Cooking The Books – Rachael Johns

Chef with cookbookAfter a break of a few months while I ate and read my way around the US, Cooking The Books is back with a brand new swag of terrific authors talking cooking, writing and reading. And what a way to kick off, with gorgeous Rural Romance author, Rachael Johns. If you haven’t heard of Rachael or read any of her wonderful outback romances then, as the saying goes, do yourself a favour and head straight to the buy links at the end of the blog. Here’s Rach!

When the fabulous Louise invited me on her awesome Cooking The Books blog, I said yes, immediately. And then I had a little stress. Because although I used to be quite a good cook, in the last few years, I seem to have lost all talent in this department. Seriously, whatever I used to be able to cook quite well, I can now stuff up even better. IMG_2698%20-%20Copy

So… WHAT could I talk about on Cooking The Books? I could talk about how Faith the heroine from my latest book cooks for comfort and how her expertise at baking helps her win her man. I could maybe even share one of her recipes, but I’ve already shared the only one I can cook without fail on Cathryn Hein’s Friday Feast and if I shared one of the other fabulous things I said Faith could cook, I would have to take photos to show you and THAT would require me actually cooking it. And then because I was doing it for something special, it’s even more certain that I would stuff it up.

So instead of sharing a recipe today, I’m going to talk about my love of recipe books. I’ve had to resist buying more over the last few years because we now live in a very small house and shelf space is rare but I LOVE looking at those coffee table recipe books. I love DREAMING about being a fabulous cook – and yes, mostly I want to bake sweet things.

For the purpose of this blog and so it didn’t go on for pages and pages, I have forced myself to choose my top three recipe books to share with you. In my cooking days (before the non-cooking curse was cast on me) I actually made many of the recipes in these books.


Isn’t the title simply divine? Last year I gave this book to my then publisher as a wedding present as we both share a love of sweet things. I have made a number of things in this book but my faves are the chocolate dishes. I can highly recommend the Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake. The Snickers and Peanut Butter Muffins are also to-die-for!!

A CLOSE SECOND – Donna Hay’s MODERN CLASSICS 1 & 2 (1 is mains, 2 is desserts, so you can probably guess which one is my favourite)!

But I deserve a fair hearing here – I’ve actually made the recipes in number 1 more. For anyone not talented at cooking mains (i.e. me), this book has the simplest dinner dishes ever. The Thai Red Beef Curry page is splattered with curry in my book and I’ve made the basic short crust pastry for a million pies. Yes, I DO make my own pastry thank you very much. From scratch! N.B. This was before I misplaced my ability to cook. The last few times I’ve tried the pastry I managed to stuff it up too!

LAST BUT BY NO MEANS LEAST – The Australian Women’s Weekly WICKED cookbook.

Oh my… my mouth is watering just thinking about this book and I may have to try my cooking luck at making the Cherry Ripe Chocolate Cake again very, very soon. I have made this cake and it’s not too hard AND it’s delicious, but I must also share a snippet about this book and cake. Years ago, I did work experience (during uni) at Cleo Magazine and I can’t remember why but for some reason the cooking people from The AWW brought down this cake to us after they’d baked it for a photo shoot. I decided that very day I needed that book. I’m not sure I’ve tasted a cake I like more since and that is saying something! This book might currently be out of print, but luckily this recipe is available here .

So, that is my Cooking The Books post! I hope you don’t think I’ve cheated sharing my fave recipe books (I DID give you a recipe), but I’d love to hear what your favourite recipe books are. Is there a recipe book you cannot live without? One that I simply MUST add to my collection?

Louise – Thanks, Rach. What a question! I adore cookbooks, from my ratty old collection of Elizabeth David paperbacks (ED, by the way, managed to influence a whole generation of English diners and cooks without benefit of a single glossy photo) right through to my latest acquisition, Bouchon by Thomas Keller. I could bang on for hours about cookbooks but what about you? What is the most used, food-splattered book in your collection?

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Outback-dreams-bookpageOUTBACK DREAMS

Harlequin Australia, 1st October 2013


Faith and Monty are both looking for love…but they’re looking in the wrong direction.

Faith Forrester is at a crossroads. Single, thirty and living on a farm in a small Western Australian town, she’s sick of being treated like a kitchen slave by her brother and father. Ten years ago, her mother died of breast cancer, and Faith has been treading water ever since. She wants to get her hands dirty on the family farm. She wants to prove to herself that she’s done something worthwhile with her life. And she wants to find a man…??

For as long as he can remember, Daniel ‘Monty’ Montgomery has been Faith’s best friend. When he was ten, his parents sold the family property and moved to Perth, and ever since, Monty’s dreamed of having his own farm. So for the last ten years, he’s been back on the land, working odd jobs and saving every dollar to put toward his dream. Now he finally has the deposit. But there’s still something missing…??

So when Faith embarks on a mission to raise money for a charity close to her heart, and Monty’s dream property comes on the market, things seem like they are falling into place for them both. Until a drunken night out ends with them sleeping together. Suddenly, the best friends are faced with a new load of challenges…

Monty and Faith are both ready to find a life partner and settle down, but have they both been looking in all the wrong places?

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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

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.