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WW1 Seed Cake small

It’s a year (given a week or two) since the publication of ‘We That are Left’.

And what a whirlwind of a year it’s been. After all the hard work getting your baby to as near perfection as it can be (to the point where you hate the very sight of the little tyke), it’s always an anxious moment when your darling/little horror goes off into the world to the most uncertain of fates.

I’m not sure what I thought this time last year. Probably because I was so busy between madly doing interviews and getting bookmarks printed and dancing all over the Internet to think at all.

Juliet at launch from Trisha

Thanks to my lovely author friends, the Novelistas http://novelistasink.blogspot.co.uk/, I had a wonderful, stress free and utterly happy launch party – complete with the WW1 poppy seed cake from the recipe in the book.

WTAL at BBC Radio Wales

I certainly had no idea then that the poppy seed cake would take on a life of its own, making it to the local studios of the BBC and the recipe having over 4300 hits on the Oapschat website alone (you can find the recipe here).

I had never dreamed that We That are Left would become Book of the Month three times over, for Waterstones Wales, The Welsh Books Council and the inaugural Book of the month for the National Museums of Wales.

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Most of all, I absolutely and totally never, ever dreamed that ‘We That are Left’ would reach #4 in the Amazon Kindle store and number 1 in all its categories.

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I think this calls for a party.

So in celebration, I’m working with my publishers, the awesome Honno Press, with a giveaway of ‘We That are Left’ up and running on Goodreads, and two chances to win a signed copy and a box of handmade Welsh chocolates inspired by the recipes in the book.

Chocolates!

The Goodreads giveaway is up and running (click here to enter) – and details of the other two will follow shortly.

Thank you to all my wonderful readers and everyone who has tweeted and re-tweeted and shared on Facebook – and not forgetting all those amazing reviews.

Seed cake

Watch this space!

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large box still life2Today is the first day of spring. A time of celebration and of new beginnings.

And so to celebrate, there is a signed copy of ‘We That are Left’ to be won, along with a very unique box of raw chocolates, – the very first to be available from ‘Plant Based Alchemy’, who have created vegan, gluten free and sugar free versions of the recipes in ‘We That are Left’, not to mention the recipe for the amazing gluten and sugar free vegan chocolate cake for the launch.

Sorry, but I can only post out to UK entrants!

With the Kindle edition

The amazing vegan, gluten and sugar-free chocolate cake at the launch of ‘We That are Left’. Click on the photograph for the recipe.

The chocolates are the first commercial batch made by Plant Based Alchemy, made on the Spring Equinox to celebrate the first day of spring, at nearby Lammas, a pioneering  eco-village in West Wales, which is powered by renewables

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Lammas, where the chocolates were made

This is a taste of the way they were made, and there will be plenty more information on the Plant Based Alchemy blog soon. The cacao butter looks delicious in itself, then there’s the addition of agave syrup, and finally the mixing …

(I’ve tried the prototypes – unforgettably different and delicious)

cacao butter

Cacao Butter

adding agave 

mixing chocolates

Mixing the Chocolates

Finally, the finished box – irresistible.

large box 4To have a chance to win the signed book and this very special box of chocolates, all you have to do is to add a comment to this post. The closing date is midnight on March 25th, in case you would like to give your prize as a perfect Mother’s Day present. Phoebe, the Author’s Secretary will then ceremoniously draw a name from a hat.

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The Author’s Secretary at work …

(My attempt at the Rafflecopter giveaway has been abandoned!)

GOOD LUCK!

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Today I am celebrating. We That are Left has been chosen as Book of the Month for March three times over.

It’s the Welsh Books Council’s Book of the Month, Waterstones Wales Book of the Month and the inaugural Book of the Month for The National Museums of Wales.

Wow.
WTAL at BBC Radio WalesI couldn’t quite celebrate yesterday, as I was busy  being interviewed by BBC Radio Wales for the Roy Noble Show, which is going out on Sunday March 16th between 10.30 – 12.00. However, being me, the occasion wasn’t quite right without cake, so I took in one of Elin’s recipes from We That are Left to the Bangor studios – with apologies to Roy Noble and all the lovely people in Cardiff who were just too far away (it’s winding roads all the way, believe me).P1010473 The next time I visit Cardiff …..

So to celebrate, and for all those who missed out on tasting my version, here it is. It’s a traditional recipe that would have been made in 1914, and in the early years of the war before things like sugar became expensive and hard to get – and vital to preserve fruit for the winter months. The original recipe was gargantuan, and included caraway seeds. I did try it, but after a youthful mishap with Pernod (an occupational hazard of having family in France) I still can’t quite get to grips with anything that vaguely resembles aniseed.

The recipe I found suggested poppy seeds – and that really works. I also added the zest and juice of a fresh orange and lemon along with the candied peel. Like anything that needed importing, these became scarce as the war went on. It’s actually the reason rationing kicked in straight away when it came to the Second World War – the First World War was  steep learning curve in how to keep a population fed and so able to keep on working at home, as well as fighting abroad. It was also when they found out about air raids. So when the Second World War came, everything was ready to kick in and safe thousands of civilian lives and keep a population fit and strong.

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If you are not sure of poppy seeds, try half the amount. You can toast them as well. I like the texture and flavour of the non-toasted ones, they sort of pop in your mouth. This icing is a lemon butter icing with a touch of vanilla – but experiment to taste. I wasn’t sure about the original cake proportions, so I went back to my mum’s no fail recipe for my version of the basic cake. I’ve found everything works with this recipe, and cooking is wonderfully creative, so happy experimenting.

And if anyone can make a successful caraway seed cake, just let me know ….

Seed Cake

 

Ingredients:

8 oz                        230g                        Butter or margarine

8 oz                        230g                        Sugar

2 ozs                        60g                        Caraway or poppy seeds

8 oz                        230g                        SR flour

2oz                         60g                        Candied peel

Rind and juice of I orange

Rind and juice of 1 lemon

3 eggs

 

Method:

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time with flour alternately, then add juice of one orange, caraway/poppy seeds, candied peel. Spoon into a greased 7inch/ 18cm tin and bake in oven at 180 degrees (160 for fan assisted)/ Gas Mark 4 for one hour, or until a knife comes out clean. When cool cover with butter icing. (Vanilla or lemon both worth well.)

Enjoy!

 

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The best way to eat courgette and chocolate cake!

I first tasted chocolate and courgette cake in a local cafe on the beach at Llanfairfechan – and was instantly blown away, With the help of various recipes, I’ve been trying to recreate it since. This is the one that made the best, darkest and richest version. I haven’t come across a chocolate and courgette cake recipe from the First World War, but I’m sure there were similar cakes being made, so I’m still classing this as research!

I used natural dried apricots from my local food coop. They are darker and more intense than the orange ones.

So if you want an alternative cake to serve your Christmas guests – and one with a healthy dose of your five a day – look no further than the luscious chocolate and courgette cake. Enjoy 🙂

Ingredients

8oz            227g            Butter/margarine

8oz             227g            Sugar

2oz             57g             Cocoa (the darkest and the best)

6 oz             170g            SR Flour

8oz            227g             unpeeled, grated courgette

3 eggs

1 teaspoon mixed spice

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

40z            125 chopped dried apricots

3oz            85 g chopped almonds

 

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It’s even better with chocolate butter icing …

Method

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs. Add grated courgette, vanilla, apricots and nuts. Folds in flour and cocoa and spice. Place in greased cake tin (7inches/18cm) and bake for 1 hour at 180 (160 for fan assisted). Gas Mark 4. Turn out onto a plate to cool.

When cool cover with chocolate butter icing. Very dark, rich and intense!

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Cake making supervisor resting, not amused that chocolate is bad for dogs …

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