Cooking the Books…with Sasha Cottman

Chef with cookbookWelcome back to Cooking the Books, a place where I talk to writers about books and food. Today’s guest is Sasha Cottman, the acclaimed author of the Dukes of Strathmore series. I’m very excited because the third book in the series, The Duke’s Daughter, was released this week and I finally get to read Lucy’s story. Despite Sasha’s entertaining forays into Regency cookery, a favourite which you can see here, she is visiting today with a thoroughly 21st century innovation. Welcome, Sasha!


               SALAD IN A JARsasha cottman author pic

Ok, stay with me on this, I know it sounds all hipster like but this is such a brilliant idea I wish I had invented it, trademarked it and then listed it on the stock exchange. I would have made a fortune and be writing this blog post from my private island instead of my chilly writing room.

I have been trying to eat healthier for a while now and failing miserably. I blame a love for all things crunchy, wine and Lindt chocolate, though not necessarily in that order.

Anyhoo. I was on the internet and came across a Buzzfeed post on low carb healthy food. Salad in a jar was one of the things that got a mention, so I decided to try the idea.

DSC_0370A quick trip to my local bargain store resulted in the purchase of 5 glass jars. At $2.50 each they were a bargain. I thought 250mls was a bit small for a lunch size salad, but I was to be proven wrong. They hold a lot of salad!

I have been taking the salads to work for nearly two weeks now and I’m pleased to say the bathroom scales are starting to show the results. My vegetable intake has also risen considerably. If you buy a lot of the ingredients in the pre-cut and washed packs that will also save you time.

Ingredients for your salad

Well you can pretty much put in the salad whatever you like. Some recipes had red peppers and tomatoes, both of which I don’t eat, but make up the salad jars to suit yourself. I have seen recipes with lentils, mung beans, tofu, fetta, strawberries, cucumber and quinoa.

My Saladingredients


  • Baby kale, chopped
  • Continental parsley, chopped
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Flaked almonds
  • Ricotta cheese. A generous tablespoon per jar.
  • Firm pear (it adds a nice sweetness).
  • Cooked chicken breast pieces. I used about 300gm.
  • Sliced button mushrooms
  • Coleslaw. I have corn and beetroot in my coleslaw but make it anyway you like.
  • A big bag of mixed, washed lettuce leaves. In the end for 5 jars I used about 350gm of leaves.


  • You can make your own dressing or be like me and find a nice simple salad dressing in the supermarket. I frankly don’t have time to spend a whole Sunday afternoon making lunches for the week, and also I don’t think the whole eating healthier lark works if you have to put a huge effort into making meals.One simple dressing you can make is a sesame lemon one.
  • 2tbs tahini,
  • 2tbs lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons of sesame oil.
  • 2tbs rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons of honey. A bit of salt and pepper if that is to your taste.

completed jarsThis will make enough for 4 salad jars. In my recipe I simply used 2tbs of salad dressing I bought in the supermarket.


  • Wash the jars in hot water and let them dry upturned on a clean tea towel.
  • Cut all the ingredients up and have them on a chopping board.
  • Put the salad dressing in the bottom of each jar. This allows it to stay at the bottom or at least not leak out the top if you tip up the jar. The greens should go in later that way they will stay away from the dressing and remain crisp.
  • Next put either the meat or mushrooms on top. They will best absorb the dressing if the jar gets tipped up on your way to work.
  • Then layer the rest of the ingredients, in each of the jars, finishing with a good fistful of the lettuce leaves.
  • As I said the jars will hold a surprising amount of salad. Put the lids on the jars and close them tightly.
  • Refrigerate the salad until you need it. The jars of salad should keep for up to a week in the refrigerator. At work or home, then get a plate or large bowl and turn the salad out of the jar.
  • Enjoy.

Thank you Sasha! Despite how cold it is in Melbourne at the moment, spring is just around the corner and your salad in a jar will be perfect for getting-into-shape for summer. Now let’s check out your gorgeous new release!

The Duke's Daughter Cover (533x800)

When handsome army officer Avery Fox unexpectedly inherits a fortune, he instantly becomes one of the season’s most eligible bachelors. More accustomed to the battlefield, he has no patience with the naive debutantes who fill the ballrooms of London.

Honest and impetuous Lady Lucy Radley is a breath of fresh air, guiding him through the season and helping him to avoid any traps. So when Avery is left with little option but to marry Lucy, he can’t help but feel he’s been manipulated. Nor can he shake the feeling that a duke’s daughter should be out of his reach.

From the wildly beautiful Scottish Highlands to the elegant soirees of Paris, Avery and Lucy go on a journey that is full of surprises for them both.  But will their feelings for each other be strong enough to overcome the circumstances of their marriage and survive the ghosts of Avery’s past?


Letter from a Rake

An Unsuitable Match

The Duke’s Daughter

The Duke’s Daughter is available as an ebook at the following eretailers:


Amazon Australia

Amazon UK





Author Bio:

Born in England, but raised in Australia, Sasha has a love for both countries. Having her heart in two places has created a love for travel, which at last count was to over 55 countries. A travel guide is always on her pile of new books to read.

Her first published novel, Letter from a Rake was a finalist for the 2014 Romantic Book of the Year.

Sasha lives with her husband, teenage daughter and a cat who demands a starring role in the next book. She has found new hiding spots for her secret chocolate stash. On the weekends Sasha loves walking on the beach while trying to deal with her bad knee and current Fitbit obsession.

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

Follow her on Twitter



Cooking The Books – Madeline Ash

Chef with cookbookWelcome to 2015 and another year of Cooking the Books. I’m thrilled to kick the year off with one of my favourite authors. Madeline Ash writes beautifully moving stories wrapped in layers of sparkling humour and sexy times. To die for heroes, wonderful heroines and truly unique stories make her an insta-buy for me. Madeline’s latest release Love & Other Lies is no different. Welcome, Madeline!

MadelineAsh_ProfileThanks for having me today, Louise, it’s wonderful to back on such a delicious blog! I’d love to talk about the subjective nature of taste. It’s fascinating. We all have foods and flavours that we simply won’t go near. I don’t mean by choice, like vegetarians avoiding meats, but because it just tastes foul!


The heroine in my latest book, Abby, has a strong aversion to bananas. She can’t handle the fruit itself or any banana flavoured goodies. Abby is also a compulsive liar. Or, she used to be – she’s reformed at the start of the story.

At one point, when Abby fears she’s lapsed and will have to rebuild her life all over again, her friend (and café owner) dishes her up a banana muffin for breakfast. Her friend is using it as a test.

“Abby drained her latte in a few long swallows. ‘Add to that, I haven’t slept in twenty-four hours. There’s a trigger-happy man with a nail gun inside my skull. My stomach’s an anxious, ravenous mess and you know I hate banana muffins.’

Jenny folded her arms. ‘And if you’d truly reverted to lying, you wouldn’t have reminded me.’”

If she’d lapsed into lying, the full mess of it, Abby probably would have eaten the muffin. Personal preference never had any bearing on what came out of her mouth (or what went in it). Also, since reforming, she only speaks the truth, even if it offends people. And telling someone that you hate the breakfast they’ve given you is a bitch-slap of truth! I loved using her dislike of food to mark her behavior.

As for me, I don’t mind bananas (their texture is another matter). They’re jam-packed with goodness and make pretty delicious muffins when paired with their best friend, chocolate. Today I’d love to share this tasty recipe from a muffin book I often tug from the cupboard when I’ve got friends coming over.

Instead of typing it out, I’ve taken a photo so the stains act as proof of how delicious they must be – made time and time again!

Madeline's Recipe book

I’d love to know about you – are there any foods or flavours that you simply cannot tolerate, even to be polite? As for me, don’t even say seafood!

Thanks, Madeline! I can’t think of a single flavour I don’t like although I find some flavours in unusual carriers very off-putting eg. savoury ice creams – Louise

About Love & Other Lies by Madeline Ash


Love & Other LiesSmall town vet Abby Benson has fled to the country to put her shameful past behind her. She’s just beginning to find her feet again when handsome stranger, Rue Thorn, arrives in town and begins to stir things up. Rue is gorgeous, kind and thoughtful and the two share an instant attraction. But convinced he’ll despise her if he learns about her history, Abby reluctantly keeps him at arm’s length. Determined to win Abby over, Rue tries to reshape himself as the sort of guy he thinks she might be interested in. And for a while it seems his act is working. But when he finds out that Abby has been lying to him, it isn’t long before everything start to unravel … A moving story of trust, forgiveness and the power of love from the author of Uncovered by Love and The Playboy’s Dark Secret.

Find Love & Other Lies on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and GooglePlay.

Visit Madeline’s website, or find her on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

Cooking The Books – Leesa Bow

Chef with cookbookWelcome to Cooking The Books! I’m excited because my guest is good friend and NA author Leesa Bow. You may remember that last time she visited, Leesa shared tips and recipes for cooking for hunky football players. This time she’s done a 180 degree turn and is on an entirely more feminine track. Here’s Leesa!



Cupcakes Make Me SmileLeesa Bow portrait

Thanks for having me on your blog Louise.

Admittedly, I’m a sweet tooth, which doesn’t help my hips or waistline at this time of year. When granted the liberty of cooking anything I like, it would generally lean toward a cake, slice, or some dessert over a savoury meal. Unfortunately it’s a trait I have passed onto my daughters and when the females in the household (there are five of us) are suffering a difficult ‘time of the month’ an awesome sweet dish is baked as a ‘pep me up’ reward.

Valentine cupcakesIn my book, Charming the Outback, Maddy likes to bake cupcakes to help clear her thoughts. Maddy’s signature cupcakes are topped with honeycomb and melted chocolate over chocolate cream icing. Cooking for stress release is about the end product making you smile, and enjoying the sweet reward of your labour. One thing I learned from baking and decorating cupcakes is to ignore the mess, as the dishes pile up quickly, and flour coats everything.

Recently, at my eldest daughter’s baby shower, the baby boy and girl themed cupcakes were a hit! Topped with little baby footprints, the pink and blue cupcakes put a smile on the guest’s faces.Cupcakes

For me, cupcakes are all about making people smile. Each bite of creamy icing is filled with heavenly yumminess. Not only do they look enticing, they are mouth-watering delicious, and I don’t feel as guilty eating one because they are only bite-sized. Right?

My favourite would have to be red velvet. What is yours?

Leesa Bio:

Leesa is a romance author who writes new adult romance about second chance love. Leesa also likes to writes stories with a sport theme.

Released in September Charming the Outback is the second book in the Player series.

Leesa’s next book Jardine will be released in December.















You can buy Charming the Outback from:

Amazon Aus:



Google Play:




Find Leesa at:




Cooking The Books – Jennifer St George

Chef with cookbookWelcome to Cooking the Books! Today my guest is contemporary romance author, Jennifer St George. Last time we caught up with Jen we heard about her kitchen woes and how they were  all going to be solved with the aid of a Thermomix. Well, let’s find out how that little experiment has turned out, shall we? But before we do, whatever her shortcomings in the kitchen, Jen sure does know how to deliver a sizzling alpha billionaire hero. The latest book in her fabulous Billionaires series was released this month by Destiny Romance. Here’s Jennifer!


Why Can’t my Characters Cook For Me?JSG


Cooking. It’s not my forte. I’m a very basic cook and will use any excuse to order take away rather than cook a meal. I’d love to be a great cook, and to that end I purchased a Thermomix, which I talked about during my last visit to Cook the Books.

The Thermomix promises that even the most inexperienced cooks will be able to prepare dishes they never before dreamed were possible. It can chop, whip, mix, emulsify, mill, knead, cook, blend, stir, steam, weigh and heat. I was sold.

So, how’s it going? Well, my young daughter can now cook amazing meals, which is fantastic. She is a natural in the kitchen. She’s whipped up tuna pasta, made her own pesto (and now grows her own basil so she can make it fresh from the garden), has produced almost a hundred batches of Anzac biscuits and lots more. She loves it.

How am I going? Well, I’m disappointed because I still have to shop for ingredients and put them in the right order and the right amount. When they make a machine that does that, then I might look like a good cook. I have made a couple of quite successful soups and salads, but I think you need to want to cook to get the best of the Themomix.

Anyway, because I’m such a rubbish cook I consciously ensure all my heroines are brilliant cooks (yes, living out my fantasies through my fiction). They make fabulous meals. I know about amazing meals because I read all those gourmet magazines and indulge in quite a few restaurant meals…I just can’t replicate these mouth-watering morsels in the kitchen, but I can write about them.

My latest release, Tempted by the Billionaire Tycoon is set in a luxury health retreat. My heroine Poppy effortlessly whips up a meal of carrot and ginger soup followed by chicken with salsa verde and roast courgette and red peppers and finishes the meal with lime and rose sorbet. All organic ingredients and all delicious. Apparently Poppy could have made all these meals in my Thermomix. Shame Poppy is just a figment of my imagination!


Thanks, Jen. So what about you, dear reader? Are you an old-fashioned cook who eschews modern gadgets in favour of technique? Or will you grab anything going in order to make life easy?

Author Bio:

Jennifer St George is a romance author whose sexy stories feature courageous, career-minded heroines, strong heroes in glamorous international settings. Out in October, Tempted by the Billionaire Tycoon is the second book in Jennifer’s Billionaire Romance series.

You can buy Tempted by the Billionaire Tycoon from:







Find Jennifer at:



Blog and Lovecatsdownunder




Cooking The Books – Sasha Cottman

Chef with cookbookWelcome to Cooking The Books! This week’s guest is fabulous Regency romance author, Sasha Cottman. With both a professional and a writing career, this woman knows a thing or two about managing time. So it’s no surprise that she extends that skill to speedy meal prep. I have to confess I watch people who cook like this much as David Attenborough might observe a rare species, with total fascination.  Sasha’s latest release, An Unsuitable Match, is the second novel in the award-winning Dukes of Strathmore series.

sasha cottman author picOne of the challenges I face when asked to share my favourite recipes and kitchen hints is that I am not much of a cook.

I love food and if given a nice quiet Sunday afternoon I will happily spend it in the kitchen.

My problem stems from the fact that I have a full time career, a family and somewhere in the middle of all that I am also a published author.

Which brings me to my style of cooking.

I am the Usain Bolt of the kitchen… the faster the better. My current personal best is 6 minutes from start of cooking to serving.

You know those bags of pre-cut vegetables in the supermarket and the 90 second rice? I am the person who unashamedly buys them!

Today’s recipe is one of my cooked in under 15 minutes specialities.

Sasha's CTBPesto Chicken Pasta.


  • Four Skinless chicken thigh fillets, sliced and chopped into small squares.
  • Three good handfuls of washed baby spinach leaves.
  • Some extra virgin olive oil.
  • Angel hair pasta (it cooks in 2 minutes and I always have some in my pantry).
  • 1 small jar of pesto.
  • Grated parmesan cheese. (You can buy it in packets in the fridge section of your supermarket).


  • Put water on to boil for the pasta.
  • Cut up the chicken and lightly cook it in a frying pan with a little of the oil.
  • When chicken is cooked, turn down the heat and add the baby spinach leaves. Once the leaves are wilted, take the pan off the heat.
  • Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 2 mins. Drain pasta and serve into bowls.
  • Put the chicken mix back on a medium heat on the stove top for 1 min and mix through 3-4 heaped teaspoons of the pesto sauce.
  • After the chicken is warm again, serve over the top of the angel hair pasta.
  • Top with a generous serve of the parmesan cheeseYou could add other vegetables to the mix if you so desired. I have added finely cut broccoli and even mushrooms. Remember the smaller the piece, the quicker it cooks.


An Unsuitable Match Hi Res Cover PicEXCERPT:


 I dream of the hours when you and I can finally be alone.

Softly sharing whispered words of love.


London, Mid-Summer , 1817

 As the carriage slowly snaked its way up Park Lane, Clarice picked at a loose piece of thread on her gown. No matter how hard she pulled, it refused to come free.

She sighed, dreading that this  was a sign of things to come. Tonight was going to be a trial, no matter what.

And I have no-one to blame but myself. You could have done it all in private, but no, you had to go and make a huge public scene. Well done, Clarice. Well done.

‘At this rate we shall have to get out and walk if we are to arrive at the  dinner on time,’ Lord  Langham grumbled.

Stirred from her thoughts, she looked across the carriage to her father. Everyone, it would appear, was headed to Strathmore House for the wedding celebrations of the Marquess  and Marchioness of Brooke. It had taken them nearly an hour to get this far in the slow-crawling line of carriages.

‘We could turn the horses around and go home,’ she offered.

He shook his head. Reaching out, he took hold of her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.

‘We have to do this, my dear. We must show the rest of society that you are not crushed by the unfortunate event of your failed betrothal to the groom,’ he replied.

She mustered a hopeful smile for him. Her father was right, of course. If she stayed away from the wedding celebrations it would only confirm what the rest of the ton no doubt thought of her. She was  Lord Langham’s poor little broken bird. An object of pity.

‘Yes, of course, Papa,’ she replied.

The truth was, she didn’t particularly mind what the rest of London thought of her. In fact, she rather preferred they didn’t think of her at all. Being unremarkable was at times a blessing.

She shifted in her seat and forced herself to sit upright. As she straightened her back, the tight garments under her gown shifted and eased. She took in a shallow breath. The discomfort meant little. For her father’s sake she would endure far worse.

Tonight she would stoically bear all the whispers and sly looks that came her way. This evening was for her father. London’s elite would know Henry Langham was a man capable of forgiveness. But Clarice knew there was a limit to her father’s magnanimity.

She knew she could never confess her terrible crime against him. To have him know that she had stolen from him the thing he had held most dear. Earl Langham might forgive others for their sins against him, but Clarice knew there could be no forgiveness for what she had done.

An Unsuitable Match is available at the following places.





JB Hi Fi


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

Follow her on Twitter




Born in England, but raised in Australia, Sasha has a love for both countries. Having her heart in two places has created a love for travel, which at last count was to over 55 countries. A travel guide is always on her pile of new books to read.

Sasha lives in Melbourne with her husband, teenage daughter and a cat who thinks sitting on the keyboard is being helpful. Her family have managed to find all but one of her secret chocolate hiding places.

When not writing, she is busy working full time as a Chartered Accountant. On the weekends Sasha loves walking on the beach while devising new ways to torture her characters.

Letter from a Rake:

Finalist 2014 Romantic Book of the Year. (Ruby).

Winner 2013 Book Junkies Choice Award for Historical Romance.

Finalist in the ARRA Awards Best Historical Romance and Best New Author.






Rebellious Women of the Aristocracy: Some Literary Heroes

Red Dirt DuchessMy latest release, Red Dirt Duchess, is set partly in the Australian outback and partly in an English stately home.

I’ve wanted to write a story about the English aristocracy for ages but I’m just an ordinary Australian. In order to make my aristocratic family believable, I needed to capture the tone and cadence of their speech and the type of language they might use.

To help with this, I drew upon the work of three of my literary heroes: Nancy Mitford, Elizabeth David and Mary Wesley.

Not only have I long been beguiled by their words, and in the case of Elizabeth David, her recipes, but by their rebellious reputations.

Each of these amazing women was born into a life of privilege that could have sailed seamlessly and silently to a dignified conclusion without creating a ripple. They each made conventional marriages to the “right” sort of men yet quickly moved beyond them, choosing a harder path. They lived life on their own terms instead of following the dictates of their class.

As rebellious women went, Nancy was by no means the wildest of the infamous Mitfords. That one aristocratic family should untitled (2)produce as daughters a communist, two fascists (of different flavours) and a duchess says a lot about their family dynamic. I imagine family get-togethers would have been extraordinary! Yet, despite the enduring legend which has grown up around them, it is Nancy’s sparkling comedies set within an aristocratic family loosely based upon her own that shine. The Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate and Don’t Tell Alfred are required reading for the devoted anglophile as well as the author trying to find the voice of that class.

images6I1K2GZ2Elizabeth David travelled widely and wrote a series of classic cookbooks and collections of published articles. Authoritative and imperious, her writing paints a vivid picture of a privileged life. With David, it’s all about ‘tone’. Her rigorously elegant prose is measured but evocative.

At 70, Wesley published her first novel and went on to publish ten more. I would love to have known this untitled (3)incredibly free-spirited woman (there’s a reason her biography is called Wild Mary). Her novels are full of black humour and poke and prod at the underlying seamy side of many upper-class families. In honour of Mary, I’ve included a little bit of seamy in Red Dirt Duchess.

Mitford’s and Wesley’s novels, and David’s writing, have allowed me glimpses into the lives of the upper-classes, a world I could otherwise only imagine from behind the velvet rope in a stately home tour. Here’s an interaction between my hero, Jon, his mother, Diana, and the heroine, Charlie. Barker is the butler and Vera is an elderly lady staying with the family. They have had a very trying day 🙂

Barker started to pour the tea as Jon ambled hopefully towards the drinks table. A cluster of almost empty decanters, more show than substance, sat on a silver tray.

‘What do you do in Australia, Charlie?’ Diana asked.

So the day was about to grind to its inexorable conclusion. Jon picked up a decanter and tipped it a little to the side, trying to work out what was inside. Quite frankly anything would do. He poured a generous amount into a glass and turned back to face the room.

‘I run a pub.’

Barker dropped a cup on its saucer with a clatter and murmured an apology. A small silence ensued.

‘A pub?’

Jon sighed. ‘A public house, mother. A drinking establishment. There is one in the village.’

‘I know what a pub is, Jon,’ Diana snapped. She turned to Charlie, her lips pursed, her back rigid with disapproval. ‘I see. You’re a barmaid.’

Jon sucked in a deep breath and turned just in time to see the level stare that Charlie gave his mother. He didn’t trust the slight smile on her lips. He hadn’t seen that since Bindundilly.

‘Oh, I’m so much more than that.’

Was that a small, suggestive wink she’d given his mother? Jon closed his eyes and said a prayer, although he wasn’t sure for whom. All he knew was that there was a tension that had been strained to breaking point today. It was about to snap.

‘I clean the toilets and make the beds as well.’ Charlie gave Diana a cheesy smile, letting her vowels broaden a little.

‘Really,’ Diana said faintly.

‘Charlie owns the Bindundilly Hotel, mother. She’s a businesswoman.’

Diana accepted tea from Barker, picked up the spoon and stirred it quietly, three times clockwise, just as she always did before placing the spoon back on the saucer. ‘And is business good in this Bindundilly place?’

Charlie stirred her own tea a little less quietly, then looked at the spoon as she removed it from the cup.

Please don’t.

She placed it neatly on the saucer. ‘Very good, thank you. Mind you, I’m the only business in town so it’s hard to assess just how good that is.’

His mother seemed to have run out of conversation. Possibly she was angrily fantasising about castrating Jon, although that would be rather counter-productive in the circumstances.

Charlie paused and cocked her head to one side, thinking. ‘Come to think of it, there is no town. There’s just the pub and nothing but desert in every direction for four hundred kilometres.’

‘Indeed.’ His mother was staring at Charlie, her eyes wide with horror, perhaps trying to imagine such a life.

‘But as long as the truckies keep stopping, I’ll be right,’ Charlie finished cheerfully, as though she’d just completed a complicated balance sheet and realised everything would be fine for the next year.

‘Truckies,’ Diana echoed, her gaze locking on Jon. He took a deep swallow from his glass. He didn’t know what of, but it sure felt good.

Vera woke with a light snort. ‘Truckie? What’s a truckie?’

Jon squeezed his eyes shut. This was priceless; in some ways the best fun he’d had in years.

‘Never mind, dear,’ said Diana.

‘It’s a lorry driver, Vera.’ Jon said. ‘You know, massive great lorries driven by men with strong, hairy muscled arms. Some women find it quite —’

‘That’s enough!’ Diana cut in. She really looked quite pale, no doubt imagining the countless lorry drivers that had passed through Bindundilly but hopefully not through Charlie.

She turned to Jon with a regretful smile that didn’t fool him. ‘Vera’s terribly tired, darling, and I’m afraid there’s not much for dinner this evening. I expect we’ll just boil some eggs or something.’

He could take a hint. He drained his glass and set it back on the tray. ‘That’s all right. I’ll take Charlie down to the Three Crowns.’

His mother rose to her feet and gave him a pointed look. ‘Excellent. I should think she’ll feel right at home.’






Twitter: @LouiseHReynolds



Outback Dining – Kangaroo: A National Symbol or Dinner?

Chef with cookbookThe outback is dotted with lonely pubs, many of them legendary. Their names drip off the tongue: Oodnadatta, Tibooburra, Innamincka, Birdsville and Tilpa. They are quirky, much-loved institutions, small oases where the long distance traveller can find companionship, fuel, cold beer and meals. There is nothing better than arriving at one after a long day’s driving along red dust roads.

I drew on several of these pubs to create the Bindundilly Hotel in Red Dirt Duchess, the place my heroine, Charlie, calls home. Red Dirt Duchess

One thing they nearly all have in common is their meals. They’re usually a straight up and down affair based around grills with chips. Even a side of fresh salad might be asking too much in some of the remotest parts. This is the sort of food I had Charlie serve to English aristocrat Jon, a man used to dining in the finest restaurants.

However there are outback pubs that are turning that often dismal dining experience on its ear. Take the Prairie Hotel at remote Parachilna in South Australia’s spectacular Flinders Ranges. They have made a specialty of cooking wild animals: kangaroo, camel and emu

Although we know that kangaroo is a meat that’s lean and high in protein, I have to confess I find it hard to sit down to a meal of it. I have no problem with baby veal or suckling pig so it’s not the ‘cuteness’ factor that makes me squirm.

So what’s my problem?

Maybe it’s because it’s wild food but I love field mushrooms and wild greens, quandongs and saltbush. But at Parachilna it’s not about wild. They call their offerings ‘feral’.

untitledBefore you reach for the bag, Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine calls dining at the Prairie Hotel one of 20 not to be missed outback experiences.

A short trip through their menu gives us emu liver paté, smoked kangaroo, kangaroo tail ragout, camel sausage and emu fillet mignon. And to be fair, they are exquisitely prepared and served with a style more fitting a trendy inner urban restaurant.

All of this is good. Ecologists stress that eating sustainably resourced indigenous animals takes demand from farmed introduced species which are far more destructive to the habitat. I need to broaden my culinary horizons.

I’m heading out to Parachilna again in 6 weeks and I’m determined to try the tasting plate.

But what about you? What’s the most unusual wild food you’ve eaten and where was it?

You can find me here:



Twitter: @LouiseHReynolds






Google Play


Cooking The Books – Laura Greaves

Chef with cookbookWelcome to Cooking the Books! My guest is debut Destiny Romance author Laura Greaves. Laura’s release, Be My Baby, is one of Destiny’s new Chick Lit titles and they’ve all been fabulous romps. I’ve just been over to the Destiny website to read the first chapter here and I’m already hooked. So hop on over and have a look. But first, here’s Laura!


Thanks so much for having me today, Louise! I’m here to take your readers on a culinary journey through one of the great European foodie 0000008357nations. No, I’m not talking about France. Not Italy either. And nope, it’s not Greece (although dolmades and baklava – yum!)

It’s England.

“England? Did she say England? Home of pork pies, Yorkshire puddings and ‘greasy spoon’ cafes? England, where more ‘beige’ food is consumed per capita than any other country?”

 Yep. That’s the one.

 Just as its weather is unfairly maligned (I mean, what’s not to like about grey skies and drizzle? It’s perfect curl-up-with-a-book weather!) I really think England gets a bad rap when it comes to food. And I should know: I called London home for five years, and now return every couple of years with my English husband.

Just like Anna, the Aussie heroine of my novel, Be My Baby, I lived in the beautiful Borough of Richmond-Upon-Thames and worked as a newspaper entertainment journalist. This meant that I not only had a plethora of lovely riverside ‘gastropubs’ on my doorstep, I also had the opportunity to nibble designer canapés in trendy restaurants (sometimes with a celebrity at the next table).

Forget what you think you know about English food. Here’s five of the best reasons to bring a big appetite to the UK.

1. Indian food. If modern England has a national dish, it is arguably the curry. The UK has large and vibrant Indian and Pakistani communities, which happily means there’s a curry house on virtually every corner, especially in London. I became such a regular at my local Indian restaurant that they stopped asking for my address when I’d call for home delivery. And a night ‘on the tiles’ must always be followed by a late-night stop at an Indian restaurant, if only to marvel at the resplendent 1970s décor most seem to favour.

2. Marks & Spencer Food To Go. Marks & Spencer is a huge department store chain, not unlike Myer or David Jones. But even better than ‘Marks and Sparks’ stores are their food outlets, where you can pick up anything from a freshly-made sandwich or a tub of sweet treats to a bottle of M&S-brand wine or even a full gourmet heat-and-serve meal. It. Is. So. Good.

3. Gastropubs. I don’t think it’s too controversial to say that food is often an afterthought in Aussie pubs. Sure, you’ll usually find a decent steak, burger or schnitzel, but that’s about as gourmet as it gets. It’s a completely different story in England, where the rise of the ‘gastropub’ has taken pub grub to the next level. Celebrity chefs are even getting in on the act: Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin-starred Fat Duck pub in country Berkshire has been named the UK’s best eatery several times, and Gordon Ramsay’s The Narrow is a must-visit in the Docklands area. Despite the unfortunate name, which conjures up some decidedly not delicious images, gastropubs are a revelation. My tip: take the Sunday newspapers and hole up in a riverside pub on a chilly afternoon.

4. Regional delicacies. Apparently it would take 50 years to eat at every one of the restaurants in New York City. Well, the same could be said for sampling all the regional delights in England. You’ll find more mouth-watering – and often rather peculiar – local foods in this tiny scrap of land than you can poke a whelk at (that’s a sea snail that’s inexplicably popular in London’s East End). Those with a sweet tooth should head to Derbyshire for Bakewell tarts or Devon for an authentic cream tea. Then there’s pease pudding (a fancy pea and ham soup) in Northumberland, sausages in Lincolnshire and scouse – a delectable lamb stew – in Liverpool. Delish.

5. Fine dining. I love a pub lunch, but when a special meal is in order there is a dazzling array of fine dining establishments in Old Blighty. I have two all-time favourite ‘posh’ London restaurants. Locanda Locatelli is helmed by celeb chef Giorgio Locatelli and offers modern Italian fare that’s arguably even better than you’ll find in Italy (and I’ve spent a lot of time eating my way through Italy!) Then there’s The Wolseley, a big, noisy brasserie reminiscent of Parisian cafes with a Euro-style menu to die for. You’re virtually guaranteed a celebrity sighting at The Wolseley. I once found myself at a table next to formidable Vogue editor Anna Wintour (who didn’t eat a bite and kept her sunglasses on through the entire meal).

 As someone who’s had the best and worst of food in England, thank you for the tips, Laura!

Do you have a favourite English food?

BMB_Hi-res About Be My Baby by Laura Greaves

 Ambitious Australian Anna Harding seems to have it all: a glamorous job as a gossip columnist, and a beautiful home in London that she shares with her gorgeous boyfriend, Finn Cassidy. Her only problem is her regular run-ins with their neighbor Luke, who is furious about Anna’s internet shopping constantly being delivered to his place by mistake.

When her flighty best friend Helena winds up pregnant, Anna agrees to be godmother – despite her aversion to children. But then Finn announces he’s moving to Belfast for a great job in television and Helena takes off to Scotland – leaving baby Ivy behind. Suddenly Anna’s perfect life is in pieces as she tries to juggle the baby, her job and a long-distance relationship.

Will Finn wake up to himself and return home or will he be swayed by the charms of his seductive producer? Will the irresponsible Helena finally sort herself out with the help of her eccentric great aunt? And will Anna’s life ever be the same, especially after Luke’s unexpected response to the chaos unleashed next door?

Nothing is certain in this entertaining and moving tale about the relationships that matter most.

Connect with Laura:

Buy:  Be My Baby at or good book e-tailers.


Cooking The Books – Leesa Bow

Chef with cookbookThis week I’m venturing into new territory – football! Unlike a certain well-loved Aussie writer who bangs on about footy every week here (while hosting some great Australian writers and talking about food), I am clueless. But Leesa Bow to the rescue! Leesa’s debut New Adult novel, Winning The Player, was released this month by Destiny Romance and it’s choc-a-bloc full of footy action and buff bodies with a gorgeous romance to boot! We’re in the hands of a well-connected expert here, so it’s welcome and over to Leesa! 


Leesa Bow portraitHi Louise and thanks for having me today. I’m very excited about my debut New Adult novel ‘Winning the Player’. It is a football romance based in Adelaide, South Australia. The characters are between 18 and 25 and at an age plenty of alcohol is consumed. But I’m here to talk food so I thought it appropriate to discuss a footballer’s diet and share recipes since my book has a football romance theme. Hunter is the hero, a star football player, so when he dines out he mainly orders pasta.

Hunter Stone is on top of his game. His success stems from commitment and hard physical trainings, and a diet to support his heavy workload.

In my book I talk about Hunter’s meals before a game and today I’d like to share some of my favourite AFL player’s pasta recipes.

Lewis Johnston #8 (Adelaide Crows)

Straight-shooting, dynamic forward

Beef Ravioli

Lean mince

Five Brothers pasta sauce



Brown mince and add mushrooms and onion. Add pasta sauce and simmer. Place ravioli in boiling water. When cooked drain and serve with the sauce and some garlic bread.


Mitch Clisby cooking his favourite pasta

Mitch Clisby cooking his favourite pasta

Mitch Clisby #15 (Melbourne Demons)

Midfielder/wingman and quick decision maker

Spaghetti Bolognaise

Place spaghetti pasta on to boil.

Fry extra lean mince, grated carrot, mushrooms, brown onion, and secret herbs and spices. Add Dolmio basil sauce, a tin of chopped tomatoes and simmer.

When pasta is cooked, drain and top with the sauce.


Taylor Walker #13 (Adelaide Crows)

Star forward and prolific goal kicker

Like Mitch—the two are mates and grew up together in Broken Hill— Taylor also prefers a Spaghetti Bolognaise before the game. However, as a lad growing up, Taylor also enjoyed a Chicken Bow-tie dish his mother Margaret cooked.

Chicken Bowties

Place bowtie pasta in water to boil.

Slice chicken breast and cook in frypan. Add bacon, mushroom, onion and shallots. Add light cream and light sour cream.

When pasta is cooked drain and serve with the sauce.


Sam Jacobs and Izzy

Sam Jacobs and his girlfriend Izzy

 Sam Jacobs #24 (Adelaide Crows)

Accurate tap ruckman and linchpin for the Crows

The night before a game Sam enjoys cooking with his girlfriend Izzy, and prefers Spaghetti Bolognaise or Chicken and Bacon penne pasta.

Chicken and Bacon Penne


Penne pasta

Chicken breast




“Roasted garlic and onion” four brothers pasta sauce


Boil water in saucepan – add the pasta once boiled.

Dice onion and garlic finely.

Cut up chicken and bacon.

Sauté onion and garlic in frying pan; add the bacon once onion is soft.


Sam Jacobs’ girlfriend, Izzy

Add chicken and cook until browned then add pasta sauce. Cook until pasta is ready Serve with grated cheese.


Carbohydrates play a major role in elite football player’s diet.

Mitch Clisby eats poached eggs with avocado for breakfast on game day. Later he consumes carbs in salad rolls, along with a banana, yoghurt and muesli bars before the game.

Sam Jacobs prefers Nutrigrain for breakfast and later a subway and a Powerade a few hours before the game.

Lewis Johnston is fastidious about his diet the day before and on game day, often eating the same foods (from the same cafes) every week.

For breakfast Lewis consumes Sustain cereal with lactose free milk, followed by a banana before a light training.

Lunch: Vietnamese chicken roll and 4 cold rolls. Mid afternoon toasted banana bread.

Game day lunch: Subway chicken teriyaki and salad roll. One banana.

Throughout the morning Lewis consumes litres of water and also Gatorade or Powerade with added electrolytes.


Our star football players carbohydrate loaded diet turns many females green with envy. A fraction of this would be enough to send extra padding to my hips! But the energy required for games and trainings demands adequate fuel from carbohydrate foods, and so none is stored as fat. The strict regime of players demands respect, especially the hard work and commitment by players to stay on top of their game.


Book CoverHere’s a bit about Winning the Player.


When injury destroyed her dream of playing college basketball, Aubree Taylor fled overseas. Now she’s finally home again and ready to move on with her life. Until she runs into Hunter Stone on her first night out, the only guy who’s ever meant anything to her – and the last person she wants to see.

Since she ran out on him two years ago, Hunter hasn’t been able to get Aubree off his mind. The sexy football star has had girls all over him for years, but Aubree is the only one to have ever seen behind the cocky persona he puts on for the crowd.

Despite her attempts to keep her distance, Aubree is unable to resist the strong attraction between them and it isn’t long before they fall into a passionate relationship. She has never been afraid of a challenge, but Hunter’s arrogance and inability to trust are testing her to her limits. Aubree must decide whether to follow her heart and lower her guard…or risk losing the best thing that’s ever happened to her.


You can pick up Winning The Player at:

Amazon books as well as other digital retailers.

Connect with Leesa here:



And you can find out more about Leesa here.




Cooking The Books – Mary Costello

Chef with cookbook

Fάilte! I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have Destiny Romance author Mary Costello visiting this week. Mary writes wonderful, heartfelt and witty romances. She’s also a charming Irishwoman with a touch of whimsy, a bit of blarney and she’s not averse to an hour or two of craic. Mary has a new release with Destiny this month, Irresistible Enemy. Here’s Mary!

The heroine and hero of my latest Romance, Irresistible Enemy, are as different as chalk and a very fine Camembert.Costello

 The handsome and charming Hart is a wealth property developer and bon vivant. He lives in beautiful homes, drives expensive cars, has his suits made in Milan and eats well – usually at one of Melbourne’s trendiest restaurants.

Cassie, however, is plain girl with frizzy hair and a flat chest, and she’s living on the breadline. She runs a wildlife sanctuary and spends most of her money on the animals. Her old weatherboard cottage is falling down around her, her rusty ute is in desperate need of a service, and she buys her clothes at op-shops; and Cassie’s also a vegetarian. Yet at a critical point in the story, it’s the magic of good food that brings this improbable pair together.

They have an unexpected encounter on Christmas Eve, when they’re faced with a very tricky and potentially dangerous challenge. Afterwards, it emerges that they’ll both be spending Christmas alone, and in Cassie’s case, with very little food of interest in the pantry, although she does offer to cook, ‘I have an interesting recipe for cheese on toast. You toast the bread lightly, drizzle it with balsamic vinegar, then melt the cheese on top. It’s a bit different.’

But Hart isn’t tempted, and with his many contacts and deep pockets he manages to quickly command the delivery of a ready-made Christmas feast, complete with waiters, Irish linen, crystal and silver flatware.



Irresistible Enemy“She walked slowly towards the long table covered with a white linen cloth and decorated with three elaborate candelabra, each bearing red, green and gold candles. Scented candles, she noted as she reached the table and detected the distinctly Christmassy tang of pine. Remarkably, the table was set out with her own Polish pottery Christmas crockery. It was a mix of the three seasonal designs – Christmas trees, snowflakes and reindeer, and they were accompanied by an array of fine-cut crystal and gleaming flatware.


At intervals along the table there were small, crystal-covered silver dishes piled with nuts, truffles, stuffed dates, candied fruits and other sweetmeats. Two chairs, also covered in white linen and tied with huge gold bows, had been set together at one end of the table, and in front of each there was a gilt-edged menu card bearing the name D’Agosto.”


They sit down on Cassie’s sagging verandah to a smorgasbord of gourmet délices. I used to write about food, so I had a spot of fun concocting the menu. I decided to offer the couple a quinoa-crusted pie-base with caramelised plantains and smoky pinto puree. Cassie takes her vegetarianism from me, and I have a sentimental fondness for quinoa which dates back to the birth of my first daughter.

She was already a week overdue and still showed no signs of putting in an appearance. Friends came to dinner bearing gifts which included a quinoa hot-pot. It was the first time I’d ever tasted this intriguing little seed and I loved the flavour. I also appreciated the effect, because at 2.15 in the morning I finally went into labour. The quinoa did it. It also does something for Cassie and Hart, but I can’t divulge any more on that head. You’ll just have to read the book.

The impromptu Christmas menu also includes: pumpkin-habanero papazul, sea-salt and sesame seed-dredged baby carrots, and buffle truffle schnitzels with hazelnut shards and sweated marron sour cream. I think I may have made part of that last one up, which is half the fun when writing Romance – you can let your imagination wander.

For Hart, gourmet fare is fairly standard, but it’s a new and delightful experience for Cassie, who’s more used to her friend’s “rock-hard scones” and horrible homemade herbal brews. She enjoys being spoilt for a change.


“Hart nodded at the waiter, who quickly produced two crystal glasses of fine champagne, and they began to feast.

“It was a long, leisurely meal, with one delicacy after another set before them.”


After the entertainment of a dazzling meal, Cassie reciprocates by taking Hart on a nocturnal tour of her land, showing him all the fascination of night-life in the bush. Their Christmas Eve adventure seals their mutual attraction, but their closeness is short-lived when the issues that keep them apart flare again.

But at least they’ve enjoyed one magical Christmas feast together, and nostalgia for their perfect evening stays with both, even during the crises to come.


Mary Costello is an Irish-Australian freelance writer, and despite living most of her life in Australia, she hasn’t lost her accent, or the sense of being somewhere exotic. She lives in Melbourne’s bushburbs with her husband of many years, who, oddly, bears no resemblance whatsoever to a romantic hero. They live with a flock of recovering battery hens and their two daughters, for whom Mary aspires to arrange advantageous matches to men of large property.

Mary’s first book, Titanic Town, Memoirs of a Belfast Girlhood, was published twenty years ago, but she only recently turned her pen to Romance, inspired by the heroics of the men of Aussie Rules football. The result was The Reluctant Wag.

Her new release, Irresistible Enemy, is a very different book. Set in the bushy fringes of Melbourne, it brings into collision a dedicated wildlife warrior and a high-powered property developer for whom ‘habitat’ means luxury houses.

Cassie Bowtell is a plain, no-nonsense girl, and Hart Huntingdon is a man surrounded by glamorous women, but Cassie attracts Hart with her courage, honesty and her dedication to the injured animals in her care. Hart stands for everything Cassie despises, and having been badly hurt in love, she’s determined to repress any emotional impulses that go against her better judgement.

You can purchase Irresistible Enemy here:

Amazon US

Amazon Australia

Destiny Romance


You can find Mary here: