Nino has recently become obsessed with Octonauts. For the uninitiated, the show involves an intrepid team of animals who hang out in their underwater Octopod, venturing out in various vehicles called Gups to rescue sea creatures in peril. The Octopod resides in the Sunlight Zone, but said explorers seem to spend the majority of their time deep underwater in the mysteriously named Midnight Zone. Six weeks into life with a newborn and as a parent of two, I feel an uncommon affiliation with them . . . Continue reading →
When I’m not baking, blogging, making milk or toddler wrangling, my day job is in marketing. One sentence that always makes a marketer sigh is ‘how can we make this go viral?’ If it were an exact science, everyone would be doing it and often the most unlikely content swoops across the internet for reasons hard to fathom. At other times, it’s a little more obvious, as in the case of these salted butter chocolate chunk shortbread cookies aka ‘the cookies that broke the internet’. Continue reading →
Just over two weeks with our littlest loaf and we’re slowly starting to find our feet as a family of four. In some ways, not much has changed – it’s funny how life with a toddler simply goes on with mealtimes and outings, stories to tell and bottoms to wipe – and in others, nothing will ever be the same again. We have a whole new person to care for and play with, get to know and fall in love with.
When I have a spare moment to think (mostly nursing in the middle of the night, there’s currently not a lot of daytime peace), I’ve been thinking a lot about these two humans who grew inside me. I’ve marvelled before at the capacity of the human heart to expand and continue to do so: this love I feel for my family is infinite and ever-growing. But my time? My ability to devote undivided attention to each child? It’s compromised. I don’t mean that to sound depressing or defeatist but the other night I had a little weep. On days when Luke isn’t around, my little shadow and I have grown into a gang of three which is wonderful and perfect and something I wouldn’t change for the world, but definitely different. Nino has been so incredibly brilliant with his little sister – and I know it’s all part of life, and good for him to learn to share – but on occasion I’ll catch his eye when I’m changing yet another nappy or latched into another cluster feed and I know there’s a part of me he misses. Nobody said this parenting gig was easy. Continue reading →
She’s here! Joy Marie Maureen Doran, our brand new bundle of bliss, made her unforgettable entrance into the world at 12.29am on Friday 24th August weighing in at 7lb 8oz. And my goodness what an arrival, delivered by her daddy on the downstairs bathroom floor while her big brother slept upstairs. And no, that wasn’t exactly part of our birth plan . . . Continue reading →
Before he arrived I posted a letter of sorts to your big brother in this space. I’ve been writing something similar to you for weeks now in my head, but finding the time to get it down has been trickier second time round – if you’re ever lucky enough to be a mummy yourself (assuming that you want to be), I think you’ll understand what I mean.
When Nino was diagnosed with TGA at his twenty week scan, I promised myself I’d never ask for anything more if we could just deliver this fragile first baby into the world safe and well. But once he made me a mummy and grew and got stronger, I realized how much I adore this gig, how brilliant a big brother he could be and how while one was just perfect, two little people in our lives would be bliss. It’s hard to imagine my heart expanding any more, but I just know that it has and will. You are already so loved and so wanted and we just can’t wait to meet you.
First time around, there were so many unknowns – both what would happen when Nino was born, surgery and all that scary stuff, but also how we would be as parents. This time I feel a little more prepared, but two? Who knows how that’s going to go. Regardless of the mayhem that will undoubtedly ensue, know that your big brother is already in love with you, that he places his hand on my belly to feel you hiccup and tries to tickle you awake. He wants to teach you how to smile and talk and walk and has already requested the role of chief nappy changer. Fine by me. My ever-expanding belly means there’s no longer space to sit on my lap for stories so I’m sure he’ll be vying with you for that spot when you pop out, but I think you already know all this, you’ve been listening in on us for nine months.
Your daddy (and many a relative) thinks you’re going to be dark like me. I’m predicting a curly blonde menace to match the boys you’re joining, but it couldn’t matter less – it’s all part of the excitement of meeting you. Either way, I feel like you’re going to be a happy soul, feisty and with maybe just a little ferocious streak like your mum.
The doctors have given a due date of this Friday, but I’m pretty sure you’ll just come when you’re ready. We’ll be waiting, baby girl, to welcome you into the world: already utterly in love and ready and for you to make our family complete. Until then, this shortbread, as if life wasn’t sweet enough already 🙂
Millionaire's shortbread with an added peanut twist. The addition of salty peanut butter to the chocolate topping of these addictive little squares balances the sweetness beautifully. The perfect tea time treat.
Author: Kate Doran
Recipe type: Baking
Serves: 16 squares
For the shortbread
250g unsalted butter, softened
250g plain flour, sifted
50g corn flour, sifted
100g golden caster sugar
pinch sea salt
For the caramel
140g light brown muscovado sugar
397 tin condensed milk
140g unsalted butter
½ tsp salt
For the chocolate topping
200g dark chocolate
50g milk chocolate
3 tbsp smooth peanut butter
To make the shortbread, lightly grease a 20cm square tin and line with baking parchment. Blitz all the ingredients in a food processor, making sure not to overwork, then press into the tin. Prick with a fork then chill for one hour, before baking at 180C/160C fan for 35 - 40 minutes, until pale gold. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
To make the caramel, melt all the ingredients in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer, stirring regularly, for 5 - 6 minutes until thickened then pour over the shortbread base. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours.
To make the topping, melt the dark chocolate then pour over the caramel. Melt the milk chocolate and peanut butter together, then drizzle over the top. Refrigerate for a further hour until set then cut into squares.
Will keep for several days in an airtight container.
Three weeks to go! Or one. Or five. There’s no way of knowing exactly when baby girl is going to arrive but suffice to say we’ve entered the drop zone. This pregnancy has been different from our first in lots of ways; lighter and less worrying without the knowledge of a serious heart condition and surgery, but heavier and hotter and harder physically. There’s the old wives tale that girls make you feel more sick and rob you of your beauty, but while there may be mileage in that, I’m fairly sure it’s largely attributable to running round after a toddler, combined with a different time of year. Nino was born on a cold day at the beginning of February whereas this little lady and I have bunked together through a scorching holiday in Italy and the hottest weather we’ve seen in England for decades. Continue reading →
Ever since Nino celebrated his second birthday, we’ve been talking almost daily about what kind of cake family members will be getting for their upcoming birthdays. For Grandpa there was polenta cake, rolled out annually on request (with ever so slight variations to satisfy my urge to experiment). Daddy wants a whiskey one next January. Nino was shocked to discover that his Nonna isn’t that keen on cake, nor is a close toddler friend, but we’ve now been to enough birthdays with caterpillars and rainbows and tray bakes to establish a playing field to work from and, after much debate, we’ve hit on a lemon sponge with fresh strawberry buttercream to make for me at the end of the month.
My go-to is almost always chocolate so it’s refreshing to be pointed in a different direction by my mini kitchen sidekick and I’m excited to make and taste his fruity creation. But before then, chocolate cravings still call – thank goodness for an uncle with a birthday before mine and a last minute lunch invite creating the need to whip up an easy one bowl chocolate cake for a sunny Sunday afternoon. Continue reading →
Let’s talk about courgettes. Or zucchini. Whatever you call them, it’s impossible to avoid their charms and abundance during the summer months. When we were in Italy a few weeks back our neighbour gifted us a bowl of freshly picked courgettes and their flowers which we respectively grilled, grated into a frittata with pecorino and softened in butter. Back in the UK we picked an enormous bag full from the local farm and while most made it into savoury dishes, I couldn’t resist saving a few for some sweeter baking experiments. Continue reading →
I’m hoping a suitably refreshing ice cream recipe in this scorching weather will make up for radio silence the last few weeks. We’ve just got back from two weeks in Italy split between three locations – a dear friend’s wedding, my parents’ house up in the Tuscan mountains and down by the sea in Senigallia, a sweet little town in Le Marche we’ve been visiting since I was seven. Nino stayed up well past his bedtime on multiple occasions, got to play properly in the sea and sand for the very first time, dined in a Michelin starred restaurant and ate mussels, clams, whole prawns (sucking the ‘prawn brains!’ from their heads with unabashed glee), wild boar and rabbit for the first time. We ate equally well, soaked up plenty of sunshine and indulged in the gift that is grandparental babysitting including an – unheard of – day of lunching and lounging by ourselves. All in all, it was bliss.
I posted a picture of these pancakes on Facebook a few weeks back and got a lot of requests for the recipe. I use this space as a journal of sorts, to tell stories and document what we’re eating rather than sticking to a strict schedule, so although I had been vaguely thinking of sharing a strawberry cake I’d baked this weekend, we ate it without a pause for photos and pancakes are the name of the game today (cake coming soon, I promise). Continue reading →