It is with great delight that I welcome this week’s guest, Helen Lacey, to Friday Feast.
Helen hails from from a small coastal town at the southern most point of the Great Barrier Reef, where she lives with her husband, many horses, three spoiled dogs and writes her gorgeous books. Which, I have to say, sounds all rather blissful!
Anyway, from the moment I heard about Helen’s debut novel, Made For Marriage, I couldn’t wait for its release. I mean, she could have written this book just for me!
Take a look and you’ll see why…
MADE FOR MARRIAGE
Single dad Noah was ready to apologize for overreacting. But he wasn’t sorry for the way the stunning American riding instructor made him feel. And he soon learned that there was more to Callie than her smarts, sass and fire: a shattered heart that threatened to splinter even further. Could he make her see that he—and his family—were for keeps?
See? Romance and horses. What more can you ask for?
Thank you Cathryn for inviting me to be a part of Friday Feast. It’s fabulous to be able to talk about two of my favourite things – romance novels and food.
Heroes . . . love them in the bedroom and boardroom.
But what about the kitchen?
I’ve been reading romances since I was eleven years old. One fateful day I‘d picked up two novels that were on the bookshelf at my oldest sister’s house – one was called Winds of Enchantment by Rosalind Brett, the other, Bride at Whangatapu by Robyn Donald. I read them quickly and fell hopelessly in love. In the first book, the hero was a tall, blond, rubber plantation owner in Africa named Nick. In the second book, the hero was a tall dark and handsome self made businessman from New Zealand called Logan. These two heroes set me on my path for wanting to read about strong willed, broad shouldered men who have raw vulnerability when it comes to the heroine. The love affair has lasted a few decades, and now as a Harlequin author, I get to spend my days falling in love over and over again with my very own heroes.
And while I like to shake up the occupations of my heroes – cops, cowboys, carpenters, CEO’s etc, it occurred to me that I never really make them accomplished in the kitchen. Kind to kids and animals, for sure. Good at their job, yes. Skilled in the bedroom, for sure. But in the kitchen – not so much. Which, considering I love to cook, has me wondering why. My heroines do tend to fair a little better – well, some of them. Callie, the heroine in Made For Marriage can’t cook at all and even despairs over slicing and chopping the ingredients for a cold salad. Perhaps it’s my way of making them less than perfect, or some subconscious anti-feminist thinking that I don’t want them intruding into what my mother always called a traditional female domain . . . the mighty kitchen. But since my very talented critique partner is currently writing a book about a chef hero, it’s got me thinking that men who can cook are actually very sexy.
A couple of years ago one of my sisters attended a very fancy function in honour of an uber successful and well known celebrity chef. Now, this gentleman isn’t what I’d call handsome. He has a kind of lived-in, craggy face and what can only be described as an interesting public demeanour. My sister, however, assured me that up close and personal he was certainly attractive. So I asked her why. Self assurance, she quickly explained. The man simply oozed charisma and confidence while he demonstrated his culinary expertise in front of a room full of people. He stood on stage and filleted and flipped and whisked and created dishes with an easy going charm. According to my sister he even made an apron look manly.
Right, so it’s charm and confidence . . . the qualities of many a romance novel hero. Remember Aaron Eckhart’s character Nick, in the romantic comedy/drama No Reservations? Sexy? Totally. His character had charm and confidence by the bucket load. So my sister and critique partner are clearly onto something. A man who can cook is a man to hook. Wouldn’t a romantic dinner be even more romantic if the meal was prepared by the same man who can close a business deal or rope a steer? I’m thinking absolutely.
So my next hero is definitely going to know his way around the kitchen. I might even give him a speciality dish – like sauces, or spaghetti and meatballs. Or . . . cakes. Right up my ally, because I love cake. I don’t think I’ve ever had a cake I didn’t like. There’s something supremely satisfying about cake. Cupcakes, mud cakes, fruitcakes . . . a list of endless possibilities. When my husband and I had our sea/tree change a few years ago, I discovered something I’d never had before . . . time. Time to write of course. But also time to make cakes from scratch. No longer was I slave to the quick cooking packet variety. I made Hummingbird cake, banana and walnut cake and an obscenely sweet coconut ice cake. But my favourite was a simple but scrumptious peach upside down cake. Here it is, and I hope you enjoy.
PEACH UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE
– 500g of ripe peaches (or 1 pound) You can use the tinned variety if fresh are out of season. You have to peel and pit them.
– 75g unsalted butter (or ¼ of a cup)
– 1/3 cup granulated sugar. (Just use normal white if you can’t find)
– 1/3 cup brown sugar
1 ¼ cups of plain flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup of unsalted and softened butter
A good pinch of nutmeg and salt
1/3 cup of low fat milk
2 large eggs
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
- Preheat oven
- To make topping – melt butter, add sugars, crumble the brown sugar through. Cook over medium heat, simmering until mix looks smooth and creamy. Remove from heat.
- Pour into cake pan (You can touch the sides of pan with a little melted butter) Arrange peaches in pan in concentric circles.
- To make cake – Mix dry ingredients together. In an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Then beat in eggs. On low speed beat in half flour mixture. Add milk, extracts then the remaining flour mixture until batter is smooth.
- Spoon batter into cake pan and gently spread an even layer over peaches. Bake for 35 – 40 mins until top is golden brown and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Cool on rack and then run knife around edge. Invert onto a serving dish (you might have to replace any peaches that have stuck to pan) Serve warm or cold with whipped cream, ice cream or custard!
So, do you like a man who can cook? Or what has been the best meal the man in your life has cooked for you?
Thanks again Cathryn for having me here today. To celebrate the release of my novel Made For Marriage, I am giving away a copy to one commenter today. Also, everyone who leaves a comment goes into the draw for a chance to win the grand prize of a $50.00 Amazon voucher, and for those who like a little bling, a fabulous silver Pandora Bracelet.
Helen, thanks so much for coming on Friday Feast and sharing your gorgeous recipe. And I concur, a man who can cook is indeed a man to hook!
If you’d like to follow the rest of her Made For Marriage Celebration Tour then you’ll find the full itinerary here.
As for the best meal the man in my life has cooked for me, well, I have to say he makes the BEST beef in beer casserole. But he’s also learned to poach eggs just the way I like them. Throw in a nicely brewed cup of tea and a slice of toast, and we’re talking a perfect lazy Sunday breakfast.
And he does the dishes afterwards!
Can’t wait to hear about your kitchen-whizzing menfolk. Don’t forget there’s a great prize up for grabs. Entries close midnight Tuesday, Australian time (which I think is 8am EST in the US), so comment away.
UPDATE: Congratulations to Serena who has won a copy of Helen’s debut release Made For Marriage. Please check the comments on how to collect your prize. And a hearty thanks to everyone who joined in the fun!