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Not Fondue

This was inspired by a post on FaceBook, where someone asked about making fondue. I don’t make cheese fondue, but many years ago my sisters were given several fondue sets when they married, and passed one on to me.

I make an Italian dish called Bagna Cauda (hot bath). I first made it 20+ years ago, and there is one group of friends that always complain if I start a dinner without it.

It’s basically oil, butter, anchovies, lots of garlic, and a bit of cream if there’s no dairy-free people at dinner. I don’t use a big fondue  pot — just a smallish stainless steel bowl. That’s it on the right.

I bring it all to a gentle simmer in a saucepan on the stove and then transfer the mix into the steel bowl, which I pop onto the fondue frame and light the little flame thing  beneath it.  (That part is covered in the photo) 

 It all melds into a delicious umami mix — not fishy at all. It’s served hot, and you dip raw veggies and bread into it. I put the stand in the middle of the table (on a heatproof pad) along with plates of mixed raw veggies sliced or in sticks — green beans, carrots, celery, peppers, thin asparagus, cauliflower florets, mushrooms, snow peas — whatever is in season generally. And crusty bread, which is good to catch the drips from the veggies and is then even more delicious to eat. (And it saves the table cloth too.)

I have some long forks that my parents used when serving  Chinese HotPots, and they work perfectly for bagna cauda. 

As the veggies are consumed, the mix thickens and bubbles down into a thick, delicious goo, and people mop up the last of the mix with bread.

These days I don’t bother with a recipe, but this is the original one I used several decades ago. Back then it was an experiment: now it’s a favorite starter.

Another New Cover

They’ve done it again, slapped another new cover on one of my early Harlequin books, TALLIE”S KNIGHT, with near naked people on the cover again. Sigh.

But I suppose for this book, there is at least some justification — it’s a “convenient marriage” story, where they marry as virtual strangers, and get to know each other on their honeymoon. So there are love scenes. Which are important to the story.

But these cover people look far more sophisticated, especially the woman.
My Tallie is an innocent; a sweet-natured young woman who has no gorgeous gowns — quite the contrary, in fact.

All About Romance gave it Desert Island Keeper status, and said: 

“Tallie’s Knight is the best Regency Romance I’ve read in years… …Gracie’s writing style is charming and wonderful and the love scenes are very sensual for a traditional Regency….Even if you’re not the biggest Regency Romance fan, I suggest you make an exception for this one. This is a special book with excellent writing and characters that touch the heart.”

— All About Romance, Blythe Barnhill, Desert Island Keeper

You can read an excerpt here.

A Very Strange Flower

Sorry to be giving you more garden posts, but this has just happened in my garden, and I’m quite excited.

When I bought this house,  the front garden (which is all indigenous Australian plants) had a xanthorrhoea  growing (pronounced zan-thor-ee-a) . They’re better known as a grass tree, but I learned to identify them at university so I use the long name. 

Xanthorrhoeas have a thick, gnarly dark trunk, with a burst of long green, grass-like leaves growing from the top. They’re very slow growing and can live in the wild for decades. The taller the trunk the older the plant. You can hardly see the trunk of mine, so it’s quite young, comparatively speaking.

When I moved in, mine had a tall spear-shaped spike, which is one of the things that make it famous here. The spike fell off after a few months and I thought that was that. 

But recently it grew three new spikes — I’d never seen three spikes before — and even more exciting, one of them was covered in tiny star-shaped flowers. I didn’t even know they could have flowers. There were a few bees crawling over it, so presumably they have nectar, too.  That’s it below.