Authors Eat

Authors Eat… Features Author Jenny Harper

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Max ExWhen I started the Authors Eat… feature I didn’t realize the pleasure I would derive from promoting the work of other writers. There are so many wonderful books written and published every day, books to suit the pickiest of readers. I am temporarily not in a book club, and this feature has encouraged me to research and read books I might never have known about.

Our featured author this week hails from Scotland. Jenny writes charming books brimming with local custom and history. Her characters seem to embody the Scottish landscape, borrowing their quirks and tendencies from the drama of the terrain. So it is fitting that she has shared a recipe typically served at the yearly Burns Supper.  And now in the authors own words…

Cullen Skink

As a pescivore (a vegetarian who eats fish), I am always on the lookout for tasty recipes. Cullen Skink is my all time favourite. It’s a traditional Scottish soup – the nearest US equivalent is chowder – and is incredibly tasty. It is frequently served at the beginning of a Burns Supper (the dinner traditionally held at the end of January every year to commemorate Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns).

Cullen is a small town on the Moray coast, in north east Scotland. It’s a fishing town, and probably best known as the birthplace of this now traditional soup. ‘Skink’ is a Scot word meaning shin or knuckle of beef. From this it migrated to meaning soup, and thence, rather circuitously, just to meaning soup!

This soup can be a meal in itself. Leave it chunky, though you can mash down some of the potato so that it thickens nicely. You can also add cream to make it richer. It uses undyed smoked haddock – if you can’t get this, try using another undyed smoked fish. And serve with some warm and delicious crusty bread.



30g butter

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes

300ml water

250g smoked haddock

250ml milk

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley or chives


1. Melt butter in a saucepan over a low heat, then add the chopped onion and fry gently until soft and transparent.

2. Add potatoes pieces and water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.

3. In another pan, cover the haddock with the milk and cook gently for about five minutes until just cooked. Remove from the milk and flake into large pieces. Try to remove all the bones!

4. Add the milk and fish to the saucepan containing the potatoes and the rest of the ingredients and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Serve with crusty, warm bread and butter.

For more information about Jenny and her books please click on the following links.

Twitter @harperjenn






Authors Eat… Features Author Mary Smith

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

mary5Have you ever wondered about Afghan cuisine? I have. The Culture and Cuisine Club is excited to feature a writer who has lived in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mary Smith is an author, poet, journalist – and a businesswoman who worked in Afghanistan for an organization that helped raise funds for mother and childcare, and for those afflicted with leprosy. Mary has shared an insider’s peek into Afghan cuisine and  a traditional recipe that I will be trying very soon. And now in the author’s own words…

Living and working for many years in Afghanistan gave me the chance to sample many kinds of Afghan cuisine. Afghan kebabs are the best in the world. When I lived in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif it was our favourite take away on a Friday night. I still remember the tantalizing aroma of those lamb kebabs being cooked on street grills. Afghan sheep have what’s known as dumba – a fat tail – and pieces of this fat are interspersed with chunks of lamb on the skewers to add flavour. The kebabs were served inside round nan breads, which soaked up the delicious juices, then wrapped in newspaper. I found sheep testicle kebabs particularly tasty, possibly because I’d eaten them before I knew what the succulent softness was.

Afghans love giving dinner parties – or mehmani. The dishes are spread on a cloth – dastakhan – on the floor and guests sit cross-legged around it. Anyone serving less than seven dishes is considered a skinflint and, believe me, word would have spread before morning. There would be chicken or meat (usually goat – and don’t be surprised if you meet your dinner when it is brought in to be blessed by the diners before despatch) in rich gravy, kabuli rice topped with raisins and strips of carrots glistening with oil, yoghurt, one or two vegetable dishes and sweet dishes such as firni made with milk and corn flour and heavily sweetened. For cooking at home in the city I had an imported Chinese cooker with three rings, fed by a gas bottle.

Chicken defeated me for ages. No matter what method, including using a pressure cooker, my chicken was always like boot leather. Afghan chickens are free range, clocking up the miles to find food so there’s very little fat. Plus, no one eats a chicken until it has become an old hen and stopped laying eggs. I found the solution in an international newspaper – wine. Not cooking the bird in wine, but tenderising it from the inside out. Like everyone else we bought our chickens live so during their last few days on earth we fed them well and gave them lots of red wine to drink brought across the border from Uzbekistan. It worked like magic and I could finally impress my Afghan diner guests with succulent chicken, albeit with a slightly pinkish tinge. And that’s why the chickens in my non-fiction book are drunk.

Of course it wasn’t all banquets and mostly I ate everyday food including a meat-based soup into which we broke our bread. Once it was mushy, we used another piece of bread as a spoon. I enjoyed simple rice with lentils or red kidney beans and ash – pasta (Afghanistan was on the Silk Route so benefited from fusion cuisine long before it was fashionable) served with quroot, a rock-hard sour cheese made from buttermilk which is re-hydrated into a sauce. Tastes a lot better than it sounds. Little leek-filled dumplings are delicious as is mantu, a labour-intensive dish of steamed dumplings filled with minced beef and onions, topped with a yogurt sauce. One of my favourite dishes – perhaps because it is easily reproduced at home – is banjan-sia borani. This is egg-plant (aubergine) slices fried and served with cooked tomatoes, topped with a sour cream and yoghurt garlicky sauce and dried mint.

Banjan-sia Borani


4 Aubergines/Eggplants – the nice, long purple ones

Oil (I use sunflower)

Salt and black pepper

1 tsp paprika

4 tomatoes, sliced

1 onion finely chopped

8 medium cloves garlic, minced

1 cup thick yogurt

1 cup sour cream


Slice the eggplants lengthwise into thick slices. Fry in the oil until golden and still slightly firm in the middle. Drain on kitchen paper. Fry the onions with one of the minced cloves of garlic until soft then add the sliced tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are soft. Add a cup of water; bring to the boil then leave to simmer until the sauce thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put the eggplant into the sauce to warm through. Mix the yoghurt and sour cream together with the minced garlic, 1 tsp salt and dried mint. Put half the yoghurt sauce on a serving platter, top with the eggplant and tomato sauce the pour the rest of the yoghurt sauce on top. Sprinkle with paprika. Serve with fresh nan bread.dc

Mary’s Blog: 

Mary’s Amazon author page:


Authors Eat… Features Romance Author Jackie Weger

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

6f9bf340c1ab0ad8956e70.L._V147432054_Who doesn’t like a little romance? The Culture and Cuisine Club believes without romance the world would be a pretty dull place. We are excited to share with you a recipe from world traveler and prolific romance author Jackie Weger. Jackie is not only successful in her own right, but has made it her business to assist other writers in marketing and promoting their work. She believes in paying it forward. And now in the author’s own words…

How many lark’s tongues make a meal?

I have eaten strange foods. I once was the guest of a family who lived on the top of a mountain in a dry Pacific rainforest. No electricity, no ovens in the thatched-roofed kitchen—all foods prepared fresh and on a native stove built of river rock and sand. I was served the choicest part of the meat. Boiled chicken head. Eyes intact. Beak intact. Little tongue sticking out. Yes, I ate it. One does not offend when one is the guest of honor. I have since learned to make chicken feet soup. Do not forget to cut off the nails. It is wonderful and tasty. The feet do startle guests when they find them in the bottom of the bowl.

On another note of cuisine and another continent: Many French people speak English if one is on a tourist route. However, off the tourist grid where I prefer to travel, you need to know a little French. Thank goodness, I had spent many a weekend and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, which gave me a heads up to order un café au lait. Every server in every tiny village or sidewalk café or bistro gets it—in spite of my Southern drawl.

You cannot get through Paris and its environs without sampling the foods. You can eat grand by shopping in open-air vegetable and fruit markets, the tiny bakeries and chocolatiers or street vendors—which I did. Lunch was often in museum cafés and I did not go out for supper. An apple, some grapes and a small loaf of bread or a meat pastry and perhaps some cheese sufficed as I soaked my sore tourist’s feet and hung out the tiny hotel window watching the locals on the narrow, cobbled streets—an entertainment all its own.

Nevertheless, late one night I did get hungry. I somehow lost my goody bag of fruits and cheese and followed a gaggle of natives to an outdoor café. Tables were tiny and elbow-to-elbow. My dining companions were an archeologist from the UK, on his way to another adventure in Egypt and his long-suffering wife—on her way back to the UK to hold down the fort, raise the kids and earn money to support her adventurer, certainly the worst half, on his escapades. The chat up was interesting and a writer never knows where we will find a character to make an on page visit, so I didn’t glance too much at the menu, and ordered une salade de poulet (chicken salad), a glass of house wine.

I do not like to order tossed green salad in foreign countries because it never comes with dressing, except perhaps vinegar and oil. I like blue cheese. However, I soon learned un salade de poulet de France is not chicken salad USA.

The salad came and it was monstrous. In a bowl. An entrée served with a quarter cup pitcher of vinegar. Not. The pitcher was vinegar sweetened with local honey—served hot. The salad had fresh greens, boiled, sliced eggs, crispy slices of chicken light and dark, grand slices of vine-ripened cantaloupe and tomatoes dotted with cracked pepper. Who knew? The hot honey watered with vinegar enhanced the flavor of every tidbit in the salad. And then a surprise. At the very bottom of the bowl, les pommes de terre sautées(diced and crisp fried potatoes)—still warm and gently flavored with honey-vinegar.

It was to this day the best salad I have ever tasted and so easy to duplicate. The salad was not salted and I did not add a grain.

Here’s what you need:

Large wooden bowl.

Salad greens—your choice.

Two boiled eggs shelled and quartered.

Fresh tomato—quartered

Fresh cantaloupe, four generous slices.

Sliced cooked chicken white and dark. Sauté in olive oil.

Potato diced—boiled for two or three minutes—drain and sauté in olive oil until tender. Don’t worry if not browned.

¼ cup of white vinegar.

¼-cup honey.

While ‘building’ the salad allow honey-vinegar mixture to warm over low heat. Do not boil.

Here is what you do:

Layer the bottom of the bowl with a large lettuce leaf. A must have to catch any honey mixture that settles.

Put a couple of heaping spoonfuls of potato in the middle of the leaf.

Add salad greens to cover potatoes. Add chicken slices. Add tomato quarters. Add egg quarters. Add cantaloupe slices. Sprinkle with cracked pepper.

Place hot honey-vinegar mixture in a cruet ready to pour over salad once served.

The French serve every meal with bread. American crackers of any description, however fancy, will not do for une salade de poulet.

A warm French loaf, sliced or whole makes the meal. Do not use butter because it greases the palate and you want your taste buds open to receive the wonderful, sensuous and unexpected mingling of flavors.

Marie Antoinette could have easily dined on the same salad. Along with lark’s tongues—a favorite of royalty on all continents.

Did you know that honey is the only food in our universe that does not go bad? It has shelf life of a thousand years and more!

I will be making this salad in the near future for sure.


To learn more about Jackie and her books visit her blog

Her Amazon author page:

E Novel Authors at Work blog:

Authors Eat… Meets RJ Crayton

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Have you missed me? I have been swamped with writing projects and travel. We just got back from a lovely wedding in New England, and helped celebrate the vows of a young couple in the Battell Chapel on the old Yale Campus. I was excited to find this post and recipe from author RJ Crayton waiting for me.

Author RJ Crayton

RJ is a writer who knows how to get things done. She has a full-plate of family and community responsibilities that she balances with her career as an author. I have grown to appreciate her insightful observations, and I’ve learned quickly that if RJ asks a question the answer will be important. She is a woman you want to pay attention to. What’s more, she’s fun, she laughs a lot, and that is what life is all about. And now in the author’s own words…

This is what the dish looks like at the end. I added some grapes and red pepper strips as a garnish.

Cool and Tasty Summertime Dish

by RJ Crayton

When Lois invited me to do this, I started racking my brain to think of what recipe I could use. Then it hit me: since my novel is about a woman desperately fleeing a forced kidney transplant, I should offer up a recipe for kidney pie. Yum! Wait … no!  Kidney pie sounds disgusting. Are there real kidneys in that?  Hold on. Let me check.

Yep there are.  They use ox kidneys, according to the BBC If you try to use lamb or pig kidneys, it won’t taste as good. And they recommend you start the cooking process at least 48 hours in advance. Ummm, I don’t have time to cook a meal over a three-day period.

So, in the alternative to kidney pie, let’s actually make something I know how to cook that doesn’t involve trying to find a butcher who has an ox kidney (or what he says is an ox kidney).

It’s starting to get hot here in the Washington, DC, area, and in the summertime, I prefer not to heat up the kitchen cooking all the time. On the really hot days, it seems nuts to air condition the house and then add heat from the oven to it.  So, I like to make this great chicken salad dish, which is tasty, fresh and cold. It fits with my cooking style in that it’s not complicated to make. All you have to do is have the ingredients. I’m a minimalist in cooking so I prefer not to make anything that involves too much drama. I also like tasty dishes, so those that can conflict with minimalism at times, but that’s why we have restaurants, right? Someone else can spend hours slaving over a hot pot so I can enjoy a tasty meal; I used to get that for free  (thanks, Mom!), but now it only happens when I pay the waiter.

So, this dish involves a bit of slicing and dicing, but it’s pretty easy and requires no cooking. The best part is, if you have a kitchen helper who’s super excited to cut stuff up, the way my daughter is, then you don’t have to dice at all, if you don’t want to. If you do want to, I suggest you have an epic rock paper scissors battle to decide who gets to do it. On a more serious note, I don’t recommend letting small children cut onions; if they don’t wash their hands well and get the juice in their eyes, it’s a bad scene. I made this dish the other day with my 7-year-old daughter, and she suggested her doll Kittyanna help us out.

This is Kittyanna with the final dish. My daughter actually changed Kittyanna’s clothes, because, y’know, you have to look good posing with the food.


1 ½ cups of chicken (you can pull leftovers from a baked chicken or use a can of chicken, drained)

½ red pepper, diced

⅓ red onion, diced

10 grapes (I like to cut them in half, but my hubby says that’s overkill)

½ apple, cut into quarter-inch chunks

Balsamic vinegar (a few  splashes, to taste)

This is my daughter stirring everything, prior to adding vinegar.

Basically, you just toss all the ingredients, except the last, in a bowl, and mix them up. Then, add enough balsamic vinegar to lightly coat your dish. It usually only takes three or four splashes. However, if you like a more vinegary tasting dish, add some more.  It tastes great in a pita pocket, or on any bread that can stand up to a moist filling.  Sometimes if I’m making this, I’ll also make a bean salad. As I’m simple, I make a bean salad using a can of pinto beans, drained (though you can use any kind of beans you like–perhaps kidney beans), and a quarter jar of Trader Joe’s Corn and Chile tomato-less Salsa. That’s a great side because it’s super quick.


RJ Crayton is a former journalist turned novelist. By day, she writes page-turning fiction and regularly blogs for Indies Unlimited and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. By night, she practices the art of ninja mom.

To learn more about RJ or her books, visit her Amazon Author page:


Rj also has a blog, 


* * *

I think Kittyana thinks the vinegar is cooking sherry. No no, naughty Kittyana.






Authors Eat…

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

This month Authors Eat… features Tasmanian writer  T.D. McKinnon, a colleague and contributing author at Indies Unlimited. T.D. is the definition of a survivor who has achieved impressive success in many areas of his life. He is an intriguing guy who I fondly refer to as The Asset. He is actively involved with causes near and dear to his heart, and many victims of child abuse have benefitted from reading the memoir of his childhood. I have found him to be kind, witty, and always a class act. Enjoy this glimpse into why he loves to cook, and check out his books on the links provided.

From the author…

I’ve always enjoyed and had an affinity with cooking. I do most of the cooking at home, but that’s probably because I’m the first to get hungry.

When I was ten my mother returned to the workforce and my seven year old sister and I inherited the job of preparing the evening meals; among other things. At thirteen and in my second year of high school we had to take metalwork shop, which I hated.  From the very first lesson I always ended the period with a massive migraine from all the banging of hammers, screeching drills, files and hacksaws that scraped my nerves bare, not to mention the various smelting and welding fumes that permeated everything.  After suffering this regular torture for two years I petitioned our headmaster to be allowed to swap my metalwork periods for the cooking classes.

At that time, no schoolboys were taking cooking in the UK.  Luckily, our headmaster considered himself a bit of a ground breaker; something I’d been counting on.  After the summer break of 1963, I was one of eight boys at the Keresley Newlands High School to pilot the new domestic science programme for boys; effectively, we were the first boys in the United Kingdom to take domestic science as a subject.

I did very well at cooking, as did most of the boys.  Approaching Christmas time every year, the fourth year cooking students made Christmas cakes, which were displayed before the entire school and then judged in a competition.  When it was our turn, I took third place, with two other boys placing in the first ten.  I thought seriously about becoming a chef, in fact I was enrolled to attend the prestigious Henley Catering College.  I joined the army instead, not the catering corps: the British Parachute Regiment (The Red Devils).  You will find details of all the aforementioned, and much more, in my childhood memoir: ‘Surviving the Battleground of Childhood’.

My food tastes have changed dramatically over the years; as a young man I did the usual red meat thing, the spicy and hot thing (Indian curries, Mexican food et cetera) and later I was heavily into Thai, Chinese and then Japanese food.  However, my food tastes changed most dramatically when (as a bodyguard) I was looking after a lady, the president of an animal rights group, who had a death threat hanging over her head.  To cut a long story short, I became a vegan (consuming no animal products of any description) for about eight years.  I haven’t been a vegan for some fourteen years now but my eating habits were changed for all time; suffice to say the only meat I eat is fish.  So, without further ado, here is one of my favourite recipes:

‘Lemon & Garlic, Tasmanian Salmon’


  • Brown rice
  • Tasmanian Salmon
  • Lemon
  • Garlic
  • Black pepper
  • Broccoli
  • Baby carrots


One handful of brown rice per person, bring to boil and simmer for twenty-five minutes. One portion of salmon per person (for obvious reasons I use Tasmanian salmon, but feel free to utilise your most local fresh salmon). Roll the salmon portion(s) in freshly squeezed lemon juice. Crush one clove of fresh garlic (the fresher the better) onto each salmon portion. Grind a liberal amount of black pepper (or to taste) onto each salmon portion. Squeeze a liberal amount of fresh lemon juice into a non-stick pan, apply the salmon to the pan, cover with lid and poach slowly on a low heat (12-14 minutes depending on the thickness of the portions). Steam the vegetables until they are cooked but still crisp (8-10 minutes). Serve the salmon on a bed of brown rice, pouring the pan juices over the salmon (Optional: garnish with a twist of fresh lemon), and add the steamed vegetables to your plate. Sit down and enjoy with a glass of your favourite Sauvignon Blanc.

Writers Eat… Corn Bread With Caramelized Apples and Onions

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Sunday brunch.

I am always interested in the food blogs of other writers and I was excited to discover Ileana Morales is a Times correspondent and approaches food the way I do. Food for her is a joy, an experiment, and an opportunity to play with her camera.I used to take a lot of artsy black and white photos until I began to raise a family. She has inspired me to wipe the dust off some of the lovely cameras gathering dust in the closet.

I prepared this recipe for the most recent Culture and Cuisine Club dinner. Our host wanted to make a Texas style barbeque and it was a huge success. The following recipe was in the paper and I saved it for the occasion. You can’t cook a southern barbeque without some sort of corn bread.

I had to travel with this dish so I broke it up into two parts. I sautéed the onions and apples at my home and let them cool in the cast iron skillet. In my case, the time to cook the onions and apples was longer than specified. I would allot about ten minutes for the onions first. By the way, I sliced everything on a mandoline slicer. If you don’t have one you should add it to your gadgets. You may not use it frequently, but it is the best way to get even slices. It is also extremely fast. You can check out a good one here

In another bowl I combined all the dry ingredients. I brought the buttermilk, eggs, and the unmelted butter with me. (I only melted the butter in the skillet that I would need to sauté the onions and apples.) I put the recipe together at my friend’s house.

The result was one of the best corn bread recipes I have ever eaten. The combination of the flour and two different types of ground cornmeal gave the bread a lighter texture without depriving it of that wonderful corn flavor. I decided to take Ileana’s advice and have a piece with breakfast the next morning. As you can see, it added just the right touch to a decadent Sunday morning breakfast.

The hostess, after going back for another piece, decided that it would be completely decadent to drizzle the bread with some sort of light caramel sauce. I think she may have hit on something…


¾ cup plus 3 tablespoons (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1 medium white onion, thinly sliced

Black pepper

2 large apples (Gala, Pink Lady or any red-skinned apple should work), thinly sliced

5 tablespoons sugar, divided use

3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, divided use

½ cups cornmeal (half finely ground, half coarsely ground)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

2 large eggs

½ cups buttermilk

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter over medium heat in a large cast iron skillet. Pour all but 2 tablespoons melted butter into a small bowl.

Place the skillet back on the burner and add onions. Cook and stir occasionally until onions are softened, about 4 minutes. Add apples, 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons thyme. Cook, stirring frequently, until apples are softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer onion mixture to a medium bowl.

Whisk cornmeal, flour, baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in eggs, buttermilk, and reserved melted butter until smooth and no lumps remain. Fold in half the onion mixture and pour batter into the skillet. Top with the rest of the onion mixture and the remaining 1 teaspoon thyme.

Bake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

Serves 8.

Original Source: Bon Appétit

Authors Eat…

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Fantasy author Yvonne Hertzberger

Do you read fantasy? If you do this installment of Authors Eat… is for you.

When I think of the fantasy genre one of the my favorite series of books comes to mind. Harry Potter inspired many authors to try their hand at creating their own unique world. This is a genre where the author can let their imagination run wild, and we the readers are swept away with the detailed descriptions of these flights of fantasy.

This week the Culture and Cuisine Club is thrilled to host fantasy author Yvonne Hertzberger.  Yvonne is the author of the addicting fantasy series, Earth’s Pendulum. Her first Old World Fantasy novel, Back From Chaos: Book One of Earth’s Pendulum, was published in 2009. Yvonne has recently released the third book in the series, The Dreamt Child. Don’t blame me if you need to stay up at night to finish these books.

Yvonne is a sweetheart as well as a talented author, and she has shared two cookie recipes with us –  just in time for the holiday season.

Dutch Shortbread

This recipe was taught to me by my mother who brought it from Holland. It’s Dutch name is Harde Zandtaart. (Literally ‘hard sandtart’) It’s so easy I use it whenever I don’t have time to fuss.


½ c butter (real butter is the key ingredient)

2/3 c white sugar

1 ½ c flour (I use spelt flour but all purpose works well)



Cream butter and sugar

Add flour and mix well, until it adheres in a ball

Spread into 9 by 13 baking pan. Press down with a fork (it makes it look pretty with ridges around the edges)

Bake @ 325 for 25 minutes or until edges turn light brown but centre is still gold.

Cut into bars as soon as you take it out of the oven. If you let it cool it will be hard.


Janet’s Almond Cookies 

Janet is my sister. I have tweaked her recipe a bit for those who don’t tolerate wheat.

2 cups ground almonds

1 cup icing sugar (or confectioners sugar)

1 Tablespoon pure almond extract (has to be the real thing)

1 egg white (large egg)

2 Tablespoons spelt flour (any flour will do. I suspect this will even work with arrowroot or any other binder)


Mix dry ingredients

Add egg white and almond extract

Mix very loosely with fork. Do not press together.

Place with fork onto parchment paper on cookie sheet and leave them looking rough so they barely hold together. If you press them together they will be hard to chew.

Bake at 300 degrees for 15 minutes. Depending on your oven you may need a few more minutes. Be careful to pull them as soon as they begin to turn colour. They should still be beige.

You can check out Yvonne’s books on her Amazon author page here 



Learn more about Yvonne on her blog:

Authors Eat…

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Melissa Pearl

The Culture and Cuisine Club is excited to feature Young Adult author and world traveler, Melissa Pearl. Melissa’s popular and engaging books are appropriate for young teens, but are enjoyed by a wide demographic. It is no surprise that she is able to write with such confidence – she has lived all over the world and currently resides in Auckland, New Zealand. Melissa’s cultural experiences are evident in her books and the fascinating characters she creates. She has generously shared a family recipe, her Nana’s mouth-watering lemon custard soufflé. I’m hungry!

In the author’s own words, a story about beating writer’s block…

When people find out I’m a writer, I often get asked the same questions. One that pops up frequently is, “Do I ever get writer’s block?” and “How do I deal with it?” My answer is always the same. I don’t tend to get it too much during the writing phase, however when I’m in the throes of planning out my next book, I hit blocks all the time.

For example: Is it realistic for my character to do something? If they do that, will the reason be clear to my reader? I need to find a plausible reason or explanation for why a character would be in a particular situation. Would my reader find a certain action believable? How am I going to have a character involved in a certain situation when I also need them to witness the same scene?

Those are just a few of the questions that run through my head as I’m working on an outline. My best plan of attack when I’m stumped is to walk away from my computer and let my mind stew for a while. There are a few things that are optimal for good brain stewing. Walking is one, taking a shower is another, and then there’s cooking something delicious.

Cooking is a great problem solver. My mind wanders all over the place as I slice and dice, fry and sauté, blend and stir. It is a calming, thought provoking activity that often helps me answer those niggling questions about whatever story I’m working on.

It was really hard for me to choose a recipe to share with you today. I have so many favourites. In honor of my Nana who passed away this year, I’m going to pass on one of my favourite desserts of all time. She gave the recipe to my mom before I was born and my mom passed it on to me. It’s my Nana’s amazing lemon custard soufflé. Delectable no matter how it’s served – hot, cold, with or without cream. I love it anyway it comes. It’s a refreshing, light treat that was always particularly scrumptious after one of Nana’s savory roast dinners.


2 T      butter

4 T      flour

1 c       sugar (make this a small cup – it can be too sweet otherwise – I’d even say 3/4 c)

1 c       milk

2          eggs (separated)

1          large lemon (juice & rind)


Cream sugar and butter together. Add flour & juice/rind of lemon. Add milk, which already has egg yolks beaten into it. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form, then with a spatula, blend gently into mixture. Pour into a greased casserole dish; sit the dish in a deeper dish with water coming halfway up the sides. Cook in a 350 degrees (Fahrenheit) oven for about 45 minutes (may need longer depending on your oven).

You can find out more about Melissa and her books at the following links:




Authors Eat…

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

This week the Culture and Cuisine Club features award winning author Laurie Boris. I’ve read Laurie’s book “Drawing Breath” and I highly recommend it. Laurie’s novel “Don’t Tell Anyone” was awarded first place in the 2013 literary fiction category on the Kindle Book Review. Laurie has a new book, “Sliding Past Vertical”,  and has also contributed to a recently released anthology of creepy horror stories, perfect for this time of year. In her spare time Laurie writes freelance articles, assists the Evil Mastermind at the highly acclaimed Indies Unlimited website, and performs minor or major surgery on the manuscripts of other writers. With all the creative energy Laurie burns she needs to refuel with one of her favorite comfort foods. We are excited to share her recipe for lentil soup.

In the authors own words…

I’ve always loved the comfort of soup, especially as the days turn frosty. I started making this particular lentil soup when I lived on my own for the first time and was mining the couch cushions for subway change between paydays. The ingredients were inexpensive, and I could buy most of them at the local food co-op. It also made for a filling meal that was a heck of a lot better and healthier than the (then) five-for-a-dollar prepackaged ramen noodles my roommates stocked up on. I’ve embellished on the original a bit since those days, but it’s still the same basic recipe.

Since I started writing, I’ve discovered that soup is more than a warm, humble bowl. Prepping all those root vegetables is good exercise after being at the keyboard most of the day, and I get into a kind of meditative rhythm if I want to keep that story going in head. Having leftovers around is a nice bonus when I’m on a good run and don’t want to cook. It also makes the house smell wonderful. Just don’t put the pot up to simmer and then disappear for hours into your writing room, unless you want to meet the local firefighters. Trust me. I did, and I have. They were not amused.

This recipe makes for a really big pot. If you want to make less, just cut the ingredients in half. This hearty soup is good with cornbread or biscuits, and extra yummy sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese before serving.


Olive oil and a smidge of butter

The intriguing cover of "Drawing Breath."

2 or 3 carrots, peeled

2 stalks of celery

2 white potatoes, peeled

1 large sweet potato, peeled

1 large onion

2 or 3 large cloves of garlic, minced (more or less to taste)

1-½ cups of dried lentils

10 cups of water

2 cans of condensed cream of mushroom soup*

Oregano to taste

Basil to taste

3-4 bay leaves

Red pepper flakes to taste

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Rinse and drain lentils; set aside.
  2. Chop all the vegetables into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Heat olive oil/butter at the bottom of a large soup pot (6-8 quarts); sauté onion, garlic, and celery until soft.
  4. Turn down the heat. Add canned soup, water, and lentils. Stir to combine.
  5. Add potatoes and carrots. Bring soup to a boil, then lower heat, add spices, cover and simmer for about an hour, stirring once in a while so it doesn’t stick.
  6. Using a potato masher or immersion blender, puree some of the vegetables in the pot (how chunky you want to leave it is up to you.) Adjust spices to taste, and then simmer another half-hour.


* Try to use canned soup with low sodium and no MSG. If you prefer not to use cans, add some chopped fresh mushrooms when you sauté the garlic, onions, and celery, add one more white potato and a cup of milk or cream instead of one of the cups of water. (Add milk or cream toward end of cooking.)

You can learn more about Laurie and her books at the following links:



Authors Eat…

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Living a dream.


The Culture and Cuisine Club is thrilled to feature author and jill-of-all-trades Carolyn Steele. Carolyn is the author of the excellent memoirs “A Year on Planet Alzheimer: and a little longer in Canada” and “Trucking in English”, and short articles in two anthologies.These books provide a window into who Carolyn is, and illustrate the zest with which she approaches life. Life can be heartbreaking as well as hilarious, and Carolyn’s ability to sum it all up has won her a legion of fans. Be sure to check out the links below to connect with Carolyn and purchase her books. But first, a little story from the author…

Rocky ‘n Ken’s Food Fight Onion Pakoras

My significant other and I both love to cook. Unfortunately, we each have idiosyncratic food rules which rarely agree. He puts carrots in everything and refuses to use garlic except in the rarest of specified dishes. I like my garlic but eschew cooked carrots under all but exceptional circumstances. He insists on seasoning at the end of cooking, I maintain that seasoning needs time to work. The list of conflicts seems endless, but it’s made us inventive in reaching compromises.

This pakora recipe began as a difference of opinion regarding vegetarian food. Ken believes that all meals must contain meat and I tend to find veggies more interesting and can happily live without meat. So what do you serve at a party which will be attended by a lot of beer-swilling macho men—all priding themselves on their cave-man eating tendencies—and a couple of vegetarians? The answer began as we watched an episode of the UK TV program River Cottage. This long-running show features Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (and presumably a bunch of staff) working out how to become as self-sufficient as possible, growing and producing ingredients and cooking seasonal, locally-sourced recipes.

The challenge for the episode we watched was to convert diners at a local pub to the idea that vegetarian food was just as good as steak and chips. Working on the principle that Brits view Indian food as macho anyway, regardless of the content, the wonderful Hugh served vegetable pakoras as a starter. They went down well and we scrambled online during the show to write down the recipe. We gave them a try as a possible solution to our party dilemma. The little spicy veggie dumplings were scrumptious, but we decided to experiment a bit. The original recipe made two types, corn and cauliflower, dividing the batter between two bowls. We found the cauliflower version dry and lacking in flavor, although the corn ones were lovely. So, the next time, we did the bowl-dividing thing but made the second option with a mix of onions instead. They were so much nicer than either of the other recipes! Now we prepare one sort, a big mix of different onions. Sometimes, if fresh corn is in season, we’ll mix a few nubs in for a pop of sweetness. And one bowl of goo does simplify the preparation.

By the way, the party was a great success and nobody noticed that these pakoras, made with chickpea flour, are also completely gluten free! They freeze well and make a comfortingly filling and special contribution to a pot-luck that everyone can eat, regardless of most intolerances. Another happy compromise.

We are planning a food blog called Rocky and Ken’s Food Fight that will feature a disagreement about a recipe and how we resolve our disagreement. Stay tuned.


Onion Pakoras

For the batter

  • 250g gram flour (chickpea flour, if it`s not in the specialty aisle of your usual supermarket try an       Asian grocery store)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 heaped tsp ground cumin
  • 2 heaped tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/3 tsp cayenne
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 250ml cold water

For the filling

  • 2 medium or one large white onion, quartered and sliced
  • 2 medium or one large red onion, quartered and sliced
  • Half a dozen shallots, sliced
  • Half a dozen spring (salad) onions, sliced
  • 1-2 fresh chillies, chopped (if you like, any colour, any heat, just depends whether you want a bit more kick or not)
  • Niblets from a fresh corn cob, again, if you like.

For cooking and serving

  • Sunflower or other relatively taste-free oil for frying
  • 300 mls plain/natural yogurt
  • Fresh or dried mint (bit of both is nice)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Handful of fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)


 Slice all the onions, chillies etc and mix well in a large bowl. Set aside. Mix the yogurt and mint (if using fresh mint, finely slice the leaves) and season with the salt and pepper. Cover and set aside in the fridge for the flavours to mix.

  1. Put all the dry batter ingredients into a bowl and whisk a little to remove any lumps and mingle the spices.
  2. Begin heating the oil in a large frying pan.
  3. Continue whisking the flour and spices as you add the cold water.
  4. When the batter is smooth, fold in the onion mixture. (You may have sliced too much, you want enough batter to hold the onions together; any leftover onions are the start of a great stir fry.)
  5. When the oil is hot, put tablespoonfuls of the batter in to fry and turn them when golden. They’ll need 2-3 minutes on each side.
  6. Drain on kitchen paper.
  7. Sprinkle with sliced cilantro (coriander) to serve, with a bowl of the yogurt raita for dipping, and mango chutney if you like. If you are feeding he-men, add lime pickle on the side too, then they can add more heat to your carefully nuanced spices.
  8. Freeze any leftovers, they reheat well from frozen in a medium oven. You’ll find them slightly crumblier but still excellent.

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