Skip to content

A Family Recipe Book Tour

A Family RecipeOn the book tour for Veronica Henry’s new book called ‘A Family Recipe’, Vervonica shares some of her own favourite recipes.

On my kitchen shelf is a tiny metal box full of index cards, stuffed with recipes from my grandmothers, my parents and me, that I now have in my care. I’ve used many of them throughout my life, as well as adding to the collection. Many of the recipes are reminiscent of important family occasions.

And that was where the idea for A FAMILY RECIPE came from: a little box that holds recipes that relate to the life-changing events of the residents of 11 Lark Hill in Bath, from the war to the present day. Laura finds the box at a difficult time in her life, and uses it to help her move forward.

For this blog tour I am sharing some of my favourite recipes from my own box.

CROQUEMBOUCHE

Birthday cakes have always been important to me – a demonstration of love, but also recognition of a person and what they represent.

When my children were small it was a labour of love to produce something spectacular that didn’t involve huge amounts of skill – I am not in the least bit artistic or crafty, so intricate icing was always going to be out. My eldest son’s first birthday cake was a big round chocolate cake covered in plastic zoo animals: I can still remember buying a bag full from the local toy shop and planting their feet in the sticky icing. I followed that method religiously for years afterwards: making the biggest cake I could manage, then topping it with Thomas the Tank Engine and all his friends, Biker Mice, Mutant Hero Turtles … Another favourite was a cake smothered in the contents of a huge bag of pick ‘n’ mix – lurid, additive-laden but a joy to a horde of small boys.

I used plain Victoria sponge, or the miracle that is Coca Cola cake – ruinously sweet but the most forgiving concoction that works every time and is light, fluffy and squidgy.

Now the boys are bigger they have rather grown out of statement birthday cakes. But I’ve had several friends with landmark birthdays recently, and have discovered the joy of a croquembouche. There is nothing guaranteed to bring a bigger gasp of admiration than these gravity-defying towers, and they are surprisingly easy to assemble.

Profiteroles themselves are quite easy to make – use a recipe from your preferred chef of choice (you can’t go wrong with Delia or Nigella) or you can buy them plain from most supermarkets. I like to fill mine with beaten double cream flavoured with Cointreau and a little icing sugar to thicken it up a bit – poke a hole in the bottom of each profiterole and pipe the cream in until its nearly full.

You can buy a croquembouche cone or make one from cardboard. I use melted white chocolate to stick each profiterole to the cone, starting from the bottom and building them up on top of each other in circles. The beauty of a croquembouche is that it doesn’t have to look perfect – a higgledy-piggedly-ness adds a certain je-ne-sais-quoi. Remember to make it on the plate or board you are going to serve it on – it’s very dangerous to try and move it after assembly! Stick it in the fridge to harden the chocolate and strengthen the structure.

Once the tower is complete you can customise them to your heart’s content, depending on whether you are understated and have the nerve to leave them quite plain with just a drizzling of caramel, or if like me you have to throw everything at it! Sugared almonds are a traditional decoration, inserted randomly into the gaps – either gold or silver, or the pretty pastel ones in pink, white and yellow. I dip random profiteroles in white chocolate and roll them in dried flowers, which looks very rustic and pretty – or you could try crushed raspberries. I also highlight the occasional profiterole with edible gold leaf which looks stunning. There are so many pretty edible decorations available – you can go as rococco and over the top as you like. Traditionally they are covered in a web of spun sugar, but I’m way too scared for that …. For birthdays I stick in half a dozen mini sparklers to mark the occasion, or a single one of those fountain candles would be suitably dramatic and showy.

You can pre-order A Family Recipe from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 17th May 2018.

Fiona Gibson Book Tour – The Woman Who Upped And Left

Fiona GibsonOn the book tour for Fiona Gibson’s fun and vibrant new book, ‘The Woman Who Upped And Left’, I have an interview with the woman behind the witty tale.

Your book is stuffed with delicious French cooking. How did you research for this (and can we join in next time…)?
When we were bringing up our family we had most of our holidays in France – my husband Jimmy and I are both in love with the country. I thought about the dishes we’d tried – the real classics – that had stuck with me, and I started playing around, adapting things and having great fun along the way. I love to cook, but before I had my twin boys 19 years ago, I could barely make toast! I had to teach myself quickly in order to feed my family. Jamie was my guide.

Do you have a favourite French recipe?
I actually like the simplest thing, which ISN’T in this book – just a simple cheese omelette with frites, a small green salad and a glass of white wine, sitting outside, somewhere sunny and French. From the recipes in the book, I have to say a madeleine is perfect with a cuppa.

Audrey’s son is a little … well, hopeless. But was it fun to write his character?
Writing Morgan was my favourite part of this book. I love writing hapless males – in fact, I usually tend to enjoy creating my male characters most of all. I have no idea why – perhaps because my main female leads are usually slightly based on me, or on someone I know well, whereas my guys are completely invented. A lot of fun can be had with someone as clueless and misguidedly defensive and belligerent as Morgan!

The Woman Who Upped And Left

Is there any advice you’d give to aspiring writers?
If your aim is to write light, humorous fiction, then it’s important that the process is as fun as you can make it. I think we can all pay too much attention to that inner critic – the voice in our head that keeps telling us, ‘This is awful. You’re wasting your time!’ In fact, a first draft is usually going to be pretty ropey with billions of faults, but the important thing is to keep on, and finish it, then go back and polish it up. Also, do bear in mind that commercial fiction does need to rollick along at quite a sprightly pace, so be ruthless at cutting and trimming back, as you edit. You want your reader to be pulled along with you, desperate to know what happens next.

And finally, if you could Up and Leave, where would you go?
Oohh… good question! Recently, I’ve had a huge urge to go to Greece. When I was a young, single girl – 20-odd years ago now – I used to head off every summer to one of the islands with my friend Jane or Cheryl. Crete, Cos, Corfu, Santorini… we went all over and I don’t think anywhere matches the beauty of Greece. So, yes, that’s where I’d up and leave to – just for a short escape from the Scottish winter!

You can buy The Woman Who Upped and Left from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops

Handwritten Girl Takes Part In The Stall Of Second Chances Book Tour

I am excited to be part of the book tour for the release of Dana Bate’s new book, ‘The Stall Of Second Chances’. Check out Handwritten Girl on Friday 21st November to read a recipe that is featured on the book.

The Stall Of Second Chances

The Seafront Tea Rooms By Vanessa Greene

The Seafront Tea Rooms‘The Seafront Tea Rooms’ is the latest book by Vanessa Greene.

The Seafront Tea Rooms is a peaceful hideaway, away from the bustle of the seaside, and in this quiet place a group of women find exactly what they’ve been searching for. Charismatic journalist Charlotte is on a mission to scope out Britain’s best tea rooms. She knows she’s found something special in the Seafront Tea Rooms but is it a secret she should share? Kathryn, a single mother whose only sanctuary is the ‘Seafront’, convinces Charlie to keep the place out of her article by agreeing to join her on her search. Together with another regular, Seraphine, a culture-shocked French au pair with a passion for pastry-making, they travel around the country discovering quaint hideaways and hidden gems. But what none of them expect is for their journey to surprise them with discoveries of a different kind .

Vanessa Greene is back with lovely story that I found impossible to put down.

The story is about three very different women who become friends with their mutual love for tea and cakes. Charlotte is a journalist who is determined to find the best teas around but when her sister Pippa suddenly needs her help, Charlotte finds herself in a predicament, so she asks Kathryn and newcomer Seraphine to help her with the article, as the three of them bonded over cake one days. Kathryn is a struggling single mother who adores her little boy Leo and is trying to get a job to provide them with a better quality life but finds it hard especially when Leo goes to visit his father and she finds herself at a loose end and welcomes Charlotte proposal for work and friendship eagerly. And finally Seraphine is the youngest of the three girls who has come over to England to become an au pair and help teach a little girl called Zoe, French who tragically lost her French mother in a horse riding accident. Zoe is reluctant to learn the language as it brings back too many unhappy memories, but with Seraphine’s French charm and gentle persistence, she helps the little girl ignite her love for the language. Together their love of tea and cakes creates a friendship and shoulder for each of them as they deal with difficulties in their lives.

Like her previous books, this story is another charming and entertaining story of love and friendship. With quirky personalities and likeable traits, the ladies all bring something a bit different to the story, with their dramas, secrets and love interests, which makes the book indulgent reading that can easily be absorbed in one sitting.

Filled with cakes, recipes and plenty of secrets, ‘The Seafront Tea Rooms’ is poignant story that flows at a lovely pace and is perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan and Carole Matthews.

You can buy The Seafront Tea Rooms from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Vanessa Greene Talks About Recipes

Vanessa Greene (c) Jim PoynerToday, on the tour for Vanessa Greene’s new book ‘The Seafront Tea Rooms’, Vanessa and I talk about our favourite recipes. Vanessa has provided the recipe for Charlie’s Deliciously Indulgent Florentines and in turn give out the recipe for Blondie Cupcakes from Marian Keyes recipe book, ‘Saved By Cake’. So here goes!

Hi Bronagh,

Thanks for inviting me here to the Handwritten Girl blog today. As I write autumn has well and truly arrived, the rain is pouring down outside, and I think it’s high time for a chat about the cheering qualities of comfort food. Plus, apparently it’s Chocolate Week. I don’t know who invents these things, but I’m glad they do. So, let’s get to it.

My latest novel, The Seafront Tea Rooms, is about the joy of finding a special hideaway that you only want to share with the closest of friends. Letty’s tea rooms on the windswept South Bay in Scarborough are a haven for Kat, Charlie and Seraphine, three very different women who’ve all reached a crossroads in their lives. What brings them together? Well, one of the things is a love of good cake. Seraphine is an au pair from France, whose passion for pastry-making has been with her since childhood, Charlie is an enthusiastic food critic, and Kat is a talented baker who has shelved her ambitions since having her young son.

They band together to help Charlie write an article about Britain’s best tea rooms, and from York to Whitby sample freshly baked scones and delectable raspberry macaroons. One of my favourite afternoon tea treats are Florentines – the mix of delicate ingredients with a good dose of chocolate. The great thing about these is that whether you’re a perfectionist who ends up with perfect discs, or a novice baker who doesn’t mind a few rough edges, they will end up tasting just as good.

Enjoy!

Love, Vanessa x

Charlie’s Deliciously Indulgent Florentines

90 g/2 ½ oz butter
100 g/4 oz caster sugar
100 g/4 oz flaked almonds, chopped
50 g/2 oz sultanas
6 glace cherries, chopped
25 g/1 oz cut mixed peel
15 ml/1 tbsp single cream
175 g/6 oz plain chocolate
Oven: 350 ºF/180 ºC/Mark 4 for 10 minutes

Makes 12 Florentines

You’ll also need: three baking sheets, parchment paper, palette knife/spatula.

1. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Melt the butter in a large pan and stir in the sugar. Boil them together for one minute, then remove the pan from the heat.

3. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, except for the chocolate.

4. Drop small rounded heaps of the mixture on to the baking sheet, keeping them far apart, one in each corner, as they will spread quite a lot.

5. Bake until they are golden.

6. Using your palette knife or spatula, nudge the Florentines into their classic circular shape, then leave them to harden for five minutes.

7. Transfer them to a wire rack, taking care not to break them.

8. Leave them to cool.

9. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water.

10. Coat the flat side of each Florentine with chocolate, then trace a fork over it to make the distinctive wavy pattern.

11. Leave them to set.

Blondie Cupcakes

Blondie cupcakes are brownies with white chocolate.

Makes 12 Cupcakes

100g butter
300g white chocolate
100g macadamia nuts or hazelnuts
3 eggs
100g soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
180g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

1. Line one or two 12-hole cupcake trays with paper cases and preheat the oven to 170C /325F /Gas 3.
2. In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of hot water, gently melt the butter and 200g of the chocolate, remembering that white chocolate burns easily. Keep an eye on it and stir often.
3. Roughly chop the remaining the 100g of white chocolate and the macadamia nuts and set aside. Whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and creamy. Add the vanilla extract and the melted chocolate/butter mix.
4. Sieve in the flour, baking powder and salt and fold through. Gently stir in the remaining chocolate and nuts.
5. Divide the mix among the paper cases and bake for 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack and then serve.

You can buy The Seafront Tea Rooms from Amazon and is also available to buy from good bookshops.