When I was a child my uncle and aunt ran a guest house in Margate. The family would convene there a couple of times a year: with thirteen bedrooms there was room for everyone. I have lots of memories; the (always) blustery wind, the great expanse of beach that we'd cross the road to be on, the polka-dot melamine beakers in by the washbasin in each room, the Spanish flamenco dolls on the dressing tables (it was the 1970's), the chaise lounge in the hallway and the smell of salty air. My cousin and I spend our time putting on plays for our families, using our younger siblings as stooges (the ugly sisters in Cinderella springs to mind) and there would be games of rounders on the beach (never my forte).
Through my child eyes it was a super colossal abode, but looking back I've no idea how my aunt prepared all those meals for her guests in what was a tiny kitchen in comparison to the rest of the house. But she of course managed. My one outstanding memory of what came out of that kitchen was a batch of Chocolate Caramel Shortbread. I'm not sure but it could have been the first time I had eaten them. These days it seems to be called Millionaires Shortbread: a name given to it for the rich ingredients I suspect rather than the decadence lifestyle of those who eat it. Though to my younger self I would have no doubt believed that this chocolatey, caramelly, buttery treat was the food of people who lived in 13 bedroomed houses.
It was to this recipe, which hails from an old cookbook of my mums, that I turned to recently when looking for indulgent treats to bake for Lily's birthday. It's an original recipe of its time - no updating with salted caramel - just a nostalgic sugary treat that has an air of opulence.
Chocolate Caramel Shortbread
Makes 16 squares
175g plain flour, sifted
50g caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
150ml condensed milk
125g plain chocolate
Preheat the oven to 180℃ / 350℉, Gas Mark 4 and grease a shallow 20cm square tin, lining the base with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the flour and stir until the mixture binds together. Knead until smooth. Roll out to a square and press evenly into the tin and prick well. Bake for 25 - 30 mins and cool in the tin.
Place the filling ingredients in a saucepan and stir until dissolved. Bring slowly to the boil, then cook stirring, for 5 to 7 minutes. Cool slightly, then spread over the biscuit mixture and leave to set.
For the topping, melt the chocolate with the butter in a bowl placed over a pan of simmering water. Spread over the caramel and leave to set before cutting into 16 squares with a sharp knife.