Chocolate Praline Cheesecake

Last week I spent almost an hour reading back over old blog posts. I always intended this space to be a diary of sorts as well as a recipe archive and found myself sucked into the narrative of Nino’s early months, comparing my notes and mindset with where I sit now. Any mother of two small children will know that an hour alone is seriously precious – there are so many things I could, or should, have done with that time – but instead I sat and reminisced over silly stories and anecdotes, things my son might have eaten or done, reliving those early months.

In just a few days, Joy will turn nine months. As long on the outside as in. I’d love to have documented each movement and mouthful for this blog the way I did with Nino, but truth be told it’s three long months since I’ve posted a recipe (sorry!). There have been photos on Instagram, thousands more on my phone and a baby book of milestones to make sure my ancient self can remember the most important details, but those random little insights into daily life that come with regular blog posts are sorely missing.

If by any chance, Joy, you are looking back on this, if WordPress still exists by the time you’re old enough to be interested in reading my random ramblings – a mummy yourself perhaps? – know one thing. This absence doesn’t mean I love you any less. You are adored. It’s simply that we’re living out our lives together, caught in the daily madness of sleepless nights, early mornings, multiple meals, clothes, demands for stories and cuddles and explanations with less time for reflection than I might have had as a mummy of one.

If you do want a quick catch up on what you’re like at almost nine months, your name still pretty much sums it up, sweet girl. Smiling, happy, so kind natured and utterly unphased by anything, including the bouncing bundle of energy that is your big brother as he careers around naked singing ‘Everybody wants to be a cat’. After thinking we were due some respite after Nino, your sleep habits are as appalling as his were, but I couldn’t be cross with the impish grin that greets me each (insanely early) morning and your milky snuggles are simply the best. When it comes to food, you’re also following in your brother’s footsteps with a great appetite, but a little more keen to do it all yourself. No idea where you get that one from . . . ahem. You scooch along the floor at breakneck speed, still more of a drag than a crawl, and are starting to pull up on anything and anyone. At times I see such fierce intelligence and communication behind those gorgeous hazel eyes (a subject of much debate, they seem to change colour every day), others you snuffle in and try to chew on any object in sight (all family members included) like a feral puppy. Charming, feisty, ferociously independent and utterly uncomplicated (so far) you are simply gorgeous inside and out.

Speaking of gorgeous things, a little while back Guylian approached me to develop a recipe for their Finishing Touches ebook. Their chocolate praline shells were a staple of my childhood and although I hadn’t eaten one in years, the first bite too me straight back. Click the link below for my Chocolate Praline Cheesecake recipe, amongst some other delicious looking chocolaty creations.

Wholemeal Apple & Date Cake

Apple Date Cake - 3

I started this blog in a very different place. It was before I had a husband, babies, a book, multiple things competing for my attention let alone those competing for the attention of the people who read my posts. Instagram had only just been invented and the majority of my internet consumption was through the laptop on which I’m writing this rather than a mobile device. Eight years ago I read my favourite blogs religiously, and whether it’s increasing competition for my time and attention or simply me obediently following the market trend, I find myself scrolling those tiny tiles on Instagram instead, reading recipes posted in comments or stories and getting insights into my favourite foodies through fleeting images rather than words. It’s all about instant gratification and although the majority of Insta-recipes are unlikely to be carefully measured, triple tested, even spell-checked (a tedious pet peeve, but seriously, some big trusted names I’m looking at you) they are immediate and appealing and exactly what we – me included – all seem to want in 2019. Continue reading

Double Nut Butter Blondies

Double nut butter blondies - 1

Yesterday I shouted at our two year old. After he repeatedly banged his little sister’s cot with two wooden spoons he was pretending to be ski poles while I attempted to put her down for a nap, I told him he was old enough to know better, shut the door on him and promptly burst into tears. Granted he’ll turn three in February and part of him knew exactly what he was doing, but because he’s so much bigger than Joy I sometimes forget, he’s still so very little. ‘Be quiet’ is a command he can commit to obey for a few minutes max before an exciting distraction sets in and patience is crucial on both our parts if we’re going to survive. In my three short months of parenting two, I’ve discovered that frustration can be high on the list of emotions for all parties involved, but raised tempers rarely improve anything. Certainly not the likelihood of babies to nap. But blondies? I have scientific proof that blondies improve just about everything.  Continue reading

Chocolate Rye Brownie Cookies

Rye Chocolate Brownie Cookies - 4

Move over chocolate chip, chewy oatmeal, crispy ginger . . . these are – hands down – the best cookies I’ve ever made. Tender bellied and crispy edged with the chocolate fudginess befitting only the very best brownie and a unique profile all of their own, these brownie cookies are simply divine. In the past, I’ve toyed with recipes for brownie cookies only to be slightly disappointed, the result falling short of both camps. But these? These you need to make. Continue reading

Flapjack Biscuits

Flapjack biscuits2

If you’re in the market for a quick and easy sweet treat, these biscuits have your name on them. The recipe comes from Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients cookbook so five ingredients are all you’re going to need (well, more if you count the dried mixed fruit and nuts as multiple ingredients, but let’s not be pedantic) and it’s hard to beat any combination of butter, oats and sugar. Last weekend we went to the fireworks as a family of four, Joy decked out in bright pink noise-cancelling headphones and Nino carrying a glowstick as tall as him, and these made for the perfect portable pud, toasty with oats and sticky sweet with golden syrup. Continue reading

Raw Chocolate Coated Cookies with Raspberry & Coconut + WIN Modern Baking by Donna Hay

Raw Cookies Donna Hay - 2

Earlier this week I ventured down to Brighton with seven week old Joy, leaving Nino in the hands of his ever-adoring grandparents for day of swimming and Gruffalo hunting. Not wanting to negotiate London rush hour with the buggy, I bundled her into a snowsuit then stuck her in the sling, quietly congratulating myself as we met with a wall of commuters twenty deep on attempting descent to the tube. Maternity leave has removed me so completely from central city life, I’d forgotten the silent grey sea that is the London rush hour, office workers hiding behind papers and iPhones, unspeaking, their clothing muted and gaze cast low. Navigating the crush with a child swathed in bright pink unicorns attached to my chest, I felt like an imposter, unable to imagine having done this twice a day, every day, for almost all of my adult life.

Making raw and/or vegan desserts is a little like going on maternity leave. Your point of reference changes. Crisp-edged cookies become soft and dense with dates, cream tastes of coconut and jam is held together with chia seeds. As a seasoned lover of butter and flour and sugar, I’m perfectly aware that the recipe posted here is not a cookie as we know it, but these treats are no less delicious for it. Just as hanging out in the playground in leggings is no better or worse than going suited and booted into work, it’s just different, each to be enjoyed and appreciated on their own merits.  Continue reading

Brown Butter Muscovado Chocolate Chunk Cookie Bars

Brown Butter Butterscotch Chocolate Chunk Cookie Bars - 2

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

Alison Roman’s Salted Butter & Chocolate Chunk Shortbread

Alison Roman Chocolate Shortbread Cookies - 1

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

Butterscotch Eclairs

Butterscotch Eclairs - 4

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

Wholemeal Raisin Chocolate Chunk Cookies + Joy’s Birth Story

 

Wholemeal Raisin Chocolate Chunk Cookies - 3

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