Hi! I’m Shannon MacLeod and this is my first time at Literary Lagniappe – I’m delighted to be here! My paranormal romance series is entitled Arcana Love, published by Lyrical Press. Based on the four suits of the Tarot, the series tells the story of four siblings in a large Irish family and how they fell in love with their significant others. Oh, and did I mention each of the siblings has their own special…ah…gift? In The Celtic Knot: Suit of Cups, the hero Ian Kelly received formal training in the mysterious arts from his seanmhathair (pronounced shawn-wah-hir = Grandmother in Irish), an Irish cailleach (kyle-yok, or witch). His birthday is Halloween or Samhain (sow-en), the Celtic New Year.
In one of my favorite scenes, the heroine Lily offers her hand for Ian to kiss as his prize for winning a fencing competition. Not one to settle for such meager offerings, Ian pulls her into an unscripted passionate embrace and kisses her senseless in front of the cheering crowd. Afterwards, his big sister Meghan finds she has been “volunteered” by her husband to cook a birthday dinner for our hero. Her response?
“…Meg stalked into the large room and stood in front of Ian, who was still giggling and
more than a little pleased with himself over the evening’s events. She gave him a hard glare then aimed a vicious kick at his booted foot, smiling at the ensuing howl of pain.
“Christ Almighty, Meghan. What the feckin’ hell was that for?” Ian complained, rubbing his injury.
Meg shook a menacing finger. “Proud of yourself, are you? That poor girl could barely stand when you finished with her. And you,” she demanded, whirling on Dan, “you promise this rakehell I’ll cook dinner for him–Irish stew which takes all day to make properly, mind– without so much as a by your leave?…”
All fussing aside, Meg comes through and cooks a traditional Irish Halloween dinner, complete with one of my favorites for dessert – Barmbrack! This is a sweet bread with bits of fruit in it, nuts too if you’re that way inclined. When I was growing up, it wasn’t officially Fall until this wonderful smell coming out of my own seanmhathair’s kitchen announced its arrival. Here is a good basic recipe – I bake mine in a cast iron frying pan and cut it in wedges like cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
1 lb dried fruit (I’m partial to sultanas, raisins, cherries, blueberries and a dash of lemon zest)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp all spice
Pot of hot Irish tea
Meg’s bread didn’t have prizes, but it is traditional to add:
– a gold ring to predict who will get married within the year
– a coin to forecast wealth
– a thimble which predicts spinsterhood for at least another year
– a button for bachelorhood
(make sure to get trinkets that will withstand oven temps)
The trick to making a good Barmbrack is to soak the dried fruit in the tea overnight. Add the sugar and egg to the dry ingredients and mix. Fold in the drained fruits gently. Be careful not to work the dough too much after adding the fruit because the newly hydrated pieces will start coming apart. Pour into your pan of choice, distributing the prizes evenly throughout the loaf. Bake at 350°F for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. If you’d like to sweeten the deal, you can whip up a quick glaze with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 2 tablespoons boiling water. Right before the loaf is ready to come out, brush the top liberally with glaze and pop it back in for 1-2 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Thanks for letting me drop by – hoping to visit again very soon, as there’s a Scot in the living room I simply must tell you about…*winks*
Until next time,
I hope this has whetted your appetite, both for some good Irish food and for The Celtic Knot: Suit of Cups!
I’m giving away an ecopy in either Kindle or .pdf format – just leave a comment to enter.
Contest ends 9/26/13 at 11:59 p.m. EDT