Sunday, July 13, 2014

Welcome New York Times Bestselling Guest Susan Elia MacNeal

LUCY BURDETTE: Honestly, I'm a little surprised that Susan could scrape herself off the ceiling and get a post written this week after her big news: She hit the New York Times bestseller list for her new book, THE PRIME MINISTER'S SECRET AGENT! But she did, and we're thrilled to welcome her to Mystery Lovers' Kitchen to share one of her favorite summer dishes. Take it away Susan!

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: "Eat fruit!" That seems to be my rallying cry in the summer, especially with my nine-year-old son, who (not all the time, but, you know, often) would rather have candy or cookies as a snack.

However, there's one dessert I make in the summer that everyone loves — Fruit Crisp. Not the best or most evocative name for a dessert maybe, but as spring turns to summer, and the variety of fresh fruits change it goes from Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp, to Cherry Crisp, to Blueberry Crisp, to Peach Crisp, to Pear Crisp, to Apple Crisp. I know exactly what part of summer we're in by what sort of fruit is best. 
And what is a crisp? Well, in our house it's a baked fruit dessert with a Scottish shortbread topping. (No oatmeal. No thanks. I could be wrong, but I think that's what makes a cobbler instead of a crisp.) Basically, a fruit crisp is eating caramelized fruits with crumbled buttery shortbread cookies — heaven.

I don't really have a recipe, as I've been making Fruit Crisp for years. But here we go. 

For the topping, you'll need one stick of butter, one cup of sugar, and one cup of flour. That's it. Mix (I just use well-washed hands or put my son to work) thoroughly, so you get a buttery sort of dough. (One, one, and one — so easy to remember.)

Then take whatever fruit you have on hand (I just mix and match depending what's in season and what's in the fridge), wash it, peel it (if, you know, it needs peeling), and cut into chunks. (To taste — my family prefers bigger pieces of fruit, which is great because it means less chopping for me!)

I just put the fruit in without adding any sugar because i think the topping is rich and sweet enough. But if you'd like, add from 1 to 3 teaspoons of sugar and mix through. Likewise, I love the messy, juicy fruit juices that bake down, but if you'd like a filling more like pie filling, add a tablespoon of flour or corn starch and mix through.)

Put the fruit in a baking dish. Top with the buttery dough — no need to roll it out, just sprinkle it on.

Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or so. (I like the crust quite brown and fruit caramelized.) Enjoy solo or with ice cream!

Happy summer!
World War II rages on across Europe, but Maggie Hope has finally found a moment of rest on the pastoral coast of western Scotland. Home from an undercover mission in Berlin, she settles down to teach at her old spy training camp, and to heal from scars on both her body and heart. Yet instead of enjoying the quieter pace of life, Maggie is quickly drawn into another web of danger and intrigue. When three ballerinas fall strangely ill in Glasgow—including one of Maggie’s dearest friends—Maggie partners with MI-5 to uncover the truth behind their unusual symptoms. What she finds points to a series of poisonings that may expose shocking government secrets and put countless British lives at stake. But it’s the fight brewing in the Pacific that will forever change the course of the war—and indelibly shape Maggie’s fate.

“You’ll be [Maggie Hope’s] loyal subject, ready to follow her wherever she goes.”O: The Oprah Magazine

THE PRIME MINISTER'S SECRET AGENT is available at your local independent bookstore, library, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.


  1. Welcome! And congratulations!

    I love this recipe--it's simple, direct, and gets the job done. I wish more people would make simple healthy desserts regularly so their kids would know what real food is--get them hooked on fresh fruit early!

  2. Susan, congratulations on the release and making the New York Times Bestseller List. The book sounds intriguing and your recipe looks yummy. Wishing you much success.

  3. Welcome to MLK, Susan! This is just what I need. Blueberries were on sale, and I have two containers in the fridge ready to be turned into this yummy dessert. My husband's favorite cookie is shortbread so I know he will love this!

  4. Thank you for having me! Peg, please let me know how your blueberry crisp turns out.

  5. Fruit and shortbread? I'm in!
    The recipe sounds as tantalizing as the book.

  6. Congratulations on making The New York Times list! WOOHOO!

    Your crisp sounds so easy. I love keeping it one to one to one. I was going through some cake recipes recently and realized that a lot of the old recipes do that. Very practical and so easy to remember.


  7. Welcome, Elia! Your recipe sounds wonderful and I can't wait to read the book.



  8. I have a cobbler in the oven this very moment--raspberries from our yard! Congrats on the great news about the new book. Love the series and can't wait to read the new one.

  9. Susan, I love the thought that you can tell the time of year by the fruit in the crisp. This is similar to what I clipped from Mademoiselle (!) decades ago, and I can swear it is great. Awhile back I (sadly) realized it was time for a less fattening version, yes, some oatmeal. Cobbler is more of a biscuit topping. Hmm, wonder if I have any peaches on hand...