29 April 2009

Quince & Custard Cake - the recipe! (UPDATED)**

Just in time for the weekend quince harvest...

Items you will need:

2 tablespoons custard powder
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup milk
20 g butter
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

200 g butter
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup raw sugar
2 eggs
2 cups SR flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom/cardamon
½ cup buttermilk
about 4 small (or 2 large) pot-roasted** quinces* (I already had these on hand)
20 g extra butter, melted
2 teaspoons caster sugar
½ teaspoon ground cardamom/cardamon
pistachios, chopped not too finely

1. Make custard.
Combine custard powder & sugar in a small saucepan and gradually stir in the milk. Make sure there are no lumps of undissolved powder. Stir over low heat until mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat, stir in butter and essence. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool.

2. Make cake.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line a 20-22cm round springform pan. Beat butter and brown and raw sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition. Stir in sifted flour, cardamom/cardamon and buttermilk in two batches.

3. Assemble cake.
Whisk cooled custard until smooth. Spread half the cake mixture into the tin. Top with the custard (start in the middle and no need to go right to the edge). Then spread remaining cake mixture over custard, starting on the outside and working your way to the middle.
Remove the skin from the quinces and slice them, then overlap them decoratively all over the top of the cake. Remember they will spread a bit as the cake rises. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with extra sugar and cardamom/cardamon and, lastly, the pistachios.

4. Bake cake.
For about an hour and 15 minutes. Stand in tin for at least 5 minutes.

5. Eat cake.
Let it cool enough so the custard sets to make it easy to cut. We don't know what this cake is like cold because it was eaten all up while it was still warm ...

Thanks again to the cake-maker extraordinaire for:
a) making the cake; and b) setting the recipe free.


* This cake actually started life as an Apple and Custard Cake, so if you don't have quinces on hand, just slice 2 large apples finely and overlap on the top, and use cinnamon instead of cardamom/cardamon.

** UPDATE: We have had some enquiries about how one transforms the simple quince into the pot-roasted quince. We consulted the cake-maker extraordinaire and here, for your pot-roasting pleasure, is the answer.

Pot-roasted quince (serves 8)

8 (about 320g each) small quinces or 4 large
5 cups (1.25L) water
2 cups (220g) sugar (some people add more sugar to make the liquid into a sweet syrup)
2 cinnamon sticks (you can also add orange rind, or lemon rind, or a vanilla bean or all of these if you want)

1. Wash quinces to remove any fuzz from skins. Stand quinces, in a single layer, in a large, wide saucepan. Add the water, sugar and cinnamon. (Quinces will not be completely covered with water.)

2. Place pan over very low heat. Simmer for 4-5 hours, carefully turning quinces occasionally so they cook evenly (take care not to break quinces). Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.

3. Transfer quinces and cooking liquid to a large airtight container. Store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. They freeze very well too.

So, get thee to a large, wide saucepan...

Write what you know

Sometimes we Onions are invited to venture out of the House and into the real world to talk to groups of writers who aspire to be published. And often the brief is to talk about what publishers are looking for. And, oh, it's such a tricky question...

In preparation, we gather up the wonderful books we have worked on for show and tell, we make notes about our personal experiences of reading and writing and editing and working with writers, and we cast about for inspiration from others, for meaningful advice that might resonate and give aspiring writers practical tools that will help them become better writers.

And for inspiration, often this Onion returns to a blog post by Arthur A Levine. Plastic Flowers and Channelled Raisins is the text of a talk Arthur gave to writers and illustrators in Florida in 2006.

Here's a snippet.
"...people often ask me how I stay responsive to wonderful new manuscripts when I read so many every week, every day. The good news and the bad news is that the really special ones stand out as distinctly as real flowers in a shop full of plastic imitations. And it’s just like that really. The actual, living flower, has a smell. It isn’t perfect, its colors can be off a bit. But it’s REAL and you know it."
Yes. Actual living flowers. With a smell. Perhaps imperfect and a little off-colour - but yes, REAL.

Arthur has a plethora of excellent advice in his talk - and it begins with the oft-quoted advice: write what you know. Take a look.* It's worth it.

*The blog posts aren't separated so you have to scroll down past the first entry to get the the Plastic Flowers and Channelled Raisins post.

Thank you, Cake-maker Extraordinaire

Nothing relieves the autumnal blues, the mean reds or the inner-city pressure quite like...


Quince and custard - and still warm!

Inner-city pressure*

Things are crazy busy here in the House of Onion. Books are going to the printer left, right and centre. There is also stuff, items and whatnot taking up time. So while we collect our thoughts, why don't you look over here:

The ever-whimsical, ever-delightful McSweeney's has published a book of letters from kids to Barack Obama. You can read some here. (And just because we love a list, and no one does a list better than McSweeney's: Reasons You Might Die of Consumption in a 19th-century Novel, in Order From Least Likely to Most Likely)

In honour of swine flu (Will Wilbur be our downfall?**), how well do you know your apocalypse fiction?

Editorial Anonymous has some good advice about how to become a children's book editor, beginning with our favourite: 'You'd better be seriously interested in children's books. Not "I could be interested if I got a job in children's books". Interested NOW.'

Oh and look, Mr Chicken Goes to Paris is a book! Oui oui!

And the endpapers are so gorgeous we just about can't stand it (and the ones at the back are different!!).

*Bret and Jermaine know what we're talkin' about.
** Clearly, we spoke too soon about the popularity of pigs!

23 April 2009

'It's just not true...

... that colleagues start to dress alike.'

B & J - protest too much, much?

Our Harry

We know he's not really our wizard, he's a wizard of the people - but he does have a home with us in Oz, and we are much enamoured of him.

And finally, after waiting for much longer than any Onion would like - a trailer for Harry Potter and The Half-blood Prince.

Hooray, Mr Potter. Hooray!

(Also, anyone know where we can get Team Ron t-shirts?)

21 April 2009


Do you know about Scarygirl? She's got a patch on one eye, a tentacle for an arm and her guardian is a ginormous octopus. She is as cute as a button and a little bit odd.
And now she has her own online game, and the buzz is loud - twitter, blogs, the worldwide intermanets are exploding with love for Scarygirl.

Check out the trailer:

Scarygirl Game Trailer from Touch My Pixel on Vimeo.

Then go to www.scarygirl.com to play the game.
For free, people, FOR FREE.

So guess what...
we are so hip it hurts,
we are so cool we're hot,
we are so hot we're smokin'.

Why, Onions, why are you so hip and cool and smokin' hot?
We will tell you why...


*editor fans self with proof pages and has to sit down*

As you can tell, we're a little bit excited. Here is why:
1) Scarygirl is ever so charming, and her adventures are touching and warm-hearted, funny and hair-raising.
2) Nathan Jurevicius's artwork is flipping amazing.
Really, it speaks for itself better than we could ever explain, so here is a little VERY SPECIAL SNEAK PEAK of the Scarygirl graphic novel. As Rilla at Rinzen says, 'Lop off the top of your head, open your mind and spoon in the spine-tingling adventures of Scarygirl.'

^It's really not that far away, truly.

20 April 2009

A little something

Some things that are good on Monday:
  • Meanjin's new blog, 'Spike' (Not only generally good, it also includes LOLcats and seems to be named for a vampire.)
  • Barrack Obama reading Where the Wild Things Are
  • The Guardian talking about parallel importation and territorial copyright. 'If it succeeds, Australia will be the largest book market to remove standard protections given to publishers and authors across the English-speaking world.'

Something that isn't so good on Monday:
  • Getting to work to find an email that says: 'Poor tipping, you scored 2 points.' Sigh.

Something that is GENIUS ALL THE TIME:
  • Gary Ablett

17 April 2009

Friday items

We are not sure if this multi-purpose bookcase (it's a coffin, people!) is genius or wrong, wrong, wrong-town...
via (appropriately) Bookshelves of Doom (thanks to KJ-W)

We are sure about this one though. Genius. And not just because it features The Big Twitch by Sean Dooley, our most favourite birdman. (Truly it does, see up there in the top left corner - and see what the painting is called.) Yep, Victoria Reichelt, definitely genius.

While we're on the subject of books, multi-purpose items and genius: check out this genius bookbag and this genius reading light-bookshelf-bookmark thingy. Want.

And we hope you will allow us a moment of quiet pridefulness because last night was the launch of the Maralinga - the Anangu Story written by the Yalata and Oak Valley Communities with Christobel Mattingley. We are very proud to be publishing this book. Many folk travelled from near and far to gather in fair Adelaide to celebrate, and to cheer it out into the world; may it find safe harbour in hearts and minds all across our wide brown land, and beyond.

14 April 2009

Are you there Judy? It's us, Onions

Over at StudentPrintz.com, Tiffany Loyd reports on Judy Blume's latest award speech where she talks about falling in love with books (sigh), the book that inspired her to be brave (hooray!), the author-editor relationship (one of our favourite things), her unexpected call to activism (ra! ra!) and her dining room table (write on, lady).
Judy says:
'I totally identified with Madeline, even though she wasn't scared of anything and I was scared of everything. Madeline inspired me to be brave.'
Oh, Judy Blume. I actually remember where I was when I first read you. Does anyone else?

I was in Year Seven. It was the weekend and I had lugged my bag full of library books with me to the tennis courts (where my mother and father were both playing, singles, doubles, mixed doubles...). It was going to be another long afternoon so I curled up in a corner of the clubrooms and fished a book out of my bag. Are you there God? It's me, Margaret. I rolled my eyes. A God book? This will never work for me, thought I.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. The more I read, the more I curled away from the world, as if I were reading something illicit. Secrets. Judy Blume told me secrets. And I gobbled them up as fast as I could. I didn't totally identify with Margaret as Judy did with Madeline,* but I was quietly thrilled to be in on the secrets. And the secrets to be found in Forever, well... (blushes).

Here's to all the writers who inspire us to be brave and to the ones who show us things that are so new and exciting they feel like the most extraordinary secrets.

*And I was only occasionally distracted by the fact that it was a little old-fashioned and the author didn't seem to know how to spell Mum.

09 April 2009

h) all of the above

Bruno is...

a) an exceptional designer,
b) very tall,
c) a fabulous typesetter,
d) Dutch,
e) inordinately fond of typography,
f) the only boy in our office,


A barcode cake!!
The cake-maker extraordinaire really outdid herself this time.
And not only did it look grand, it was rich and chocolatey and om nom nom.

Justine & Lili are showing off their brand new (not-quite-on-the-shelf-yet) Bruno-designed book covers. And as the folk are saying - they are very handsome indeed.

Happy birthday, Bruno. Thank you for making us look so good!

08 April 2009

To be or not to be

In the course of our daily business, we are often distracted by words themselves. Sometimes it's because we can't find the right one and sometimes it's because we can't make the one we love work in the context. And sometimes it just because words are wonderful. These ones caught our eye today.

besprinkled, bestrewed, besprent,
besmear, besmirch,
befog, begird, bedaub, bedizen
bedazzled, bequeath, beseech, bereft

Who doesn't love a prefix? Be- does bring a certain gravitas to otherwise ordinary verbs. Which also makes finding a context for them quite a task. Narrators or characters who besmear or bestrew may risk being beheaded if they step outside their natural era.

Of course, it can also be amusing to lose the prefix.*

We have often sprinkled and strewn, but, alas, we fail to recall a single occasion when we have sprent. We refrain from smearing and smirching, we aim to clear rather than to fog, we gird, we daub - but we are uncertain how we might ever manage to dizen. We do like to dazzle, and how we wish we could queath and seech, though perhaps there's never any need to reft.

*Surely everyone's favourite lost prefix is dis-. Who can resist the opportunity to be calmly combobulated or happily gruntled...

06 April 2009

The bilby has landed

The search is over! Thank you, EM, for rescuing him from Haigh's and bringing him back to the House of Onion, where he can be properly appreciated.

Mo Johnson is inside a dog

Mo Johnson - author of Something More, Book 11 in the Girlfriend series, which has sailed out into the world this month - is in residence over at Inside a Dog. Go forth and get your MoJo.

03 April 2009

It's Friday. Here is some stuff we like:

1) We're very proud and excited to be the Australian home of Celine Kiernan and her wonderful Moorehawke trilogy. The first book, The Poison Throne, is out here in September, and the fabulous Elise Hurst is busy creating beautiful cover art for our edition. In the meantime, check out Celine's blog, where she announces the very exciting news that she has been shortlisted for two (not 1, but 2!!) categories in the Irish Book Awards. Well done, Celine, and welcome to the House of Onion!

2) Not book-related, but cool anyway. The Big Picture is 'news stories in photographs' from the Boston Globe. The photography is always amazing - and by-turns heartrending, beautiful, creepy, inspiring or funny. Check out these made of cool shots of Earth Hour around the world. (Be sure to click the images to see the lights fade.)

3) The Walker Books illustrated classics are hawt.

4) Holy cow. A tea set?

5) Our hometown. The coolness. Even cooler, ThreeThousand reviewed Special Kev! We are so hip.

6) Winning hearts and minds with web design.

7) It's raining! (And thundering!)

02 April 2009

Celebrate! It's International Children's Book Day

IBBY reports that 2 April is International Children's Book Day. HOORAY!
Since 1967, on or around Hans Christian Andersen's birthday, 2 April, International Children's Book Day (ICBD) is celebrated to inspire a love of reading and to call attention to children's books.
What better way to celebrate than to showcase our wonderful April books.

The Winds of Heaven by Judith Clarke

When Fan was little she dreamed of magical countries in the far away blue hills. As she grew up she dreamed of love, and the boys came after her one by one by one.

Something More (Girlfriend Series Book 11) by Mo Johnson

'Just remember, Isla, when you're searching for happiness, it knows all the best hiding places.'

Big Sky (Girlfriend Series Book 12) by Melaina Faranda

Cow-wrangling, crocodiles, campfires, silent tears and stolen kisses all unfolding beneath the big sky over the dramatic Kimberley landscape.

Maralinga - the Anangu Story by the Yalata and Oak Valley Communities with Christobel Mattingley

'Maralinga - the Anangu Story is our story. We have told it for our children, our grandchildren and their children. We have told it for you.'

Magic Beach (big book) by Alison Lester

The gorgeous and much-loved Magic Beach - in BIG BOOK format!

100 years of Petrol Power by John Nicholson

How Australia entered the Age of Oil, and became reliant on petrol and diesel to power planes, trains and automobiles.

Something for all manner of readers. Here's to celebrating Mr H. C. Andersen's birthday with a book. Good reading to you all. Hurrah!

01 April 2009

Hoppity hoppity hop

We are adoring Melbourne in the autumn. Hot, sunny, still days and crisp nights that require doonas. Why can't it be autumn all year?
And autumn means Easter. And Easter means eating and family and football and getting the woolly jumpers out of the trunk and holidays.

Here is some Easter reading from Onion childhoods. Except for the first one, these books are not strictly about Easter - but they are about bunnies.

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes. (1939)
Oh, the well trained little bunnies! Oh, the mother bunny recognised for her talents and her true heart over all those flash jackrabbits!

The Runaway Bunny (1942)
'If you run away, I'll run after you.'
So reassuring for a small person. Oh, the illustration with the baby bunny's ears being sails and the mother bunny blowing him home!

Mr Rabbit and the Lovely Present (1977)
'The sun is yellow,' said Mr Rabbit
'But I can't give her the sun,' said the little girl, 'though I would if I could.'

The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902)
'You may go into the fields or down the lane, but don't go into Mr McGregor's garden. Your father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs McGregor. Now run along and don't get into mischief. I am going out.'

Tales of Uncle Remus: The Adventures of Brer Rabbit (circa 1881)
'Drown me! Roast me! Hang me! Do whatever you please,' said Brer Rabbit. 'Only please, Brer Fox, please don't throw me into the briar patch.'
The cover is the 2006 Puffin Classic edition

Watership Down (1972)
'Rabbits need dignity and above all the will to accept their fate.'

Look at the dates of publication on those books. Bunnies - scourge of the Australian countryside - are out of fashion now, as well they might be.
Now we are all about the Bilby.
Although, the Easter Bilby still delivers eggs, which is just as odd as a bunny delivering eggs.

Anyway, all this is by way of a very long lead-up to this important question:
Does anyone know where an Onion can buy a dark-chocolate bilby??!! We have hunted high; we have hunted low - but the dark-chocolate bilby is in hiding.