Do Not Read When Hungry: Guest Post for the release of Ghosts with Jackie Keswick

February 11, 2016

Do Not Read When Hungry

Hi everyone, this is Jackie Keswick – writing from England, where it’s damp and grey and chilly. Just the weather to stay indoors with a huge mug of hot chocolate and a good book. I’ve come out to hang out with all of you, though, and I’m very pleased to be here since it’s the release day of Ghosts, the second instalment in The Power of Zero series.

GhostsFS

Ghosts is the book I hadn’t actually planned to write. Until quite a few of you asked about Nico and Daniel, the boys Jack and Gareth rescue from a pimp in Job Hunt. The questions got me wondering what was happening with Jack, Gareth and the boys between the end of Job Hunt in October and the beginning of House Hunt in April. So Ghosts turned into a bit of a bridge between the two longer books, and into a contemplation of families and Jack and Gareth’s relationship. It’s set between Christmas and Valentine’s Day and before I do anything else, I need to warn you: do not read Ghosts when hungry!

Because there’s food. Delicious food. And lots of it.

You see, growing up hungry has left Jack Horwood with an appreciation for good food. Which plays right into the hands of Gareth Flynn, who takes looking after people damned serious. And who loves nothing better than to hang out in his kitchen after a hard day’s work.

Gareth has another endearing habit, one he developed during his time in the Army. Every Christmas he holds an Open House, a Christmas dinner for anyone who can’t make it home, can’t cook or would otherwise be alone. It’s a celebration for the family he’s made for himself over the years, and it gives him the chance to spend the coldest, darkest parts of December in the kitchen surrounded by relishes, pickles and chutneys, mince pies, fruit cake and chocolate truffles, clove-studded, honeyed hams, Cumberland Sauce, roast goose and venison pie.

It’s all a far cry from Jack’s way of celebrating Christmas, which usually consists of brewing a large pot of coffee, settling down to work and ignoring the whole circus completely. Not surprising for a man who associates Christmas with unpleasant life changes. Jack lost his home on Christmas Even when he was eleven. Years later, he almost lost Gareth and that failure still haunts him. As for family… don’t go there. Jack really doesn’t want to remember the scariest, loneliest Christmas he’s ever spent. It’s much easier to leave those ghosts well buried.

Except now there’s Gareth and Gareth values family. He makes no distinction between the family he was born to and the family he’s made for himself – something Jack finds tricky to wrap his head around. Being there for Nico and Daniel distracts him from the stuff that makes no sense, and of course he’ll never say no to sampling Gareth’s cooking.

I blog about English history and traditional English food in my other life, so writing Ghosts was pure indulgence for me. It gave me a chance to dig out my favourite recipes and experiment a little, never mind that it was the middle of summer. One of the dishes Gareth makes for his Christmas Eve dinner with Jack is this stunning looking, smelling and tasting celeriac soup that’s rather boldly labelled “Christmas” in my mind, but is too delicious not to share. If you live in the northern hemisphere, then celeriac is very much at its best right now and well worth cooking with. So imagine it’s Christmas and cold out – or simply stick your nose out the door to remind yourself – and then turn your kitchen into orange-and-fennel-scented heaven.

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Here’s what you need to feed maybe six… though I’m sure Jack can polish off most of that quantity without breaking a sweat.

- The peel from half an orange (leave as much of the white pith behind as you can manage)
- 2 leeks, trimmed, washed and sliced thinly
- 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
- 6-8 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
- 1 head celeriac (about 1kg or so), peeled and chopped
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 teaspoon sugar (soft, brown if you have it)
- 2 litres vegetable stock
- 250ml dry white wine
- Olive oil, salt, pepper
- To serve:  a handful of chopped parsley, a few spoonfuls of double cream

 

First, dry the orange peel in a medium oven. This takes about 30-40 minutes and your kitchen will smell like Christmas and good things. Don’t let it burn.

Next, heat a splash of olive oil in a large saucepan and soften the leeks, carrot, garlic and red pepper. You want a medium heat under the pot and the vegetables should be soft-ish after about 10 minutes.

Now add the fennel seeds, saffron, orange peel, celeriac and sugar and fry for about 5 minutes until the celeriac is nicely coated and you can smell the fennel. Then add the stock and another glug of olive oil and simmer briskly until the celeriac is soft. 30 minutes should do it.

When the celeriac is almost there, add the wine and the parsley stalks. Cook for a couple more minutes, then blend the soup and push it through a sieve. Add a couple of spoonfuls of cream and the chopped parsley, plus salt to taste. You should be left with something velvety soft, gorgeously coloured and tasting like… mmmmh.

So that’s the soup taken care of.  And what of Valentine’s Day? Is the pink festival as off the menu for Jack as Christmas? Or is Gareth whipping up something special? Well… maybe. See if you can guess and let me know what you think. For now, I’ll keep mum on that one, except to say that love comes in all shapes and sizes. And sometimes it’s heart-shaped.

Get your copy of Ghosts today! 

Blurb:

The Power of Zero: Book Two

Jack Horwood doesn’t do families. Or Christmas. From the time his mother sold him to her pimp to the moment he walked out on the man he loved, Christmas has always been about change and painful choices. This year seems no different. Helping Daniel and Nico recover from their imprisonment and hunting down those responsible puts Jack in a frame of mind he doesn’t want to inflict on anyone. Least of all Gareth and the tentative relationship they’ve started to rebuild.

But Gareth, for whom Christmas is all about new beginnings, won’t let Jack take the easy way out. He makes him face his ghosts instead. Even when said ghosts invade their bedroom.

When Daniel’s parents are found, Jack is determined to settle the matter without involving Daniel at all. But fate decrees otherwise, and it’s Gareth who helps him finally understand that the strongest bonds are those forged together. Once he gets that, Jack can step up and make a decision designed to lay his ghosts to rest—for good.

 

About Jackie Keswick:

She’s worked in a hospital and as the only girl with 52 men on an oil rig, spent a winter in Moscow and a summer in Iceland and finally settled in the country of her dreams with her dream team: a husband, a cat, a tandem, a hammer and a laptop.

When she’s not working or writing, she… doesn’t exercise. Instead, she cooks and researches English history and traditional English recipes. She has a thing for green eyes, all things suede and cyclist’s tight butts, and is a great believer in making up soundtracks for anything and everything, including her characters and the cat. And she still hasn’t found the place where the bus stops.

For questions and comments, not restricted to green eyes, bus stops or recipes for traditional English food, you can find Jackie Keswick in all the usual places.

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