Breaking News: Fantastic Paranormal Series with an Australian Setting

Join me on Saturday the 18th of August 2018 as I share my review of Restoration,book three in a fantastic series from a highly awarded, yet new to me author, Angela Slater.

 

 

RRestoration blog tour poster

 

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The Best Monday Night Meal in a Long Time

Do you know that feeling when you can’t really be bothered to cook? When takeaways don’t appeal (or are not readily available) and you just want something really quick, simple and yet full of flavour? Try Thai Chicken Stir Fry with Cashews and Chilli Jam Sauce from My Asian Kitchen by Jennifer Joyce.

This one is a winner! You can prep the sauce and veggies whilst you defrost the chicken in the microwave ( if, like me, you have only just decided what you want to cook for dinner 15 minutes before dinner time). The recipe states preparation time 10 minutes – correct. Cooking time 10 minutes – correct. Flavour – incredible!

 

Guest Review: The Heartwood Hotel – Kerry McGinniss

The Heartwood Hotel

The Heartwood Hotel

Kerry McGinnis

Penguin Random House

ISBN: 9780143789048

Description:

‘The Heartwood is the core of this district. It always has been so, but it’s still just a building. It’s your family – you and Adam and old Tiger – who animate it, keep the heart beating, so to speak.’

In the abandoned railhead town of Tewinga, now almost a ghost town, Lyn and Adam Portman struggle to keep the Heartwood Hotel afloat. Lyn loves her husband and longs to be a mother. But she’s kept busy caring for her elderly father, her community, and Max, the young worker who reminds her of the brother she’s lost and dearly misses.

When he fails to return from a day trip, Lyn’s concern deepens as the length of his absence grows, the more so with rumours of criminal activity at a nearby station. Meanwhile, a chance meeting uncovers a family bombshell that leaves Lyn reeling. The community must pull together as never before, proving that sometimes the smallest towns have the biggest hearts – and hide the darkest secrets.

From the bestselling author of Secrets of the Springs, this is the new outback mystery from Australia’s authentic rural writer and beloved voice of the bush.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Lyn Portman and her husband Adam had returned to the small Queensland outback town of Tewinga, where Heartwood Hotel reigned supreme over the area, and where Lyn’s dad, Tiger was still living. He needed care though after his beloved wife, and Lyn’s mother had passed away. Lyn knew she and Adam were needed in the district. The arrival of Max, a backpacker from Adelaide on his gap year before starting uni and his serious law degree was a boon for them, as he was a hard worker and friendly – they would be sorry when he moved on.

The day after the rodeo, Max headed off on his bike for a little R & R – he told Lyn and Tiger he would be back the next day. But Max didn’t return. Lyn’s mild concerns became serious worry although the police weren’t taking her seriously. But with the rumour of drugs and criminals in the area, Lyn called Max’s parents – but would it be too late? Max was nowhere to be found and with the days that had passed, the chance of finding him alive became more remote.

What would happen to Lyn and Adam – to old Tiger, and to Max? And when Lyn discovered something set in her family’s past that could change the future, she was astounded at the family secrets she’d known nothing about…

The Heartwood Hotel is another exceptional contemporary, outback rural mystery novel by Aussie author Kerry McGinnis which I devoured. A mix of intrigue, secrets, heartache, hope and family sweep through the Australian outback country, with the bulldust and flies, the changing seasons and the heart of the community – always there for the neighbours. A fabulous novel, The Heartwood Hotel is one I highly recommend. 5 stars

With thanks to Penguin Random House for my ARC to read and review.

Spicy Xian Pork Noodles: My Asian Kitchen – Jennifer Joyce

My Asian Kitchen cover art

Images and recipes from My Asian Kitchen by Jennifer Joyce, Murdoch Books, RRP $39.99 Photography by Phil Webb, Illustrations by Riley Joyce

 

This northern Chinese noodle dish is served with a meat sauce that’s not shy on the chilli oil, garlic or Sichuan peppercorns. Traditionally lamb is used, but hand chopping the shoulder meat can be laborious, so I’ve used minced pork. Feel free to use any fat noodles like udon (see page 70) or even pappardelle, which mimic hand-cut noodles. I’ve also included a recipe (see page 214) to make your own. p.212

 

Spicy Xian Pork Noodles

SERVES 4

PREP 10 MINUTES COOK 20 MINUTES

spicy xian pork noodles

 

400 g (14 oz) fresh fat or wide noodles or 250 g (9 oz) dried
1 red chilli, thinly sliced
1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

SICHUAN SAUCE
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns 2 tsp cornflour
4 tbsp roasted chilli flakes in oil, drained, plus 2 tbsp oil
3 cm (1 1/4 inch) ginger, chopped
5 spring onions (scallions)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
400 g (14 oz) minced pork
4 tbsp light soy sauce
5 tbsp black vinegar
2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine

To make the Sichuan sauce, in a small frying pan toast the spices until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove and roughly grind in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Set aside.

Dissolve the cornflour in 1 tablespoon water.

Heat a large wok. Add the roasted chilli oil and sauté the ginger, chopped white spring onion parts and the garlic over medium heat until cooked, about 3 minutes. Add the pork and brown for about 4 minutes until crisp, breaking up the pieces. Add the soy, chilli flakes sediment, black vinegar, rice wine, cornflour water and toasted spices. Keep stir-frying until sticky and the sauce is thick. Remove from the heat.

Boil a large pot of water. If using the fresh noodles, boil for
2–3 minutes – they are done when they start to float to the top of the water. Drain and set aside. If using dried, boil for 6–7 minutes and then drain. Give them an extra rinse of hot water to remove any extra starch.

Add the noodles to the sauce and stir-fry over medium heat using two long spoons. When everything is hot and sticky, pour into four large bowls and top with the chopped green parts of the spring onion, sliced red chilli and toasted sesame seeds.

Note

Warning – not all roasted chilli flakes in oil are created equal! Most Asian shops sell various brands of chilli oil or crispy chillies in oil, typically with the flakes, garlic and black beans (basically all the sludge) beneath the oil. My favourite brand is Lao Gan Ma, packaged in a red jar with a photo of a Chinese lady on the front (the name translates to ‘old lady’). It has a cult status around the world and once you’ve tried it, you might find yourself stockpiling extra jars in your cupboard.

 

Prawn Laksa: My Asian Kitchen – Jennifer Joyce

My Asian Kitchen cover art

Images and recipes from My Asian Kitchen by Jennifer Joyce, Murdoch Books, RRP $39.99 Photography by Phil Webb, Illustrations by Riley Joyce

 

Malay cuisine is a mash-up of local Chinese, Thai and Indian influences, which makes their soups, curries and noodles dazzle with exotic spices, creamy coconut and hot chillies. What distinguishes laksa paste from red curry is the use of nuts. Traditionally it’s candlenuts, but they’re tricky to source so I use macadamias. p. 56

 

prawn laksa

Prawn Laksa

SERVES 4 AS A STARTER OR 2 LARGE PORTIONS

PREP 15 MINUTES COOK 20 MINUTES

6 macadamia nuts
1 tbsp vegetable oil
75 g (21/2 oz) yellow or red curry paste
250 ml (81/2 fl oz) chicken stock
1 x 400 g (14 oz) tin coconut milk 2 whole star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
3 tbsp tamarind purée
2 tbsp palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
150 g (5 oz) green beans,
chopped 200 g (7 oz) large raw prawns
200 g (7 oz) thin rice vermicelli
100 g (31/2 oz) pineapple
Large handful each chopped coriander (cilantro) and mint leaves
Pickled red chilli and shallots (see page 52) and crispy fried shallots, to serve

 

Using a mortar and pestle, crush the macadamia nuts to a fine paste.

In a large saucepan, heat the vegetable oil and add the curry paste and crushed macadamia nuts. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Pour in the stock, coconut milk, spices, tamarind, palm sugar, fish sauce and lime juice. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, then add the beans and prawns. Simmer for 2–3 minutes and remove from the heat.

Pour boiling water over the rice noodles and leave for 2 minutes or until soft.

Cut the pineapple into 2 cm (3⁄4 inch) batons.

Divide the noodles among four large bowls and ladle the laksa over. Top with the pineapple, chopped coriander and mint and pickled red chilli and shallots. Serve with crispy fried shallots.

NOTE

The taste of this soup relies on using good stock, so it is worth making the Master Asian chicken stock (see page 77). If you’re short on time, make the stock in a pressure cooker. It takes about 30 minutes and you end up with stock that would normally require at least 2 hours to cook. You can also use a good-quality bought chicken stock.