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Dec 28, 2013

Recipes from the Schattenreich: Samantha's Kitchen

This savory tart is from Primary Fault, made by Samantha Eschweiler for Caitie. It received thumbs up from the Official Schattenreich Recipe taste-testing team (including the four-footed members).NEW! My friend and fellow foodie, Yvonne Oots has just recently tested the recipe and posted her results on her blog, Olive's Place where she talks about food and history. Here is the link to the recipe - with nutritional information! Yay!

Leek and Sausage Pie

1 recipe Tart Dough (use your favorite or see below)
2-4 spiced sausages (ca. 200 g) (good quality fresh bratwurst* works very well - ask your butcher - or thin Italian Salsiccia) 


But NOT this:

4-5 cups (ca. 200 g) leeks (5-7 leeks, depending on size), cut into thin rings**
2 tablespoons butter (30 g) or good quality oil
1/2 cup (125 ml) white wine or water
1/2 tsp salt (or less, depending on the sausage)
Pepper to taste
2 eggs
1 cup  (240 g) cream or (225 g) crème fraiche
2-3 tblsp. good quality smooth or coarse mustard (such as Dijon or L'Ancienne)
3 ounces (90 g) grated cheese (Provolone works well)
2 tblsp. chives, sliced into narrow rings

Prepare the tart dough and prebake it. Remove from oven and let cool while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Wash the leeks thoroughly in a colander. I find it best to do this after slicing them to get that stubborn gritty sand out between the layers. **I also use the light green parts and the neon green (you'll have to discard some outer layers to get to these) in addition to the white parts.

Melt the butter or oil in a non-stick pan. Remove the sausage casings and crumble the insides, the sausage meat, into the pan and fry it until brown. Remove the sausage.

cooking wine of champions
Add the leeks to the pan and sauté them in the same oil for 2-3 minutes, stirring, until they soften. Add the wine (I use Noilly Prat - it's expensive but oh, soooo good). Let the leeks simmer with the wine/water for a good 10-15 minutes, adding water as necessary so they don't dry out. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and set aside with the sausage to cool.

 Preheat the oven to 375oF/190oC). Beat the eggs and stir in the cream or créme fraiche, mustard, leeks and grated cheese, leaving a small handful of cheese to scatter over the top of the pie with the chives before baking.

Bake the pie in the middle of the oven until golden brown on top (20-30 minutes). Let sit for at least 5 minutes before slicing.


If you've never made a pie crust this way, I recommend it. Working the dough with the hands is a great sensory experience - Samantha would surely make her pie crusts by hand.

Tart Dough
1 cup (ca. 110 g) unbleached white flour
2 generous pinches of salt
4 tblsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1-1/2 tblsp. vegetable shortening (can use all butter instead)
2-3 tblsp. ice water (put an ice cube with a small amount of water in a small bowl)

Combine flour and salt in a bowl. Add butter and shortening. Work the mixture with your hands, rubbing the fat and flour together until everything is well distributed. Cold butter is easier to work with than softened butter. The mixture should feel crumbly. Add the water, sprinkling a few drops at a time, working it into the flour with your fingers. The dough should begin to come together when you've added enough water. Form the dough into a ball. Gather any stray dry ingredients with a few more drops of water and incorporate them into the dough ball. Do not overwork - this is not a pizza crust! Flatten into a disk and cover with plastic wrap or waxed paper and let rest in the refrigerator for about half an hour. If it rests longer, it may need to warm for a few minutes before being rolled out.

Flour the work surface. Put the disk onto a floured work surface and sprinkle a little flour on top. Roll out to desired size - it should be less than 1/2 inch thick - just a wee bit thicker on the sides than the bottom. Roll the tart dough onto the rolling pin and place in the tart form. I use a removable tart pan that makes it easier to slice when ready. Prebake the tart dough after freezing in a preheated oven (425oF/215oC) for 8 to 10 minutes until it just begins to color. Can be prebaked without freezing by lining with foil and using dried beans as weights to keep the bottom from blistering unevenly.

photo credit: Kai Hendry via photopin

photo credit: artizone via photopin cc
photo credit: ReeseCLloyd via photopin cc

Dec 22, 2013

Review of The Iron Wolves, by Andy Remic

Book 1 of the Rage of Kings

The Iron Wolves
Andy Remic
IBSN 978-0857663566
Angry Robot
Release Date: December 31, 2013

From the book’s description:

Thirty years ago, the Iron Wolves held back mud-orc hordes at the Pass of Splintered Bones, and led a brutal charge that saw the sorcerer Morkagoth slain.

Now, a new terror stalks the realm. Orlana the Changer has escaped from the Chaos Halls and is building an army, twisting horses, lions and bears into terrible, bloody hunters, summoning mud-orcs from the slime and heading north to battle the mighty region of Vagandrak where, it said, the King has gone insane.

General Dalgoran searches to reunite the heroes of old for what he believes will be their final battle. But Dalgoran discovers the Iron Wolves are no longer the heroes of legend, and they might just be more dangerous than the invading hordes.

My insanely short synopsis: The Iron Wolves, a band of seven unlikely and (somewhat) unsavory heroes punch, kick, bite and slash their way across the kingdom to reach Vagrandak, the land of legend and the Iron Wolves’ past glory. Their goal: to do battle against the great Sorceress Orlana to stop her from enslaving and slaughtering the entire population of the realm.

On his seventieth birthday, General Dalgoran witnesses a scene so gruesome, it forces him to end his retirement and reassemble the Iron Wolves, his band of seven warriors, now past the prime of their hero years. But General Dalgoran believes they are the only ones capable of combatting the horror he has witnessed. But first he must find them all and convince them of his cause.

The Iron Wolves seethes with action; indeed, it stomps across every page.

Remic has a very precise way with descriptions of battles and fights and with weapons of every type (including head butts). The scenes leap and snort off the page, making the heart race with anticipation about their outcomes. The journey of the Iron Wolves entails many such battles including those against insanely powerful creatures called the splice – amalgams of human and beasts that are very tough to kill – and mud orcs as well as more human enemies. Including the Iron Wolves themselves.

If you enjoy sword and sorcery, The Iron Wolves will not disappoint. The heroes themselves, although not necessary likeable, present a convincing case for their role as the only ones capable of confronting the powerful and merciless Orlana. I felt there was adequate backstory from each of the seven warriors to comprehend something of their motivations; these stories do not necessarily make the characters more likeable. But it did help me to understand them.

Orlana, not born of this world, has an agenda. I didn’t understand what that agenda was in any great detail, this is Book 1 after all, but I learned enough to know that her plans entail much more than crafting nasty and menacing creatures. Her very evilness contrasts starkly with the dubious nature of the Iron Wolves’ heroism. I never had any doubts about who I was rooting for.

On the other hand, although the story has its straightforward components, there are plenty of subplots and interesting complications to occupy the mind while reading. Even though the it is the nature of epic fantasy with good versus evil made me want to think that good will triumph, I never felt sure about the outcome at any point in the story.

And that is what kept me reading. Sometimes, the fights went on too long for my liking so that I had to put the book down for a while, but I think for those who read graphic and gritty sword and sorcery with gusto, and who enjoyed The Clockwork Vampire Chronicle series by Remic, this will be a positive feature. For me, it’s guilty candy. Something I don’t read often because, while I enjoy it in small doses, most of the time slash and gore are not done well. But here it is done well and is dictated by the nature of the story.

On a less positive note, there’s a reader cheat in here. It marred the story for me somewhat, and I can’t talk about because it would be a spoiler. In all fairness, we do get hints about it, but not enough that I felt I could have figured it out on my own. That said though, I could live with that and hope the rest of the series will live up to the promise of the first book, an uncompromising but ultimately entertaining romp through a fantasy landscape pockmarked with treachery around every corner.

Dec 17, 2013

Double Couple: the ebook is out!

The ebook version of Double Couple is available in ebook form at Amazon worldwide* and can already be pre-ordered at Kobo (nd also from Indigo!). Other etailers will soon have it available (B&N, Sony, ebookPie, scribd, for example).

Book 3 of the Schattenreich

Wizard Tower Press will soon have the first three books in the Schattenreich. Please check back with them and also browse some of their other very fine books!

*The link goes to If your Kindle account is in a different Amazon-Land (e.g., U.K., Germany, Australia, to name just a few), click through to the appropriate store to find the listing for Double Couple.

Also new! The ebook for Shaky Ground, Book 2 of the Schattenreich, is now available at Kobo and will soon be available at other etailers including Nook and Sony.

Dec 3, 2013

The Schattenreich: Cast of Characters for Book 1 and Book 2

Below is a list of major characters for the first (Primary Fault) and second  (Shaky Ground) books of the Schattenreich series. Note: these are (for the most part) NON-SPOILER descriptions. They are roughly listed in order of appearance but not of importance - now THAT would be a spoiler.

I will be adding separate character lists for the later volumes that do contain spoilers!

  • Caitlin Schwarzbach: our hero, geophysicist, data expert
  • Augustus (Gus) Schwarzbach: seismologist extraordinaire, executive director of the B.E.A.R. institute
  • Ankou, Death: Breton Celtic psychopomp. Caitlin's biggest fear
  • Dagmar Abel: beautiful, blonde, evil
  • Kilhian ar C'hoed: French businessman, interested in acquiring things
  • Antonio Delling: technician at the B.E.A.R. institute
  • Jacqueline Camp: Gus's Ph.D. student
  • Cathubodua: aka The Morrigan among other names, triple Celtic war and fertility deity
  • Cernunnos: Lord of the Hunt aka The Horned One, Celtic deity, has some nasty hell hounds, rules over a sizable portion of Ande-dubnos
  • Samantha Eschweiler: Gus's next-door neighbor, Caitlin's friend, has four kids
  • Anna Sturm: television reporter, likes Gus
  • Eduard Hall, the Burg Lahn chauffeur
  • Hagen von der Lahn: archeologist, baron of Burg Lahn, lethally handsome
  • Heinrich von der Lahn: likes leather, plays guitar, singer-songwriter
  • Erich von der Lahn: paternal uncle to Hagen and Heinrich 
  •  Richard Eschweiler: Samantha's estranged husband
  • Professor Joachim Lohmann: nemesis, professor at the Uni Cologne
  • Dr. Jürgen Vogel: nemesis, Cologne city manager
  • Susanna Wilting-Boxberg: Burg Lahn neighbor
  • Leslie James: historian, colleague of Hagen von der Lahn
  • Hauptkommissar Miriam Richter: detective, Cologne Police, murder and serious crimes
  • Hauptkommissar Horst Schmitz: detective, Cologne Police, Frau Richter's sidekick
  • Sebastian von der Lahn: gourmet cook, runs Burg Lahn
  • Bertha von der Lahn: Sebastian's half sister, actress, playwright