Saturday, 13 February 2016

Valentine's Day Heart Tarts

A recipe inspired by Bree's epic crush on Adam Eastbough...

...and by Valentine's Day 2016
I've been struggling with a bad back for the last few days so I needed some cheering up. I wasn't sure whether I'd manage an ambitious baking project as I'm still in quite a lot of pain so I chose something simple but delicious - something I would be able to make whilst sitting down! Seeing as it's Valentine's Day tomorrow I chose an old favourite, Jam Tarts.
Bree meets Adam Eastbough for the first time in Book 2, "Bree McCready and the Flame of Irenus" and it's safe to say it is love at first sight for her. She keeps her feelings under wraps because she can't imagine someone as gorgeous as Adam ever falling for a girl like her - especially with stunning Alice Renshaw fluttering her eyelashes and flicking her long blonde hair every time he walks past! Adam does show an interest in Bree but she has more pressing issues to think about for a while - not least saving the world!

The following extract was one of my favourite to write and it's perfect for Valentine's Day - love is in the air in this book for more than one character but you'll have to read it to find out who...

It's summer in the second book and Bree and the gang have a party on the rooftop garden to celebrate Annie Hooten's birthday. Bree has no idea that Honey has secretly invited Adam along so when he turns up unexpectedly Bree's heart gives an 'odd little flutter'.

"Bree straightened her clothes when he wasn't looking, combed her thatch of unruly hair with her fingers and took a deep breath. She  felt her mouth dry up as she saw him making his way over to her. Every muscle, every cell in her body seemed suddenly to vibrate, to come alive. She swallowed hard and took a slow, blundering step forward.

"So, how was Alice's party then?" she said.
"Oh, I dunno. It's not really my scene to be honest," Adam replied.
"Great," said Bree with more delight in her voice than she had intended. "Well, I know what you mean. That's not really my scene either."
"Cool. And besides," Adam shrugged, "the view is much better up here."
His eyes seemed to bore through Bree's skin and she felt herself blush. She was suddenly filled with the feeling that she might be standing at the edge of something wonderful.
"Would you like to dance?" asked Adam.
Somehow, in those five words, there was a promise of something, the chance for an entire life to be lived if only she took the chance.
His eyebrows lifted in silent enquiry, his neat white teeth hesitantly nibbled on his lip. Bree could feel the hot beginnings of another blush so she took a moment to compose herself. She looked up at the faint bloom of the moon and the trace of clouds that shifted to reveal an indescribable density of stars. Who knew what those stars had in store for her?"

I like to imagine that nestled amongst the 'banquet of delicious things to eat and drink' at the rooftop party there are some warm and sweet heart tarts.

Here's how to make them:

 200g of plain flour
130g of cold butter
1 heaped tablespoon of icing sugar
1 tablespoon of milk
1 egg yolk
A pinch of patience
A dash of kindness
A spoonful of laughter and
A heap of love 


Weigh out the flour... 

Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl

No lumps.

Weigh out the butter. Do this straight from the fridge as the colder the butter the nicer the result. 

Sieve in a rounded tablespoon of icing sugar and mix. This pastry does not require a lot of sugar since the jam provides the sweetness later on. 

Carefully separate the egg yolk from the white and add the yolk to the flour mixture. Add the milk and stir until everything comes together. Then use your hands to knead into a ball.

Pastry ball

Wrap the ball in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

While you are waiting you can have a quick clear up and prepare for the next step. Pre-heat your oven to 170 degrees.

After the dough has chilled for a while roll it out on a lightly floured work surface. 

I always find this dough a pleasure to work with. It rolls beautifully and never cracks or breaks. Roll it out fairly thin as there is a short cooking time and you want the finished tarts to be crispy and golden. Choose a circular cutter a little larger in diameter than the holes in your baking tin.

This recipe provided enough for 12 medium sized round tarts and 24 little love hearts. 

Lightly grease a baking tin with butter

Pop these in the hot oven for approximately 20 minutes. Be careful when you take them out as the jam is like molten lava!

Your kitchen should now smell of love :)

Put the cooked tarts on a cooling rack and leave them to cool completely. Resist the temptation to test one!

When they have cooled you may like to sprinkle a light dusting of icing sugar over the top. I did this with some and left the others plain.

The glass hearts are something I take with me on my author visits. There is a heart theme in my novels after all. I have around a hundred of them and I've never met a child who doesn't get excited whenever I pull the drawstring pouch out of my case. 

There is something about the sound of the glass clicking together, the heaviness of the bag and the thrill of finding out what is inside that sends them wild! I like to have a question and answer session at the end of every presentation and I'll use the hearts as little rewards for anyone who has a question to ask me. I'll get the child to put their hand into the bag without peeking and take a heart out. If they are lucky enough to find a rare red heart then they win a Bree book!

Hearts of Glass

Time for a cuppa

For the love of my life X

I would like to finish this blog post with another excerpt involving Bree and Adam, this time taken from the third book in the series, "Bree McCready and the Realm of the Lost"

Bree is reflecting on her first kiss with Adam. This was fun for me to write as I had to remember my own first kiss. It was a long time ago but some things are hard to forget.

 "The first flush of spring meant it had been warm enough to wear T-shirts with  no coats. They had browsed some gift stalls then stopped for a picnic in the city gardens. The thunder had been unexpected and they had had just enough time to pack away the food before the rain came, great drops that made everything look fresh and green. Adam had grabbed her hand and they had run together, splashing through puddles and laughing. They sheltered under the lowest branches of a spreading oak tree where the air had taken on a different quality - solid, warm and real. Adam's fingertips had grazed her hand lightly. When he smiled, something somersaulted in Bree's stomach before dancing up and down her spine..."

And with that I will leave you with jam on your chins and love in your hearts. May tomorrow be the happiest Valentine's Day imaginable for you all.

P.S Here is a wee extra, seeing as it's about to be the most romantic day of the year. 

My Mum & Dad
Very much in love 

"Love you both

Monday, 8 February 2016

Ponderoma Pancakes

A recipe inspired by the Ponderoma - the strange, shadowy servants who inhabit Castle Zarcalat
It's Pancake Day tomorrow. Yay! 

I do love a pancake. 

Junior and I got busy this evening and knocked up a few delicious, fluffy pancakes for supper. Not the large, thin kind but the chunkier crumpet variety. 

Click here to see our Flipagram. 

Served with a hefty squirt of lemon juice and lashings of runny Maple syrup, they were absolutely stunning.

In Bree McCready and the Half Heart Locket Bree, Sandy and Honey find themselves trapped in a medieval castle. They meet a man called Don Daines who takes them into the castle kitchen and it's here where they see the Ponderoma for the first time.

 "As soon as they opened the door they were met by the sounds of clattering dishes and sizzling hotplates. Inside was a large well-lit kitchen where an army of cloaked people were so busy stirring, tossing and kneading that they did not even look up. The scent of herbs and spices mingled with the heavy aroma of food frying. Fresh fruit and vegetables were lined out on a long wooden table and great billows of steam rose up from huge black cauldrons hanging over raging fires. Loaves were turning brown in an open furnace, filling the air with their mouth-watering aroma. Huge chunks of raw meat were being rolled in crystal salt before being strung up on metal hooks.

The strange, shadowy servants scuttled to and fro, carrying dishes and platters. Bree could see that their hands were red and blistered. Cavernous hoods concealed their faces, making the floor length robes look empty, as though they were floating around the kitchen like canvas ghosts.

Don glided over to a huge stove where two Ponderoma were using a giant spoon to stir a thick batter. The smell of hot fat filled the air as they watched a servant pouring a ladleful onto a gridle. It instantly started to bubble, eventually solidifying into a plump round pancake."

Want to make those plump round pancakes? Here's what you'll  need:

1 and a half cups of plain flour
A quarter of a cup of sugar
3 teaspoons of baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 egg
1 and a half cups of milk
3 tablespoons of butter

Measure out the butter and melt it in the microwave for 20 seconds. Keep a close eye on it, you don't want it to burn.

Set the melted butter aside while you prepare the other ingredients.

 Measure out the flour and add it to a large mixing bowl.

Sprinkle in the baking powder and a good pinch of salt.

Measure out the sugar. You don't need much as the Maple syrup topping will offer much sticky sweetness.

So, you now have all your dry ingredients in the mixing bowl. Now it's time to prepare the wet stuff.

Crack an egg in a small mixing bowl and whisk

Add the milk and melted butter to the beaten egg and whisk together with a fork. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the egg mixture.


The batter should be slightly thick and lumpy

Now that the batter is ready let it sit for a few moments while you heat the frying pan. You'll need a fairly high heat and a knob of butter for each pancake. Heat the butter until it's frothy and sizzling.

Use a ladle to get equal sized pancakes

I always find the first pancake is a little wonky. Is that just me? Still tastes good but it usually takes the second or third attempt to get things perfect. Perhaps it takes that long for the frying pan to get to the correct temperature? One of life's little mysteries I suppose.

Cook on one side for around two to three minutes. You'll know when it's ready to turn when little bubbles appear on the top. Turn it over using a fish slice and cook for a further two/three minutes. The pancake should be nice a brown with a slightly crispy edge.

A bit like this
 Now for the fun part!

Ready, steady...


My recipe made 8 large pancakes.
There could only be one topping
Lashings of Maple Syrup. Yumalicious.
A squeeze of lemon
Tuck in

Have a flippin' fantastic Pancake Day. 

See you again soon!