Cooking The Books – Leisl Leighton

Chef with cookbookToday it’s my pleasure to welcome fellow Destiny Romance author,  Leisl Leighton. Leisl’s debut romantic suspense Killing Me Softly was released this month. Not only is it a gripping read but it features one of the most haunting covers I’ve seen for a long time. Very spooky!

Leisl has an interesting background in the arts which makes her well-placed to talk about food. So welcome Leisl!


It’s exciting to be here on Cooking the Books among such talented Australian authors. Thanks for having me, Louise.Leisl Headshot tweet

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading about how the other authors featured here feel about the food in their books. Their reasons for using various foods their characters eat, share and bond over, shows that the purpose of food in our society is for more than just fueling our bodies. Having worked in hospitality for many years and running my own Theatre Restaurant for six years, I completely understand the value of good food being an essential part of the way people relate to each other and I try to include some of that dynamic into my books.

Whether we can cook or not, food fascinates us. You just have to turn on the TV or do a search on Google to see the truth of this. We celebrate over food, commiserate over food, get to know people over food. It is the common denominator that ties us together – we all have to eat. But it is more than this. There is nothing so miserable as a person sitting at home or in a restaurant, eating by themselves. Even if they are enjoying the finest meal they’ve ever eaten, if there is nobody to share it with, it isn’t quite as special. In my novel, Killing Me Softly, Lexi has been in that awful position for the last ten years of eating mostly by herself. She has lost her mum and dad, her twin sister is catatonic and lives in an asylum and she travels too much to build friendships. She is alone and apart and food is nothing but sustenance.

KillingMeSoftly_coverBut now that has changed. She has built a home for herself and has hired a husband and wife team, Bev and Karl, to help her run her farm and look after her sister when she brings her home from the asylum. Bev is a wonderful country cook and for the first time since she lost her mum and dad, Lexi has someone cooking for her, someone to cook for, someone to eat with, talk about the day’s events with, friendships to grow. And suddenly food is something she looks forward to. The value of bonding and building relationships and not being alone anymore, makes everything taste so much better. And it is something she can fall back on when dealing with Daemon, the rock star she has agreed to work with.

Sharing a plate of her favourite biscuits with coffee and tea, allows Lexi to feel comfortable enough to open up and talk to Daemon and he with her. In fact, many of their best conversations happen when they are sharing one of Bev’s sought after slices or muffins. In talking about their enjoyment of the food, it opens them up and allows them to connect on a deeper, more satisfying, level. Even amid the danger of the stalker who is after Lexi, and the tumult of putting together an album and dealing with Lexi’s twin, sharing their worries over family meals helps them cope with the stress of everything going on.

One of Lexi and Daemon’s first conversations is held as they share Bev’s fruit mince slice. I found an easy recipe at that was pretty similar to what a friend of mine used to make at Christmas time. Enjoy with a friend or loved one over a cup of tea or coffee.

 Killing Me Softly

Reclusive record producer, Alexia Deningham, guards her privacy fiercely. When she agrees to work with superstar Daemon Flagherty, and his band, it is only on the condition that they stay with her at her isolated country estate.

Fresh from a messy divorce, Daemon is determined to focus on his music. He wants to work with the best and that means Lexi. He certainly isn’t looking for romance, but he finds himself intrigued by Lexi’s secretive behavior.

Despite Lexi’s reservations, their attraction grows.  But someone is watching Lexi. Someone who will stop at nothing to destroy the woman who has ruined his life. When his campaign of terror ratchets out of control, Lexi must fight for survival but who can she really trust?

You can buy Killing Me Softly at -:



Angus & Robertson-: and at the iTunes, iBook store.

About the Author.

Leisl is a tall red head with an overly large imagination. As a child, she identified strongly with Anne of Green Gables. A voracious reader and a born performer, it came as no surprise to anyone when she did a double major in English Literature and Drama for her BA, then went on to a career as an actor, singer and dancer, as well as script writer, stage manager and musical director for cabaret and theatre restaurants (one of which she co-owned and ran for six years).

After starting a family Leisl stopped performing and instead, began writing the stories that had been plaguing her dreams. Leisl’s stories have won and placed in many competitions in Australia and the US, including the STALI, Golden Opportunities, Heart of the West, Linda Howard Award of Excellence, Touch of Magic and many others.

Leisl lives in the leafy suburbs of Melbourne with her two beautiful boys, lovely hubby, overly spunky dog, Buffy, and likes to spend time with family and friends. She sometimes sings in a choir and works as a swim teacher in her day-to-day job.

Killing Me Softly is Leisl’s first published book.

You can follow Leisl and find out more about her and her books on her website:

Follow her on Twitter @LeislLeighton




Cooking The Books – Jennifer St George

Chef with cookbookIt’s always a pleasure when Jennifer St George visits ‘Cooking The Books’. Jennifer enjoyed a glamorous, high-powered professional life which she has since parlayed into a rewarding life as a romance writer. No surprise, then, that small-town romances with sweet heroines opening bakeries are not her style. Instead, she takes us on exciting journeys to exotic locations like Venice and this time round, Barbados. And always in the company of a drop-dead gorgeous hero. Welcome, Jennifer!

Thanks Lou for having me back on Cooking the Books. I love food, reading about it, eating it (but not so much cooking it!). But it JSGseems that all my books feature food in some way. Probably because I love setting my books in exotic international locations, so it’s fun to research and feature the local dishes.

In my new release, The Love Deception, my hero, Damon Fullbright and heroine, Felicity Carter travel to Barbados in search of evidence that will exonerate Felicity’s father of a crime he didn’t commit. Damon and Felicity eat at a fabulous beachside restaurant. Seafood is a specialty of the region and Felicity enjoys a platter of coconut shrimp followed by Cajun salmon with pesto cream sauce, grilled zucchini and tomato salsa. She doesn’t get time to eat dessert as disaster descends.

My sister-in-law, Lisa is part Jamaican so I was able to quiz her all about Caribbean food.  Fortunately she is also a fabulous cook, so I’ve enjoyed various Caribbean dishes over the years.  Jerk Chicken is one of my favourites.

Lisa grew up in England so it was hard for her to find the chillies she needed for this dish so her family only ate Jerk Chicken on special occasions, but here in Australia she cooks it all the time (lucky me!!). She’s happy to share her recipe:

Jerk Chicken


  • 10-12 chicken thighs
  • 1 bunch of spring onion
  • 1 thimble-sized piece of ginger (chopped)
  • 3 Caribbean red peppers * deseeded (you can use  some seeds of extra heat)
  • 1 tbsp of fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 juice of lime
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp allspice
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

*You can use Habanero chillies instead (nothing milder)


  •  To make the jerk marinade, combine all the ingredients and blend in a food processor. The marinade should be quite thick.  You can taste the mixture at this point to see if you want more chillies/heat.
  •   Slash chicken thighs and cover with marinade. Cover and leave to marinate for at least three hours but best if left overnight in the fridge.
  •   You can BBQ Jerk Chicken or cook it in the oven (BBQ best as the smell is fantastic!!). To BBQ, cook meat on an indirect heat as slowly as you can (30 mins).  To cook in the oven, heat to 180C. Put the chicken pieces in a pan and roast for 45 mins until cooked through.

Serve with rice and peas.

Lisa always recommends wearing kitchen gloves as the chillies are hot and burn like crazy if you get it in or near you eyes! (she’s learnt from painful experience!)

I’d love to hear about fabulous foodie moments you’ve experienced whilst travelling. Some of my most memorable moments include eating sushi for the first time, in Spain (!), buying baguette and cheese and eating next to the Eiffel Tower, forking Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cherry Cake) into my mouth in Koblenz (Germany), eating dulce de leche on freshly baked bread in Montevideo, Uruguay and tasting Korean Kimchi (pickled cabbage) in Seoul and trying hard to pretend I enjoyed it.

The Love Deception coverAbout The Love Deception:

The Love Deception is my third novel with Destiny Romance. It combines legal intrigue, courtroom drama and a dash of exotic Barbados.

When Felicity Carter wakes up naked in a strange bed, she has no idea how she got there. And no recollection of meeting the gorgeous man calmly offering her breakfast. Felicity flees – hoping that their paths never cross again.
The last thing she expects is to discover that her mystery man is Damon Fullbright, partner at the law firm where Felicity has just started work – and her new boss!

Damon is appalled to find the out-of-control young woman he rescued has been hired to work on his team. Apart from anything else, he doesn’t need the distraction of a hot blonde with a barrel-full of issues. But one-by-one, Felicity blows all Damon’s preconceptions out of the water. When Felicity explosively reveals her dreadful secret, will he risk his reputation and trust her to discover the truth?

You can find The Love Deception here:





Find Jennifer at:





The Great Winter Soup Challenge #3 – Cream of Mussel with Celeriac and Saffron

The thing about winter food is, it’s all about tubers and roots. Summer is crisp leaves that hold light drops of oil or dressing but in winter we want a vegetable that will stand up to long, slow cooking and absorb flavour.

Mussel soupTrawling around the market I’m turning my nose up at unseasonable asparagus and unlikely looking globe artichokes. Every fair-dinkum winter vegetable is a root: tender young turnips, swedes, beetroot and Jerusalem artichokes.

My newest crush is celeriac. It’s an ugly beast. Horny and rough and with bulbous protrusions, it has a unique and, to me, gorgeous fragrance. I love to cook it with meatballs in lemon sauce as in Ottolenghi’s recipe, or shave it into matchsticks to make a remoulade to serve with chargrilled steak.

It also makes a great soup and this one is a beauty. From Rick Stein’s French Odyssey cookbook, it’s a creamy mix of celeriac, mussels, saffron and crème fraiche. You can find the recipe here.

This was a lovely soup, equally at home at a dinner party or eaten off laps in front of the fire.


Cooking The Books – Nicole Flockton

Chef with cookbookTexas-based Aussie author Nicole Flockton is my guest today. Nicole writes contemporary romances set in both hospitals and boardrooms and has published with Crimson Romance and Escape Publishing. Her latest release, Rescuing Dawn, is out now with Crimson Romance.Nicole-7502-LR-Color Nicole is generously offering a kindle copy of her book to one lucky commenter. Welcome Nicole!

In “Rescuing Dawn” Dawn has baked a “Double Chocolate Fudge Cake with fresh Raspberry Frosting”. I’m going to be honest here and say that cake was pulled out of my imagination. Now I’m sure there is a recipe for said cake with frosting, but I’ve never made it.

Instead I thought I’d share the recipe of the Chocolate Cake my Grandma used to make. The trick of this cake, according to my brother who always makes it, is to over cook it. Make it so it’s a little crispy on the outside. The best accompaniment to the cake – ice-cream!

CakeSo here it is, my Grandma’s Chocolate Cake recipe. I would love to hear from you if you make it!!

2 cups Self Raising Flour

2 cups caster sugar

1 cup milk

250g butter or marg

4 eggs

4 tbls cocoa

melt butter and place all ingredients into mixer bowl and beat until smoothCake Tony

cook for 35 mins at 170c/340F

Here is a picture of my brother at Christmas with the cake he made, when he and his family visited us in Houston.

He helps save lives, now he wants to save hers.

RescuingDawnCoverDawn Granger has loved and lost and it’s a road she’s not prepared to travel again, that is until her past turns up and has her questioning her resolve.

Andrew Holmes has sailed the globe numerous times, when he almost loses his life, he decides he needs to give something back so he returns home and trains as a paramedic. When he runs into his former sweetheart he is surprised to find an attraction he thought dead come to life. When he sees the sadness in Dawn he knows he will do anything to make her smile again.

Dawn tries to resist Andrew but their past pulls at her in ways she thought long dead. Can she trust a man who’s run out on her once before? Can she risk putting her heart on the line again? Or will it all be taken from her again.

Read an Excerpt

Read Reviews

Buy Links:   Crimson Romance         Amazon

 Amazon UK       iTunes          Kobo


On her very first school report her teacher said ‘Nicole likes to tell her own stories’.

It wasn’t until after the birth of her daughter and after having fun on the community board of that she finally decided to take the plunge and write a book.

The stories she writes are contemporary romances with either a medical setting or in the boardrooms of high powered business. Nicole enjoys taking two characters and creating unique situations for them.

Apart from writing Nicole is busy looking after her very own hero – her wonderfully supportive husband, and her two fabulous kids.

Thanks for your yummy recipe, Nicole! That cake looks super simple to make but really delicious. I also note that your brother has discovered that red wine and chocolate go beautifully together!

To go into the draw for a kindle copy of RESCUING DAWN please leave a comment!

Nicole on the web:


Website      Facebook     Twitter     Author Page

The Great Winter Soup Challenge #2 – Lamb, Anchovy and Pea Broth

The Queen’s Birthday long weekend is, to be frank, not really a time I spend a great deal of time thinking about HM The Queen’s passing years. Downunder, it’s the last gasp holiday weekend before winter well and truly sets in and we don’t see another public holiday until November’s Melbourne Cup.

However I’ve always had a fondness for the QBW because it invariably features crisp, beautifully sunny days and frostily cold evenings. It’s time to get a roaring blaze going and what better than soup as a fireside supper?

Lamb soupThis week’s soup is Lamb, Anchovy and Pea Broth, recipe from Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine. I’ve written before about unlikely combinations that turn out to be marriages made in heaven. The addition of anchovy to lamb dishes is classic and the way a small amount melts into the sauce and provides a deep base note without any fishiness is nothing short of miraculous. This recipe also included endive which adds a bitter note that’s softened by wilting but it still retains great texture. On all fronts this soup was shaping up as perfect cold weather fare.

The magazine food stylists had been hard at work on this one. In the magazine the soup was a deep, glistening bronze. My instinct told me that was never going to happen with un-browned meat. And I was right. In fact it was very disappointing.

Ever the master of brevity, my partner summed it up when he said the soup had a distinct whiff of cat food. I gave him the look and tried a bit harder to pinpoint the problem. Lamb shoulder seems much more lamb-y (dare I say with the scent of lanolin?) than leg or other cuts. And anchovy is, of course, very fishy. Overall there was just too much of it. Everything sat apart in this recipe, the lamb glaring at the anchovy until they finally got together and tried to beat each other to death.

A disappointing 5/10

Cooking The Books – Jenny Brigalow

Chef with cookbookToday we welcome debut Australian author Jenny Brigalow to Cooking The Books. Jenny lives in country Queensland and writes, amongst other things, wonderful rural romance – my current fave! Today she’s sharing a scene and recipe from her debut release A Man For All Seasons. Welcome, Jenny!

Hello everyone and a big thank you to Louise for her hospitality today. Now, I’m not much of a cook, so it is lovely that Seraphim excels in this arena.  Sure, she can muck out a stable, retrain racehorses, and float on air in a dressage test, but Seraphim kicks booty in the kitchen too. I must confess to a degree of envy.Brigalow

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – or so it is said. Still, knowing Chad the way I do, I  think he’d have loved Seraphim even if she couldn’t boil an egg.  But, having said that, I suspect that  Seraphim’s culinary prowess certainly did the relationship no harm. It was a wonderful moment for Chad to discover that the melt-in-the-mouth cherry cheesecake had been made by Seraphim’s own fair hands.  No cheesecake in the Outback. Mostly steak and more steak. And just for a bit of variety, steak and eggs.  And when his cook back home shoots himself in the foot,  it seems that  Seraphim  just might be the answer to several prayers.

And here’s that mouth watering moment:

He grinned at her, unbelievably grateful.  Her kindness, to say nothing of her quick wit, had surprised him. He felt a twinge of guilt. He’d fallen into the age old trap of looking only at the surface. Candy to the eye she might be, but beneath the wrapper a treasure trove of undiscovered goodies lay. She was a good person.

He picked up his cutlet and saluted her.  “Second best,” he said.

He was rewarded with a small smile that washed away the accumulated layers of fatigue and set his hormones on fire.

Walter Driscoll guffawed loudly. “Well said, Old Chap!”

Mercifully, conversation resumed and the moment passed. The remaining meal passed without incident.  By the time they reached desert Chad felt he’d had his fill. But when the pert young maid reappeared bearing a black cherry cheese cake, he decided it would be rude to refuse.

 The first mouthful exploded with tangy flavors. The creamy texture melted like candy floss in his mouth.

He felt, rather than saw, her eyes upon him.

Seraphim leaned forward a little in her seat. “Do you like it?”

 Like it? It was, quite simply, a slice of heaven. His thoughts swung briefly back to the menu back home. He swallowed. “It’s beaut.”

Walter Driscoll piped up. “My daughters not just a pretty face. She cooks like the angel she’s named after. Barry’s a lucky man.”

Seraphim blushed softly. “Don’t be silly Daddy, it’s only cheesecake.”

The blush undid him entirely. She was engagingly modest too. What a women.

Now Seraphim is British born and bred and the cheesecake that Chad samples that first night is one of Nigella’s  recipes. It’s decadent, dreamy, delicious and dead easy to make.


Courtesy of Nigella Lawson

  • 125 grams digestive biscuits
  • 75 grams soft butter
  • 300 grams cream cheese
  • 60 grams icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 250 ml double cream
  • 1 x 284 grams jar black cherry spread (e.g., St Dalfour Rhapsodie de Fruit)


  1. Blitz the biscuits in a food processor until beginning to turn to crumbs, then add the butter and whiz again to make the mixture clump.
  2. Press this mixture into a 20cm springform tin; press a little up the sides to form a slight ridge.
  3. Beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar, vanilla extract and lemon juice in a bowl until smooth.
  4. Lightly whip the double cream, and then fold it into the cream cheese mixture.
  5. Spoon the cheesecake filling on top of the biscuit base and smooth with a spatula. Put it in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight.
  6. When you are ready to serve the cheesecake, unmould it and spread the black cherry over the top.
  7. Additional information – for vegetarians make sure the cream cheese is a brand suitable for vegetarians.

Good food and lashings of love – my  recipe for success.

A Man For All SeasonsA Man For All Seasons

When successful rodeo rider and racehorse trainer Chad Cherub steps off the plane at Heathrow, love is the last thing on his mind. He’s travelled from Australia to do a business deal with the wealthy entrepreneur and racehorse fanatic, Walter Driscoll. However, he soon finds himself distracted by Wally’s gorgeous daughter, Seraphim.

Sweet, spoiled Seraphim, a gifted dressage rider, is also distracted. Engaged to the eminently suitable Barry Wellington-Worth, the arrival of cool, confident Chad forces her to re-examine her life. When she discovers the devastating truth that she does not love Barry, and learns that Chad’s cook has been injured, Seraphim jumps at the chance to take up the position on his remote property and escape the confines of her English life.

In the great dust bowl of the Australian Outback the couple find they have more in common than horses. Their love blooms as they work hard to start a new life together. But Seraphim’s family, and the past, threatens to tear them apart. It is only when the truth is laid bare that the barriers are broken down

Thanks for that delectable recipe and wonderful post, Jenny. You can find out more about Jenny on her website

The Great Winter Soup Challenge #1

A week or so ago we decided we could do with a light supper soup once a week throughout winter. Now, I inhale good soup but I’m easily bored. I like new stuff. And I particularly like hard stuff. I can make stock and consommé and chop and whizz with the best of them.

But I’m attracted to new flavours and combinations. I’m especially attracted (when it comes to soup) to all the fancy stuff that goes with it that turns a simple bowl of soup into an event. I’m talking croutons, dumplings (oh, the variety), spiced oils, chopped herbs, wafer-y things, crispy things and all kinds of stuff that will have me crossing town to buy some exotic ingredient to put on top.

So my challenge for winter is to make a different soup every week for the next 13 weeks.

soupYesterday morning was week one and it wasn’t a good start. I was feeling a little…overindulged, maybe a touch seedy. I certainly didn’t have the inclination to begin with making stock. I needed something to remind me that I’d been out on the razzle-dazzle the night before and I’d better get back to basics. What better vegetable than the humble cauliflower with its creamy white, vaguely prehistoric look to remind me that beauty is in the eye of the beholder? When teamed with leek, onion and milk, it could almost be nursery food, suitable for soothing and nourishing tired children and, more importantly, hungover (let’s not put too fine a point on it) adults.

But it’s deceptive because along comes cream and butter, hand in hand and ready to corrupt. From there it’s a short slide down the slippery calorie slope to frying croutons for the top.

It was unctuous, creamy and deeply satisfying. I’m giving it a 7/10.

So what about you? I’d love to hear about your favourite soup.