The Blog

Fruity Tiffin

Here's a no-bake chocolate biscuit fridge cake packed with loads of different dried fruit, nuts and biscuits and topped with a layer of chocolate. This is a real treat! Keeps for up to five days in an air tight tin.

Image by Holly Bell

Babies have no respect for sleep. It's wasted on them. Kids too. Zero understanding for how wonderful it is and the scarcity of it in adult life.

Sometimes I day-dream about especially long sleeps I remember BK (Before Kids). There was one time, in the late 90's, after a night shift where I delivered two babies, that I slept for so long I had no idea if it were morning or evening when I awoke. I did what any sensible girl would do and called my Dad. He knew. Dads always know if it's day or night.

Or once, in London, at some point in my mid 20's, I slept from Friday late eve (okay, it was the early hours of Saturday morning but Friday sounds more impressive) until Sunday morning. Just imagine! Go on, think about that amount of wallowing in bed all alone. It was blissful. I only got up for a glass of strong Ribena and then retired with some magazines. Getting up too quickly is bad for you, didn't you know?

So I write this blog post to tell you about sleep now and why it doesn't work like it used to. I used to wear an eye mask and ear plugs. An ex boyfriend introduced me to ear plugs, and whilst initially I was offended that he may be trying to block out my presence during slumber hours, I soon learnt to appreciate their wonder. Now the trick is to use slightly crap ones. Anything too absolute can result in listening to the sound of your own heartbeat. And that is very distracting. I can't wear ear plugs anymore save one of the kids cries and I don't hear him. Only 17 or so years until we are reunited.

Eye masks - another great invention. So deep was my sleep of nights (and days) past that it would still be on my eyes when I woke. Not now. Now it threatens to strangle me. So I have scrapped it. Except on flights. I have a theory that no self-respecting flight attendant would let a passenger strangle on their watch.

Cramp. Where did this affliction come from? It taunts me when at my most sleepy and tired. On a bad night I wake three times or more with it. It. Drives. Me. Mad. I am most ungracious too. Well, if I'm up and in minor pain then my dear husband should be up too. I'm sure it was part of the wedding vows, no?

Socks and pyjamas. If I don't wear both I wake in some kind of frozen state without a duvet. I blame my cramp companion, ie/ my husband, for this. He is a hot sleeper. Not hot as in sexy, though obviously he is that too, what with us being married. He is hot as in high in temperature and I have a sneaking suspicion he both throws covers off and steals my warmth. He's a body warmth snatcher.

Work. Now when I had a proper job I used to have a daily list of all the annoying jobs I needed to do to stop clients from swearing at me. (Michael, I'm looking at you, wherever you are now, you dreadful man). Now, because I am my own boss and do something creative, (yes, I did just use the C word and yeah, I know it makes me sound like a bit of a ponce. I can only apologise) I seem to have my best ideas at night, as I am trying to fall asleep. Yes. Annoying. So I write them down and then sleep seems like a nice idea but far from imminent.

And lastly, bloody social media. I am a right one for checking it in bed, just before I go to sleep. Except then I don't sleep, I get sucked in and answer questions about corned beef pie crusts and who eats all the spare food on GBBO. (The crew! The crew! Please don't make me ever answer this question again). Then I answer a few nice comments on Instagram (which I love, though have noticed that a lot of the niceness that Instagram once displayed is slowing ebbing away. Only last week someone told me all my pics were rubbish and finished the comment with #justsayin which made me come out in a rash only induced by text and hashtag speech. How about get off MY Instagram you cretin, sorry #getoffmyinstgramyoucretin) and then well, sleep seems a bit boring once I've started discussing why I dislike frozen yoghurt with a virtual pal I've never met in the flesh.

So there you have it. Why I day-dream about sleep. Ready for a recipe now?

Here's a no-bake chocolate biscuit fridge cake packed with loads of different dried fruit, nuts and biscuits and topped with a layer of chocolate. This is a real treat! Keeps for up to five days in an air tight tin.

Lots of great recipes like this in my book, Recipes from a Normal Mum, out now... on Amazon, The Works, at Waterstones, WHSmith, The Book Depository and many smaller outlets. (Pssst! Did you know I have a new book coming out in September? Keep tuned for more info!)

Makes 25 small squares


• 150g salted butter, plus extra for greasing the tin

• 30g castor sugar

• 50mls golden syrup

• 25g cocoa

• 225g ginger nut biscuits, finely crushed (about 22)

• 50g Whitworths toasted chopped mixed nuts

• 50g Whitworths chopped apricots

• 50g Whitworths cherries and berries

• 80g Whitworths juicy raisins

• 100g milk chocolate

• 100g dark chocolate

• 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Grease and line a 20 x 20cm tin with non-stick baking paper.

Place the butter, sugar, syrup and cocoa into a large saucepan and melt over a low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat once completely molten and add the biscuits, nuts and dried fruit. Stir well and press into the tin. Lay a piece of non-stick paper over the top and level using your hands. Remove the baking paper and place in the fridge. Melt the chocolate together either in the microwave or using the bain marie method, stir in the oil and pour over the top. Leave to set at room temperature and cut into pieces once set using a very sharp knife. (You can dip it in hot water to achieve cleaner cuts).

If you want further proof that this recipe is fab then do take a look at these blog posts from folks I made this tiffin with. There's Baking Fanatic (with his much better than mine tiffin, damn you!), Mrs Bishop Bakes (who lost a LOT of weight recently - seriously, a lot, she's a right inspiration she is), Poppy D (who embarrasingly I have a girl-crush on even though she is younger than me), Le Coin de Mer (with her lovely, well-behaved children), Salman Dean (who knows lots about fashion), Someone in the Corner, A Story of a Girl, Eat, Cook, Explore and Ginger Lilly Tea.

Her first book is out now, also called Recipes from a Normal Mum