This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
This pretty novel, A Cottage by the Sea by Carole Matthews, is about three best friends from uni, Grace, Ella and Flick, coming together for a holiday in Wales. They've shared secrets, bar jobs and flats. Now time has moved on from those carefree, fun-filled days. Grace is settled down and married to Harry. She is hoping that this holiday will be the fresh start for them, which they desperately need. Generous and talented Ella is long-term partner to Art. Then there is Flick. Well, she has never settled down, always after the unsuitable (i.e married) man and still living her life like it's her student years.
The three of them are staying for one week in a cottage by the sea, which is now owned by Ella. Each one bringing their partners. Flick, too. She is bringing her very recent chap, Noah.
But during the course of the week discoveries are made about relationships and themselves.The group are thrown into confusion.
At one point Grace and Noah find themselves in a tearoom after being caught in the rain on the beach. They're in absolute need of steamy hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows. Plus a piece of chocolate cake for Noah and millionaire's shortbread for Grace.
Isn't that just the perfect pick-me-up? There you are, soaked through on a beach in Wales, confused feelings all over the place and not only do you find a tearoom, but one that sells the classic shortbread with a succulent caramel sauce and smothered in chocolate.
This was a lovely novel. If you haven't read it yet make yourself a tray of these and get stuck in.
Before I go any further, let me give you a piece of advice. The caramel centre takes twice as long as the recipe books says it does (I've used many including Nigella and Mary Berry). I used to make this a lot and I always had to keep it in the fridge as the middle, most frustratingly, would not set. It put me off making it. Now, thanks to Marian Keyes's husband (Himself) and his instructions in her book, Saved by Cake, I have made it work for the very first time. I'm ecstatic. Prior to reading his instructions I chucked two versions away in the bin.
I used a mixture of recipes, including Marian's, to come up with my own version.
18-20cm square tin, greased and lined with baking parchment, heavy based or non-stick saucepan, wooden spoon.
For the shortbread bottom
200g plain flour
80g caster sugar
150g butter, slightly softened and in smallish pieces
For the caramel middle
200ml condensed milk (I used the other half of a 397g can in last week's Lemon Chiffon Pie)
2 dessert spoonfuls golden syrup
For the chocolate top
200g milk chocolate
- Pre-heat oven for the shortbread to 140 fan or 160 regular.
- In a bowl tip in the flour, sugar and butter.
- With clean hands, rub the dry ingredients into the butter until it resembles a crumble mixture.
- Tip into your baking tin and press down firmly with the back of a spoon. Prick with a fork.
- Place in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin.
- To make the caramel – firstly make sure you won't get distracted for a good twenty minutes or so. You will need to stir this continuously.
- In a heavy based or non-stick saucepan pour in the condensed milk, butter and syrup.
- Bring to a boil on a low to medium heat. (Not a high heat it'll burn!) Stir continuously.
- Marian and her husband say to let it boil and bubble for 5 – 8 minutes. Mine took a little longer. I knew it was done when I could drag the wooden spoon through the centre and the caramel stayed parted for a while and it was darker in colour. It felt thicker too when mixing. From start to finish I was probably stirring for 15 – 20 minutes.
- Pour over the shortbread and allow to cool. Mine was so thick I had to spread it to the edges.
- Once cool, melt the chocolate and pour over the top.
- Allow to set (I did mine in the fridge as I was in a rush but Marian says not to.)
- Cut into small squares and dig in.