Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Watercress with those little roots, all ready to get growing!

In The Ferryman’s Daughter, Hester, like her mother before her and countless women throughout the ages, makes the very best of the foods she can forage to supplement her family’s meagre income.

The view from the cafe Hester dreams of making her own, looking out from St Ives towards Godrevy Lighthouse

One of my own favourites is watercress. I can remember it growing wild in abundance when I was a child, but living in sheep country I’m not sure I’d like to chance it straight from a stream these days, even if I could find it. So imagine my excitement when I stumbled across the fact that watercress doesn’t need a stream. It doesn’t even need to stand in water. It grows quite happily in the ground or in a pot. And even better, you don’t need to try and source seeds. One bunch of watercress from the supermarket, or even better fresh from a farmer’s market or greengrocer, will do. The little white hairs that are the roots are usually already there on the stems, and a week in water and they’ve increased, grown stronger and are ready to go.

I may not exactly forage for my watercress, but I love being able to wander out and pick fresh peppery leaves for a salad or a garnish for soup.

The harbour at St Ives – Hester’s taste of freedom!

When I was researching Hester’s recipes for The Ferryman’s Daughter I was delighted to come across this one for watercress soup. It’s simple, the colour is amazing, and it tastes delicious – especially with an indulgent swirl of cream or crème fraiche, and fresh white bread, a luxury Hester could only dream of, especially during the shortages of The Great War. It was only natural it became one of the recipes featured in the back of the book.

So whether from your own crop, or it’s grabbed from a supermarket, this is the delicious recipe for Hester’s watercress soup.

Watercress Soup

Salt and pepper

30 g butter

1 medium onion

1 stick celery

Approximately 250 g potatoes

Approximately 250 g watercress

Approximately 300 ml water

Salt, pepper and cream to taste.

Melt butter in pan. Chop onion and cook until soft. Add chopped stick of celery. Peel and chop potatoes into small pieces. Add to pan and stir. Add enough water to cover and simmer until potatoes are soft. Chop watercress, add to soup and warm through. Blend until smooth. The original recipe says to add milk, but I like to keep the tang of watercress and thin slightly with water (or stock) to the preferred consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir with a swirl of cream (or similar). Serve with slices of fresh crusty bread.

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A delicious (and simple!) recipe for Granola

from Leah Fleming

A perfect way to start the day …


500 gms whole rolled oats

125 gms butter or non-dairy substitute

125gms (ish) honey or maple syrup

 Selection of nuts and seeds. I use linseed, hemp seed, sunflower, pumpkin. Flaked almonds, mixed nuts, walnuts, whatever’s in the cupboard.


Melt the butter and honey in a pan and mix into the oats.

 Add the nuts and seeds. Put in in a large flat oven tray at 180C. cook for about 20 mins. Take out give a good stir round and return for another 15 mins. It should be golden brown colour.

 Let it cool and add dried fruit according to taste. I use, cranberries, soft raisins, soft chopped apricots, whatever you like.

Serve with yoghurt and fresh fruit.


Escape to the sun this summer – no planes or quarantine involved!

Leah’s enchanting new book is out now:


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Publication of

The Ferryman’s Daughter!

The bowl is from Cornwall and as for the apples – well you’ll have to read the book to find out!

Today is publication day for The Ferryman’s Daughter, my very first book for Orion. We may be in lockdown, in an uncertain world, and definitely with no opportunities for wild celebrations, but I’m still wonderfully amazed and excited to see my novel sail out into the world.

I loved the time I spent with Hester, the passionate, independent-minded and determined heroine of The Ferryman’s Daughter. The original inspiration for Hester was Rosa Lewis, who in Victorian times rose from a kitchen maid to cooking for royalty and owning her own hotel and who was also the inspiration for the popular TV drama series ‘The Duchess of Duke Street’, which is still repeated now and again.

But when I was writing my story of resilience and friendship overcoming the uncertainties brought to a community facing

St Ives, in Cornwall, where the story is set

WW1, I never thought how much this would resonate in the lockdown life of a global pandemic. On the other hand, it also feels similar because of the way so many of us have been brought together, and that, for the most part, it’s kindness and solidarity that is getting us through.

So I hope you enjoy the story of Hester, who never gives up on her own dreams, while helping the nurses and volunteers nursing the survivors of the battlefield back to health again. I love that Hester remains doggedly positive, whatever life might throw at her. I’m holding onto that too.

The UK edition is available HERE

The US edition is available HERE

To celebrate publication day, here is the recipe from the book for the most delicious apple cake. Simple but tasty – and the very thing to cheer up life in lockdown.

Jan’s Scrumptious Apple Cake (the inspiration for Hester’s mum’s best apple cake)

250 g butter

225 g caster sugar

3 eggs

Half cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

260 g sifted self-raising flour

2 lemons


For decoration:

Two or three eating apples (coxes or russet are best) unpeeled

One lemon

Sugar and water for lemon syrup


Preheat oven to 180c/ 350f/gas mark 4. Grease and line a 23cm/ 9inch springform tin.


Combine butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Slowly add the eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Fold in the flour and the grated rind of two lemons. Spoon batter into the tin. Slice the apples and arrange until the top of the cake is completely covered. Bake in the middle of the oven for one hour (or until a skewer comes out clean).

Meanwhile, cut thin strips of lemon rind and boil in water and sugar until crystallised. Roll into curls. As the cake cools, make holes with a skewer and pour in the sugar syrup. Decorate the cake with the crystallised lemon peel.

Serve warm or cold, with a generous dollop of clotted cream


And the sea is St Ives in Cornwall, where The Ferryman’s Daughter is set. This was a wild and windy day a couple of years ago. I was planning to go back this summer – maybe next year!

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Copy edits are funny things.


After months of working on The Ferryman’s Daughter, writing and re-writing, editing, rewriting again and then tweaking, this is the final time I’ll see the book in manuscript form. It’s also the last chance to make any changes. Not major transformations, it’s already too late for that. Copy edits are about consistency, making sure the whole thing hangs together as a whole, with events taking place in the right year with everyone with their right ages all the way through. It’s more about the technical aspects of a story than any previous edits. It’s also where the joins from the different versions (when things like an age change can slip through the net) are smoothed out to make the final whole.


I always find it a strangely satisfying process. Frustrating at times. Even irritating, as you hunt down some little detail that then requires changing throughout the book and can drive you mad, as well as zapping all those repeated words you never spotted (may I never use ‘just’ again!). It’s where you have to stand back from the story as a writer and become a proofreader, complete with electronic tracking, with comments on the side to be addressed and corrections in the text. As someone who earns her living as a proofreader (although not for fiction), it’s quite surreal to see my own work this way – and crawl away into a corner at the recognition that I make the same mistakes! Why is it that the brain always adds that missing word, even though you’ve been over that paragraph a hundred times?

The copy edits are a final distancing from any emotional attachment to the story, which is vital to root out any tiny errors that might otherwise slip through, and also a goodbye to the characters and locations that have lived inside your head, 24/7, for the past year or so.

Up to this point, the book is fluid. Nothing is set in stone. It can change, and frequently does. But once you press ‘send’ on this particular email, with the corrected manuscript attached, that’s it. This is where the baby grows up, ready to go out into the world and take on its own life – starting with its appearance in ‘The Bookseller’ (super-proud moment).

The Ferryman's Daughter in The Bookseller

The Ferryman’s Daughter in The Bookseller


You could go on with copy edits forever. As with anything, there’s always some tiny mistake, some minor tweak that can be made. But at some point you have to call it a day. Personally, I always know when I can’t do any more. It’s when I loathe the book with a passion you would not believe. When I never want to see another word of it, or have to have anything to do with its dratted characters, ever again, and I seriously question why I thought this was a good idea in the first place.

This may sound disastrous, when there’s promotion just around the corner. But that’s the thing. It’s like childbirth. The moment the book comes back in proof form (okay, even before that), the agony is forgotten. It’s time to fall in love with the story, all over again.


Roll on the proofs!


Porthgwidden Beach, St Ives, where part of the story takes place

Porthgwidden Beach, St Ives, where part of the story takes place



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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.

National Museums of Wales Book of the Month small

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.


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.


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


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.


The Author’s Secretary at work …

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


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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.

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.


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



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



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.)



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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 🙂


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



It’s even better with chocolate butter icing …


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!


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

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