A Free Book but sadly, no Easter egg!

A Freebie for Easter!

To be honest, I’d like both – a free book and an Easter egg – but sadly the egg will have to wait until lockdown ends. Unless the Easter Bunny sneaks in through the back gate. However, I can manage the free book, thanks to my lovely publishers at Crooked Cat Books, so here it is: The Convalescent Corpse, absolutely free on Good Friday, Easter Saturday & Easter Sunday. Tell your friends (oh, go on, do!)

This picture shows Rosalie playing the part of Christabel, the narrator of The Convalescent Corpse.

A story of Family, Rationing and Inconvenient Corpses.
Life in 1918 has brought loss and grief and hardship to the three Fyttleton sisters.
Helped only by their grandmother (a failed society belle and expert poacher) and hindered by a difficult suffragette mother, as well as an unruly chicken-stealing dog and a house full of paying guests, they now have to deal with the worrying news that their late – and unlamented – father may not be dead after all.
And on top of that, there’s a body in the ha-ha.

An Amazon Bestseller, this book has been described as: a war story for people who don’t like reading about war. Funny, touching, witty, beautifully-written; it feels like an actual portrayal of the times.With Bobby, the inspiration for the Fyttleton family dog

With the characters’ struggle to maintain a normal family life (though ‘normal’ is never quite the right word for the Fyttleton family) during abnormal times, there are some echoes of the current crisis although I sincerely hope nobody has to resort to some of the meals described in the book. These, believe it or not, are taken from genuine recipes of the time.

I have a pull-out section from the March 1918 copy of the women’s magazine, Home Chat. ‘Plain Puddings and Cakes’. It’s a great example of how people – in this case, women – were encouraged to be resourceful because the recipes are very adaptable. For instance:
Date and Nut Pudding (Hot, boiled) If you can’t get dates, however, figs, soaked dried apples or any other dried fruit can be used for this. Or it is quite nice with a couple of spoonfuls of jam or marmalade instead of fruit. 

4 ounces each of barley or wheat flour, fine oatmeal and dried fruit, or you can use all GR* flour

2 ounces chopped suet or other fat

3 ounces chopped or ground monkey (peanuts) or other nuts

1 heaped teaspoonful baking powder

Half a pint water or any fruit juice

Method:

Stone (if necessary) and chop the fruit. Simmer in half the water for 10 minutes

Mix all the dry ingredients then work in the stewed fruit and water, adding as much more water as required to make a firm dough

Form into a roly-poly shape, tie up securely in a cloth, and put into plenty of boiling water. Boil for two hours then turn out and serve with a sweet sauce. (NB there’s a recipe for a thin, rather nasty sounding custard in the pull-out too)

*GR Flour: ‘G.R.’ (government regulation) flour. This flour was milled coarser than its pre-war equivalent, so that less grain could be used to make the same amount of flour.

I haven’t made this recipe but here are some I made earlier. Hampshire Pie which is strangely lacking in pastry, so it’s a cheek to call it a pie! Or Savoury Fried Oatcakes aka cold porridge mixed with anything you can find and then fried.

So there we are – a distraction from being stuck in lockdown, complete with murder, mystery, authentic recipes and possibly galloping indigestion! Here’s the Amazon link: http://mybook.to/TheConvalescentCorpse And seriously, folks, keep safe!

Reviews & Recipes, Life in 1918 Part 2

Here we are, it’s out and it’s getting some lovely reviews already: I couldn’t put it down. Not sure what I liked best, but I really liked the way you tell your story, even when the themes were most serious, with a touch of humour which somehow lightens the atmosphere all round, although we never underestimate the hardships either – I found myself laughing out loud at times. I saw a resemblance to the Cazalet series, but even more, I saw many shades of Angela Thirkell there. A lovely read.’
And while I’m about it, here’s another one: Another excellent cosy mystery by Nicola Slade. Not only is this a jolly good story with a cliffhanger ending it portrays life on the Home Front in 1918 without being mawkish or sensationalist. I love the details of the food; the struggle was real!

My 1918 heroine writing!

Even though the War opened up the prospect of many hitherto male-only jobs for women, middle-class girls with no particular training were still hampered by expectations of what was ‘suitable’. Christabel, the narrator of The Convalescent Corpse, contributes to the family income by writing Boys’ Own-style books aimed at young men in the army,with exciting titles such as ‘Prefects on Picket Duty’ – but she manages this by using a male pseudonym.

I’m glad that the reviewer above loved the details of the food and the shortages and rationing that made shopping for groceries a test of endurance and hope.Hampshire Pie is an example of shameless misrepresentation! on the part of the Home Chat editor who produced their March 1918 supplement: Plain Puddings & Cakes. It has no visible link with Hampshire and it’s not a pie! I had to include it, of course, considering the book is set in Hampshire – in Ramalley, a small market town halfway between Winchester and Southampton, that bears a surprising resemblance to Romsey!

Hampshire Pie – 1918

Hampshire Pie (Hot, Baked)

Apple is the nicest fruit to use for this but it is very good with rhubarb or any other fresh fruit

1 lb apples or soaked dried apple rings

1 pint water

2 ounces custard powder

1 tbs golden/amber/or ginger syrup, or other sweetener

Saltspoonful powdered cinnamon or nutmeg

Peel, core and slice apples. Boil the cores and peel in the water till quite soft, then drain off water, and save it.
Cover apples in a pan with water to half cover them. Simmer till soft, beat free from lumps with a fork. Add cinnamon and syrup and spread the pulp in a piedish.
Meanwhile, boil up the apple water. Mix the custard powder smoothly and thinly with a little cold water, pour it into the boiling apple liquid and stir for about five minutes, or according to directions on the packet.
Sweeten this mixture if necessary; a drop of vanilla is generally an improvement. Pour it over the apple pulp and bake in a moderate oven for about half and hour or until browned.
NB Ground rice or cornflour and just a little custard powder can be used if you like, instead of all custard powder. A scrap of margarine improves the flavour and increases the food value of the pudding.

Verdict – I love stewed apple so I was happy with this, though I made custard with skimmed milk instead of the apple water suggested – I felt that was a step too far towards authenticity! It’s a cheek to call it a pie, though I suppose it is cooked in a pie dish!

You can find The Convalescent Corpse in ebook and paperback all across Amazon. This is the UK link:https://amzn.to/2OskEpV
Please tell your friends – and if you enjoy this story of family struggles in wartime, a review on Amazon would be fabulous.