Cooking the Books – Alissa Callen

Chef with cookbookThis week’s guest is debut author, Alissa Callen, who shares a heartwarming story about using food in a very unusual and creative way. Her recipes took me straight back to childhood and the simple pleasure to be had from cramming one’s mouth full of things almost totally comprised of sugar and butter.

Not only is Alissa a talented writer with – wait for it – two releases out simultaneously (see the bottom of the post), but she’s an especially nice person. Welcome, Alissa!

imageThanks so much Louise for having me on your scrumptious blog. What Love Sounds Like is a story filled with self-discovery, romance and sugar-loaded foods starting with the sound ‘c’. Mia Windsor, an outback speech pathologist, uses food as a fun way for orphaned four-year-old Tilly to practice her clear ‘c’ talking. Whether it be eating pop corn to discover where the back of the throat ‘c’ sound comes from or using fruit loops to make the sound correctly, food is a vital ingredient of Tilly’s speech therapy. But in What Love Sounds Like food also serves a symbolic purpose.


Photo – Gabrielle Battiestel

Corporate-cynic, Kade Reid adheres to a single edict, money is as important as breathing. To a man denied a childhood, who had share portfolios instead of toys, food is purely for sustenance and not to be savoured. When he enters the drawing room of historic Berrilea and sees his ward, Tilly, dressed in a mini chef’s hat and apron ready for her first speech therapy lesson he is far from happy. But slowly he is drawn into Mia and Tilly’s world of popcorn, ice-cream and chocolate chip cookies. When he brings home gelato from a Sydney business trip and initiates a picnic by the river, the tubs of gelato symbolize that he is embracing his feelings as well as his taste-buds.

Food is also symbolic for Mia Windsor. It is through food that she communicates the emotions that she refuses to acknowledge. To protect against abandonment she shrink-wraps herself in professionalism and stifles all yearnings for love or a family. But through cooking with Tilly and making Kade the birthday cake he’d never had, Mia reveals she is far from detached.

So, food, on all levels, is an integral component of What Love Sounds Like. Food helps Tilly master the ‘c’ sound. Food links Kade to the childhood he’d never had. And for Mia, food proves that beneath her crisp professionalism she’s as sweet as the caramel popcorn an unimpressed Kade must try.

Now for the yummy part … recipes of the sugary delights that appear in What Love Sounds Like.

Ⓒ Agg - Dreamstime Stock Photos

Ⓒ Agg – Dreamstime Stock Photos

Caramel Popcorn


Popped corn (in machine, microwave or saucepan)

75g butter

½ cup caster sugar

1 ½ cup golden syrup

2 tsp hundreds and thousands sprinkles (optional)


Grease a cooking tray and spread out cooked popcorn.

On stove heat butter, sugar and golden syrup until smooth, then boil for 5 mins without stirring.

Pour over popcorn and carefully turn popcorn to coat evenly. Sprinkle with sprinkles and allow to cool. Break into chunks.

Ⓒ ljansempoi - Dreamstime Stock Photos

Ⓒ ljansempoi – Dreamstime Stock Photos

Ice cream


200 ml condensed milk

500 ml thickened cream

1 tsp vanilla

Treats – sprinkles, lollies, crushed up chocolate biscuits etc or pieces of fruit.


Combine all ingredients in a bowl and beat with an electric beater until thick and stiff. Stir through any treats or fruit. Put into container, cover with cling firm and freeze until solid.


Ⓒ Cenorman - Dreamstime Stock Photos

Ⓒ Cenorman – Dreamstime Stock Photos

Lemonade Scones


4 cups self raising flour

300 ml cream

1 can (375ml) lemonade

sultanas (optional)


Gently mix all ingredients until just combined. Can roll out on floured board and cut out or just spoon onto greased cooking tray in clumps.

Cook in 225 degrees C oven (205 for fan-forced) until pale golden. Enjoy.

Thank you, Alissa. Mia sounds just gorgeous and I can’t wait to read What Love Sounds Like.

What Love Sounds Like is available from Escape Publishing

image-1Beneath Outback Skies is available from Random House as a launch title from their Random Romance list.

And Alissa Callen can be contacted via her website or face book . (

Cooking The Books – Jennifer St George

Chef with cookbook

Today’s guest is the lovely Jennifer St George and her latest book for Destiny Romance, Seducing The Secret Heiress, is a fabulous sexy read with a whole lot of food fun thrown in. Take it away Jennifer!   JSG

Louise, thanks so much for hosting me today.  Your food-themed blog series couldn’t be a better match for my recent release, Seducing the Secret Heiress.  The story is set around a reality TV cooking show. The contestants have to cook meals for first-class airline passengers who, along with professional chefs and the general public, cast their votes each week from 30,000 feet. The concept was inspired by MasterChef but with a twist.

My Australian heroine, Charlie, cooks up some interesting dishes towards the end of the book including Accidental Liar’s Terrine which features ingredients including Ignorant Little Rich Girl Minced Chicken, Billionaire Mixed Herbs and Cheating Fiancé Vinegar!

Seducing the Secret Heiress CoverI was inspired to write about a reality TV Show as I took part in the Australian version of Dragon’s Den. Just the harsh spotlights alone are enough to raise your heart rate.  Add judges, camera close-ups and a Director and the experience is really very intense, but exhilarating at the same time. I thought this pressure-cooker environment would make good fodder for a sexy romance.

I like cooking, but I’m not very good at it. This might have something to do with the fact that I never measure anything. I’ve been to cooking classes with some great chefs including Ben O’Donoghue and Steven Snow but their fabulous talent just hasn’t rubbed off on me. Sad but true. My ‘whizz in the kitchen’ sister-in-law always despairs when she comes into my kitchen.  I don’t have any measuring cups, sharp knives or a cupboard full of staple ingredients. Strangely, she doesn’t seem to think a shelf full of the cookbooks with pretty pictures compensates for this.

So, it was great fun writing a character who could turn the simplest meal into an understated extravaganza. Charlie possesses a natural flair for flavours and presentation. Even though my story is predominately set in London, Charlie differentiates her cooking by using Australian ingredients including macadamia nuts and Barramundi. She never burns anything.

But the food doesn’t always stay on the plate! The story also features a sexy food fight which is one of my favourite scenes in developing the passion between Charlie and gorgeous hero, Gabe.

I may not be a very good cook, but I do have a talent for eating out. I love everything from romantic candle-lit dinners in Michelin Star restaurants to a trip to the local curry house.  As long as I’m not cooking, I know the meal will be delicious.  And for a girl who can’t cook, I do seem to have collected an over-abundance of cooking magazines.  You can barely walk through our living room without knocking over a stack of Delicious or Donna Hay magazines.  I can name what’s in season, it’s just I’m likely to burn it if it comes near my stove.

I love the way food brings people together, but in our house, this is more likely to happen over a Thai takeaway.

Here’s a taste of what Jennifer’s book has in store:

Diamond heiress, Charlotte Wentworth, is passionate about two things – cooking and her billionaire fiancée, Paul.  That is, until she finds Paul has been unfaithful. Shocked, she flees to Europe where she is determined to build a life of her own without her family’s name, fortune or connections.  When she meets gorgeous Englishman, Gabe Grenville, a famous reality TV producer, sparks fly. Charlotte passes herself off as a lowly catering assistant but soon finds herself a star on his TV cooking show. But how will he react when he discovers Charlotte’s true identity? And Paul has not given up – he has his own agenda for forcing Charlotte to return to Australia and marry him.

Will their love turn into a recipe for disaster? Or will it turn out to be a perfect concoction?

You can find Jennifer here:

Website           Facebook       Twitter

Seducing The Secret Heiress is available from:




Destiny Romance


Cooking The Books – Surprising Combinations

Chef with cookbook

Welcome to the first post in “Cooking The Books”. Every Wednesday writers and friends will be dropping in to share the food in their books or in the books they love.

Before my guests arrive, I’ve decided to kick it off with Her Italian Aristocrat, my recent release with Destiny Romance.

I love reading books with food in them. And food turns up a lot in the books I write. Not just the passing mention of a meal consumed but often mouth-watering detail as to what the meal consists of and the care that went into its preparation. And food is a helpful assistant in conveying the unique qualities of a book’s setting: Po’boys? The deep south. Crab cakes? Maryland. A pie and a coldie? Australia.

When I visited the hill town of Macerata in the Italian Marche, the first meal I ate was Vitello Tonnato. It had been on my culinary bucket list for ages. Thin slices of veal are smothered in a creamy sauce of mayonnaise, tuna, anchovy and capers and eaten cold. Since it was high summer and extremely hot, Vitello Tonnato was perfect.

While writing Her Italian Aristocrat, also set in a hill town in the Marche, I was casting around for a dish that could be the specialty of a local restaurant and I picked Vitello Tonnato. In retrospect, this dish resonates perfectly with my hero and heroine. When I think veal I think prosciutto, sage, breadcrumbs, anything in fact before an unusual marriage of beef, tuna and anchovy. So too, Luca and Gemma are, at first sight, a surprising combination. He’s a wealthy aristocrat, scion of an ancient family and Gemma is…well, that would be telling.

Early in the book, Luca entertains Gemma to a meal in his ancestral home, where each tries to outwit the other in gaining the attention of their elderly dinner partner, the owner of the local shoe factory:

Dinner was to be served in a small, intimate salon instead of the vast dining room, and when they entered the candlelit room Gemma gave a surprised cry of pleasure. The table was set with fine linen and antique faience plates, and the Andretti crystal and silverware sparkled in the candlelight. It pleased Luca that she admired his home and he glanced around the room with renewed pleasure.

They took their places around the table, Gemma to his right where she was just close enough for her alluring fragrance to tantalise him. He poured wine from the decanter into her glass, then filled Marco’s and his own.

The pasta course arrived, borne by Bruno, his flat feet in their carpet slippers slapping against the flagged floor. He served a small portion onto each plate and withdrew. Luca shifted on his chair and focused on Gemma. Now was the moment.

‘You and Marco share a similar interest,’ he began.

Gemma stopped mid-twirl, her fork wound with pasta, while she looked from Luca to Marco and back again. Marco, his mouth already filled with spaghetti, raised his eyebrows in enquiry.

‘Shoes,’ Luca announced.

Marco harrumphed good-naturedly as Gemma continued to watch Luca.

Luca turned to her, allowing a thread of triumph to enter his voice. She would be revealed and Marco forewarned of the fate awaiting his company. In typical Italian fashion, there was no reason this couldn’t be achieved around a good table. Deeply satisfied, Luca’s smile broadened.

‘Marco is the owner, with his two grandsons, of Brunelli of Montefigore. You recall I told you about them this morning?’

The old man swallowed and wiped his lips with the linen napkin. ‘All women love shoes, Luca. Are you stupido? Every woman in the world has an interest in common with me.’ He turned to Gemma. ‘The business has been in my family for generations. We are renowned the world over for the quality of our shoes. Perhaps you have even heard of us?’

‘Believe me, Marco, she’s heard of you.’ Anger speared through Luca as he glared at Gemma, challenging her to deny it. She sat, her hair shimmering in the candlelight and her bright eyes wide, the picture of wounded innocence. Surely Marco wasn’t being hoodwinked by her charm? So close. Any moment now Gemma would have to disclose the real reason she was in Montefigore.

Her steady gaze locked on him. He didn’t trust that small smile playing about her mouth but Dio, he wanted to kiss those lips. Had he taken leave of his senses?

Gemma turned to Marco and her smile widened. ‘Of course I’ve heard of Brunelli Shoes. I’m wearing a pair right now.’ She swivelled around in her chair and stretched out a slender leg encased in silky stockings. Luca swallowed hard, his mouth suddenly dry as she arched her foot, lazily admiring the blue ankle-strap stilettos. His fork clattered onto his plate. She had more tricks than a second-hand car dealer.

Vitello Tonnato

Having made myself mightily hungry while writing this book I decided to make vitello tonnato at home. I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful Italian butcher in my local shopping strip in North Carlton, the heartland of Italian migration in Melbourne. They’re the real deal. A shop full of often cantankerous but helpful Italian blokes who make their own sausages, cut the meat how you want it (leave the fat on please) and love to know how you’re going to prepare it. It wasn’t quite as delicious as that beautiful meal accompanied by a couple of glasses of cold verdicchio and eaten under blisteringly blue Italian sky. But I hope I’ve captured that feeling in Her Italian Aristocrat.

From next week the guests at my table will be a wonderful mix of writers. We’d love to have you join us.


Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013


I’m not sure how I missed this last year. Maybe I had my head in the sand, working away at my own projects.

But this year I want in. The AWWC is a fabulous initiative to bring the work of Australian women writers to the fore. Even the Huffington Post is sitting up and taking notice.

I’ve signed up for the ‘Miles’ level which means I’ve committed to reading 6 books by Australian women authors. But because I read a heap of romance by Australian authors and it would be dead easy for me to read 6, I’ve created a few criteria:

*  I don’t know the author

*  I don’t normally read the genre (if it’s genre fiction)

*  It’s not romance

*  My selection will include a non-fiction work

I’m excited about finding writers outside my normal interests. Will you join me in the challenge?


Cooking The Books – A weekly stirfry of cooking and writing


They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach so is it any wonder that when we write about love we often write about food as well? At its most elemental, the provision of food demonstrates that we can nurture and sustain, qualities we also look for in a partner.

But it goes beyond that. Survival is one thing but cooking – applying heat and natural salts and acids to raw ingredients and combining them to create a meal – is about love and friendship, sharing and creativity.

I’m going to be dedicating Wednesdays on my blog to Cooking The Books. I want to explore the books I love and the food in them.

But like a big, old-fashioned progressive dinner, I don’t want to do it alone.

I’d love you to contribute by talking about the food in your latest book. Is it an Arabian desert repast served by men in funny trousers or a Regency banquet served by, well, men in funny trousers?

The books don’t need to be traditional romances. Who could forget the stunning meal in Isak Dinesen’s Babette’s Feast and the electrifying effect it had on isolated people starved of love and good food?

Off the top of my head, I’m thinking classic Nora Roberts. In Born In Ice, Brianna cooked up a storm in her Irish b&b and captured the heart of writer Grayson. In Dance On Air, Nell’s muffins and cinnamon rolls had Sheriff Zachary Todd on her doorstep every day. And who can forget the gorgeous Cameron Quinn falling for fiery Anna and her Italian red sauce in the Chesapeake Bay series?

And another of my favourites, Shirley Jump’s The Bachelor Preferred Pastry even provides cheekily named recipes as chapter headings.

So what about you? I’m going to kick it off on Tuesday 16th January by talking about a dish featured in Her Italian Aristocrat. But I’d love you to apron up, grab a whisk (or pen) and tell me about the food in your latest book or in a book you love. If you want to supply a recipe, so much the better.

Please contact me to book a spot on Cooking The Books.

Bon appétit and happy reading!