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3 June, 2010

For One Night Only

2 June, 2010

For One Night Only

1 June, 2010

For One Night Only

29 May, 2010

For One Night Only

28 May, 2010

For One Night Only

27 May, 2010

The Fragment of Dreams

27 May, 2010

The Fragment of Dreams

26 May, 2010

The Book of Love

24 May, 2010

The Book of Love

23 May, 2010

The Fragment of Dreams

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In the kitchen with Cassandra Samuels

Cassandra Samuels is my final guest in the Virtual Kitchen series and she’s brought a bowl of chocolate mousse with her, a fitting end to the fictional feast. Cassandra writes Regency romance and her first book, A Scandalous Wager was published by Escape on November 7.

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What are your memories of your mothers cooking as a child?

Mum was a pretty good cook but not very adventurous. She really enjoyed it when my sisters and I started trying our hand at cooking and introduced new meals.

What was your favourite dish as a child?

Like most kids it was spaghetti for a long time but I always liked pancake night the best. My father is Dutch and I don’t know if this is a European thing or not but we always rolled them up and then cut them into bite-sized bits to eat. I’d never had a pancake with lemon and sugar until I met my English born husband.
Do you like to cook?
I love my slow cooker. When you are a busy with the day job, being a mother and trying to write a book, the humble slow cooker quickly becomes your most trusted kitchen appliance.

What are some of your favourite books about food?

I write Regency Historicals so Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management is a Victorian guide that has been an eye opener into how food was thought about at that time. Not only about how to make food but how to serve it and present it.

Is the food in your stories important?

It isn’t central to the story but they do eat. Aunt Petunia in my debut book is quite partial to a sandwich or two.

Your favourite snack?

If I am being good it is usually a nice nut mix, if I am not being good it is usually chocolate – any type of chocolate 

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What’s your latest book?

My debut novel is called A Scandalous Wager and will be available for download from Amazon and other good e-book retailers on November 8th, 2014 through Escape Publishing.

What do you love most about this book?

I had so much fun writing this book. Lisbeth and Oliver are both very strong people who have had a lot of hard times between them. I enjoyed helping them through their journey so they could find a home for their wayward hearts – in each other.

Share one of your favourite recipes – anything you like, cake, martini, Peking Duck, cheese on toast …

Easy-peasy Chocolate Mousse.
All you need is:
1 egg
600mls of thickened cream
1 packet of Cadbury dark chocolate buds (you could also use milk if you like a milder flavour)

Firstly put the chocolate buds into a blender and add just the yoke of the egg.
In another bowl wisk the egg white until it forms soft peaks.
Warm the cream on the stove until hot (don’t boil) stirring the whole time.
Then add the warm cream to the blender with chocolate and egg and blend. The hot cream should melt the chocolate.
Then add a little of the chocolate mixture to the egg white and fold gradually adding more of the chocolate mixture until it is all blended.
Separate into nice glass cups for serving and chill for a few hours.

Dog Business – who’s left holding the bag?

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I’m walking down the street with a dog on a leash tightly held by one hand and a small bag of warm dog poo in the other hand and I’m experiencing acute dissonance. I should be proud that I have been a ‘responsible’ dog owner and demonstrated my civic pride. But I’m also carrying a bag of shit.

Now I have the bag, what am I to do with it? It’s a long walk and I’d like to be rid of this odorous package. I see somebody’s wheelie bin and head toward it. I have a friend who is appalled by the idea of putting a small bag of dog turd in somebody else’s bin. He sees it as an outrageous assault on private property, akin to leaving it in a letter box. But … but it’s a waste bin. It’s not mine, yes, but the offending item is wrapped and cannot pollute the bin, and I would never place it in a recycling bin. But I find the bin has just been emptied so would I saddle my neighbour with a weeks worth of smelly dog poo? No, perhaps a step too far.

I travel on and look for a public bin, but the lids only open an inch and I don’t want to push the package through with a stick in case I break said package. I could leave it behind a shrub or a tree. A cop out … but as a cop out it has merit. There are worse evasions of civic responsibility, like when your dog decides it’s time to have another go and you have already filled your one and only bag. What do you do? Walk on, after covering the deposit with soil and leaves?

What else can you do? Wave down the nearest car and ask if they have a plastic bag handy? Call home and ask if someone can drive up with a bag? Take off my shirt and wrap the turd up and carry it home? Put it in my pocket? And what if I’m seen walking away from the offensive substance? Hell hath no fury like another law abiding dog owner witnessing another shirking their responsibilities. The stench of self righteousness is so overpowering I prefer my little bag of shit.

By this stage I’m really not enjoying my walk.

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Human and dog interactions can be fraught, particularly when there are multiples of each. Some dog owners don’t seem to understand their dogs are dogs and have their own codes and practices and telling them to ‘play nicely’ is not going to cut it. But dog owners can and do police other dog owners and often conflate dog with owner. I have a German Shepherd so I have an inner longing to chase innocent Jews through the forests of Poland. The owner of the small white yappy thing wants to be a Hollywood movie starlet, the lad with the Staffy is a fascist brute when not throwing balls at the dog park.

Ahhh …the dog park. There is a large oval down the hill near my home which has been designated a lead free dog zone. The council provide black waste bags and everybody knows the drill. Nobody wants to lose open space for their dog so picking up after them is scrupulously monitored. One day I was the only person there with my dog, she’s running around having a fine old time and I’m strolling after her, enjoying the moment when I see an older man walking toward me holding up a black plastic bag, a full one by the looks of it.

‘It’s still warm,’ he shouts.

I really don’t know what to say to this. ‘Great!’ or ‘what a lucky find!’ He repeats himself and then I understand. He’s accusing me of leaving my plastic bag full of my dog’s business for somebody else to deal with. Outraged, I hold up the bag of poo I am already carrying. I dare not speak as I quiver with injured civic pride. When I think of all the mental anguish and brain time wasted on the topic of what to do with my dog waste I feel like jamming this bag into his hand and saying, ‘there, now you have two.’

But I don’t. He apologises. I’ve seen him around the place. Has two lovely old standard poodles. Now he wants to show me a picture on his phone. It’s of his dog mounting another dog. He’s chuckling about something to do with his dog. But I wondered at his grasp of etiquette. Lone man in isolated park approaches lone woman at sunset and shows her a picture of his dog shagging another dog. There’s a whiff of wrong to this and so after a lifetime of Female Safety Drill I head toward my car a little faster than usual. He no doubt meant nothing more than to share a dog joke. He certainly knows the dog defecation code backwards, but maybe he should brush up on the etiquette of dog owner conversations.

I’ve taken to avoiding all the social and physical complexities of dog exercising by simply letting somebody else walk the dog. Or I take her lead free in the bush where she can crap where she likes, when she likes and I’m not left holding the bag.

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In the Kitchen with Sasha Cottman

Before I introduce this morning’s visitor to the virtual kitchen I’d like to announce that this is the second to last post from the VK. It’s been very interesting and has attracted eyeballs for all the guest authors and myself. There’s been some great recipes and at the close of the series I’ll announce my favourite three recipes and those lucky souls will win a copy of my latest book, For One Night Only.

Sasha Cottman with a plate of curried prawns, (and a minimalist recipe for said prawns) joins me today. Sasha writes Regency romance, a genre that never seems to fall out of favour, and on her blog she’s constructed a Regency period kitchen where she reconstructs the food of that era.

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What was your favourite dish as a child?

I can’t remember ever having a favourite dish as a child. My favourite food was the egg and lettuce sandwiches the school canteen sold. I think I ate egg and lettuce sandwiches every day for six years at high school.

Do you like to cook?

I like to cook if I have time (and a glass of chardonnay) but most days it is a case of how fast I can get a hot meal prepared and served when I get home from work.

What do you like to eat?

My favourite food these days is sushi. We have a great Japanese restaurant in the village near my house and it has a sushi boat. Sitting at the bar choosing the fresh sushi and sashimi as it floats past on the little boats is my idea of heaven. Of course I enjoy a great pasta dish, angel hair pasta is brilliant.

What are some of your favourite books about food?

I like cook books, but I have thrown out quite a few in the past few years as I wasn’t using them. I have quite a few of the Jamie Oliver cookbooks and like his approach to food. He believes in waste not want not, as well as putting a healthy meal on the table for your family each night. I am looking to buy his new 15- minute meals cook book and try some more of his recipes.

Is the food in your stories important?

I am surprised to read how much food actually creeps into my books. My new book has roasted potato, ginger sweets, and chicken. The Regency period has lots of great recipes. I cook Regency recipes and share the, sometimes mixed results on my website.

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What’s your latest book?

My new release is An Unsuitable Match, the next in the Duke of Strathmore series, released by Destiny Romance. The book is a Regency Historical Romance.

What do you love most about this book?

Being able to take two secondary characters from my first book and give them their own story has been an amazing experience. Working to weave the two stories together, while making them stand alone books has been a challenge. I love a book series and to now have my own series is fantastic.

Where can readers find it?

An Unsuitable Match is available from all good e-book stores.

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Six Minute Curried Prawns.

• 300g of peeled garlic prawns
• 1 packet of pre-cut Asian greens (most supermarkets have these in the fresh produce section).
• 1 jar of Thai Green Curry paste
• 1 medium can of coconut cream (or coconut milk).
• 90 second packet brown rice (serves 2-3).

Cut the packet of brown rice open and put it in the microwave, set the timer, but don’t turn it on.
Put a little oil in a frying pan and heat it. Put two heaped teaspoons of curry paste in the pan. Add the prawns and cook them for a minute.
Cook the rice in the microwave.
Add the Asian greens to the frying pan and stir them through. After 2 minutes add the coconut cream and stir through.
Cook the greens and prawns on a medium heat for another 1 minute.
Serve them over the rice. Enjoy.

In the Kitchen with Steve P. Vincent

I’m thrilled to have, as my morning companion in the Virtual Kitchen, Steve P. Vincent, thriller writer and stablemate from Momentum Books – ‘genre fiction providers to the stars’.

Steve has a plate of gumbo and a generous impulse in his heart, but I’ve never eaten gumbo before and I’m taking a little time to make it’s acquaintance. The southern states of American food are an unknown. I’m much more familiar with Mexican, Tex Mex, Californian and West Coast foods, but I think I’ll have to move my wagons down south.

Steve’s new book, The Foundation, a political thriller where the US and China are manipulated to the brink of global war, is described in Amazon reviews as a ‘thrilling read’, ‘fast paced’ and ‘scary’.

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What are your memories of your mother’s cooking as a child?

My mum is a great cook. Her cooking is this wild mix of traditional British/Australian fare with some European flair. She always worked long hours, so she mastered throwing together good food quickly. Mum really did beat Jamie Oliver to the 15 minute meal thing. She’s been doing it for years. Unfortunately, Jamie cashed in first.

What was your favourite dish as a child?

Mum’s comfort food was pretty impressive. Lasagna, soups, stews, pudding, pie. A lot of people can do this stuff, but she had it perfected. Top of the list was probably osso bucco. I was always pretty mad for pasta as well, though at one point I did go through a phase of only eating bolognese sauce, though.
My least favourite dish was paella. As a kid I hated the Sundays when she’d cook it all day. I hated the smell. I hated the taste. I didn’t particularly like seafood very much. Now that I can’t get enough of the stuff she never cooks it anymore!

Do you like to cook?

I do. Unfortunately my wife thinks what I cook is rubbish. Given she’s vegetarian, it’s probably not a surprise that she doesn’t find my repertoire of griddle cooked meat very accessible. I can make a passable effort at vegetarian food, but generally she cooks and I clean up. It works for us.
I do venture into the kitchen on the odd occasion, though. Lately I’ve been smashing out some Cambodian food since we spent a couple of weeks there in January, including a cooking class! Fresh spring rolls, fish amok, spicy mango salad…heaven on a plate.

Who do you enjoy cooking for? If you don’t enjoy cooking, then what do you like to eat?

I like cooking for my wife, from time to time. It’s a lot of fun seeing her gears grind while I measure out ingredients into individual bowls, creating far more washing up than necessary. A more common occurrence is getting my caveman on and putting on a BBQ for a group of friends.
Eating? Now you’re talking! Cheese is my nickname. Beyond that, I’m also a huge fan of grazing. Tapas, mini food – it all just feels a little bit more awesome the tinier it is. My friend Kylie is the champion of this movement amongst my friends, and we’re all the richer for it. I’ll give anything a go, though. Except cucumber. Vile substance.

What are some of your favourite books about food?

River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a favourite cookbook in our house. It proves that vegetarian food doesn’t have to suck.
One of my favourite scenes involving food is from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, when the man and boy are on the verge of starvation and come across the doomsday bunker full of tinned awesomeness. Who knew an author could make SPAM and tinned peaches sound so appealing?
And Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss. Classic. A staple of my childhood that I’ll be glad to pass on to my niece when I can. She’s ace.

Your favourite snack?

Cold cuts straight from the fridge. Yeah, I put the awe in awesome. Beyond that? Fresh fruit, dark chocolate and savoury things.

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What’s your latest book?

The Foundation. It’s a political thriller about a think tank with some pretty crazy plans to start a war between the United States and China and to take over America. It’s really the most fun you can have with your pants on.

What foods do the characters eat?

I had to think long and hard about this one. There’s definitely a lot of drinking… One character is a recovering alcoholic and another has a passing obsession with whisky, but nobody seems to do much eating. Maybe beer nuts?
In fact, I did a search on the manuscript for ‘eating’. It turned up eight results: seven ‘beating’ and one ‘eating’. I guess food isn’t on your mind when you’re in the middle of all those explosions and all that intrigue!

What do you love most about this book?

I love a few things about it.
Firstly, the pace of it. It was fast when I submitted it, but my editor has helped to turn it from a Volvo into a Lamborghini. It was a lot of fun to write in such a rhythm. I’m about a quarter finished on the sequel, and it’s even better.
Secondly, I love that the characters have such fun arcs. A lot of thrillers have cardboard cutouts. My point of view goodies (Jack, Ernest) and baddies (Chen, Michelle) all have their own story, personality, joy and despair.
Finally, in terms of themes, I achieved what I wanted to, which was to tackle the consequences of the shift in political power away from elected representatives and towards think tanks, media barons and multinational corporations.

Where can readers find it?

The Foundation was released on September 11 where all good ebooks are sold.

Amazon, iBooks, Momentum and other e platforms

Gumbo

Recipe: Gumbo!

Ingredients – ‘Rub’ for seafood
-2 tsp paprika, salt, garlic powder

-1 tsp black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper, oregano, thyme

Ingredients – Gumbo

-500g salmon (plus whatever other seafood you like… prawns, crab…)
-500g okra (chopped with tip and head removed)
-2 medium tomatos (chopped)
-2 celery sticks (chopped)
-1 small green capsicum (chopped)
-1 large onion (diced)
-2 cloves garlic
-1 litre stock (I use vegetable)
-2 cups white rice
-Chilli sauce
-Bay leaves
-Salt
-Pepper
-Cayenne pepper
-Oil

Steps:

Get oil hot at medium heat
1. Add okra, salt, cayenne pepper
2. Stir constantly for about 10 minutes
3. Add onion, tomato, capsicum, celery, more salt, more cayenne pepper
4. Stir pretty often for 20 minutes
5. Season any fish
6. Add fish, garlic and a few bay leaves
7. Stir it around a bit for 2 minutes
8. Add stock, bring to boil, then simmer
9. Stir occasionally and simmer for about 15 minutes
10. Season any prawns and other seafood then add to pan, cook for another 5 mins (skip step if only using fish)
11. Stir in chilli sauce, remove bay leaves, serve with rice.

Steve is on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads