It’s a pleasure to once again host mystery author Amy Reade. Yesterday she launched her new release, Murder in Thistlecross, #3 in the Malice series. If you love tales of complex characters driven to desperate acts to guard their secrets and fortune, this series is for you.
Amy has been here before. This past August she interviewed Sylvie Carmichael, the main character in Highland Peril, #2 in the Malice series. See the interview here.
Without further ado, here’s Amy.
Maybe it’s because I’m always hungry, or maybe it’s because I just love to cook, but when I write I’m sometimes surprised to find that food almost always manages to make its way into what I’m writing.
My new release, Murder in Thistlecross, is no different. I went through a cheese-and-crackers stage while I wrote the book, and you might find that the characters enjoy their cheese and crackers, too. Weird, huh? And Maisie, the cook in the castle where the book is set, provides all manner of tasty meals for the castle guests.
So I guess it’s only natural that when I talked to Maggie about writing this post, she suggested that I write about food. Sounds good to me!
The food of Wales, like the food of any nation or culture, is unique in its use of certain ingredients. In the United States, we like our potatoes and corn (and cheeseburgers). In Germany, it’s sausage and dark breads. And in many parts of the UK, it’s fish and chips.
In Wales, it’s leeks and potatoes, though there are many other foods that, while not necessarily unique to Wales, are prepared in ways that are special to Wales.
Take, for example, Welsh Rarebit. I had heard of it a thousand times, but until my husband ordered it in a restaurant several years ago, I had no idea what it was. I assumed it contained rabbit and had been spelled wrong on purpose for centuries.
It’s cheese on toast. And it’s delicious.
Clearly, neither cheese nor toast can be claimed as a Welsh specialty, but Welsh Rarebit? That’s a Welsh dish—the word “Welsh” is even in the name (the recipe is below).
Ever heard of Minwel Tibbott? I thought not. She was a Welsh historian and anthropologist who was instrumental in transcribing the words and memories of elderly Welsh people (particularly women) during the mid-twentieth century. It was her job and her passion to record their cooking methods and recipes (often dating to the late nineteenth century), many of which had never been written down, for future generations of Welsh cooks. She traveled all over Wales to properly record memories, including the old way of life, availability of foodstuffs, and culinary heritage.
So, Minwel, thank you for the service you provided to all the people of Wales and around the world who appreciate good food and good stories.
I thought I’d share a couple recipes with you before I go. All are adapted from A Taste of Wales by Annette Yates. They’re all traditionally Welsh dishes, and I’ve provided the original Welsh spelling of each dish (though don’t ask me to pronounce them—I think Welsh must be one of the most difficult languages to learn). Enjoy!
Welsh Rarebit: Caws wedi pobi
2 thick slices of bread
2 tsp. butter, softened
2 tsp. mustard (can be regular, spicy, stone-ground, whatever you prefer)
4 ounces crumbly cheddar cheese, grated (Welsh Caerphilly cheese, if possible)
Combine butter, mustard, and grated cheese in a small bowl. Set aside.
Preheat the broiler to high. Broil both sides of the bread until lightly toasted. Be careful to watch the bread—it’ll burn easily!
Spread cheese mixture on toast and broil again until cheese is bubbly and golden, just a couple minutes.
Sprinkle with a pinch of pepper and a pinch of paprika; serve hot.
Whinberry and Apple Tart: Tarten lus ac afalau
2 ¼ c. all-purpose flour
5-6 tbsp. sugar, divided, plus extra for sprinkling
10 tbsp butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
2 apples, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
2 tsp. cornstarch
3 c. whinberries (also known as blueberries)
Milk for brushing
Sift flour and 2 tbsp. sugar into a medium bowl. Add the butter and rub with your fingers until mixture resembles fine crumbs.
Stir in the egg and enough ice water to form a smooth dough. Wrap dough and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 190 C/375 F/Gas mark 5. Roll out half of dough on a lightly-floured surface, then transfer to 9-inch pie plate. Allow excess to hang over edge. Roll out remaining dough to make a top crust.
Toss apples with cornstarch until evenly coated, then transfer to the pie plate. Scatter whinberries on top and sprinkle 3-4 tbsp. sugar over the mixture. Cover fruit with top crust; seal and crimp edges, discarding excess dough. Make a small slit in the top of the pie for steam to escape.
Brush the top of the pie with a bit of milk and sprinkle with a bit more sugar.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until pastry is crisp and golden and filling is cooked through.
Teabread: Bara brith
1 1/3 c. mixed dried fruit and candied peels (such as raisins, dates, candied orange peel, etc.)
1 c. strong hot tea
2 c. self-rising flour
1 t. apple pie spice
2 tbsp butter
8 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
Place fruit in a medium heatproof bowl and cover with tea. Cover and leave at room temperature several hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas mark 4. Grease a 2-lb. bread pan and line with parchment paper.
Stir flour and apple pie spice in a large mixing bowl. Add butter and use your fingers to rub it into the flour/spice until mixture resembles fine crumbs.
Stir in sugar; stir in fruit and soaking liquid. Stir in egg.
Stir entire mixture well until it has a soft consistency.
Transfer mixture to prepared bread pan; level the surface of the dough.
Bake for about one hour until bread tests done. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.
Amy M. Reade is the USA Today bestselling author of The Malice Series, consisting of The House on Candlewick Lane, Highland Peril, and Murder in Thistlecross, all of which are set in the United Kingdom. She has also written a cozy mystery, The Worst Noel, and three standalone novels of gothic suspense: Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of the Hanging Jade.
Amy is a recovering attorney living in Southern New Jersey. She is active in community organizations and loves reading, cooking, and traveling when she’s not writing. She is currently working on a contemporary mystery set in Washington, DC, a historical mystery set in Cape May County, New Jersey, and a second cozy.
Buy Links for Murder in Thistlecross
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2AXt1XO
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2n2yseL
Independent Bookstore: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781516100194
Social Media Links
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Amy-M.-Reade/e/B00LX6ASF2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Goodreads Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8189243.Amy_M_Reade
Thanks, Amy! Excuse me while I book my next vacation … to Wales.