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Guest Post & Giveaway: Helen Williams, author of In Essentials

Welcome to today’s guest Helen Williams, author of In Essentials: A Pride & Prejudice Variation. She’s going to share some of her favorite fall recipes with us, but let’s check out the book.

Synopsis:

Five months after Darcy’s disastrous proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, he discovers that the woman he ardently loves is suffering from a grave illness. Despite an affliction that has left her altered, Elizabeth Bennet is still the same person in essentials: witty, sanguine, and obstinate. However, her future is uncertain, and she struggles to maintain her equanimity—especially when Fitzwilliam Darcy returns to Netherfield and seems determined to improve her opinion of him. Now she must decide whether she is brave enough to trust him and embrace happiness, however fleeting it might prove to be.

Please welcome, Helen:

Thank you for hosting me at Savvy Verse and Wit, Serena. I’ve really enjoyed my blog book tour for In Essentials, but particularly writing this post, as books and food (and rugby!) are my great loves in life.

Anyone who has read any of my previous stories will know that I have Welsh roots. My Dad’s family are from Wales – a little village outside Cardiff called Tongwynlais – and I always include some sort of Welsh reference in my stories. In Essentials was no different. Dydd gwyl dewi hapus (Happy St David’s Day) was the first thing I learnt to say in Welsh, so it seemed fitting that Darcy would do the same. I can also sing the National Anthem quite well, but couldn’t think of a plausible excuse for Darcy to learn it…

Anyway, I digress. Serena asked for me to write a post including my favourite fall recipes that also tied in, if possible, with the era and story. Immediately I knew what I had to write about – Bara Brith!

Google tells me that the origins of Bara Brith may trace all the way back to the 600s but that “modern” Bara Brith comes from the 1800s. Bara Brith means “speckled bread” as it is spotted with fruit, and it is a true Welsh classic. Made with dried fruit, sugar, spices and tea, it is utterly delicious and a real, warming treat on a cold day. I love it with melted butter but my Dad likes his plain and dunked in a mug of tea!

The recipe below is my grandmother’s and has been passed down our family tree for generations; I’m very happy to share this slice of Welshness with you.

Ingredients

  • 300ml hot tea (make it strong, probably at least three teabags)
  • 400g mixed fruit (e.g. sultanas, raisins, currants)
  • 250g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 100g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 1 egg

Method

1. Mix the tea and fruit together and soak overnight, or at least six hours.
2. Mix in the sugar until dissolved, then the egg, spices and the flour (you’ll probably want to sift in
the flour). The mix will resemble a thick cake batter.
3. Pour into a prepared standard loaf tin and cook for an hour and fifteen minutes at 150C.
4. Enjoy!

If Bara Brith isn’t quite your thing, I’m sure everyone loves a bit of cheese on toast and Welsh Rarebit is the undisputed king of cheeses on toasts.

According to legend, the name is a sort of pun – everyday Welsh folk could not afford rabbit, and so used cheese as a substitute. No-one knows exactly when Welsh Rabbit became Welsh Rarebit, but the name has stuck. Rarebit has been around since the 1500s and if you’re from the United Kingdom or have visited, you may have seen Rarebit on the menu of a couple of traditional pubs. It’s comfort food at its best and perfect on a cold day.

Ingredients

  • 250g cheddar cheese – you want it strong enough to stand up to the beer and mustard
  • 70ml ale or beer
  • 1.5tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 20g unsalted butter melted
  • 1tbsp English mustard (or Dijon or wholegrain – up to you!)
  • 4 thick slices of bread, toasted

Method

1. Mix together the grated cheese, beer or ale, butter, Worcestershire sauce and mustard.
2. Spread over each slice of toast, ensuring it covers the crusts too.
3. Transfer each slice onto a baking tray and place directly underneath the grill for five minutes or so, until golden brown and bubbling.
4. Carefully remove from the oven, cut each slice in half and serve hot.

So there you have it, Bara Brith and Welsh Rarebit – two Welsh classics that were both around at the time of Jane Austen and are still loved today. Can you imagine Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy tucking into a slice of Bara Brith and practising their Welsh pronunciation? I can!

Thank you, Helen, for sharing these recipes with us, and what a treat to know a bit of the history. My husband loves cheese on toast, so we’ll be trying Welsh Rarebit!

About the Author:

Helen lives in Cambridge, United Kingdom, where she works for the University of Cambridge. She has been writing as a hobby for around 15 years and has written several novel length stories based on the work of Jane Austen. Helen has Welsh roots so her stories will often include a couple of references to the land of her fathers, in addition to her two other loves – dogs and rugby. In addition to writing, Helen’s hobbies include cooking, hiking, cycling and campaigning for green initiatives. Having been diagnosed with pituitary growths in 2015 and 2020, Helen is also an active member of the Pituitary Foundation and her experiences with chronic illness inspired her latest story. Visit her Facebook page.

GIVEAWAY:

Meryton Press is giving away 6 eBooks of In Essentials.

Enter through Rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing the recipes, Helen, I love collecting interesting ones!

  2. I will be trying these recipes as they both sound delicious. Thank you for sharing them with us, Helen, especially the one for Bara Brith. Being your grandmother’s recipe and having been in your family for generations, that makes it a treasure. I enjoyed reading the introduction and history of each too. This was an interesting post. Thank you, Serena, for hosting!

    • You’re welcome, Janet – I hope you enjoy them both. And you can impress people with your Welsh pronunciation – it is Ba – ra Breef (like reef) not Brif!

  3. I have never heard of muscovado sugar – is it just brown sugar? As it happens, cakes with fruit and anything with cheese or mustard aren’t to my taste, but I’m sure the book will be!

    • It is a type of brown sugar, yes, so that will do as a substitute (though sounds like you won’t be giving it a try, anyway, so never mind!) I hope you enjoy the book instead.

  4. Not familiar with these, thank you for sharing. I particularly like the speckled bread as I love raisins.

    Love to try out famous/local foods…puting this on my list…hope I can cook it as well

  5. Suzan Lauder says

    Oh, yummm! I can’t have cheddar because of a reaction with my meds–it’s true! I haven’t had it since 2013! But I can remember the taste and imagine Welsh Rarebit. I have many Welsh ancestors, so I have to like it. In any case, Bara Brith looks like my kind of treat. Thanks for the recipes! Thanks also to Serena for hosting!

  6. I’m another who doesn’t do Rafflecopter! I’ve had much frustration previously that I can certainly live without.
    I love the recipes, I no longer bake but would certainly enjoy Bara Brith and I do love Welsh Rarebit.
    I also love what I’ve read of this book and really look forward to reading it.

  7. DarcyBennett says

    I love to try new foods and had never heard of these Welsh dishes before so thank you for sharing the recipes. Congrats on the book release, it sounds like a wonderful read.

  8. ForeverHis Kleman says

    I’m looking forward to reading In Essentials. Congrats on publishing this new work. I too, have Welsh roots–my father comes from a long line of David Williams, although as a second son he was not named David. They emigrated to the US in the 1800’s. I’m hoping your work includes translations when you use welsh words.
    I’m going to enter the contest, but I must say that I HATE rafflecopter since I don’t tweet, twitter, instragram or any of those other foolish things. (Sorry to be so blunt!)

  9. Linda Gonschior says

    Thank you for the recipes, Helen! I enjoyed some Bara Brith long ago on a visit to Wales, along with rambling the hills and exploring ancient sites.

    Congratulations on your book release! Blog tours are a rush, so enjoy it. 🙂

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