A Different Kind of Christmas Pudding

If you’ve enjoyed the recipes at the back of Christmas At The Beach Cafe, you might be in a mood to whip on a pinny and start baking immediately. But wait! I’d like to add my favourite Christmas recipe to the mix before you roll your sleeves up and get stuck in. As someone who is not a huge fan of the old weighs-a-ton traditional steamed Christmas pud, I’ve made the following recipe instead for the last few years, and it’s great with custard, cream or even a cheeky dollop of brandy butter. Here’s how to do it:

Apple, Mincemeat and Cranberry Sponge Pudding

Ingredients

1 large cooking apple

100g fresh cranberries

200g mincemeat

100g butter

100g caster sugar

2 large eggs

75g self-raising flour

25g ground almonds

10g flaked almonds

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C, gas mark 4. Peel, core and chop the apple, then gently cook the pieces with a splash of water in a lidded saucepan for a few minutes until soft.
  2. Stir in the cranberries and mincemeat, then pour the mixture into a shallow baking dish (approx. 1 litre size)
  3. Now make the sponge topping. Cream the butter and sugar then beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour with each. Sift the rest of the flour and fold it in, along with the ground almonds, until well mixed.
  4. Spoon the topping over the fruity base and then scatter the flaked almonds over the top.
  5. Cook in the oven for 30-35 minutes. The sponge should be golden and bounce back when pressed.
  6. Tuck in, pull another Christmas cracker… and then go back for a second helping. Hey, it’s Christmas!

Christmas At The Beach Cafe!

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final Christmas

 

So Christmas At The Beach Cafe is out there! This is the follow-up to The Beach Cafe, picking up the reins a few months later, with Evie and Ed preparing for their first Christmas together. After their hectic summer, Evie is hoping for the perfect romantic Christmas, just the two of them, in blissful peace and quiet. However, things don’t quite turn out how she planned. With unexpected visitors arriving, an unwanted ex popping up and then heavy snow, it starts to look as if Evie’s Christmas cracker is going to turn out to be a total turkey. Unless miracles do happen at Christmas, after all…

This is a novella, rather than a full-length novel, but it’s 100 pages’ worth of story, plus some fantastic Christmas recipes (sent in by my readers and voted on by my family!) AND there’s the first chapter of One Summer In Italy, next summer’s new novel to boot. Best read somewhere cosy and warm, with a fat, crumbly mince pie and maybe even a sneaky glass of mulled wine…

You can buy Christmas At The Beach Cafe for your Kindle here. Happy reading!

Treats galore

Hello, it’s that slack blogger again. Is it really July already? So much has been going on in the last few days that I couldn’t cram it all into Facebook updates. Have a blog post instead, on me!

So we went down to lovely beautiful Lyme Regis for the weekend, partly for my birthday and also because I was doing a signing in Serendip, the bookshop there.

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It was so gorgeously sunny that there was also a fair amount of beaching…

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Along with everyone’s favourite: the ancient beach sport of ‘chucking stones into the sea’.

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The next day – Sunday – was my birthday which was also extremely lovely, and full of fab treats and sunshine. I don’t think I’ve had a sunny birthday on a beach since I was travelling around Australia and saw in my 27th year with jugs full of cocktails and some terrible dancing in Airlie Beach, so that made it extra special.

And then yesterday, me and my son were lucky enough to have tickets for Centre Court at Wimbledon. I know!!!! Major major treat or what. It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go and I was a bit overwhelmed by how massive it was, and how many thousands of people there were. (I think I was expecting to be able to stroll up to Andy Murray and get him to sign my son’s plastercast but it didn’t quite happen like that.) Anyway, we saw Serena Williams get knocked out (shock!) and Andy Murray win brilliantly (hooray!) and even had a few texts from my daughter saying “Mum u r on telly!!!!” – and sure enough I was!

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Look, there I am, top left in the pink cardigan, grinning like a loon while Andy (I feel I can call him that now) has a little breather. That might have been after the excellent Mexican waves we were part of!

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And there I am again next to the dude in the hat, beaming for joy. (The dude in the hat, by the way, was extremely knowledgeable about who was who in the royal box - v handy for an eavesdropper like me.) But oh, Wimbledon was just aceness from start to finish: the buzzy atmosphere, the lovely old men in blazers and hats everywhere, the super-speedy ball boys and girls (they were so cool), and of course seeing the players themselves in action. WOW.

“This is INSANE,” my son kept saying. “This is EPIC.” He was right, you know. “This is about as good as it gets,” I told him. “We’ll look back and remember this for the rest of our lives.”

It’s the day after now, and I am still on a ginormous high, despite a meeting with my bank manager this morning, and the grim task of rewriting my new book ahead of me. All in all, it’s been a bit of a corking few days. Hope you’re having a good summer too. x

PS Don’t faint but I have actually learned how to put a newsletter together and the very first one went proudly out last week. Do sign up via the website if you want to receive the next one!

My Old Piano

Four years ago, this old beauty arrived at our house.Pianosmaller

Over one hundred years old and a gorgeous creature, wouldn’t you say? She’d been in a pub for many years and was bound for the skip until my husband rescued her.

She wasn’t exactly in the finest nick…

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I get the impression that, over the years, she had had many pints balanced on her top. Particularly in this corner:

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She stank of fags and there were crisps wedged between her keys. But we all loved her. The children learned to play on her. We sang Christmas carols around her. (Oh okay, so I made that last  bit up. But you know what I mean.)

We knew from the start that she wasn’t the greatest, when it came to staying in tune. The pedals didn’t work. Keys stuck obstinately down. She was propped up on a pile of books where a caster had fallen off. The back was wedged against the wall to prevent that falling off too. We’re not talking John Lennon’s grand piano in the Imagine video, let’s put it like that.

I made the fatal error of calling in a piano tuner the other week. He gave me a look of pity and said there was no point trying to tune our piano as it would be “throwing good money after bad”. He left and I played a sad little tune. Well, I would have done if the wretched keys didn’t keep sticking.

Since then, we have flirted with the notion of a different piano but the range was bamboozling (and the cost was terrifying). Until today, when I took the plunge and signed a rental agreement to hire another piano: a smaller, markedly less beautiful piano admittedly – but one that holds a tune and does actually sound really lovely.

An hour after leaving the shop (I’m not kidding) two enormous blokes were at the door with it on a trolley. Too late to change my mind now. I gave our old beauty a pat as they wheeled her away… then sat down and played something cheerful. It sounded pretty great, to be honest. In fact, I’m off up there to try out another tune now…

I Spy With My Little Eye Something Beginning With…B

Books BOOKS!

There is nothing more exciting than a man knocking at your door and handing you a massive box full of your very own books written by your very own fair hands. And that’s exactly what just happened. I’m still all goosebumpy and can’t stop stroking them. GORGEOUS!

These whoppers are the export edition paperbacks of Me And Mr Jones which have gone off to Australia and New Zealand and hopefully lots of other places too. I glimpsed copies of them back in January at the Pan Macmillan Women’s Fiction party (the most glamorous night of the year – well, my year anyway) but was unable to take a copy home at the end of the evening, because they’d all gone! It’s really lovely to have some on my shelves at last.

It’s just over a month now until the UK edition is published. The sun is finally shining, I am thinking about baring my legs for the first time all year, and pink fizz has shot to the top of my shopping list… it’s starting to feel as if summer is just around the corner. Can’t wait! In the meantime though, I’m off to stroke my new books….

THE END

It seems so wrong to start a brand new blog with ‘THE END’ but right now, those are my favourite two little words… because yesterday I just finished the first draft of my eighth novel, out in 2014. HOORAY!

I’m not kidding myself that the work is over yet: it’s way too long, the beginning is too waffly and the ending might just be a tad rushed (I was desperate to finish) but still, it IS finished and believe me, that is a great, great feeling. I actually gave a little cheer alone at my desk as I saved the document.

I have to say, I love this stage. I’ve printed the whole thing out, stuffed it in a big envelope and put it in a box in my office, out of sight, out of mind. I’m still the only person who has a clue what it’s about and what happens in the end; I’m the only one who knows the characters and their stories. It’s quite a weird feeling, as if I’m hugging it secretly to myself before my agent and editor get to see it and have their say.

In a few weeks, comes the moment of truth. I’ll get my red pen, take the manuscript somewhere quiet and then read the whole thing through for the very first time. Is it any good? Does it hang together as a story? Have I called my characters the same thing all the way through? (I know one minor character must have had several name changes; I kept forgetting what she was called and couldn’t be bothered to wade through to find out each time.) Most worryingly of all: is it pants, and will anyone bother reading it?

That’s to stress out about next month though. Right now, I’m going to breathe a huge sigh of relief, eat cake and raise a glass of Prosecco. Cheers!