Wednesday, 29 June 2016

A sweet recipe from the Middle Ages...all the way into your plate

My Thursday recipe is a little bit special today...not only because it is, for a change, a sweet one, but also because it is from a long, long time ago - the Middle Ages. It comes courtesy from Lindsey Townsend, one of the nine authors of LETTERBOX LOVE STORIES, an anthology of romantic short stories which is now available for pre-order here. Lindsay's story, PLAIN HARRY, is set in the Middle Ages...

Hello Lindsay and welcome. Thank you so much for this delicious recipe for Pears in Syrup. Tell me, why did you choose this recipe for today's blog?
Every now and again I have a go at a recipe from the ancient or medieval worlds, officially for research purposes but mostly through a mixture of curiosity and greed. Since I now own a copy of Constance Hieatt's delectable book of authentic medieval recipes, Pleyn Delit, this time it was one of those deceptively simple but spicy, wine-warm sweets which the fourteenth and fifteenth century loved.

The recipe calls for 1 kilo/2 lb of pears, 500ml red wine, 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar, 125 gm sugar, 1tsp. cinnamon and 1/4tsp. ground ginger, plus an optional 6-8 whole cloves and a pinch of saffron. There are several methods of cooking this fifteenth-century delicacy in Prof. Hieatt's book (recipe 113: Wardonys in Syryp), and medieval cooks would have used pots over an open fire, but I like to keep it simple, so used a casserole and a fan oven.

Parboil the pears in water for a few minutes, then peel and quarter them and lay them in the casserole. Add the cinnamon and sugar to the wine in a saucepan and heat it through until the sugar has dissolved, then strain (if necessary) and pour the mixture over the pears. Cover the casserole and leave it in the oven for about an hour at around 250C (180C in a fan oven worked fine). Remove the casserole and add the wine vinegar, cloves and saffron. If necessary, remove some of the liquid and boil it for a few minutes to reduce it, which will slightly thicken and sweeten the syrup. Put the casserole back in the oven and give it another 15 minutes or so. 'Look that it be sharp and sweet (poinaunt an dowcet)', the recipe says. Cool, serve and eat.

For more detail, more cooking methods and a mass of other recipes, see Pleyn Delit. The medieval English cook may well have used Warden pears, grown at the Cistercian abbey of Old Warden in Bedfordshire, and the abbey's coat of arms (top left, from the abbey's page at Bedfordshire County Council Archives) shows three of them. A similar dish, 'peres en confyt', includes mulberries for darkness and appears in the fourteenth-century cookbook, Forme of Cury.

This is fascinating, Lindsay! Thank you so much... Lindsay's story in LETTERBOX LOVE STORIES is called PLAIN HARRY.

 The blurb for 'Plain Harry' by Lindsay Townsend
 Recovering from a brutal marriage, Esther is living quietly as a widow when a letter from her brother Sir Stephen destroys her contented life. Stephen orders her to marry Sir Henry—but who is this “Plain Harry” and how will he treat her?

Set in medieval England in a time when women had few rights, this story shows how love can flourish in the unlikeliest of places and between the unlikeliest of people.

My links:

Twitter account -

Blogger – My blog -

Lindsay Townsend, historical romance.  

or follow me at Twitter: @lindsayromantic

Sunday, 26 June 2016


I am delighted to welcome Jenny Kane today to talk about her latest release from Accent Press, ANOTHER GLASS OF CHAMPAGNE.
 Hello Jenny,  welcome back to the blog and congratulations on your release! It's lovely to talk to you again. Can you tell us where you get your ideas from for your stories?

My ideas come from all around me. Overheard conversations, musical lyrics, the oddly placed hairbrush, the half discarded glass of wine. My imagination never turns off, and anything and everything could be a story trigger.

I know exactly what you mean. What can you tell us about ANOTHER GLASS OF CHAMPAGNE?

Another Glass of Champagne is the final part of my Another Cup of...series. The series began with Another Cup of Coffee, and the seasonal Christmas novella’s Another Cup of Christmas, Christmas in the Cotswolds, and Christmas at the Castle, This last instalment of the adventures of the Pickwicks Coffee House crew- Amy, Kit, Jack, Peggy, Megan and friends- see’s the main characters facing up to the reality that being in your forties doesn’t mean life’s answers get any clearer!

They all have new challenges ahead. If things work out OK, then champagne corks will be flying...but the obstacles that need overcoming first are far from straightforward....

That sound intriguing...In three words, what kind of man is Jack Brown, your hero?

Generous, Ambitious, Gay

What about Amy Krane, one of the four heroines of your novel?

Pregnant, Introverted, Kind

I need a quiet house to write. What about you? What is the one thing you absolutely need to write?

 Black coffee

I do love my black coffee too! Are you working on another novel at the moment?

I’m in the closing stages of writing a mini-novel for this Christmas. This will be a medieval murder mystery called The Outlaw’s Ransom.

The story of fourteenth century girl, Mathilda of Twyford (Leicestershire), The Outlaws’ Ransom is an expansion of the medieval part of my part modern/part medieval novel Romancing Robin Hood.

I think I already know the answer to my next question....What is your all time favourite hero from a film or a novel?

My all time favourite hero has to Robin Hood. I’ve been a fan of the legend from an early age. This love of the story was increased tenfold when I was 14 years old and watched an episode of Robin of Sherwood on the television. From that moment on I was enchanted- I needed to know everything about the legend, and read every book and watched every film I could get my hands on. I went on to take a PhD in the ballad history and crime records of the fourteenth century as a result of my RH obsession!! My love of the legend is still strong, and always will be.

Robin Hood is indeed a great hero. How do you pick the location for a story?

I can only write about places I’ve actually visited. All the locations within my books, right down to the level of office cupboards or bathrooms, are places I’ve visited. That way I can accurately record how the atmosphere of the place feels like and smells like, as well as how it looks.

And now for the word association test! What 3 words come to your mind when you read the following?

sun: yellow, happiness, gardens

winter:  frost, icy, marshmallows

writing: freedom, imagination, joy

chocolate: delicious, indulgence, smooth

reading: escapism, adventure, mystery


A warm-hearted, contemporary tale about a group of friends living in a small corner of busy London, by bestselling author Jenny Kane.

Fortysomething Amy is shocked and delighted to discover she s expecting a baby not to mention terrified! Amy wants best friend Jack to be godfather, but he hasn’t been heard from in months. When Jack finally reappears, he s full of good intentions but his new business plan could spell disaster for the beloved Pickwicks Coffee Shop, and ruin a number of old friendships...

Meanwhile his love life is as complicated as ever and yet when he swears off men for good, Jack meets someone who makes him rethink his priorities...but is it too late for a fresh start?

 Author Kit has problems of her own: just when her career has started to take off, she finds herself unable to write and there s a deadline looming, plus two headstrong kids to see through their difficult teenage years...will she be able to cope?



Sticking her head out of the bedroom window, Amy took a huge lungful of fresh air. Even though her morning sickness had passed with merciful speed, the aroma of the paint she and Paul were decorating their spare room with was making her decidedly queasy.

‘I thought this was supposed to be odourless paint?’

 ‘It is.’ Paul smiled at his wife as he put down the yellow paint-covered roller. ‘Why don’t you take a break? There’s not much left to do now.’

Amy leaned against the windowsill. ‘I’m fine – and anyway, it’s my own fault. I should never have got on my hands and knees to paint the skirting board. Thank you for not saying “I told you so,” by the way.’

Sinking onto the chair Paul had placed in the middle of the decorating chaos, Amy rubbed a palm over her bump in wonder. It seemed to be getting bigger by the hour, never mind by the day.

‘Have Phil and Rob managed to make any contact with Jack yet?’

‘Not a word.’ Paul scraped the remains of the paint from the roller tray onto his brush and dabbed at a patchy place on the wall. ‘Rob hasn’t had any replies to his texts and emails. He reckons Jack is probably somewhere really remote with no WiFi.’

‘Hmmm. Well, I hope he resurfaces soon, or I’ll have had this baby before he even knows I’m expecting one.’

Paul stretched his arms above his head to loosen the muscles cramped from painting. ‘He’ll turn up sooner or later. Jack always does.’...

Author bio

Jenny spends a large part of her time in the cafe’s of Mid Devon, where she creates her stories, including the novels Another Glass of Champagne, (Accent Press, 2016), Abi’s House (Accent Press, June 2015), Romancing Robin Hood (Accent Press, 2014), the best selling contemporary romance Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013), and the novella length sequels Another Cup of Christmas (Accent Press, 2013), Christmas in the Cotswolds, (Accent Press, 2014), and Christmas at the Castle, (Accent Press, 2015).

Her next full length novel, Abi’s Neighbour, will be published by Accent Press in Summer 2017. She is also working on a short historical novel, which will be published in November 2016.

Jenny Kane is also the author of quirky children’s picture books There’s a Cow in the Flat (Hushpuppy, 2014) and Ben’s Biscuit Tin (Hushpuppy, 2015).

Keep your eye on Jenny’s blog at for more details.

Twitter- @JennyKaneAuthor

Facebook -  

Thank you very much for being my guest today, Jenny. I wish you lots of success with ANOTHER GLASS OF CHAMPAGNE.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Come and Eat a Croque-Monsieur with Helena Fairfax

What could be better than sitting at a terrace in Paris, watching people go by whilst taking in the city's beautiful architecture, and enjoying a Croque-monsieur and a 'diabolo citron' (lemonade and lemon cordial) or 'Vichy Fraise' (strawberry cordial and mineral water) - my two favourite café drinks.

We may not be in Paris but we can still enjoy this delicious snack, thanks to Helena Fairfax, another of the nine authors of the anthology LETTERBOX LOVE STORIES I have been featuring in my recipe blogs every week! Helena's story is set in Paris, and her hero is a gorgeous chef...

As if that wasn't tempting enough, to celebrate the forthcoming release of our anthology, we are giving away this lovely pair of earrings which are perfect for summer. All you have to do is leave a comment before midnight on Sunday 26th June to be entered in the draw.


Makes 2

50g (1 1/2 oz) butter
4 slices of white bread, crusts cut off
1 tbsp plain flour
100ml (1/2 cup) milk
80g (3oz) Gruyère cheese, grated (or Emmental, or Mozarella, if preferred)
Nutmeg, to grate
2 tbsp French mustard
2 slices best ham

Salt and pepper

1. Heat your grill to medium-high. Line the grill pan with silver foil.

2. Put the butter in a pan over a medium-low heat to melt it.

3. Brush one side of each slice of bread liberally with melted butter and put under the grill butter-side uppermost. Grill until golden and crisp, then set aside.
4. Stir the flour into the remaining butter to make a paste. Cook for a minute, then gradually whisk in the milk, a little at a time, until smooth. Simmer for a few minutes, until thickened, then take off the heat and stir in half the cheese until melted. Grate in a little nutmeg, stir and season lightly with salt and pepper.

3. Spread the untoasted sides of the bread with mustard. Put the ham on top, followed by the cheese, and put back under the grill for a couple of minutes until the cheese has melted.

4. Remove from the grill. Put the other slice of bread on top, toasted side uppermost, and push down, then put the sandwiches on to the grill tray and top with the cheese sauce. Grill for about 5 minutes, until golden and bubbling, and serve immediately.

Thank you for this delicious recipe, Helena. What can you tell us about your story?

Come Date Me in Paris is the story of a young Englishwoman called Alice who moves to France to work for a famous fashion magazine. In the country that gave the world haute cuisine, Alice is one of the few people who can't cook. When Alice ends up on a TV blind date show that involves cooking a special meal for your date, she is forced to ask her chef neighbour, Edmond, to give her some cooking lessons.

My story was great fun to write, especially adding the flavour of Paris - with the recipes, with Alice's flair for Parisian style, and with the fabulous scenery. Everyone knows the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Notre Dame,  and the lovely green park at the Bois de Boulogne is also familiar to many - but not many foreign visitors to Paris have heard of its second biggest greenspace, the beautiful Bois de Vincennes. I wrote a scene for Alice and Edmond in which they escape the heat of the city and take a picnic by the lake in the Bois de Vincennes. Perhaps it's because I'm a country girl at heart that I enjoyed taking my hero and heroine to this oasis of green and water in the bustling city.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Paris, the Bois de Vincennes is a amazing place to go. It has a zoo, a lake, a floral park, mini-golf, plenty of wildlife, a bird reserve - and, since this is France, it even has its own medieval chateau! I'd defy anyone not to start falling in love in such a wonderful setting.
Come Date Me in Paris has several recipes as part of the story. For Marie's blog I've chosen a recipe for a typical French snack called croque-monsieur. It's one of the favourite items on the café menu for we British visitors to Paris :) It's a simple recipe and just perfect for Sunday lunch. At home in England I'd make a pot of tea to have with it, but in France a cup of coffee or maybe an Orangina would be lovely.

I hope you enjoy my weekend recipe. I'm very much looking forward to release of our Letterbox Love Stories anthology. Thanks so much for having me today, Marie. I've been enjoying your recipe posts very much!

You are welcome, Helena! Bon appétit!
And don't forget to hop on to Helena's blog where I gave her my recipe for a quick and easy Cherry Clafoutis. Don't forget to leave a comment to have the chance to win a pair of earrings.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

A taste of Italy with Cara Marsi

It is Thursday - time for a new recipe from one of my fellow romance authors of THE LETTERBOX LOVE STORIES, an anthology of romantic short stories to be released later in June.

We were in Sardinia last week, so we don't have to travel very far for our next recipe. Today we are on the beautiful Amalfi Coast in Italy, where award-winning author Cara Marsi set her short story 'Curating Love'.
Hello Cara and welcome. Can you tell us why you chose to set Curating Love on the Amalfi Coast?

I have visited the Amalfi Coast twice, and it's one of my favourite places in the world. The beauty of the place is outstanding. Driving along the twisty, narrow roads can be thrilling or frightening. On my most recent to Italy, my husband and I spent a day in Ravello. I loved it. It's an old, medieval city with so much charm. I didn't want to leave. Another place I love along the Amalfi Coast is Capri, and I have a story sent there also, Capri Nights.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay
I have never been but the sceneries are indeed breathtaking. Why did you chose a pasta recipe today?

Because it's Italian! I've made this dish and it's wonderful. I include a recipe in my monthly newsletter, and I included this one a few months back.

Baked Rigatoni with Onions and Parmesan

Serves 8. Per serving: 360 calories; 52g carbs; 16g protein; 10g fat.

Image courtesy of Pixabay
·        2 Tbsp. olive oil
·        2 medium yellow onions, sliced thin
·        4 cloves garlic, minced
·        2 tsp. dried dill weed (or ½ cup fresh dill, chopped)
·        ½ cup bread crumbs
·        2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
·        Ground black pepper and salt to taste
·        1 lb. rigatoni pasta
·        5 oz. grated Parmesan

1.      Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large pot, boil water for pasta.

2.     Heat the olive oil in a large, deep iron or oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions, garlic, and dill for a few minutes until onions become glassy. Add half the bread crumbs and stir to toast evenly.

3.     When the mixture is golden brown, add the broth and simmer on low heat. Add pepper and salt and stir. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook. Drain.

4.     Add the cooked pasta to the skillet with the onion mixture. Fold in half of the grated cheese. Sprinkle the remaining bread crumbs and cheese on top.

5.     Bake in the skillet, uncovered, until a golden brown crust forms, about 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot.

I thought it sounded too bland with just dill and garlic so I added basil, oregano, and a mixture of Italian herbs. It was delicious.

I love pasta! In fact I would have pasta every single day if my family let me. Thank you Cara for this delicious recipe.

Blurb for Curating Love:

A letter inviting Chloe Decker to curate the art collection of the wealthy DiMarco family of Ravello, Italy, lets Chloe begin to picture a new life for herself after the death of her fiancé. But she’d never included her employer’s sexy grandson in that portrait. Matteo DiMarco, the playboy scion of the DiMarco family, will never again let a woman betray him. But sweet, earthy Chloe reawakens old dreams. Wary of losing her heart again, Chloe’s not ready for a relationship, even with a fine Italian masterpiece of a man like Matteo. Besides, her future is in Philadelphia, not Italy. Can Matteo convince her to stay and take a chance on him? Can she open her heart and paint a new picture that includes them both?

Cara Marsi, Award-Winning Author
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Isabella of Angoulême by Erica Laine

Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: October 2015
Publisher:  SilverWood Books
Set in the thirteenth century, the kingdoms of England and France are struggling over territory as the powerful Angevins threaten the French king. In regions far from Paris local fiefdoms disregard all authority.
The Tangled Queen is the story of the little known and very young Isabella of Angoulême who was abducted by King John in 1200. She became his second wife and queen consort, aged 12. He was the most reviled king in English history and his lust for her led to the loss of Normandy and the destruction of the Plantagenet Empire, which then brought about the Magna Carta.
Isabella came of age in England, but was denied her place in court. Her story is full of thwarted ambition, passion, pride and cruelty. She longed for power of her own and returned to France after the death of John to live a life of treachery and intrigue…

EXCERPT from Isabella of Angoulême: The Tangled Queen Part 1
Isabella smiled and yawned – it was time these chattering girls left. She dismissed them, haughty and impatient. Away they sped, some calling back to Isabella, jokes and remarks full of innuendo for her future. She frowned; this was not the way to treat a future queen.
          ‘Agnes, help prepare me for bed.’
          Agnes closed the chamber door, unlacing the back of Isabella’s dress, folding the glorious red and gold silk into the large chest. Tomorrow Isabella would wear the blue gown, the splendid blue and silver fabric showing wealth and also loyalty. If red and gold had shown the power and wealth of the Taillefers, then the blue would mark their obedience and fealty.
          Early the next morning Agnes was busy preparing a scented bath. Precious rose oil, drop by drop, turned the hot water cloudy. And then she was busy mixing the rosemary wash for Isabella’s hair. She would wear her hair loose today, and her small gold guirland.
          Isabella woke up and saw Agnes looking at her, long and thoughtful, ready to make her stir, but she was already throwing back the covers and standing and stretching. Agnes nodded and together they moved to the bath, and Isabella slipped into the milky, perfumed water and rubbed the rosemary wash into her hair. She felt the water running down her back and shivered. Then she was being briskly dried by Agnes, who was determined to treat Isabella to the most thorough of preparations.
          Her mother Alice entered the room and the three of them unfolded the wedding gown and dressed Isabella. Her chemise was soft and light, the dress heavy and cumbersome. Arranged within it, held within it as if caged, her face pale but proud, she moved to the window and looked down onto a courtyard full of people, horses, carts and wagons. A procession was moving through the crowd, with a stately canon and an even more stately bishop in the centre. The clergy were intent on their walk to the cathedral. Isabella clutched Agnes in a sudden fear. Then she rested her head on the window and took a deep breath. It was her wedding day.
I was  born in 1943 in Southampton and originally studied for the theatre.  I moved with my family to Hong Kong in 1977 and worked and lived there for 20 years, writing English language textbooks for Chinese primary schools and managing large educational projects for the British Council.
Since living in S W France I have been very involved with a local history society and have researched many topics, the history of gardens and fashion being favourites.

Isabella of Angoulême began in 2011 at a writing workshop run by Philippa Pride, the Book Doctor.  The story of this young queen was fascinating and although she appears as a character in some other historical novels I wanted to concentrate on her entire life and her importance to the English and the French and the role she played in the politics of power. Part Two is being written now and my head is more or less permanently in the thirteenth century.



Thursday, 9 June 2016

A delicious recipe from Sardinia by bestselling author Gemma Juliana

I am very happy to kickstart a series of delicious weekly blog posts today, which I hope will tempt you into trying new recipes for your Sunday lunch! I may have mentioned before that I am very lucky to be part of a group of international romantic authors - the World Romance Writers. Our first anthology of short stories, LETTERBOX LOVE STORIES, will be published in a couple of weeks, at the end of June. I thought it might be a good idea to invite a different author every Friday and ask them for their favourite recipe from the country where their story is set.

Today is Gemma Juliana's turn. Gemma's story is called Abandoned Treasures and is set in the beautiful island of Sardinia.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Hello Gemma and thank you very much for coming on the blog today.

Thank you for inviting me to visit your blog today, Marie. I’m delighted my story, Abandoned Treasures, is in such wonderful company in our new boxed set, LETTERBOX LOVE STORIES VOLUME I.

What can you tell us about Sardinian cuisine?

The cuisine of Sardinia is very fish-oriented, due to the bounty of the beautiful seas surrounding the island. I chose to share a recipe that is simple, and that has been a staple of the old folks of the island over a long period of time.

You chose a recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs with Sardinian Music Bread. What a wonderful name!

It is a traditional recipe. The love story of Sophie and Rico takes place at Costa Smeralda, on the northeastern coast of the Mediterranean island. As I researched Sardinia, I fell in love with the culture, the archaeological sites, and the resilience and endurance of a people that historically faced one wave of invasions after the other. While the coastal cities draw tourism the inland area is where the native people maintain their culture and traditions.  

Tomato-Poached Eggs with Sardinian Music Bread

This recipe is a sort of ‘peasant frittata’ and the freshness of the ingredients causes a starburst of intense deliciousness in your mouth. It is a feast for your taste buds!

Ingredients: Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 2 fresh garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, undrained and coarsely chopped 
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 sheets pane carasau, each broken into 4 wedges
  • 2 ounces finely grated aged Pecorino Sardo cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp dried basil


Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add onions and garlic to pan; cook 3 minutes at medium heat or until fragrant. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and tomatoes with juice; bringing it all to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer for 15 minutes, and stir as necessary. Reduce the heat to low. Taking one egg at a time, crack each egg over tomato mixture in the pan, about an inch apart. Sprinkle the eggs with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cover and cook 5-7 minutes or until eggs are at the desired degree of done. Remove pan from heat. Arrange 4 wedges of pane carasau on 4 plates; spoon sauce equally over each serving and top with 1 egg. Sprinkle each with 2 tablespoons grated cheese and 1/2 tablespoon of chopped fresh basil.

For the recipe to make Pane Carasau (Sardinian Flatbread or Sardinian music bread) visit the fantastic website below. It is a great find for all of us who enjoy Italian cuisine. There you will also find excellent historical facts and lovely photos of Sardinia for those interested in learning out more about this magical island.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

What do a reality TV star and a Sardinian billionaire have in common? Sophie Hayes is jaded from years of buying and selling the contents of abandoned storage units, so after dumping her fiancé she decides the best way to spend what would have been her honeymoon is to accept an invitation to deliver a rare antique desk to Rico di Carlo. The reclusive widower has secrets—when he lures Sophie into his world he has one week to make sure she never wants to leave.

Gemma Juliana Author Bio

Born in Canada, raised in the Caribbean and educated in Europe, I’ve lived and traveled the world. Perhaps that’s why I believe international settings and a sprinkling of magic add extra romantic spice to a story. I enjoy playing the role of matchmaker when creating love stories where two hearts end up beating as one.

These days the USA is my home. I share a cozy cottage with my true love, our teen son, and a crafty dog who rules us all. My muse is nourished with the finest fuel for creativity – chocolate and coffee.

Visit my website for special offers, latest news, and to see what I’ve written and what’s coming soon.

Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe with us, Gemma!