Don’t get me wrong, I love nice chocolate. A super-dooper, industrial-sized block of finest Lindt once powered the final part of one of my books (thanks, Ms V!). I’ll happily indulge in a sweetness binge with the right goodies. But there are times when even chocolate won’t do it.

Yes, I admit it – I love tart things. Even my favourite home-made jam is plum rather than strawberry. Yum as strawberry can be, it’s just…well…sweet. But get a good bucketload of plums or – sigh – raspberries, and there’s a hint of tartness to offset the sweet. That’s what I crave: something with taste as well as sugar. Yu-um.

So, in hopes that there’s someone out there like me, who adores something tart once in a while, I’m sharing my all-time favourite dessert: Tarte au Citron. Sigh. Forgive me as I pause for a moment, remembering. I made this recently and the memory is making me salivate. I’d actually planned to write today about a delicious Brazilian meal I researched when writing my current release (set in Brazil in case you’re wondering), but I got side-tracked by that Tarte au Citron. It tasted so good I just had to share it instead.

A good friend and super-foodie made this version for me years ago and it’s been my treat of all treats ever since. It’s not some tame little dessert you gobble while chatting and barely notice it going down. Oh no. This is a full-flavoured whack of sensation. You concentrate when you eat this baby because it makes your lips zing. It’s so chock a block full of citrus I think one slice before a voyage would have staved off scurvy for those old time sailors who took a year to circle the globe.

It’s a dessert to be shared with like-minded friends. Make sure you have either good quality cream or ice cream on hand. This is a dessert that needs accompaniment – a little something to complement the tartness of this tart. So here it is, my friend Maurice’s

Tarte au Citron

Tarte au citron

Pastry

1 ½ cups plain flour

2 tablespoons caster sugar

125 g cold butter, chopped

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

Filling

4 eggs

¾ cup sugar

2/3 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup orange juice

zest of 2 lemons

60 g butter

¼ cup cream

2 extra lemons

Icing sugar (not icing sugar mixture)

Pastry

Sift flour and sugar. Add butter and egg yolk and mix. Knead to form a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Roll out the pastry to the size of a fluted, shallow quiche tin that you’ve greased. I find it easiest to roll it out between sheets of plastic.  Prick the pastry with a fork and allow to rest (but I’ve been known to ignore this). Bake blind in a 200 degrees C oven for 10-15 mins or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Filling

Beat together eggs, sugar, lemon juice, orange juice and zest. Melt the butter with the cream over a low heat. Add egg mixture and continue cooking until it thickens, stirring constantly (do not allow to boil). Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and cool. Pour custard into the pastry and cook on top shelf at 190 degrees C for 20 mins.

Peel and segment the 2 extra lemons (cut off as much pith as possible) and arrange on the top. (Can you see now why this tarte is so tart?). Cover the edge of the pastry with aluminium foil to prevent it burning. Sift icing sugar very generously (seriously – use lots) over the filling. Place under a preheated grill until the top is glazed (the sugar will caramelise).

Remove foil and serve warm with cream or ice cream.

You’ll see from my photo that I had some trouble with my grill last time and the sugar was only just starting to caramelise. If you have a kitchen blowtorch you can use that to finish off and get the scrumptious caramelised top.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. My only gripe is that my family and guests all want to finish it for me.

 

How could I possibly resist a French lemon tart, Annie! And that one looks and sounds beautiful. I like the addition of orange juice for depth of flavour. I wonder if blood oranges would work. I have a real thing about them at the moment…

Now, my dear Feasters, because Annie is such a sweetheart and because we both think you should all read Damaso and fall in love with him and Marisa as we did, she’s offering a…

GIVEAWAY!

Yes, you could win your own hot Brazilian, and we don’t mean waxing. There is zero pain with this alpha male.

So, lovely people, to be in the draw to win a copy of Damaso Claims His Heir, what’s the best recipe a friend has given you?

Mine has to be from my good friend Carol, who shared a beautiful recipe for chicken and pistachio terrine that’s dead easy to make and delicious to eat. I also still have the lemon butter recipe from the mum of a childhood friend in my collection, Mrs White’s peppermint cream chocolates, my aunt’s cream puffs and my mother-in-law’s ANZAC biscuits to name a few.

What about you? What’s the most treasured recipe someone has shared with you? Share with us and you’ll go into the draw.

Giveaway closes midnight AEST, Tuesday 16th September 2014. Open internationally. Rah!

If you’d like to learn more about Annie and her wonderful books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Goodreads.

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Kim of the potato bake, who has won herself a copy of Annie’s wonderful book and is in for a fabulous reading time. Thanks to everyone who joined in the Friday Feast fun. A delight to hear all your recipes and experiences, as always.

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

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!

Favourites…

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

Milk

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…

GIVEAWAY!

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.

The French Prize Release Day!

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Yes, it’s here!

And I’m SO DAMN EXCITED. Like, run around the house doing a Kermit flail excited with added French champagne to make things even more fizzy and fun.

Have you seen The French Prize in the shops? Let me know if you have or, even better, take a happy snap and share it with me on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter via @CathrynHein so we can giggle over it together.

Speaking of giggles, to celebrate this most fantabulous of adventure romances hitting the shelves, I’ve compiled, just for you…

TEN SECRET THINGS ABOUT THE FRENCH PRIZE

1/. The original title of The French Prize was…

Shades of Grey text

I know, I know.

So after ‘that’ book’s release it earned itself the prefix The Unfortunately Titled which kept me in laughs while I went through the agonising process of trying to think up a new name. It was then called Legacy, and about thirty other things, until we settled on The French Prize.

2/. The ruined chateau, where Olivia discovers La Tasse du Chevalier Gris, was inspired by ones I visited around Provence during our time there, including those at Les Beaux and Vaison la Romaine. Olivia’s, though, is perched even higher and on a sheerer outcrop for added danger.

Les Beaux

Les Beaux

3/. Raimund was chosen as the hero’s name because it means protector. Very fitting on several levels, which you’ll understand when you read the book.

cover of Bruce Davidson, World Champion of Eventing by Sally O’Connor4/. The image in my mind of Olivia came from a photo I saw back in the 80s in a horse book called Bruce Davidson, World Champion of Eventing by Sally O’Connor. The photo was of his Olympic teammate Torrance Fleischmann in profile, staring coolly into the distance. For some reason the image stuck with me through the years until she gained life in Olivia.

Weird, but true.

5/. The opening five pages of The French Prize (then called Shades of Grey), won the Romance Writers of New Zealand Meet the Editor competition back in 2008. Which was wonderful. Except that the judging editor wanted to see the full manuscript and all I had was five pages!

I still have the winning rosette in my collection.

First prize meet the editor rosette

6/. Christiane and Edouard Rosec, who are Raimund’s godparents in The French Prize, share the first names of my neighbours when we lived in France. Gorgeous people too.

7/. Raimund’s (rather sexy) looks were inspired by French actor Grégory Fitoussi. I was watching the first series of the French television show Spiral (Engrenages) at the time of writing and had a bit of a crush on him, as you do.

FitoussiFitoussi also played the C130 pilot that carted Brad Pitt around in World War Z.

8/. The Rosec’s house at Rognes is based on a friend’s who lived in the village. The cellars were amazing, although not quite as amazing as those in The French Prize.

9/. I listened a lot to the Scissor Sisters’ song Return To Oz while writing. I have no idea why… It’s hardly French!

But I ADORE the Scissor Sisters and own every album. They’re great fun.

10/. The French Prize was initially going to be a Harlequin romance for their Intrigue line. But deep down I knew that was never going to work (writing Harlequin/Mills & Boon category romances is BLOODY HARD, and don’t let anyone ever tell you any different). I gave up on the idea at the end of the first chapter.

What makes me smile about this now is that The French Prize turned out to be published by Harlequin anyway, but through MIRA, their mainstream women’s fiction imprint.

And here’s a bonus number eleven because I can’t help but talk about food.

11/. All the meals that Christiane cooks for Raimund are some of my French favourites, from salade de chevre chaud to petit farcis, moules and hachis parmentier.

Read ‘em and drool!

I hope you had fun with my eleven secret things. And I hope you have even more fun with The French Prize.

Itching to buy it now? Then get clicking! I will love you forever…

Booktopia

Bookworld

Amazon

iBooks

Kobo

Google Play

JB Hi-Fi

Angus & Robertson

QBD the Bookshop

Collins Booksellers

Fishpond

Abbey’s Bookshop

Wishing you an adventurous time!

Cathryn

 

A Taste of The French Prize

Only one week until The French Prize officially hits the shops and I’m suuuuper excited. I adore this story and can’t wait for people to start reading it.

My author copies arrived last week and I’ve spent a rather silly amount of time caressing the cover. The text embossing is beautiful, like glossy white enamel, and I so adore the image of the woman walking through an ancient stone arch.

The publishers, Harlequin, have made the full first chapter available for you to read and enjoy. So if you’d like to taste The French Prize, simply click on the image below and you’ll be whisked away to Olivia’s and Raimund’s world of drama, secrets, danger and legend.

The French Prize chapter sampler

The French Prize is ready for pre-order now from Booktopia, Bookworld, Amazon, Google Play, iBooks, Angus & Robertson, QBD The Bookshop and Fishpond.

If you’d like to learn how I came to write The French Prize then check out The Story Behind page on my website.

And don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter while you’re nosing around to receive notice of all my releases as well as exclusive treats and giveaways.

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Cathryn Hein

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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.

Cathryn Hein in front of a statue of King Rene in Aix-en-Provence

Me in front of a statue of King Rene in Aix-en-Provence

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!

THE FRENCH PRIZE

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.

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 AmazonGoogle Play and iBooks.

Right, now you’re all sorted, let have a scrumpy French recipe.

Tarting About

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.

Petit farcisWhen 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

A slice of onion tart served with saladPâte brisée or shortcrust pastry – bought or your favourite recipe – rolled to fit a 27cm tart tin with removable base

25g butter

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

300ml cream

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.

onion tart straight from the ovenMeanwhile, 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…

GIVEAWAY!

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.

You can also connect with me via Facebook, Google + and Twitter using @CathrynHein.

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!

FRIDAY FEAST with Pamela Cook

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And another joyous Friday arrives, the last before the silly season begins in earnest. Isn’t it amazing how fast this year has gone? I feel like I say that every year but for some reason 2013 feels especially speedy. Still, it’s nice to get all Christmassy as today’s guest is about to. But first, news from Us Heins Weren’t Meant To Play Golf WeeklyPamela Cook author

In an about turn, I played okay and didn’t lose a single ball in the water or have an embarrassing airy. In fact, my score was so okay that I dropped half a stroke off my handicap. I tell you, those golfing gods move in very mysterious ways. Rotten teases.

Enough of that. Time to raise your glasses to my rural romance writing guest Pamela Cook. Pamela’s debut novel Blackwattle Lake scored rave reviews and now her next novel has hit the shelves. Essie’s Way is guaranteed to be another booming success. Check it out…

 

ESSIE’S WAY

 

Cover of Essie's Way by Pamela CookA captivating story of family, love and following your heart, from the author of Blackwattle Lake.

Miranda McIntyre thinks she has it all sorted. She s a successful lawyer, she s planning her wedding and ticking off all the right boxes. When searching for something old to go with her wedding dress she remembers an antique necklace from her childhood, but her mother denies any knowledge of it. Miranda is sure it exists. Trying to find the necklace, she discovers evidence that perhaps the grandmother she thought was dead is still alive.

Ignoring the creeping uncertainty about her impending marriage, and the worry that she is not living the life she really wants, Miranda takes off on a road trip in search of answers to the family mystery but also in search of herself.

Ultimately, she will find that looking back can lead you home.

 

Doesn’t that sound lovely? Nothing quite like a finding yourself story and you can have this one in your hot little mitt with just a few clickety-clicks. For the paperback, try Booktopia, Bookworld, QBD The Bookstore, Angus & Robertson, your local chainstore or independent book retailer. If ebooks are your go, Essie’s Way is available for immediate download from Kobo, iTunes, Amazon (for Kindle), Google Play, JB Hi-Fi, BigW ebooks or your favourite e-tailer.

Loaded up? Excellent. Time to get Christmassy!

 

In The Spirit!

Hi Cathryn

Lovely to be visiting the Friday Feast again especially as Christmas approaches and we all start to think about what we’ll be eating and drinking over the festive season.

This year my family and I are doing something verrrryyyy special – heading to Austria for a white Christmas and a 2 week ski trip. Prior to arriving in Kaprun, the village where we’ll be staying, we’ll be checking out the Christmas cheer in London and Paris. My husband and I had a white Christmas many years ago and I’m really looking forward to having such an amazing experience with my three daughters. We’ll also be sharing it with close friends who are currently living in the middle east and joining us in Kaprun.

An Austrian Christmas market stall

So to get in the mood I thought I’d do a little research into what traditional Christmas fare is in Austria. Here’s what I discovered:

  • During Christmas, people head to traditional Austrian Christmas markets which are present in almost every single town, large or small. Vienna, Austria’s capital, conducts around 25 markets along with small huts to provide shoppers with presents, food and, the soul of the festival, sweet wines. Other stands provide decorations, art and craft, toys and jewelry etc.

Can’t wait to check out the markets and do a little wine tasting!

  • A traditional Austrian Christmas dinner includes “Gebackenerkarpfen” or fried carp, “Sachertorte” or the chocolate and apricot cake, chocolate frosting served along with Christmas cookies.

Not sure about the fried carp but the chocolate torte and the cookies sound pretty delicious.

  • A traditional Christmas feast includes goose and ham served with gluhwein and rum punch

I’ve never had goose – nor cooked it – but I’m willing to give it a try. And the gluhwein sounds like the perfect beverage to wash it down.

I’ve certainly drunk a few glühwein’s in my day but I’ve never made it so I looked up a recipe to take with me – apparently it’s all in the mixing!

 

GLÜHWEIN

The secret to getting a great Glühwein is the right mixture of red wine, cinnamon stick, sugar, oranges and cloves.

Ingredients (serves 10):Gluhwein

2 bottles of good quality red wine

2 cups of water

6 cloves

2 cinnamon sticks

2 oranges – cut into bite-size pieces

oranges for decoration

How to make it:

Put all ingredients in a pot and bring it close to boil. For additional taste, cut 2 oranges into bite-size pieces and add to the wine. Let simmer. Remove clove and cinnamon stick before serving it into lightly pre-warmed glasses. Decorate glasses with an orange slice.

 

So this Christmas instead of our usual BBQ and a swim in the pool we’ll hopefully be sipping our glühwein while the snow falls outside and a nice fat goose roasts in the oven. I’m also hoping that we’ll come home with all our limbs in fact and while I know the bank balance will be a lot lower (ie nonexistent!) I know it will be the trip of a lifetime.

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

And a very merry Christmas to you too, Pamela, even though I’m insanely jealous of you right now! I’m not a skier at all, but there’s something completely magical about snow at Christmas. Such a contrast to Australia’s usually blistering days, and perfect for naughty fattening things and cockle-warming drinks.

So, Feasters, let’s get the Christmas spirit moving with your most memorable or favourite Christmas location. Are your fondest memories from big family lunches at grandma’s, and a table groaning with five different roasts even though it was 35 degrees outside? Or was your best Christmas spent snuggled up somewhere exotic with nothing but your beloved as a present?

I’m torn between home Christmases with the family and the enormously raucous Christmas lunch we hosted one year in Aix-en-Provence, France. The food was amazing, way too much wine was drunk and I distinctly remember an unsteady bunch of people dancing on the balcony to Kung Fu Fighting. I still cringe at what the neighbours must have thought…

Go on, share where your fondest Yuletide memories lie and make us all envious. You might even give us ideas!

If you’d like to learn more about Pamela and her books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter.

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Annie West

Ahh, it’s Friday again which means delicious food and delicious people!

(And footy, but I’ll try not to bore you too much with the news that this weekend sees my darling Sydney Swans in a MUST-WIN clash against Carlton. Saturday night at 7-45 if you want to tune in and cheer, cheer the red and the white. Oh, go on, you know you want to.)

Er…back to delicious people!Annie West romance author

My guest today is the ever delightful Annie West who writes award-winning romances, featuring hot alpha males that make your toes curl with their powerful sexiness matched against women who are more than their equal in brains, looks and passion, and know exactly how to keep them on their toes. And all wrapped up in exotic settings. In other words, romantic fantasies that take your emotions on a heart-tumbling thrill-ride.

Annie’s latest release is An Enticing Debt To Pay (what a title!) and if you keep reading, you may just discover a giveaway on offer. But first, enjoy a taste…

 

AN ENTICING DEBT TO PAY

 

An Enticing Debt to Pay by Annie WestDial R for Revenge…

Forgiveness is a foreign concept to wealthy investment trader Jonas Deveson. Someone has been stealing from him. He’s got a good idea who it is and she’s going to pay….

Seeing the harsh lines that bitterness has carved into Jonas’s handsome features, Ravenna Ruggiero knows he’ll never see the shades of gray in her actions.

Jonas blackmails Ravenna into working as his housekeeper to pay off her debt, but living under the same roof leads to unexpected yet forbidden temptation, and Jonas is no longer sure who is being punished!

 

Ooh, I get the shivers just thinking about how exciting that read will be and from September 17th you’ll be able to own your own copy. Simply visit that most awesome Platinum ARRC sponsor Booktopia, or check your local bookshop or chainstore. You’ll also be able to purchase direct from Harlequin Mills & Boon, Kobo, Google Play, Amazon, iTunes, Bookdepository, or your favourite retailer.

Now prepare yourself for more deliciousness with Annie!

 

French Fancies

aka It’s Got Fruit In It So It Must Be Healthy, Right?

 

Cathryn, thanks so much for allowing me a sought after spot on your scrumptious Friday Feast. FFs always make my mouth water and I vow to try the new recipes but only in a responsible, not-getting-fat way. Ha! The result is that I Window display of a French patisseriedrool shamelessly then have to go off and scoff delicious things. So here’s my revenge…

No, no, not revenge. I’m just bowing to logic. I looked at my calendar and thought ‘Friday Feast, wow! I’d better think of something yummy to share.’ Then I got distracted by the fact I’ve got a new book out next week. I’m a writer, I’m allowed to be easily distracted. Then I started thinking, as one does, of both at the same time, the book and food, and of course I had no choice then but to share my absolute love affair with that masterpiece of French cuisine, the fruit flan. It’s probably got a suitably wonderful and throatily sexy French name that does justice to the lusciousness that is fruit and sugary, creamy sweetness on a rich yet then buttery crust. I leave that to others. I just want to eat it.

My logic makes sense, truly. My book starts in Paris. To be specific it begins in an apartment in the ultra-upmarket Place des Vosges. The square is beautiful and symmetrical and a jewel of French history and architecture. I have several photos of it, but the one I look at the most is this one – the close up of my picnic morning tea there. Sigh. It’s a mini fruit flan (well, I call it mini) complete with berries and a fig so fresh I suspect someone plucked it from the tree that morning, then lovingly coated it with a delicious sugary glaze.

Another delicious French patisserie window displayFor Ravenna and Jonas, my heroine and hero, the Place des Vosges means a showdown that will change their lives – passion and anger and defiance and an undercurrent of attraction that plays havoc with their once neatly ordered lives. For me, it means sitting in the sun on a neatly painted green garden seat, with the sound of French schoolkids racing around the place, while I sink my teeth into perfection.

As you can see from the other couple of photos here I can’t stop at one when it comes to fruit flans. Wherever we went I’d stop and leer at shop windows and take photos of them so I could drool later. And the French know how to dress a window, believe me.

My advice, if you want to try the deliciousness that is a fruit flan, is to get someone else to make it while you relax in the sunshine with a glass of bubbly. Always a good plan.

Sadly it doesn’t always work so I’ve been forced to make my own. Be warned, it does take a little while. I don’t find the recipe difficult (and it has always worked), just time consuming. The perfect thing to do on a weekend when you’d rather immerse yourself in French fruity goodness than write a difficult chapter or clean the house or wax the car (I’ve never waxed a car but it sounds tiresome).

French Fruit Flan

Annie West's French Fruit Flan

Pastry:

1 cup plain flour

1 tablespn icing sugar

90 g butter

1 egg yolk

Approx. 1 tablespn lemon juice

Crème Patisserie:

1 ¼ cups milk

1 egg

2 egg yolks

1 tablespn plain flour

1 tablespn cornflour

1/3 cup castor sugar

1 teaspn vanilla essence (preferably the real thing)

Topping:

Your choice of fruit but you could use

Kiwifruit and or a punnet of strawberries

425g tin of apricot halves (or whatever takes your fancy)

425g tin of pitted cherries

Vanilla essence to taste

1 tablespn arrowroot

1 tablespn brandy (optional)

Pastry:

You could use bought shortcrust pastry but if you have time, try this.

Sift flour and sugar in a large bowl. Rub in butter. Add egg yolk and only enough lemon juice to make a firm dough. Press into a ball, cover and refrigerate 30 mins. Roll on lightly floured surface to line greased 23 cm flan tin. Cut off any excess pastry and refrigerate 20 mins. Bake blind for 7 mins at 220 celsius (ie. Line with greaseproof paper and cover with rice so pastry doesn’t bubble up). Then remove paper and rice and bake another 7 mins till golden. Cool.

Filling:

Combine egg, egg yolks, ¼ cup cream, flour, cornflour and sugar in food processor till combined. Bring remaining milk to boil in a saucepan. Pour hot milk gradually into other mixture while the processor is running. Process till smooth. Return mixture to saucepan, stirring over heat till it boils and thickens. Take off heat, add vanilla essence and cool to room temperature. Spread over pastry case.

Drain apricots, slice and keep the syrup. Arrange all the sliced fruit as you like on top of the crème patisserie (concentric circles work well). Mix arrowroot with a couple of tablespoons of syrup in a saucepan and stir in brandy and remaining syrup. Stir till it boils and thickens. Brush over fruit. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.

 

Oh, Annie, that fruit flan sound fantastically luscious, just like one of your books!

Now, my darling Feasters, because Annie is generous and lovely as well as an excellent cook and author, she has a giveaway on offer. Simply share your favourite patisserie treat and you’ll go into the draw to win a copy of An Enticing Debt To Pay.

Me, I bags pain aux raisins as my favourite treat. You can have all your croissants and pain au chocolats, gateaux, macarons and lemon tarts. A cuppa and one of those sweet flakey babies and I’m in breakfast naughtiness heaven. Délicieux!

So what’s yours tastebud tingling favourite?

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday AEST, 17th September, 2013. Open internationally. Rah!

If you’d like to learn more about Annie and her gorgeous books, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and keep up to date through her newsletter.

 

This giveaway has now closed. Congratulations to Khi Pha who has won a copy of Annie’s latest release An Enticing Debt to Pay. Thanks to everyone who joined in the Friday Feast fun!

FRIDAY FEAST with Cathryn Hein

By the time this post goes live I’ll be whooping it up in Fremantle with my fellow Romance Writers of Australia members at our annual conference. I can’t express how much I enjoy these conferences. Not only are they a great learning Cathryn Hein author photoexperience and incredibly inspirational, I get to catch up with all my writing friends and make new ones.

RWA conferences are LOUD. Hundreds of (mainly) women talking and laughing non-stop, squealing and hugging one another. There are times for serious discussion about craft and business, and times for pure silliness, like the Friday night cocktail party where people dress up. But all of them are good times. I can’t wait!

Because so many of us are busy with book deadlines or conferencing, I’m taking over Friday Feast today, which means I get to excite you once again with my latest release, Heartland!

 

HEARTLAND

 

Heartland by Cathryn Hein coverWhen 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 in paperback from your favourite bookseller or chain store, or you can order online from most excellent Australian book retailer Booktopia. If ebooks are your thing, try Kobo, JB Hi-Fi Books, Amazon Kindle, iTunes or Google Play. For a full list of retailers check out my website.

And now I bring you… ME!

 

PINING FOR SUMMER

 

I have summer on the brain. Skies so vivid and bright they make your eyes squint. Shimmery, heat-hazed air. The chirrup of crickets and almost screamingly loud song of cicadas calling in chorus. Condensation on cold wine glasses. Dining on the patio in shorts, t-shirts and thongs. Seafood.

There’s just something about summer and seafood that blends perfectly for me. Maybe it was all those blazing hot days spend at our beach shack at Nene Valley, on the far southern coast of South Australia. Days where draining crayfish, their shells bright tomato red, hogged the bathtub. When we ate so much crayfish we were sick of it. When my Uncle Phil flash fried thin slices of fresh caught abalone on the barbecue. When it was a thrill to have sausages instead of whiting or snapper or bream.

I can’t wait for summer to blister its way back. As soon as it does, seafood will be on the menu.

I have quite a few favourite seafood dishes, almost all of them dead simple to make.Cathryn at Vieux Port, Marseille I’m a great believer that seafood should be left to shine on its own and not overdosed with other flavours or coated in complicated sauces. One of the best recipes I have is one that I pretty much copied from a restaurant on the Vieux Port in Marseille, France, which, for the sake of covering my bum, I’ll call Le Red Fish.

Le Red Fish was like the Fawlty Towers of the Vieux Port, and massively entertaining. I think we took every visitor who came over to France there for lunch. The waiters would argue between themselves, eye-rolling, yelling and waving arms. Abuse would be shouted at potential guests who perused the menu display but chose to walk on. The toilets were located up the top of a narrow, slippery and filthy staircase, opposite the kitchen. Once, I found the kitchen door open and managed a glimpse inside, and wished to hell I hadn’t.

Notre Dame de la Garde, MarseilleBut the view was brilliant. We’d sit at the outdoor tables, watching tourists and stylish locals promenade. The harbour sprawled in front, laden with expensive yachts, fishing boats, and lined with gorgeous old buildings. Look up and there stood Notre Dame de la Garde, Marseille’s famous Byzantine style basilica, topped with a magnificently gilded statue of Our Lady gazing benevolently over the sea, protecting sailors as she’s done since the 1860s. To the right, facing one other across the port entrance, were the old twin forts of Saint Jean and Saint Nicolas. Look left, down toward the Quay des Belges, and there was Marseille’s main thoroughfare, La Canabière.

As for the food? Wonderfully simple. Le Red Fish didn’t do flash or complicated. It boasted dishes like soupe de poisson (fish soup), salade de chevre chaud (grilled goat cheese salad), entrecôte grillée (steak) and plat de fruit de mer (seafood platter). My favourite was their prawns in pastis, that famous liquorice flavoured liqueur so beloved in the region. And after much experimentation and consultation of Provencale cookbooks, I managed to invent a pretty good version of La Red Fish’s dish, perfect for a lazy summer lunch washed down with a bottle of pale pink dry rosé.

Prawns In Pastis

Prawns in pastis

1 kg fat green unpeeled prawns

5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped

1/2 cup of Ricard Pastis de Marseille

Olive oil – a nice hefty slug

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and prawns and toss well.

When the prawns are almost cooked, ignite the pastis and pour over the prawns. Make sure you have a lid handy to cover the fire before you burn your kitchen down (as we once nearly did). Toss through parsley and serve.

I’ve also tried this with cognac and had tasty results.

What dish will you be making this summer? Looking forward to a plain old barbie? What about a crisp salad, or cold Asian noodle dish tossed with hot and sour flavours? Maybe you have fresh seafood on your mind too or a hankering for ice-cold desserts and icecreams that drip. I’d love to hear what tempts you!

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