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Talking Food With… Katy Moran

In my Talking Food series I’ll be featuring short interviews with authors, chefs, cooks, historians and food writers about their experiences of food, from memories to favourite recipes.

Today, I’d like to introduce as my guest author Katy Moran. Katy is a former book editor who now lives in Shropshire with her husband and three children. Her first novel Bloodline was published in 2008 and was an epic adventure set amongst the warring kingdoms of the Dark Ages. After a series of successful Young Adult Novels, Katy has turned her attention to adult fiction. Her debut adult novel False Lights has been described as ‘Georgette Heyer meets William Boyd’ and as having ‘… a marvellously dark and compelling anti-hero and a truly gutsy heroine… a terrific read’. Katy’s latest novel, Wicked by Design, was published in September.

And if you follow either of us on Twitter, you’ll know that Katy and I were allies this summer in the fight against the never-ending courgette hoards.

LM: Hi Katy! Your latest book, Wicked by Design, is set in an alternate Napoleonic era. Do historical recipes and/or food history have a place in your research? 

KM: Yes, I think that because my books are set in an alternative Napoleonic universe, details like period recipes and the food that people ate have an important role in grounding readers in the world and making them believe in it. In Wicked by Design, I seem to focus in on details of what people are eating or drinking at moments of extreme stress. There is a moment in St Petersburg when one of my heroes, Crow, is really falling to pieces at the supper table under the combined effect of grief, opium and too much brandy. Somehow, zeroing in on the details of the creamed spinach tart and beef olives that everyone else is eating throws his state of disintegration into contrast. (There is a recipe for beef olives in Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, published in 1747). Crow’s state and behaviour at this moment were also partly inspired by the music video for Johnny Cash’s cover of hurt, which features him surrounded by a feast; opulent but somehow repellent platters of rich food. 

LM: Any favourite examples of food in fiction?

KM: Yes, I always remember Sylvia Green’s tiny ham rolls that she ate on the train north to Willoughby Chase, and the awful contrast with her unnerving travelling companion’s rich confectionery oozing with violet icing. Actually, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken was one of the inspirations behind my alternative timeline: ‘This book is set during a period of history that never happened’.

LM: Can you share a little about your research process? Are there any tips, tricks or strange practices you find yourself following?

KM: I work in a second-hand bookshop and much of my research is driven by books I stumble on while filing new stock in the history section, so my advice would be to visit a shop like the one I work in, that has a varied and esoteric selection of books. It’s one of the best ways to get yourself out of a plot hole, too. I always find answers that I’d never have come up with by approaching the problem head on.

LM: What is it that draws you to the Cornish coast as a setting? Can you share a favourite historical fact or piece of folklore from the region?

Hell Bay, Bryher

KM: For one of the companion novels to Wicked by Design, I needed a setting in close proximity to an island. My husband’s father was born on Tresco, one of the Isles of Scilly, so that’s why one of my heroines, Hester, was brought up on the island of Bryher, and that’s how I arrived at the more general Cornish setting, too.

LM: Some quickfire questions! First, coffee or tea?

KM: Coffee!

Chocolate or cheese?

KM: Chocolate.

Breakfast or dinner?

KM: Dinner.

What’s your favourite beverage to relax with?

KM: A Gin & Tonic.

If you cook, what’s your favourite thing to make?

KM: I love baking and anything that involves the creative use of leftovers or hiding vegetables so that they are undetected by my children. Last night, I made a pie from the remains of a roast chicken and a baked ham, and the stock from the chicken is bubbling away in my kitchen. My kids spent the summer gorging on chocolate cake without a clue it was made with courgettes from the terrifying mountains that kept appearing in the garden. I’m not always this organised, though, and we’ll be having frozen pizza this evening.

LM: Can you tell us what you’re working on right now?

KM: Another novel set in the world of Wicked by Design, but eight years further on.

Thank you Katy! You can find out more about Katy at: https://katymoran.co.uk/ and follow her on Twitter @Katyjamoran.

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Halwa Carrot Cake

I came up with this cake a few years ago for a friend from Pakistan who said he was missing carrot halwa (gajar ka halwa), and who also loves carrot cake. So, for his birthday I decided to try and combine the two… After a few test runs, and a lot of texting my friend Viv to ask about correct consistencies, I ended up with this; a take on a traditional carrot cake mixed with cardamom, saffron, pistachios, golden sultanas and a large helping of sticky, sweet halwa that’s good enough to eat on its own. This is one of favourite recipes, actually, and a perfect comfort food for dark, chilly winter nights. I’d be really interested to hear about other recipes or methods for carrot halwa too!

Ingredients

For the halwa:

  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 40g butter
  • Handful golden sultanas
  • Handful of cashews
  • 250g of carrots (about 4-5), peeled and grated
  • 200ml condensed milk (about half a tin)
  • Pinch of saffron

For the frosting:

  • 250g mascarpone
  • 200g cream cheese
  • 150g icing sugar (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • zest of 1 orange

For the cake:

  • 200g butter
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 250ml milk
  • 2 free-range eggs, beaten
  • 200g carrots, peeled and grated
  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • A generous grating of fresh nutmeg or ¼ tsp ground
  • Handful of golden sultanas
  • Handful of pistachios, roughly chopped (save a few for the top)

Method:

  1. First make the halwa. Smash open the cardamom pods, scrape out the seeds and grind them into a powder in a pestle and mortar.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the cardamom. Stir for about a minute until fragrant.
  3. Tip in the sultanas and cashews, followed by the carrot. Stir together well, and gently fry over a medium heat, stirring often, for around 5 minutes or until the carrots are wilted and beginning to tangle together.
  4. Tip in the condensed milk and the saffron. Stir well. Reduce the heat and stir regularly until the mixture turns puddingy and almost all of the liquid has evaporated, about 5-10 minutes, depending on your stove. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside.
  5. Next make the frosting. Place the mascarpone and cream cheese in a bowl, and sift in the icing sugar. Stir or whisk together. Stir in the lemon juice and orange zest, saving a little zest for decoration. Cover and put in the fridge to firm up.
  6. For the cake, preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3. Line a 23cm cake tin.
  7. Place the butter and sugar together in a pan and stir together over a medium heat until both are melted.
  8. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Then, add a large spoonful of the halwa and the milk and stir to combine. Whisk in the beaten eggs.
  9. Place the grated carrots, flour, bicarb, and nutmeg in a large bowl and mix. Pour in the butter mixture and fold together until no streaks of flour are showing. Stir in the sultanas and pistachios.
  10. Tip into the cake tin and bake for around 40-45 minutes, or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. If your oven is browning the top too quickly, cover in foil to allow the rest to catch up. Cool on a wire rack.
  11. Assemble by spreading the halwa in a layer across the top of the cake, then spooning over the frosting. Decorate with orange zest and chopped pistachios.

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Talking Food With… Lucy Hounsom

In my Talking Food series I’ll be featuring short interviews with authors, chefs, cooks, historians and food writers about their experiences of food, from memories to favourite recipes.

Today, I’d like to introduce as my guest author Lucy Hounsom. Lucy is the author of The Worldmaker Trilogy. Her first book, STARBORN, was shortlisted in the 2016 Gemmell Awards for Best Fantasy Debut. Her fourth book, SISTERSONG, will be published by Pan Macmillan in 2021. She is a Waterstones bookseller and co-hosts the award-winning geek feminist podcast ‘Breaking the Glass Slipper’, which last weekend won Best Audio at the British Fantasy Awards 2019. She lives half the time in Devon with two cats and the other half in Skyrim.

And for people who don’t know… she is also my older sister. 🙂

LM: Hello, err, Lucy. (I won’t share our ridiculous nicknames for each other here). Let’s get started: what are some of your favourite examples of food in fiction?

Lucy: Definitely the descriptions of fruit in Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market. They’re so luscious and visceral; I especially love the way she dwells on each fruit in its turn:

Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;—
All ripe together
In summer weather,—
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy

– Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market (1859)

Another all time favourite has to be from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, when Harry is found on the Knight Bus and taken to The Leaky Cauldron. Cornelius Fudge sits him down in front of the fire with an enormous platter of hot, buttered crumpets. Every time I read the passage, I have this unreasonable fear that Fudge will devour all of the crumpets before Harry can even take one; I always want to yell at him to stop talking and start eating!

LM: Well, now I want crumpets. Can you share some of your strongest food memories, pleasant or otherwise?

Lucy: An unpleasant memory is undoubtedly the time I stuck my fork into a chicken kiev and it exploded boiling garlic butter all over me. I must have been about ten at the time, and I remember the exact top I was wearing. Even though it was washed, it forever after smelt of garlic…

A much better memory is from when we were younger, just about old enough to use the oven on our own. We used to sneak Linda McCartney pies from the freezer and cook them in the afternoon while Mum was at work, completely ruining our dinner. She must have noticed that they always went missing, but never said anything. After a few years we lost interest, partly because I’m sure they reduced the salt content… or perhaps it was just the illicit fun of cooking pies unsupervised and wolfing them down in secret.

LM: Do you ever use food to set the scene in your own work?

My new book, Sistersong, set in magical ancient Britain, actually uses a lack of food to set the scene. For example, at Beltane, in May, they celebrate the coming summer by eating the first strawberries, but it quickly becomes apparent that ominous weather will lead to a terrible harvest. In an isolated, tribal community, such as the one where Sistersong is set, the success or failure of the harvest is life or death, bound up with the prosperity of the kingdom. In a time of famine, everyone starves, even the King’s household.

On the other hand, the opening chapter of Starborn takes place inside a busy inn, filled with hot stews and pints of cider and ale, while rain pours down outside. I wanted to juxtapose the inclement weather with a deep sense of familiarity, comfort and security that will all too soon be threatened…

LM: No spoilers!

Lucy: Fine! I will say that inns in fantasy – and the food you find there – are tropes in their own right. Picture The Prancing Pony in The Lord of the Rings. Adventurers come in from the cold and sit by the fire with flagons of ale, a wheel of cheese, a hunk of dark bread and bowls of stew… “Unidentified Stew” is classic fantasy fare, and can range from delicious and savoury to downright disgusting.

LM: Time for some rapid fire questions! First, the eternal choice: chocolate or cheese?

Lucy: Cheese.

Tea or coffee?

Lucy: Aaaaah. Tea. For the varieties.

Potatoes, bread or rice?

Lucy: Bread.

Breakfast or Dinner?

Lucy: Breakfast. Brioche. Croissants. Muesli. Porridge with blueberries. Endless delights.

Favourite drink to relax with?

Lucy: Tough one. I’ll say prosecco or a nice Provence rosé.

LM: If you cook, what’s your favourite thing to make?

Lucy: Probably jambalaya with prawns and frankfurters. Or anything with smoked paprika!

So, there we are – I hope you’re all now suitably hungry. You can check out Lucy’s work at https://lucyhounsom.co.uk/ or follow her on Twitter and Instagram as @silvanhistorian or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/lucyhounsom.

SISTERSONG will be published under the name Lucy Holland by Pan MacMillan in Spring 2021.

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Blackberry Madeleines

Autumn is now officially here; the tomatoes have turned orange on brittle stems, the courgettes are finally ending their reign, and now is the time for golden quinces, autumn apples, and a few last, late blackberries clinging to brambles.

It was when we were on our way home, the sun sinking low and golden, that we found the blackberries. Hedgerow upon hedgerow, heavy with fruit. They squashed between our fingers, on our tongues. I still remember their taste, perfumed and sweet. Not the bright, Mat sweetness of a strawberry , but deeper, more mysterious, as if they’d drawn the cold, smoky nights into their juice, as if they’d seen midnight. – From Where the Wild Cherries Grow.

I love working with ingredients that are simple, that sing to people’s memories. The taste of blackberries, to me, will always be picking them with my father, or the taste of my grandmother’s crumble, the scratches and the beads of blood that you always have to pay for the fruit with. There is no sense in buying blackberries; commercially grown blackberries are too big, too tart, and never have the musky, almost feral sweetness that makes them so timeless and evocative.

So here we are, a nod to my own memories, and to Monsieur Proust’s, and a recipe for Blackberry Madeleines.

Blackberry Madeleines

Ingredients

  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 100g plain flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean extract, or 1 vanilla bean pod
  • Large handful of blackberries (one for each cake)
  • Icing sugar, to decorate

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 200C / 400F / Gas mark 6. Brush your madeleine or bun tin with melted butter and dust with a little flour.
  2. Whisk together the eggs and caster sugar until light and frothy. 
  3. Melt the butter and leave to cool slightly, then stir in along with the flour, baking powder and vanilla bean extract.
  4. Leave to rest for a few minutes, then spoon into the prepared tins.
  5. Press a blackberry into the middle of each madeleine.
  6. Bake for around 8-10 minutes, or until risen and pale golden.
  7. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly, dust with icing sugar, and serve warm.

P.s. If you don’t have a madeleine tin, you can use a shallow bun tin or similar. This’ll make 12-14, depending on the size. Just keep an eye on your cakes as they cook.

This recipe was first featured in the excellent Domestic Sluttery Newsletter. If you liked it, do consider signing up to my own monthly newsletter. It features original recipes, historic recipes, research, Q&As with some of my favourite people, and more.

Fig Cake with Fig Leaf Cream

In Tangier, at the very edge of the casbah overlooking the strait, is a house called Dar Zero. An old property, with white, crenelated walls, this is where Samuel Pepys lived in 1683, during the English occupation of Tangier (1661-1684), when he was employed as a secretary to George Legge, Lord Dartmouth, who had been tasked with abandoning Tangier and destroying its fortifications. In Dar Zero, Pepys wrote sections of his famous diaries, often seated beneath the shade of a huge fig tree that continues to grow in the garden to this day…

Dar Zero, in the Casbah

Dar Zero is very much an inspiration for Dar Portuna, the grand house in An Echo of Scandal. So, in honour of Pepys and his fig tree, here’s a recipe that uses ripe, seasonal figs, alongside fresh fig leaves. It’s a riff on my favourite Smitten Kitchen strawberry cake. Fig leaves have a wonderful aroma, somewhere between floral vanilla, coconut and tobacco. Here, they’re made into a syrup and mixed with whipped cream, to create a gentle, fragrant indulgent pudding that’s perfect to eat as the last golden rays of summer sink into autumn.

Fig Cake with Fig Leaf Cream

Ingredients:
For the cake:

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 190g golden caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 190g self-raising flour
  • 120ml milk
  • 1 tsp of vanilla bean extract
  • 2-3 fresh figs (if you can’t find fresh you can used tinned, or dried figs soaked in a little water to plump them up a bit)
  • 1 tbsp of caster sugar

For the syrup and cream:

  • 2-3 fresh fig leaves
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 250ml double or whipping cream

Method
The Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350/gas mark 4. Grease or line a 10in pie dish, or a 9in springform cake tin.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg, along with a tablespoon of flour to stop the mixture from splitting and beat in.
  4.  Stir in the milk and vanilla extract.
  5. Gently fold in the remaining flour until no streaks remain.
  6. Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin.
  7. Cut the figs into halves or quarters, depending on size, removing any woody stems, then press gently into the surface of the cake at regular intervals.
  8. Sprinkle the surface with the remaining sugar, so the fruit turns jammy.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes before turning down the heat to 165C/325F/gas mark 3. Bake for another 35-40 minutes, or until the surface is golden brown and a skewer comes out cleanish.

The syrup and cream:  

  1. Rinse the fig leaves, pat dry, and cut off any remaining stalk. Place them under the grill for a minute or two, keeping a close eye on them and turning when necessary: you want them to be gently toasted/browned but not burned. This releases the scent of the fig leaves.
  2. Place 2 tbsp of caster sugar in a pan along with around 8 tbsp of water and the fig leaves (don’t worry if they crumble).
  3. Press the fig leaves into water and stir about until the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Bring to a gentle boil for 3-4 minutes, until the water starts to reduce to a syrup.
  5. Leave to cool, before straining through a tea strainer or muslin into a jug.
  6. Spoon 2-3 tbsp of syrup over the cake while it is still warm, so that it soaks in.
  7. Pour the double cream into a clean bowl.
  8. When the syrup is completely cool, stir 4 tbsp (or more, to taste) into the cream, then whip until soft peaks form.
  9. Serve the cake cut into wedges, with a dollop of fig leaf cream alongside.

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A 1978 Playlist

After several requests, I’m delighted to share the 1978 playlist we put together for the launch party of An Echo of Scandal last week. I’m a firm believer in immersive research, and music is a huge part of that for me. My job is made all the easier when the era in question is filled with such a wealth of great songs from totally different music genres. So, without further ado, let’s hop back in time for a few hours, to a hot, July day in Tangier during the summer of 1978…

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An Echo of Scandal Cocktail

This unique cocktail has been created specially to accompany the launch of An Echo of Scandal. Designed to conjure up a hot summer’s night in Tangier during the heady days of 1928, with jasmine on the air, liquor on the tongue and champagne flowing. Sophisticated cognac combines with heady, floral crème de violette and the bitter-sweetness of Chambéryzette: a vintage strawberry liqueur and vermouth that has not changed for over a century. Add in a squeeze of sharp lemon, a hint of absinthe and – if you’re feeling brave enough – a slosh of champagne, and drink to the past…

An Echo of Scandal Cocktail Recipe

A jigger / 45ml Cognac (we used Remy Martin 1738)
Half a jigger / 20ml Dolin Chambéryzette
1 tsp / 5ml raspberry syrup
Half a jigger / 20ml lemon juice
1 tsp / 5ml crème de violette
½ tsp / 2.5ml absinthe
Optional: top with champagne

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake well. Fine strain
into a chilled cocktail glass, and if using, top with champagne for added decadence.


This cocktail was created by World Class Finalist Dan Bovey and award-winning
bartender and artist Gareth Aldridge, specifically to accompany the publication of An Echo of Scandal.

Dandelion Syrup Cake

This is a cake I first made earlier in the year, when spring dandelions smothered my allotment in bursts of bright yellow. They looked so beautiful and healthy (I’m very good at growing weeds) that it seemed a shame to dig them up and chuck them on the compost heap. So, I picked an entire bag full, with vague memories of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine swirling around my head:

“And there, row upon row, with the soft gleam of flowers opened at morning, with the light of this June sun glowing through a faint skin of dust, would stand the dandelion wine… Hold summer in your hand, pour summer in a glass… change the season in your veins by raising glass to lip and tilting summer in.” (Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury).

As someone who has absolutely zero home-brew experience (apart from sloe gin), actual dandelion wine was a little beyond me. So I was delighted to discover dandelion syrup. The following recipe is a two-parter: how to make a syrup out of dandelion flowers, and then – of course – how to use it in a cake recipe.

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Dandelion Syrup

Ingredients:

  • Large bowl of dandelion flowers (between 50-100, depending on size)
  • 1 large apple, chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 500g caster sugar

Method:

  1. Wash the dandelion flower heads and spread them out to dry on kitchen paper or tea towels
  2. Use a pair of scissors to snip the petals away the green stalks (doesn’t matter if a few green bits find their way in)
  3. Place the petals in a large pan with about 700ml of water, the chopped apple and the lemon juice
  4. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for around 15 minutes
  5. Remove from the heat, and leave to cool and steep, with the lid on, for a few hours (at least 2)
  6. Strain the liquid through a muslin or a fine sieve into a bowl, pressing all the liquid from the petals and fruit
  7. Return the clear liquid to the pan
  8. Add the sugar, and bring to the boil. Simmer on a low heat for around 1 hour to 1 hour 30 mins, stirring occasionally, until the syrup thickens
  9. Pour into sterilised, sealable bottles or jars. The syrup should keep in the fridge for a few weeks to a month.

Thanks to The Nerdy Farm Wife and the Traditional Scandinavian Dandelion Syrup recipe for the inspiration!

Dandelion Syrup Cake

Now, a use for that beautiful syrup! To me, dandelion syrup has a delicate, floral taste, somewhere between dried hay and honey. It’s just what’s needed when the weather is grey and drizzly (which is more often than not, here in the UK) and you need something that tastes of the sun.

Ingredients:

  • 175g softened butter
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or a vanilla bean pod)
  • zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 tbsp dandelion syrup

For the drizzle:

  • 2 tbsp dandelion syrup
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a 900g loaf tin.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a tbsp of flour with each to stop the mixture from splitting.
  4. Fold in the rest of the flour.
  5. Gently stir in the vanilla, zest, juice and syrup.
  6. Spoon into the tin and bake for around 35-40 minutes, until risen and golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean. (If the top starts browning too quickly, cover it with some foil).
  7. While the cake is still warm, poke holes in it with a skewer and spoon over the dandelion syrup so that it soaks in, followed by the lemon juice and finally the caster sugar, to give it a drizzle-cake style topping.

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Plum and Hazelnut Frangipane Cake

On my allotment, there’s a huge plum tree that overhangs the fence. Every year it sags almost to the ground under the weight of all the fruit and since I can’t bear to see them rotting on the branches, I, err, tend to liberate a fair few. (It’s not scrumping if no one else cares, right?!) I came home with a bag full the other day, and of course had to figure out a use for them.

My haul made three jars of blackberry and plum jam and this: a Plum & Hazelnut Frangipane cake.

Since this cake is part frangipane, it’s heavy on ground nuts and light on flour. (You could easily make this gluten free by substituting the flour for a GF alternative). Hazelnut frangipane is far superior to almond in my opinion: hazelnuts have such a comforting, warm, rich flavour, especially when toasted. And combined with ripe plums, vanilla and cinnamon, this cake is pretty damn addictive.

Plum & Hazelnut Frangipane Cake
Ingredients

  • 100g whole hazelnuts (or use pre-ground if you can find them)
  • 140g butter, softened
  • 140g golden caster sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 60g self-raising flour
  • 4 or 5 fresh plums, depending on size
  • Half a tbsp of honey
  • Icing sugar and a few more chopped hazelnuts, to decorate

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160C / 325F / Gas Mark 3. Grease and line a 23cm round cake tin.
  2. If you’re using whole hazelnuts, place the nuts in a dry saucepan and set over a medium heat to toast for around 3-4 minutes, shaking frequently to make sure they don’t burn.
  3. Tip out onto a clean tea towel and rub vigorously to remove the hazelnut skins. Don’t worry if some don’t come off.
  4. Use a hand-held blender or similar to finely grind the hazelnuts. Set aside.
  5. Cream together the butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy. 
  6. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a tbsp of ground hazelnuts with each.
  7. Stir in the rest of the hazelnuts, almonds, vanilla and cinnamon. 
  8. Gently stir in the flour until just combined. 
  9. Spoon the mixture into the tin.
  10. Slice the plums into halves or quarters depending on size and press gently, face-up, into the mixture. Sprinkle with a little caster sugar. 
  11. Bake for 40-50 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean. 
  12. Cool in the tin for a few minutes
  13. Dilute the honey with a splash of hot water and – while the cake is still warm – poke a few holes in the surface and spoon over the surface.
  14. Decorate with icing sugar and chopped hazelnuts.

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The Secrets Between Us: Bibliography

Author’s Note & Bibliography

(This author’s note can also be found at the back of The Secrets Between Us, but I’m posting it here too for ease of sharing links).

The Secrets Between Us is a fictional work inspired by true events that took place in the Alpes-Maritimes during the summer of 1943.

From February to September of that year, the town of Saint-Martin-Vésubie, situated around forty miles from Nice, was designated an “enforced residence” for displaced Jews. Through a combination of sympathy, politics, altruism and the efforts of Jewish Italian banker Angelo Donati, the Italian Fourth Army moved thousands of Jewish refugees into Saint-Martin-Vésubie and the surrounding villages. For one summer, the valley became something of a safe haven, where the Jews were protected from persecution from German and French forces. It offered respite, relief and a degree of security for the refugees, many of who had already been fleeing for years.

With the announcement of the armistice, and Italy’s withdrawal from the war, the refugees’ safety vanished, and they were left with an impossible choice: stay in villages like Saint-Martin and await the German authorities, or take the perilous old salt roads across the mountain passes, into what they believed would be safety in Italy.

Over a thousand refugees made the crossing from Saint-Martin-Vésubie, not knowing that German forces were waiting for them on the other side. Some of those who escaped were aided by résistance members, anti-fascist groups, or French or Italian civilians, who hid the refugees in barns, attics and remote farms, even presenting Jewish children as their own during the round-ups. Many more of refugees were captured and interned at Borgo San Dalmazzo, before being sent to Drancy, and ultimately, Auschwitz.

In The Secrets Between Us, I decided to set the action in a fictional town named Saint-Antoine, rather than in real-life Saint-Martin-Vésubie. I chose to do this because – while I sincerely hope to bring this underreported area of the Second World War to wider attention – I did not want to conflate my work with the reality of what was experienced by those who were present in Saint-Martin-Vésubie.

For many individuals, that summer in the Alpes-Maritimes was just one chapter in a whole series of heart-breaking, remarkable events. The real-life stories of both the Jews and their French and Italian protectors are ones of bravery and suffering, endurance and survival that need no fictional embellishment.

The Secrets Between Us imagines only a tiny portion of what took place during Italian Occupied France. My research spanned everything from salt mines to crayfish catching, songs in Yiddish to first-hand testimonies, but these are the works I turned to the most.

Holocaust Odysseys: The Jews of Saint-Martin-Vésubie and Their Flight through France and Italy, Susan Zuccotti (Yale University Press, 2008)

La pierre de Juifs, Danielle Baudot Laksine (Editions de Bergier) Book one of five on the subject.

A Pause in the Holocaust (1943: Le temps d’un répit), 2009. Documentary directed by André Waksman.

Mussolini’s Army in the French Riviera: Italy’s Occupation of France, Emanuele Sica (University of Illinois Press, 2016).
Wandering Star, J.M.G. Le Clézio (Gallimard, 1992. Translation: C. Dickson, 2009)

Marche de la Memoire, a yearly walk, held every September to commemorate the exodus of Jewish refugees from Saint-Martin-Vésubie.

APJN page on Saint-Martin-Vésubie: (Anonymes, Justes et Persécutés durant la période Nazie dans les communes de France – “The Unknown, Righteous and Persecuted of the Nazi period in French communes”)