Cooking The Books – Cathryn Hein

Chef with cookbookReading a fabulous book while having a cup of tea and a slice of delicious home-baked cake is surely one of life’s great pleasures. Today I’m delighted to welcome Cathryn Hein, legendary foodie and the author of gorgeous, heart-warming rural romances. She’s got a terrific recipe that’s just perfect for this colder weather and is all kinds of retro and comforting and just plain yummy. I’m dying to try this date and walnut slice with a lovely cup of Darjeeling. Take it away, Cathryn!

Hi everyone. I was thrilled when Louise invited me on Cooking the Books. Any excuse to talk about my favourite subject!

Being a bit of a cooking nut, it’s so hard not to turn all my heroines into mini-Masterchefs. I would love to feature them whizzing about immaculate kitchens, whipping up truffle-scented soufflés and striking glamorous Nigella poses. But my heroines are country practical sorts, who don’t have time for kitchen fanciness. That doesn’t mean they can’t cook though. Oh, no no! They have the skills. They have the determination. They have an appreciation of food as sustenance for the body, soul and senses. They simply have far better things to do than indulge my foodie fantasies.Cathryn Hein Author Photo

The heroine of Heartland, Callie Reynolds, certainly does. She has a house to pack up, a warty horse to re-home, and a mad, extremely territorial goose to sort out. Since the death of her sister, Callie has run from those who care for her, but the passing of her beloved grandmother has brought her back to Glenmore, the property she’s always loved. It’s also a place filled with memories. Memories that eat at her determination to get in, clean up and get out, and leave her torn between what her heart aches for and the powerful need to honour her sister’s memory.

Among Callie’s precious finds at Glenmore is her grandmother’s recipe book and it’s almost without thinking that she makes one of her and her sister Hope’s favourite treats: a date slice.

Here’s a snippet from Heartland where it features. One of Callie’s later attempts suffers death by horse, but you’ll have to read that bit of fun for yourself!

Heartland_cvr_640x480 Pulling off his cap, Matt followed her inside, expecting to find a room filled with bags and boxes. Instead he found a neat kitchen, its floor swept and the sink and benches tidy. The china cabinet sported knick-knacks on doilies. A roster printed on Royal Hotel letterhead was pinned to the fridge front with faded plastic alphabet magnets. An old cake rack with some kind of slice cooling on top rested on the stove, while the kitchen table sported an open laptop, a notebook filled with Callie’s loopy writing at its side.

He glanced at her but she seemed oblivious to his scrutiny, too busy fetching glasses and a jug of water from the fridge.

‘Take a seat,’ she said, handing him a moisture-beaded glass. ‘Hungry? I made a slice. Nanna’s recipe.’

‘Sure, thanks.’ He pulled out a chair, noticing a cardboard box that had been hidden from view by the laptop’s screen. A blue ribbon lay bundled in the top. He reached out but before he could touch it Callie plucked up the box and moved it to the top of the china cabinet. Nothing about her expression suggested anything other than a person tidying for her guest, but he sensed the rebuke anyway. Whatever the box held, it wasn’t for him to see.

He drank his water, watching her closely as she cut two fat pieces from the slice and placed each on a plate.

‘Date slice,’ she said, sliding the plate in front of him. ‘It used to be our favourite.’


‘Mine and Hope’s.’ She avoided his eye, staring out the window as she rubbed at her tattooed wrist. ‘I’d forgotten about it until I saw the recipe in Nanna’s book.’

The way she looked made Matt wanted to touch her again. Instead he took a bite, mouth filling with moist crumbs, the flavour sweet, spicy and moreish. ‘It’s good.’

Callie smiled and took a sip of water before picking up and biting into her own piece. Her eyebrows lifted. ‘It’s not bad, is it? Not as good as Nanna’s, but nothing to be ashamed of.’

‘Definitely nothing to be ashamed of.’ Matt finished his slice to prove it.

And so I give you not quite Callie’s date slice, but a delicious heirloom loaf nonetheless. Sweet, sticky, nutty and seriously good. This is a Hein household favourite.


50g butter

150g dark brown sugar

250ml water

Generous pinch salt

250g pitted dates

1 teaspoon bicarb soda

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 egg, lightly beaten

300g self-raising flour

100g walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease and line a 23x13cm loaf tin.

Place the butter, sugar, salt, water, and dates in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and immediately add the bicarb soda and stir. Beware: the hot mixture will bubble up, possibly overflow if your saucepan isn’t big enough, and turn you into a kitchen crankypants. So choose wisely!

Allow mixture to cool until room temperature, then fold in vanilla, egg, flour and walnuts. Spoon into loaf tin and smooth top.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Keep an eye on the cake as sometimes the outside can burn before the centre is cooked and a reduction in temperature may be necessary. It really depends on your oven.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely, then slice, eat and smile!

So what recipe triggers fond memories for you? I have a thing about my grandmother’s scones and wonderful afternoons spent in her kitchen, learning to cook delicious country fare. The scent of baking scones will forever remind me of her. That, and her inimitable rabbit stew!

Heartland is available now from all good book retailers, or online from Booktopia. You can also find the ebook at Amazon (for Kindle), KoboBooks and iTunes.

If you’d like to learn more about me and my books, including excerpts and the story behind each of my novels, please visit my website. You can also connect via my blog, Facebook and Twitter.


A powerful, passionate and moving rural love story from Cathryn Hein,

author of Promises and Heart of the Valley.

When Callie Reynolds arrives at Glenmore, the property she’s recently inherited, the last thing she wants is to be saddled with a warty horse, an injured neighbour and a mad goose. Haunted by her sister’s death and her fractured family, all she wants is freedom.

But Callie hasn’t counted on falling for Matt Hawkins, an ex-soldier determined to fulfil his own dream of land and family. Nor could she predict the way the land, animals and people of Glenmore will capture her heart.

Callie is faced with impossible choices. But she must find the courage to decide where her future lies, even if it costs her everything she holds dear.


20 comments on “Cooking The Books – Cathryn Hein

  1. Rabbit stew – yum. It was only thing my mother ever cooked well when we were growing up. (The rabbitoh came around every week – a shilling a rabbit.)
    ‘Heartland’ is already loaded on the Kindle and ready to be enjoyed in NT and the Kimberley in a couple of weeks. Thanks, Lou and Cathryn, for another really enjoyable post.

    • I LOVE rabbit stew. Went to Neil Perry’s new Rosetta restaurant at Crown in Melbourne before we left and had the rabbit stew there, and it was just like Nanny’s… except without the shotgun pellets. Not sure if Mr Neil would enjoy that comparison but we did!

      Wishing you a WONDERFUL trip, Christine.

  2. Hi Cathryn,
    I LOVE the smell of lasagna baking in the oven. I also love the smell of baked bread, but I haven’t made any in years. Your book sounds great. Another one on my TBR pile 🙂 Thanks for the date slice recipe.

    Thanks for having Cathryn as your guest, Louise.

  3. Hi Cathryn and Louise!

    I love the smell of roasting lamb in the oven…ohhhh! Thanks for sharing this date slice recipe. And your book sounds great!

    • Oh, I’m with you, Nas. Roasts are so evocative, especially lamb. We roasted a leg last week on the Weber. Scary amount of fat in the tray afterwards, but it tasted fantastic!

  4. That recipe looks delicious! I’m with Nas — the smell of roast lamb (or roast chicken) in the oven definitely gets my taste buds going. Ooh, I’m hungry now just thinking about it!! LOL

    • That’s the trouble with these foodie themed posts, Emmie. they always make me hungry! And it just so happens I have some of that date and walnut loaf in the freezer…

  5. Hi Cathryn and Louise, lovely post!!! Heartland sounds wonderful as does that date slice.

    Unfortunately my mother can’t cook (sardine stir-fry, lots of boiled cabbage, Spaghetti Bolognese featuring amongst other things huge chunks of carrot, sultanas, curry powder – you get the picture) and she passed on all her lack of cooking skills onto her daughter!! But she could cook this amazing apricot bread – I still dream about it.

    • Ha ha! Your mum sounds like mine, Jenn. It was my grandmother who taught me to cook and thank goodness she did! Mum used to make a spaghetti version rather similar to your Mum’s, except she called it “goulash”. I have no idea how she managed to give a mix of mince, curry powder, sultanas, assorted veges and tinned spaghetti the title of goulash but she did! Fortunately, like your mum with the apricot bread, she could whip up an awesome pavlova.

  6. Oh, I love datey things, I am fascinated by the idea of a warty horse and sympathise re the goose as all my experiences with geese have been terrifying! Will have to read this one!

  7. Hi Louise! Hi Cathryn! Two of my fave people together in one place. Why aren’t I there? Why aren’t I eating date slice???!!! Cathryn, that sounds delicious. My mum was a majorly wonderful plain cook. I still miss her wonderful roasts. I’m pretty good at roast lamb but I’ve never been able to do a beef roast as well as she did. Yum. Mouth watering remembering how succulent that meat was and she did wonderful rich gravy (we used to joke and call it blancmange!) and beautiful crisp potatoes and then something fresh and green. The best fresh and green were beans or peas straight from the garden when we lived on the farm. Oh, dear, major nostalgia attack happening here this morning!

    By the way, warty horse? I guess I’ll find out when I read Heartland, which isn’t far away! Yay!

    • Oh, thanks Romance Queen, now I have a severe roast beef craving. Will be visiting the village butcher today too on the hunt for some beef cheeks (beef cheeks in Oloroso sherry – divine!) and will have to see what he has that I can roast. Any excuse to have Yorkshire pudding!

      The warty horse is ugly but sweet. Honk on the other hand is nasty! Hope you have fun with Heartland.

    • You’ll have to make yourself a loaf, Ebony. It really is a lovely recipe but I love nutty datey things. Actually I just love home-made old fashioned cakes.

      Horses do get warts, poor things. Not very pretty!

    • Oh, Margaret, I know all about alarming TBR piles. I bought three books last week with no idea when I’ll get around to reading them. I just can’t help myself!

      Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment.

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