Soup to share

I make no claims on the recipe for this wonderful, hearty soup inspired by the Italian ribollita.

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But I’ve been cooking it a lot in this chilly winter weather (well, chilly by Australian standards!) People keep asking me for the recipe so I thought I’d share it here.

It comes from a cookbook by Aussie chef Bill Granger, Bill’s Basics. I have an extensive cookbook collection but this is one of my favorites. Every recipe I’ve made from it has turned out splendidly and they are much in demand from my family. With my background as an editor in food magazines, I can be critical of recipes—I can only praise this collection!

Here it is—a tasty, warming soup.

BAKED BORLOTTI BEAN AND PANCETTA SOUP

Ingredients

  • 375 g (2 cups) dried borlotti beans
  • 2 red onions, diced
  • 100g pancetta, chopped, or a ham hock
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 celery sticks, diced
  • ½ teaspoons dried chilli flakes plus ½ tsp extra
  • 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
  • 1 litre (4 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
  • 200g ciabatta bread, crust removed, roughly torn
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bunch cavolo nero, shredded
  • Method

Put the borlotti beans in a large bow, cover with cold water and leave to soak for 8 hours or overnight. Rinse the beans under cold running water, then drain well.

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Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Put the beans in a large ovenproof casserole dish with the onion, pancetta or ham hock, garlic, celery, chilli flakes, rosemary, stock and 1 litre (4 cups) water. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Put the lid on the dish and bake in the oven for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, adding a little more water if necessary.

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When the soup is nearly ready, put the ciabatta on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with the extra chilli flakes and some sea salt. Bake for 10–15 minutes until golden brown.

If you used the ham hock, lift it out now, shred the meat and return to the soup with the cavolo nero. Put the lid back on and leave for a couple of minutes until the cavolo nero is bright green.

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Ladle into bowls and top with the toasted ciabatta croutons.

Serves six

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Bill’s Basics by Bill Granger, HarperCollins Publishers

I’ve cooked this recipe several times. I’ve found with Bill Granger’s recipes from Bill’s Basics that if you follow the recipe exactly it turns out perfectly.

One time I didn’t have pancetta so used speck. Cavolo nero or tuscan cabbage isn’t always available where I shop – I’ve used kale instead and it tasted just as good.

I serve this soup with shaved parmesan cheese on top.

It’s so worth making the croutons, they taste fantastic and their crispness is a great contrast in texture. I’ve made them with sourdough bread when I haven’t had ciabatta.

I’ve successfully frozen this soup.

NOTE Australian standard measuring cups are used in this recipe. An Australian standard measuring cup is 250ml, an American one is 240ml so there isn’t much difference in a recipe like this.

One Australian metric tablespoon holds 20mls; a tablespoon in the US, the UK and New Zealand holds 15mls.

100 grams is approximately 4 oz

180˚C oven heat is approximately 360˚F

(For an excellent resource in converting baking measures and ingredients from other countries, visit Joy of Baking.)

KANDY SHEPHERD writes fun, feel-good fiction.

Her newest release from Harlequin Romance is The Bridesmaid’s Baby Bump.

 The billionaire bachelor’s baby! 

When party planner Eliza Dunne meets billionaire Jake Marlowe at a wedding, she decides to finally give in to the sparks that have always fizzed between them! 

The connection is so intense that Jake can’t resist Eliza—but with the divorce only just final after his unhappy marriage, he’s not ready for anything serious. But when Eliza tells him her shocking news—she’s pregnant with his baby!—he has one certainty: he wants to be at the center of his new family, as a husband and father…

Visit Kandy at her website

www.kandyshepherd.com

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A collection of covers

My first book with Harlequin is published today—The Summer They Never Forgot is available in print and e-book from wherever Harlequin series books are sold. It’s a deeply emotional, heart-warming story of rekindled love.

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Sometime last century I submitted my first romance to Harlequin Mills & Boon in London. Needless to say it was promptly rejected but later efforts had encouraging replies. I got sidetracked into other writing ventures but never gave up the dream to be published by Harlequin. So I was thrilled when the manuscript for The Summer They Never Forgot was accepted. And can I say that working with the editors at the London office is an absolute pleasure! Well worth the long wait…

My kitty Ivy seems to be urging me to unpack the books and give her the box!

My kitty Ivy seems to be urging me to unpack the books and give her the box!

Waiting to see what cover the publisher gives your book can be a tense moment for an author. How did the cover designer interpret my characters? Did they get my setting right? How does the title look on the page?

I’m pleased to report the Harlequin designers got everything right! The water setting, the dock where some pivotal scenes are played out, the carefree summer atmosphere. Most important, the heroine and hero, Sandy and Ben, fit my mental image of them. “He’s hot!” was my daughter’s reaction to Ben—you can’t get much better than that.

Oh, and I’m a big sucker for pink on covers and I love the pink on the Harlequin Romance covers.

The Mills & Boon hardcover and e-book cover in the UK

The Mills & Boon hardcover and e-book cover in the UK

As this is my first book for Harlequin, I didn’t realize there would be several other covers for the book.

The Mills & Boon e-book cover in Australia

The Mills & Boon Sweet e-book cover in Australia

And I like them too!

Then there are paperback covers for two-in-one editions.

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The Australian mass market paperback Mills & Boon Sweet with Sophie Pemberton’s Heiress on the Run

The UK mass market paperback Mills & Boon Cherish with Liz Talley's His Forever Girl

The UK mass market paperback Mills & Boon Cherish with Liz Talley’s His Forever Girl

I believe if foreign editions are sold, they might have different covers again. I look forward to that!

Here’s the cover blurb for The Summer They Never Forgot:

“It started with a summer kiss…

Sandy Adams is on her way to an interview, but when she sees a signpost for Dolphin Bay she decides to take a detour down memory lane….

Ben Morgan has had his share of heartache. But when a ghost from his youth catches his eye memories of their last summer together come flooding back.

Everything has changed in the past twelve years, and still they’re right back where they started, facing a second chance they deserve…together.”

Kandy Shepherd writes fun, feel-good fiction.

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Watch out for her The Summer They Never Forgot, her first release from Harlequin Romance in February 2014 in North America, the UK and Australia.

Her contemporary women’s fiction e-book, Reinventing Rose, is available now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Smashwords, and other e-book retailers.

Kandy’s romances include the Amazon bestseller The Castaway Bride, Something About Joe, and the award-winners Love is a Four-Legged Word and Home Is Where the Bark Is.

Visit Kandy at her website

www.kandyshepherd.com

Reinventing Rose—my new story

KandyShepherd_ReinventingRose800I don’t know when “chicklit” became a no-no word. “Contemporary women’s fiction” is now the description of choice for contemporary, sometimes humorous novels about a young (or not-so-young) woman’s journey to that may or may not include romance but usually includes friendship, family and career.

I’m putting my hand up to say I love reading chicklit, however you label it. And I like writing it, too!

My new release Reinventing Rose falls under the chicklit banner. When 28-year-old Californian schoolteacher Rose Butler flies to Sydney, Australia, to meet an internet lover, the reunion doesn’t go quite to plan. Rose finds herself alone in a foreign country, too embarrassed to tell the folks back home what happened. Rose decides to stay and reinvent herself with a total “me makeover.”

Three new female roommates turn out to be the perfect people to aid and abet her—one is a beauty editor on a womens magazine with access to all sorts of image-changing freebies. But Rose discovers real change doesn’t come from new hair and makeup. As she throws herself headlong into her new life, she gets tripped up by a painful family secret and unresolved problems from her past. She’s forced to question her beliefs about love and loyalty, old mistakes and new choices, and the bonds of both family and friendship.

3 QUICK QUESTIONS

Q. You’re published in romance—why write womens fiction/chicklit?

A. I love writing romance where the focus is on two people falling in love against the odds. But I also like writing about the other aspects of my characters’ lives—family, friends, career challenges—and womens fiction gives me that opportunity. I enjoyed creating the secondary characters of Sasha, Carla and Kelly in Reinventing Rose. Female friendship is so important in my life—and I give Rose three amazing new friends. Of course Rose meets men, the sexy, bad-boy photographer Elliot and the handsome doctor Luke. Which of those gorgeous guys will she end up with?

Q. Doesn’t chicklit concentrate on shoes and shopping?

A. There’s a fun pair of shoes in Reinventing Rose but wearing them leads Rose somewhere she really shouldn’t have gone! Chicklit also deals with deeper issues and as Rose’s story unfurls she experiences them, too—eating disorders, divorce, miscarriage are all touched on. The tone is sassy but the subject matter is sometimes serious.

Q. What inspired you to write Reinventing Rose?

A. When I was working as an editor in womens magazines, I particularly enjoyed working on reader makeovers—coordinating with hairdressers, makeup artists, fashion stylists and photographers to transform everyday women into their look-best selves. I had the idea for a chick-lit type story about a young woman who decides a makeover will solve all her problems. Of course it doesn’t, and Rose has quite a journey before she realizes that. I had such fun taking Rose into the studio for her makeover—a location so familiar to me.

P.S.  There aren’t any dogs in Reinventing Rose—there was a gorgeous Border Collie in an earlier version but the chapter he appeared in was slashed in the editing process. There are two cats, though, a tuxedo kitty named Socks who stays off-stage but very much in the heroine Rose’s thoughts, and a beautiful brown Burmese named Nina who is modeled on one of my own cats (sadly departed.)

Reinventing Rose is available as a e-book (print coming soon) from AmazonBarnes & NobleKoboSmashwords and other on line e-retailers.

Kandy head shot_2Kandy Shepherd writes fun, feel-good fiction. Her new release is the contemporary women’s fiction (aka chicklit!) Reinventing RoseHer romances include The Castaway Bride, Something About JoeLove is a Four-Legged Word and Home Is Where the Bark Is.

 

 

A taste of chocolate

What fun to be invited to a chocolate tasting!

The lovely people from the  Australian office of Swiss chocolate maker Lindt  invited me (wearing my magazine editor’s hat) to a tasting of some scintillating new dark chocolate flavors in Lindt’s Excellence range sold in Australia.

Chocolate tasting

In a room at the beautiful Art Gallery of New South Wales, a tasting plate with a square of each new flavor was set up in front of each of the media guests. Before we were allowed to taste them, Lindt’s Master Chocolatier, Thomas Schetzler, explained to us we needed to use all our senses to fully experience the chocolate.

We examined the smooth, glossy look of the chocolate; felt its soft smoothness; inhaled the rich aroma; listened to the snap as we broke a piece; and then finally savored the different flavors. We tried 70% Cocoa, Strawberry Intense, Coconut Intense, Passionfruit Intense, and A Touch of Sea Salt. It was difficult to nominate a favorite–the strawberry was the sweetest, the coconut amazing, the passionfruit an enticing blend of sweet and sharp, and the sea salt truly a pleasant taste surprise.

Chocolate tasted

I looked around the room and, like at a wine-tasting, everyone just tasted the chocolate without devouring each piece. Much as I would have liked to behave like a greedy pig and eat it all, I refrained–just murmured my appreciation in a quiet way I hoped sounded professional. (Lucky I went home with a goody bag containing each flavor!)

Lindt Master Chocolatier, Thomas Schetzler, explains the chocolate-making process

I’m a total chocoholic with my tastes running with the majority in favoring milk chocolate. However more people are becoming switched on to the joys of dark chocolate. I left the evening’s tasting a convert!

Years ago, when I was first taken to a Lindt chocolate shop in Berne, Switzerland, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Lindt wasn’t as easy to get in other countries then and my luggage went home weighted down with big bars. Now it’s much easier to indulge if you live outside of Europe.

The characters in my novels also like chocolate. In The Castaway Bridethe hero and heroine are shipwrecked on a tropical island with their only food supply a panic bag packed with chocolate. No wonder they have so much fun!

My hot, hunky new hero!

 

My new contemporary romance e-book Something About Joe is now live on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and other e-retailers for the special price of $0.99.

Something About Joe is a reissue of my first published novel (then called Mitchell’s Nanny, published by a small independent publisher.

Even years after the novel was published, readers let me know how much they loved that story of a stressed out single mom who falls in love with her toddler’s new nanny—a hot hunk on a Harley who roars into her heart. When a copy went for a surprising sum at a charity auction at a romance reader’s convention, I began to wonder if Joe and Allison’s story might reach a wider, new audience.

First thing I did when I decided to indie publish it as an e-book, was to change the title from Mitchell’s Nanny (an author often doesn’t have a choice of their book title) to Something About Joe. The second was to commission a lovely cover from the mega-talented designer Kim Killion at at Hot Damn Designs. The third was to update some of the details in the book to make it sit happily in 2012.

Something About Joe is already getting some wonderful feedback from readers—and five-star reviews!

Reviewer and blogger Katrina Whittaker says: “I’d give Something About Joe more than 5 stars if I could. It’s a delightful and heartfelt romance between two unlikely people who complement each other to perfection.”

“Joe is every woman’s fantasy man!” says another reader.

My hero Joe Martin is hot, smart, great with kids and an amazing lover. No wonder heroine Allison Bradley has such trouble fighting her attraction to him. These two really have quite a lot to work through before they get their guaranteed romance novel “happy ever after” ending!

Here’s where to find Something About Joe. If you read it and enjoy it, please let me know!

AMAZON

http://www.amazon.com/Something-About-Joe-ebook/dp/B0076WJSSK

BARNES & NOBLE

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/something-about-joe-kandy-shepherd/1109155752

SMASHWORDS

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/130749

Fantasy islands

Tropical island. White sands. Palm trees. Warm, aquamarine waters. Just the stuff of romantic fantasy—and the fictional setting for my new romance THE CASTAWAY BRIDE.

If only it were real…

Samsao Island in the Angthong National Marine Park

I had to keep pinching myself when, just days after THE CASTAWAY BRIDE was published on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords, I found myself on a beautiful tropical island—just like my fictional characters Matt Slade and Cristy Walters. And so much of what I experienced echoed scenes in my book.

Na Muang I Waterfall, what an idyllic place to swim

Beautiful beaches? Tick.

Swimming under a waterfall? Tick.

Exotic fruits to feast on? Tick.

Dragonfruit (right) is almost too pretty to eat

Thanks to Procter & Gamble and Ambi Pur air care, I was on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand on a media familiarization tour in the form of a “sensory journey”. (Gotta love my “day job” as a magazine editor!)

Early morning at beautiful The Scent Hotel, Bangrak Beach, Koh Samui.

There were, however, some major differences between fictional fantasy and media trip reality. No gorgeous, bare-chested hero like my fictional Matt Slade for one thing! (Though I was in great company with the most delightful group of journalists and media people.) And I got to stay in a beautiful hotel—unlike my heroine Cristy Walters, who has to bunk down in a ramshackle survival hut with scratchy sheets and no bathroom. (Sharing it with hot hunk Matt does somewhat take the edge off her discomfort!) Oh, and I didn’t have to get shipwrecked like Cristy and Matt to appreciate my scent-alicious sojourn. It was work, but work of the most enjoyable kind!

Bliss!

The trip was amazing—and over only too soon. But isn’t that the great thing about fiction? If I want to escape again to a romantic destination, I only have to flick through the pages of a book to transport myself anywhere in the world. And, as a writer, I get to create my own fantasy destinations with everything that appeals to me  all in one place!

My trip to Koh Samui, while bringing to life some of locations in THE CASTAWAY BRIDE, also fueled my imagination with scenarios for future stories. My lucky characters have lots of treats in store for them!

(If you get the chance to go to Koh Samui, I highly recommend The Scent Hotel. It was one of the loveliest small hotels I have ever stayed. I would SO love to go back one day with my husband!)

Books, beautiful books!

Both dogs are on the outside back cover, too.

Excitement all round when my author copies of HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS arrived from Penguin in New York. The cover is gorgeous, with the two dogs– sad-eyed Mack (the big black one) and cute Bessie (the purse-sized pooch in the purse!) The band around the title is a wonderful fuchsia colored foil-and Serena is wearing purple, my favorite color. This was the first time I saw the back of the book—and it’s as lovely as the front.

I find it awe-inspiring to see the first draft of the cover and discover how the cover artist and designer have interpreted my imaginary people. Of course with the trend for “headless” people on covers, it’s just their bodies we see but I love the way Serena and Nick look.  (BTW, I like the headless trend as it lets my imagination fill in the faces of the characters in a book.) The first version of the cover had Mack as a German shepherd. While the big mutt might have some German shepherd, he is very definitely black and the final version has him as the correct color!

I, husband,  and daughter were all thrilled when we opened the big boxes of my books—my books!—the only creature left unmoved by it all was Tabitha—as her expression shows. “Don’t tell me that’s another book about dogs,” it could say. “When are you going to write a book about the superior feline species?” Or, more likely, “Get those books out quick smart so I can have the box.”

Tabitha just wants the box!

WHAT I’M READING NOW:  C.C Coburn’s The Sheriff and the Baby (Harlequin American Romance) is a sweet, heart-warming story with a touch of mystery and a whole lot of humor set in small-town Colorado. C.C and I became buddies when we were both striving to get published and this is her second book. I’m really enjoying it!