Showing posts with label Hannah Dennison. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hannah Dennison. Show all posts

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Welcome author @HannahDennison with book #giveaway!!

Please welcome our guest, Hannah Dennison.

Hannah is the author of The Vicky Hill Mysteries (Little, Brown) and the Honeychurch Hall Mysteries (Minotaur), both set in the wilds of the Devonshire countryside. Hannah originally moved to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting. She has been an obituary reporter, antique dealer, private jet flight attendant and Hollywood story analyst. Now living in Portland, Oregon, Hannah still continues to teach mystery writing workshops at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program in Los Angeles, California. Hannah has served on numerous judging committees for Mystery Writers of America and is serving on the MWA board for 2016-2018.

Although she spends most of her time in Oregon with her husband and two insane Vizsla dogs, Hannah’s heart remains in England. She is a passionate supporter of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the Historic Houses Association, and the National Trust. She enjoys all country pursuits, movies, theater and seriously good chocolate.

Don't miss Hannah's book(s) giveaway below!!

Take it away, Hannah!

How to make a traditional English Cottage Pie!

When I was a child in the early sixties, my mother’s variation on our weekly menu rarely changed. On Sunday we had a roast (beef, lamb or pork); Monday was either Cottage or Shepherd’s Pie (depending on what joint**was leftover on Sunday); Tuesday was bangers and mash; Wednesday was a stew of some kind; Thursday was the dreaded fried liver and onions; Friday was fish and chips and Saturday was soup and cold cuts or eggs.
**Joint is British slang for a particular cut of meat—usually “topside”—and not to be confused with cigarettes of the recreational kind.

At that time, pasta was only just making an appearance in England but my father was leery of “foreign goop” as he called it, so pasta did not feature in our household until I was a teenager.

As the Dennison’s weekly menu illustrates, it was not particularly varied and definitely the kind of culinary fare that gave British cooking the bad reputation that it wholly deserved back in the last century.

But I really did enjoy eating Monday’s Cottage Pie. As you can probably gather, it was a popular way of eking out a Sunday roast by using the leftover meat and the gravy.
It honestly makes a huge difference if you can make this dish from scratch— which is what I did especially for Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen (fanfare of trumpets please!). And yes, I agree, who has time to do that these days!

If you are making it from scratch you’ll need some kind of meat-grinding contraption. Pictured is the one my mother gave me­ decades ago. See how shiny it is? I am embarrassed to admit that up until now, I’ve only used it three times.

A quick note: This is not a Bolognese sauce with mash on top so be brave. Don’t use tinned tomatoes. Ever. But by all means add lashings of tomato ketchup as a condiment on the side.

So here we go:

Cottage Pie (Serves 4) 
Oven temperature: 375F

2lbs Russet potatoes or any that mash well
4oz butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
1tsp of dried thyme
½ glass of red wine (optional)
1 ½lbs of cooked beef tenderloin (if making from scratch) OR 1 ½lbs ground beef
1½ cups of beef stock/gravy
1tsp of cornstarch (optional—I don’t put this in if I’m using the gravy from the roast)
2tsp of Worcestershire sauce
Sour cream (optional)
Salt & Pepper

Method from scratch:
Grind up the leftover beef.
Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the freshly ground beef, chopped onion, celery and crushed garlic. Cook until slightly brown.

Method using ground beef:
Gently fry the ground beef in it’s own fat in a large skillet until brown.

Remove meat with a slotted spoon and set aside. If there are more than a couple of tablespoons of fat left, drain off the rest and discard.

In the remaining fat, gently fry the chopped onion, celery and crushed garlic until soft. I don’t add oil when frying ground beef because the end result can be very fatty.

Both methods:
You’ve now got your browned beef, onion, celery, and crushed garlic in the skillet.

Pour in one cup of leftover gravy, half a glass of red wine (optional), 2tsp Worcestershire sauce and dried thyme, salt and pepper.

Simmer for ½ an hour, adding a touch of water if you think it’s too dry but don’t make it too runny or the mashed potato will sink. If you think it’s too watery, add a touch of cornstarch.

Meanwhile, peel and cut the potatoes into chunks. Boil them until you can stick them through with a knife. Drain the water and mash them up with butter and sour cream until they are fluffy.

Put the meat sauce in a deep pie dish. I use a soufflé dish.

Pop the mashed potato on top of the sauce. Dab it with butter and run a fork across to help the potato crisp up.

Stick in the oven for 40 minutes until brown and crisp on top and you can just see the sauce beneath sizzling.

Serve with English garden peas or green beans

A final note, Cottage Pie freezes well.


And now for that giveaway! I am giving away 1 hardback copy of KILLER BALL AT HONEYCHURCH HALL plus 1 paperback copy of MURDER AT HONEYCHURCH HALL to 2 winners. Leave a comment telling me whether you've ever eaten anything British in nature and remember to leave your email (cryptic or else-wise) so I can contact you if you win.  Cheers!

Connect with Hannah:
Twitter: @HannahDennison

A Killer Ball at Honeychurch Hall, May 3, 2016

When antique dealer Kat Stanford discovers the partially mummified body of a young woman in an abandoned
wing at Honeychurch Hall, suspicion falls on those who had been living there half a century ago. In those days the Bushman Traveling Fair and Boxing Emporium camped on the estate grounds, so Kat is not surprised to learn that her mother Iris knew the victim.
Meanwhile, the unexpected appearance of retired sailor and local lothario Bryan Laney sets female hearts aflutter. Despite the passing years, time has not dampened his ardor for Iris but the feeling is not reciprocated. With stories of hidden treasure and secret chambers, misguided loyalties and spiteful deception, past and present collide. As Kat becomes embroiled once more in her mother’s tumultuous bygone days, she comes to realize that life is never black and white, and that sometimes, lies become necessary to protect the ones you love.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Welcome guest author Hannah Dennison+ book #giveaway!

Carolyn Hart says of Hannah's work: "The mistress of hilarious British Mysteries. Fabulous fun."

British born, Hannah originally moved to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting. She has been an obituary reporter, antique dealer, private jet flight attendant and Hollywood story analyst. Now living in Portland, Oregon, Hannah continues to teach mystery writing at UCLA Extension and still works for a west coast advertising agency. Hannah writes the Honeychurch Hall Mysteries (Minotaur) and the Vicky Hill Mysteries (Constable Crime) both set in the wilds of the English countryside.

Hannah is offering a lovely giveaway - see below!

Take it away, Hannah!


Since afternoon tea features quite a lot in my Honeychurch Hall series, I thought it would be a good idea to bake a British classic—the Victoria Sponge.

As the name suggests, this simple cake was named after Queen Victoria (1819-1901) who adopted the new craze for tea parties. However it was Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, who is credited as the creator of “teatime.” Because the noon meal had become skimpier, the Duchess suffered from a “sinking feeling” at about four o’clock in the afternoon. At first the Duchess had her servants sneak her a pot of tea and a few breadstuffs into her dressing room, but soon she was inviting friends to join her. The practice of inviting friends to come for tea in the afternoon was quickly picked up by other social hostesses.

So here we go!

Hannah's niece Isla in the background!!

Victoria Sponge

4 oz butter
4 oz castor sugar/superfine sugar, not the granulated kind otherwise it will be gritty
2 eggs
Vanilla extract (if you want it)
4 oz flour
1 tsp baking powder (to make it rise unless you can get hold of self-raising flour)
A pinch salt
A tablespoonful of milk

Strawberry jam is most common but you can add freshly whipped cream

Icing sugar/powdered sugar

Take the butter and eggs out of the fridge so they will be at room temperature.
Turn oven on to 180 C or 350 F.
Lightly grease two circular 7” pans with either butter paper (i.e. the wrapping from a stick of butter) – or if you don’t have that, a dollop of butter on a piece of Scott towel will do just as well OR, if you are feeling particularly creative, line the pans with parchment/greaseproof paper. This makes it easy to turn the sponge out after cooking.

Beat the eggs separately in a basin and set aside.
Cube the butter and then mix with the sugar until creamy.
Beat in the eggs (but don’t let them curdle).

Sieve the flour and baking powder together and then fold into the ingredients … do not beat or stir because you’re essentially folding in “air.”
Add the milk and vanilla extract and stir gently. The mixture should have a “dropping” consistency.

Pour into the pre-greased pans and smooth level with a palette knife.
Pop the pans into the middle of the oven (not on the top shelf) for about 18 – 20 minutes.
Note: Do not open the oven door before the 18/20 minutes are up because this will make your sponge sink in the middle.
To test when a cake is done, thrust a skewer into it – if it comes out all sticky, it is not cooked! Put it back into the oven for a further five minutes.
When the cakes are done turn them out onto a wire tray to cool.

Layer on jam and cream and sprinkle with icing/confectioner’s sugar.

Always use good quality butter.
Always beat the butter to a cream unless the recipe states to the contrary.
The cake must be placed into the oven as soon as possible after the eggs have been added. If it’s allowed to remain too long, the cake will become heavy.

A little known fact:
In Isabella Beeton's 1874 cookbook, Mrs. Beeton's Cookery and Household Management a recipe is included for Victoria Sandwiches. The original method called for the mixture to be made in a rectangular roasting tin and halved horizontally, filled with jam and sliced into finger-shaped pieces.

For the Giveaway:

I'm offering a lovely raffle bag with English goodies - e.g. two books (one Vicky Hill and one Honeychurch Hall) - English candy etc. Leave a comment here {hint - see the word COMMENTS below -click it} and tell me what your favorite English treat is. Remember to leave your email or a cryptic version of it so I can figure out how to contact you!  Good luck!

You can reach Hannah online:

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Welcome Hannah Dennison with guest post & giveaway!

Please welcome our guest, 
Hannah Dennison. 
Hannah is the author of the popular Vicky Hill Mysteries
set in England. 
And now she has a new series! Yeah! 
The first in the series is Murder at Honeychurch Hall.
See her giveaway below!
Take it away, Hannah. 

Daryl, thank you for inviting me to contribute to Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen. I was particularly excited because I’ve been longing to share my “upper-class” curry that would be a sure-fire favorite among those above stairs at Honeychurch Hall.

Set in Agatha Christie’s beloved Devon, “Murder at Honeychurch Hall” focuses on former TV celebrity Kat Stanford who has retired from her TV show “Fakes & Treasures” to open her own antique shop with her newly-widowed mother, Iris. But Iris has her own ideas. Alarmed to discover that her mother has rashly bought a dilapidated carriage house on the grounds of a country estate several hundred miles from London, Kat sets off to make Iris see sense.

Although this is no Downton Abbey and times have changed, a line still exists between those upstairs, and those below. It would seem that every single resident at Honeychurch Hall harbors some kind of secret—especially Iris who, we learn, has been secretly writing steamy bodice rippers under the pseudonym of Krystalle Storm.

When the nanny goes missing and a body is discovered on the grounds, suspicion falls on the newcomers … and that is all I am tempted to tell you at this time.

However, what I can tell you is that the fictional Lady Lavinia Honeychurch would have shamelessly stolen the real-life Lady Daventry’s curry recipe (just as I have) were she to cook for the occasional weekend shooting party so enjoyed by her husband and his aristocratic friends.

Personally, I have never understood the reasoning behind shooting game as a sport but perhaps that’s because had I been born in a different era, I would be down in the kitchen scrubbing the vegetables.

So … without further ado … here we go. Expect hands-on time of no more than thirty to forty minutes. The key is to prep the ingredients ahead since, apart from browning the meat, each cooking step takes less than five minutes. Another tip—do use fresh ginger root. It makes all the difference.

Lady Daventry’s Curry (courtesy of Country Life Magazine) can also be re-heated the following day and/or frozen.

Lady Daventry’s Curry
Serves 4-6 (double quantities for entertaining)
Cooking time: Lamb 1 ½ hrs/Beef 2 ½ hrs
Note:  You will need a flameproof stovetop dish that can go into the oven.

Ginger and Garlic Paste:
1 in cube of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 whole bulb of garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons of water

The Meat:
6 tabs of olive oil
2 lbs of lamb shoulder or braising steak cubed
*If using lamb, remove the excess fat

Whole Spices:
2 bay leaves
8 Whole cloves
1 tsp black peppercorns
12 whole green cardamom pods
6in stick of cinnamon (again don’t be tempted to use ground cinnamon!)

Ground Spices
1 tsp of ground coriander seeds
2 tsp of ground cumin seeds
4 tsp of paprika
1 tsp of hot chili powder
1 tsp of salt

Other Ingredients
2 medium onions peeled and finely chopped
5 oz plain yoghurt (I use 2% Greek plain but any plain is fine)
Ground black pepper
½ tsp of Garam Masala

Blend the ginger and garlic in a food processor with the 3 tabs of water until pureed.
Heat oil in ovenproof flame top dish (I use a clay tagine) and fry the meat, setting it aside when lightly brown.
Add the whole spices to the hot oil and stir for just a few seconds.
Add the onions and fry for five minutes until they soften and turn light brown.
Add the paste and stir for a further 30 seconds.
Add the ground spices and salt for … another 30 seconds.
Add the browned meat and juices and combine thoroughly.
Gradually add the yoghurt one spoonful at a time. When it has all been added, cook for above five minutes more.

Add water: Lamb needs ½ pt, beef ¾ pt.
Stir again and bring to the boil
Cover the casserole and transfer it to the oven at 160 C or 325 F.
Lamb needs about 1 ½ hrs and beef 2 ½ hrs
Check half way through and add a little water if it looks as if it is drying out.

At the end, the sauce should be nice and thick.
Finally, stir in the garam masala and serve.
*You might want to remove the cardamom pods before serving – I don’t mind them, but some people do.

Leave a comment today, and you could win some fun swag and a spot of tea from Hannah!  Remember to include your email address so she can contact the winner.

You can reach Hannah on her website,  Facebook, and twitter @HannahDennison.