Tuesday News Flash: Barbara Kay and Cynthia Balevre are the winners from yesterday’s post! Check your inboxes, ladies, and congratulations.
Edith here, north of Boston, where the flower garden is mulched and the vegetable
garden planted, at last. To celebrate, I’m giving away an ARC of Murder Most Fowl AND one of Grilled for Murder to two commenters (one book each) today!
As you must know by now, I write two contemporary cozy series that involve a lot of food. Cam Flaherty grows it in the Local Foods Mysteries and Robbie Jordan cooks and serves it in the Country Story series. The books include recipes, of course (and the latest two books come out on the same day next week!).
Right now I’m tweaking the recipes for Mulch Ado About Murder, the fifth Local Foods book, and I thought I’d share how I come up with my recipes. I love cooking, and I’d like to say I come up with new dishes out of thin air – but I don’t, usually.
For example, in Mulch, which takes place at the end of May, Cam and her visiting parents eat dinner at the real Throwback Brewery in Hampton, New Hampshire, not too far from where I live. We’ve eaten there a couple of times, and in the summer they have tables and chairs outside on the patio. Cam orders the kale and couscous salad I had there, so I thought I’d have to make up a recipe for it. Instead, I emailed one of the two women who own the place and asked Nicole Carrier if the cook would share the recipe for my book, assuring her that no one dies from eating it or gets murdered at the brewery. I could almost hear the laugh in Nicole’s reply. She was happy to share, but didn’t have an exact recipe. Instead she just listed the ingredients for me. I said I could work with that, and did!
Jake Ericsson, the volatile chef/boyfriend from the first couple of books, makes a reappearance in Mulch. Cam takes her parents to his restaurant, The Market, and Jake brings them desserts on the house, including his special Swedish cheesecake, Ostkaka. For that I went to Google, and then tweaked the recipe until I came up with a version I liked.
Because locavores are such a big part of the Local Foods books, I try to have most of the recipes feature ingredients that are available locally. The latest book, Murder Most Fowl, takes place in March. Ugh – local produce in March in New England? But Cam and her friend Lucinda visit an Irish pub for Saint Patrick’s Day and have Irish Beef Stew with Stout. Half the ingredients – potatoes, carrots, onions – could have been stored from last fall’s crop, so that works, and the beef she could get from a local farm, too.
In the Country Store Mysteries, the recipes in the books are usually breakfast and lunch items, because that’s what Robbie serves. It’s been fun to come up with dishes like apple-spice muffins, a colorful cole slaw (recipe in Grilled for Murder), and turkey sliders on homemade buns with a special sauce.
The cole slaw recipe I adapted from one my Quaker friend Bill Castle makes for the Salvation Army dinner we Friends put on every summer. I didn’t think cole slaw for a hundred would be that popular in a cozy mystery, so I cut it way, way down. Still yummy.
When I learned that a friend from grad school (whom I haven’t seen in decades) is now the Original Grit Girl, who grinds corn every week into grits, polenta, and cornmeal, I had to order some. And when I made the Creamy Grits with Cheese on the grits bag, I knew I wanted Robbie to serve it. Luckily Georgeanne Ross gave me her permission to use the recipe in book three, When the Grits Hit the Fan. Mmmm.
Biscuits and gravy are big in southern Indiana, but Robbie also offers a vegetarian gravy option. I tapped my sister Janet, a vegetarian since college long ago, for her thoughts on that. She worked for several years as a cook at a Vipassana retreat center, Insight Meditation Society, out in western Massachusetts. Their miso gravy is delicious!
And then there are the failures. My Quaker Midwife Mysteries don’t include recipes, but when Delivering the Truth came out, I appeared on a bunch of blogs and wanted to share a few 1888-era recipes. I found a reference to a recipe for small sweet buns called Sally Lunns in the Woman’s Exchange Cookbook from the late nineteenth century.
It called for sourdough starter, which I have. A picture (above) from the King Arthur Flour site shows pretty puffy rolls. Mine? Flat and eggy and just awful. I did not use that recipe in a blog post (and I’m not showing you the picture, either…).
So readers, where do you get your recipes? Do you adapt and tweak, or follow the instructions to the letter? What’s your favorite breakfast or lunch dish? Remember, I’m giving away an ARC of each of my two new books to commenters!