12 Days of Yule

Hengist Prequel - Nature's Tribe #1
Call the Midwife meets Poldark, this magical, medieval romance explores the origins of many of the modern-day Christmas customs.

Pick up your copy by clicking the link Twelve Days of Yule, and experience the joy and danger of being a midwife in medieval England.

A self-important official or an unreliable mercenary? Not much of a choice.
Senna must make a choice when her year of mourning ends on the twelfth day of Yule. Domenyk, a well-respected magister needs a woman of substance to accompany him on his ascent to leader of the council - the most powerful man in the village. Jarl was her late husband's best friend, but he spends more time away from the village as a sought-after military commander. And he's not too good at keeping his promises.
As she prepares for the Yule festivities, her standing as the village healer is called into question by powerful adversaries when complications arise for two of her expectant mothers. The stakes ramp up as the ancient Pagan practices are threatened by the new religion, and the village’s three best defenders disappear. Thankfully, someone is looking out for Senna – her dead husband, Lyran.
This medieval, Holiday-themed romantic tale will appeal to fans of Call the Midwife and Poldark who enjoy elements of magical realism, mystery and humour.

If you came here looking for recipes, click here.

This story was released on 21st December (Yule) - here's a short extract:

Day 0 – Yule Eve Preparations

   “Mama, the other girls will be here shortly. May I please be excused to go with them for the gathering?”
   Senna paused in her vigorous mixing of the aromatic minced-meat mixture, returning an escaped tendril to the snood covering her hair. Regarding her daughter’s eager face, she tried in vain to maintain a stern expression. “Am I to make the mincen parcels on my own?”
   “No, Mama. We only need enough for the first three days. You said yourself it’s unseasonal warm; they will spoil by sixth night.”
   “I’m not making the ones for the Clove-Gifting. But you know what your gram …”
   “A dozen mincen parcels at Yule will bring luck the wheel round.” After mimicking her grandmother’s saying, Lyrelie twisted her features into a scowl which marred her normally pleasant countenance. “But you’re not Gram, and you don’t have to follow all her old-fashioned …”
   “Lyrelie!” Senna poured enough admonishment into the single word to give the girl reason to mind her manners.
   “Sorry, Mama.” Her daughter’s gaze dropped for a moment before she made amends. “Here, let me roll the dough for the parcels.” Her father’s smile brightened her face, fairly tearing Senna’s heart apart.

   Taking an edgy breath, the healer tried in vain to follow the advice she handed out with aching regularity. Calming advice to those who sought her elixirs in the hope of curing whatever ailed them. What ailed her was the first Yuletide without the comforting presence of her beloved husband, Lyran. A sigh caught her unawares as it fluttered that disobedient wisp of hair.
   Senna didn’t want to take the spiced wine she normally counselled for grieving widows; forgetting him was the last thing she wanted to do. Unaware she’d closed her eyes, Senna stiffened at the unexpected feel of her daughter’s arms stealing round her waist and Lyrelie’s cheek resting on her back.
   Her daughter squeezed, ever-so-gently. “Don’t be upset, Mama. Remember, Da will always be in your heart.”
   Senna cleared her throat, seeking a light tone. “Why would you speak of your father, today?”
   “Because this was one of his favourite Yuletide tasks.” Lyrelie divided a third of the dough into twelve. “He could eat his dozen in a single day, so he always ensured you made enough for his sweet tooth.” She formed twelve small balls, each one destined to be flattened into a circle by her rolling pin.

   The muscles around Senna’s lips pushed past sadness, heading for wistful. “It was his idea to add some of the frumenty pudding mixture to the meat.”
   “And the honey, don’t forget that.” Another one of those heart-stopping, Lyran-shaped smiles.
   In her mind, Senna envisioned her husband’s face with joy instead of pain. As she spooned the mixture into the dough circles, her cheeks twitched, taking a shot at wry.
   When the knock sounded at the door, Lyrelie’s rapid glance made the auburn curls bob around her shoulders. Her dilemma was clear; she still had a batch of circles to roll out, and would not want to shirk.

   Senna’s expression warmed. “Go on, join your friends. And remember to be careful climbing up for the mistletoe.”
   This time, her daughter’s grin was purely her own. “You say that every time, but I will never leave it to the boys. They break all the berries off.” Rushing to the dresser, she dusted the flour clinging to her hands into a dish. It would be used to thicken the broth; nothing was wasted in this house. She rinsed her hands in the sluice pail.
   Picking up the trug, she yelled out gaily, “I’m coming,” to the waiting gang, whose impatient mutterings could be clearly heard through the open window.
   With a kiss on her mother’s cheek, the whirlwind of love and light disappeared.

   Senna gave thanks to the universe, for gifting her with such a treasure. Every day, she brought her father’s energy into the room and, at sixteen, she was already a skilled healer.
   She paused in her task, her thoughts driven by an unknown source. Irreverent wit tinged the idea that Lyran’s abilities and courage had been the death of him. Fearless in his quest to heal the sick, he’d been first to the quarry after the accident, quickly fixing up the injured and organising their removal to safety.
   Any vestige of humour dissolved as she remembered the quarryman’s account: her husband had been buried in a secondary landslide which killed him instantly.
   Shaking off thoughts which could do nothing but lower her spirits, Senna focused instead on what was left to do before she could allow herself a goblet of spiced wine and a visit with the neighbours.
   Her birthing bag was stocked and waiting in preparation for two ladies close to their time. Lareeta was still several weeks away from the birthing, and currently visiting her parents in a nearby town.
   Yesterday’s examination of Marena revealed all was going well; she was an experienced mother with a supportive husband. Senna had no qualms about leaving her be for a few days; she’d doubtless be called once the birthing had progressed sufficiently for her presence to be required.

   Apart from her patients, she’d promised contributions to many of the shared festivities. Three skins of honey ale hung on the door ready for the Wassailing; her own recipe with her great-grandmother’s secret ingredient harmonising the roasted apples, honey and nutmeg.
   Alfun, the farmer in charge of the Field Blessing, had commissioned her to create thirteen blessing charms: herb-infused faggots, which would add their magic for a good growing season.
   It was not purely a selfless act; her home benefited greatly from the making of these aromatic concoctions.
   Lyrelie had helped to cast the spells, finishing each one with red and green ribbons which secured a quartz crystal, the power stone at the centre of each twig bundle.
   Her daughter: apprentice wise woman. Did that make her a wise girl? Undoubtedly. Senna’s mind drifted past suitable names.
   A loud, persistent thumping at the door brought her attention sharply back to the present. This normally heralded some kind of medical emergency, and she reacted instantaneously, dropping everything. With cheeks flushed from foreboding, she opened the door, anticipating at least a broken limb or gaping wound.
   The dishevelled man bearing a huge slice of ash tree in his arms had neither of these.

Senna's Mincen Parcels
1lb of pastry (see below) will make approx 4 dozen parcels.
Approx 1lb of mincemeat
Beaten egg to glaze

  • Split into 4, then for each quarter:
  • Divide into 12 equal balls, and roll each ball into a circle approx 3 inches/8 cm diameter
  • Spoon a tbsp of mincemeat mixture into centre of circle
  • Brush edges with beaten egg, fold edge over into half moon
  • Seal edges by pinching between thumb and forefinger
  • Brush with beaten egg and bake in centre of oven 400F/200C/Gas mark 6 for 15-20 mins til golden

  • Old-fashioned mincen meat
    1 lb (700g) lean mutton or beef (minced)
    4oz (100g) suet (grated)
    3  tart apples (finely chopped, skin on)
    1/2pt (300ml) apple cider
    1/4pt (150ml) cider vinegar
    Juice and rind of 1 orange, 1 lemon
    2 tbsp molasses (or black treacle)
    6oz (150g) dried fruit (sultanas, raisins, currants)
    2oz (50g) each of stoned prunes, figs and dates, all chopped into small cubes
    1/2 tsp ground cloves
    1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
    1/2 tablespoons ground nutmeg
    1 tsp ground mace (or allspice)
    1/2 tsp black pepper
    a pinch of saffron
    4 tbsp brandy or sherry
    If using raw mincemeat, fry over a low heat until thoroughly browned, then drain away all fat and pat dry with kitchen paper.
    If using cooked meat, mince it (or chop into small cubes).
    Put the apples in a pan with cider, cider vinegar, orange & lemon juice/rinds, and all the dried fruits. Bring to the boil, simmer for five minutes.
    Mix in the meat, suet, molasses and spices and simmer for 2 hours. Allow to cool for 30 minutes, then stir in brandy/sherry.
    If the mixture is too sloppy, add in more dried fruit.
    If the mixture is too dry, add in more cider/brandy to taste.
    It is best to let mincemeat stand at least a couple of weeks before using.  
    Store in the refrigerator for up to a month. Freeze in air-tight containers for longer storage.

    Modern mincemeat equivalent for busy folks
    Buy a 1lb jar of mincemeat and add in the following: 2oz (50g) each of stoned prunes, figs and dates, all chopped into small cubes.
    2tbsps sherry or brandy.  
    To try the savoury version add 1lb of cooked, minced meat which has been cooled, but this will reduce the length of time the mixture can be stored/used unless you freeze it.
    Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
    If the mixture is too sloppy, add in more dried fruit.
    If the mixture is too dry, add in more sherry/brandy to taste.

    Old-fashioned pastry
    1lb (450g) plain flour (use Spelt flour for authentic taste)
    2tsps salt
    4oz (100g) lard
    1/4 pt (150ml) water
    4tbsp (60ml) milk
    Sift the flour and salt together into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Heat the lard, water and milk until boiling and pour into the well. Quickly beat the mixture together with a spoon to form a soft dough, and knead until smooth on a lightly floured board.

    Modern pastry equivalent
    12oz (350g) plain flour (or flour substitute e.g. rice flour, buckwheat flour, oat flour)
    2oz (50g) wholewheat flour
    2oz (50g) ground almonds
    pinch salt
    4oz (50g) lard (or butter/margarine for vegetarian)
    4oz (50g) butter/margarine
    1/4 pt (150ml) water
    Either: rub fat into flour Or: beat lard & butter until melted, then sift in flour & salt and mix in.
    Mixture should resemble fine breadcrumbs. Add 8tsps of water and mix together, kneading with hands until smooth. Allow to stand for at least 30 mins (preferably in refrigerator) before using.

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