Natasha Oakley - British Romance Author

Writer of tug-at-the-heartstrings, feel-good romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I'm not here ...


What a poor, sad, neglected blog this is.

I'm just dropping by to say I'm alive, I'm happy and I have steam coming off my keyboard. It's just I really do think my editor would prefer it if my words appeared in my WIP rather than here.

See you later .......


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Jessica Hart's 50th Book and Chocolate Day

Not only am I mid-Sheikh, but I'm a busy blogger today. I'm helping celebrate at Jessica Hart's.

I'm also blogging over at the Pink Heart Society blog today. It's Temptation Tuesday and it's pretty much all about the need for chocolate when suffering deadline stress.

I've dubbed today Chocolate Day and anyone with a recipe and a blog will hopefully combine the too. Any recipes emailed to me from non-bloggers will be posted here.

So - this is from Sharon in Shrewbury and it looks amazing. Thank you! Feeling less stressed already.

Melting Chocolate Puddings

Serves 8

7 oz (200 g) dark chocolate (75 per cent cocoa solids), broken into pieces
7 oz (200 g) butter, diced
2 tablespoons brandy
4 oz (110 g) golden caster sugar
4 large eggs, plus 4 large egg yolks
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2½ oz (60 g) plain flour

To serve:
a little pouring or whipped cream

8 mini pudding basins, each with a capacity of 6 fl oz (175 ml), generously brushed with melted butter.

First of all place the broken-up chocolate, along with the butter and brandy, in a large heatproof bowl, which should be sitting over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn't touch the water. Then, keeping the heat at its lowest, allow the chocolate and butter to melt slowly; it should take 6-7 minutes. Then remove it from the heat and give it a good stir until it's smooth and glossy.

While the chocolate is melting, place the sugar, whole eggs, yolks and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl, place it on a tea towel to steady it, then whisk on a high speed with an electric hand whisk until the mixture has doubled in volume – this will take between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on the power of your whisk. What you need to end up with is a thick, mousse-like mixture that, when you stop the motor and lift the whisk, leaves a trail like a piece of ribbon.

Now you need to pour the melted chocolate mixture around the edge of the bowl (it's easier to fold it in from the edges) and then sift the flour over the mixture. Using a large metal spoon, carefully but thoroughly fold everything together. Patience is needed here; don't be tempted to hurry it, as careful folding and cutting movements are needed, and this will take 3-4 minutes.

Now divide the mixture between the pudding basins (it should come to just below the top of each one) and line them up on a baking tray. If you like, the puddings can now be covered with clingfilm and kept in the fridge or freezer until you need them.

When you're ready to bake the puddings, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C). Remove the clingfilm and bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 14 minutes if they have been chilled first, but only 12 if not; after that time the puddings should have risen and feel fairly firm to the touch, although the insides will still be melting. Leave to stand for 1 minute before sliding a palette knife around each pudding and turning out on to individual serving plates. If you're cooking these puddings from frozen, give them about 15 minutes' cooking time and allow them to stand for 2 minutes before turning out. Serve absolutely immediately, with some chilled cream to pour over.

As the puddings cool, the melted chocolate inside continues to set, so they can, if you like, be served cold instead as a fudgey-centred chocolate cake with whipped cream.

This recipe is taken from How to Cook Book Two and The Delia Collection: Chocolate.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

2008 Year of Reading

Guess what I'm going to be up to this year? As if the title of this post wasn't a clue. I'm now Bedfordshire's 'Writer in Residence'.

It's all part of the UK's Year of Reading. It's a government backed initiative to promote a love of reading. Setting aside the fact I earn my living writing books, as a mum of five this is something I really want to be involved in. The hope is that the campaign will reach people who don't consider themselves 'readers'. The slogan is 'Reading - Anytime, Anything, Anywhere'. I'm all for taking the snobbishness out of books. It should be fun!

NYR was formally launched on 1st April. If you're in the UK you will be seeing a fair bit of this advert.

Spot the Harlequin Mills & Boon? To save you much peering I can tell you it's a 'Modern Heat' - 'Public Scandal, Private Mistress' by Susan Napier.

As part of the National Year of Reading, a scheme has been set up to link authors and libraries together. Each of the 149 participating library authorities now has a 'writer in residence' and I've been chosen as Bedfordshire's. 9 of the 149 authors selected are published by Harlequin Mills & Boon. The other 8 being:
Michelle Styles - Northumberland
Louise Allen - Peterborough
Susan Stephens - Kirklees
Kate Hardy - Norfolk
Nicola Cornick - Wiltshire
Sharon Kendrick - Hampshire
Caroline Anderson - Suffolk
India Grey - Cheshire.

I have no doubt I'll be telling you lots more about all this as the year goes on. It would be kind of fun if a 'writer in residence' actually had a go at writing in residence, wouldn't it? I can tell you now I'm not doing it unless I can have a flask of coffee by my left elbow at all times. Addiction is a terrible thing.

And here's a glimpse of how the advert was made.

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