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Monday, 22 October 2012

Easy Caramel Tart Recipe

This is pretty much a quick, ultra-rich sugar fix. You can make the caramel the long way, but the key words here are quick and easy.

Shopping list:
Ginger biscuits - 1 pack is fine
Butter (2 x tablespoons for the biscuit base)
Tin of Caramel mix (I used Carnation brand)
Vanilla bean pod
Coconut cream
Ground Nutmeg
Ground Ginger
Ground Cayenne Pepper
Chocolate (1/2 family size bar)

Pre-heat the oven to around 150 C, and oil a small pie tin. A dab of butter works fine. Make sure you do the sides as well as the base, otherwise the result will be a very sticky mess and you won't get the tart out of the tin.

Biscuit base:

Melt the butter and crush the ginger biscuits. I used about 3/4 of a pack, and crushed them by running a rolling pin over them a few times. If you want a very fine crumb, you could blitz them in a food processor, but I like the texture of coarse crumb in this. Mix the crumbs together with the melted butter. You should end up with a damp, but not too wet, mix that holds its shape for a few seconds if you scrunch it together in the palm of your hand.

Press the crumb into the base of the oiled tin, packing it down firmly. You want a depth of around 10mm here, to give the caramel a decent base to rest on without turning into mush.

Pop the crumb into the oven for ten minutes, then leave aside to cool. I put mine into the fridge to cool it down faster; do not add the caramel until this cool.

Caramel process:

Combine the caramel and a teaspoon each of the salt, nutmeg, ginger & a pinch of cayenne pepper. Scrape about an inch of the vanilla pod seed into the mix. Using a fork to mix this is fine.

The caramel mixture will have thinned quite a bit due to the mixing, so let it rest for a few minutes before moving onto the next step.

Add the caramel mix to the biscuit base, and pop it straight into the fridge while you get the topping ready.

The salt and spices just add a bit of dimension to the caramel; you still get an incredibly sweet taste but it knocks it slightly away from just being glorified condensed milk.

For the chocolate topping:

Break the chocolate apart and melt it over a low heat. I used white chocolate, but this is purely personal preference. (*Smart tip - place the chocolate pan over a pot of boiling water - it's way too easy to burn chocolate on direct heat, and that's a horrible thing to do to chocolate.)

As the chocolate melts, add a tablespoon of coconut cream. You could use dessicated coconut here as well, I simply had the coconut cream in my cupboard as it's brilliant for savoury sauces. Scrape out another inch of vanilla seed and stir it into the chocolate.

The chocolate mix is ready to drizzle over the top of the caramel. You can lay it on in a thick coating, but be warned that this will make for a messy experience when slicing the tart up later - the caramel will  remain slightly liquid, and ooze up through the chocolate layer - and will also make the tart almost too sweet to eat. Once the chocolate is on, place it back into the fridge until you're ready to serve it. In this case, serving portions definitely follow the less is more rule.

I meant to add mint to my chocolate mix, but honestly forgot all about it - I'll try that the next time I make it, and see how it goes.

In the meantime, you've got a yummy, sticky treat to try - the ginger biscuits add a texture that cuts through the caramel sweetness, and the base holds up surprisingly well.

Hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The End of the Spawn

Well, the eight-legged Spawn of Satan is now an ex-Spawn. I'm arguing extreme provocation due to lack of sleep, severe arachnophobia, and the discovery of the bugger on yet another suit jacket at 7 in the morning. The last one appears to be unsalvageable.

I'm not sure if arachnicide is a word, but it'll do.

Last night was me, myself and I, all trying to get to sleep and failing miserably. I haven't had a bout of insomnia for a while, and I'm not a happy camper without enough sleep.

I got dressed. Got a few visitors to the office today, so I went to grab the suit jacket - the cheaper one, that hadn't, until this morning, been desecrated by spider silk.

The positive here is that I didn't grope the Evil One by accident this time. I moved the hanger back, and there it squatted, wrapped in white fuzz. It looked like the face-hugger from Alien, wearing a negligee. All it needed was fuzzy slippers and a hair net.

And then it - it lunged at me. The Spawn of Satan lunged at me. It had hi-jacked my wardrobe - again, mind you - and now it was acting like something out of a bad creature feature.

In hindsight, this turned out to be a fatal mistake on the part of the Spawn.

I stayed spider-free because I moved backwards pretty damn quickly, and also because it was so tightly wedged into the bundle of silk it couldn't move more than a couple of centimetres. The part that did move appeared to be mostly composed of fang.

I stood in my room, watching my biggest phobia struggle to wriggle free of it's cocoon, still aiming those fangs at me, and then it got the first pair of legs out.  At which point, dear readers, this little author lost her shit.

I don't often lose my temper. When I do, the results are, em. Interesting.

This morning was interesting to the point of me bouncing repeatedly on Spawn with a pair of heavy boots, shouting at the top of my lungs.

Considering said shouting consisted of a whole lot of "Die! Die! My SUIT!" (and other words that will not be used on this blog, because there are limits to what is fit for public consumption, and also, my mother would kick my ass), I'm mildly surprised the neighbours didn't call the cops. Explaining that one to the Flying Squad would have been awkward. I left the house feeling slightly insane.

I spent the rest of the morning with shaking hands, and I've been skittish - every time something moves too fast around me, I jump. You don't want to know what happened to the first cup of coffee I tried to drink.

So the Reign of the Spawn has ended, with the final chapter involving the Dyson and the ceremonial Ew, Don't Touch the Carpet with Your Bare Feet Dance.

At some point over the next week, I'll probably feel guilty. But right now, I'm just glad that damned thing's negligee weighed it down.

Sunday, 14 October 2012


I haven't been on-line for a couple of days since I've got a lovely dose of the flu/plague/just-shoot-me-now that's being going around the office. Not to mention the tube, train, and my own home environment since my cousin has been lurching around the flat like a fully made-up extra from the Walking Dead.

It's annoying, since this is the second time in two weeks I'm down with something. Dear Immune System, all is forgiven. Please call me soon. 

Right now I can't really talk, because it hurts, but the headache seems to have backed off for a bit and I can look at a screen without whimpering. This is progress, although most of my body feels like it's been systematically beaten by an enraged leprechaun armed with a lead pipe, and every gland in my body appears to have tripled in size, including the one on the back of my head and neck. (Yes, this is a real thing. Google it before you scream at me in the comments, because right now I lack the energy to point and laugh.)

I look like a short and very irritated rugby player, with jock-itch. This is not a good look for me, dear reader. I'm hoping that that particular swelling goes down and I can actually get into work on Monday, because being unable to put on your trousers does not bode well for your working day.

To add to my misery, and probably because the only reason I'm eating once a day is because my cousin is dragging me out of my Lil Pit of Doom to feed me, tonight my p.j. bottoms decided to try and become ankle warmers. This is particularly distressing when it occurs on your way down a couple of stairs, holding dirty plates in one hand and cutlery in the other. Nothing says "I've lost 5 pounds" like a groin grab while holding a fork. Also, it's a good way to realise you can still swear in Klingon. Apparently the husky, dulcet tones I applied gave it extra depth and dimension.

No recent sign of the Spawn of Satan. Maybe the piteous whimpering has driven it to quieter pastures?

In the meantime, if you're a Walking Dead fan, have a giggle at this:

The follow up, which ends with one of the funniest pay-off's I've ever seen is here:

Also, if you're a fan of urban fantasy, Ilona Andrews is running a weekly serial that's pretty addictive. If you haven't read their stuff (this is a husband and wife team) you're missing out on something pretty good. That link should take you straight to their website.

And Richard Shury has just released a new collection of shorts on Smashwords called Wading All, which looks to be as hypnotic as the rest of his stuff, and for $1.

No other news, apart from the fact that my junk mail is currently being targeted by people who think that I:
1) Need viagra (fairly sure I don't have the right equipment for this one. Maybe the fork incident scared it away?)
2) Really want to watch bad porn (*sigh* Not really. Watching an idiot in a bad wig have sex does nothing for me.)
3) Am American, and entitled to a variety of credit cards (Nope. Got a few friends there, but pretty sure I need to actually live in the country)
4) Am still owed PPI repayments (Oh, boy, do I wish that one were true)
5) Am over 50 and desperately need health insurance (Bwahahahah! Of course, if I actually make it to 50, talk to me then. Right now that feels a bit optimistic)
6) Am jewish/christian and desperate to date like minded people (No, no, and hell no. Dating someone with a mind like mine would probably result in some sort of time-warp, and/or planetary destruction. No.)
7) Have won three different non-existent lotteries in the past week. (Could we try something that doesn't insult my intelligence, just once? Please?)

Still, I guess it's nice to be popular, even if the spambots have sadly misread their data. The Nigerian scam fund emails seem to have eased off a bit since I offered two goats and an Oyster pass in marriage, though. Maybe I came across as a bit desperate, but it's been a while.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Moments of Aarrgh!!

This might have been one of the most frustrating weekends ever. I made the horrible, horrible mistake of updating my iphone (mainly because the Apple reminder kept shrieking at me, and it was driving me buggy. It's like an attention-seeking 3 year old, bouncing at me every time I looked at my screen). It's a pretty old iphone - 3GS - but it works. I use it for twitter, to check mail, to torture little green pigs - what more could a girl want? It hiccuped at me every now and then, but considering the life expectancy of most tech around me, it's lasted pretty well.

All of my music promptly quit playing. When I checked the iTunes store, it told me that the only thing I had was Pumped Up Kicks.
Now, I love that song, and I had indeed bought it. What I hadn't done was buy 15 versions of it, which my itunes store insisted I had. I found a lot of my music in the trash bin (Apple, WTF?) and moved it back. It vanished again. Then I realised I had it backed up on a removable drive, so that was sorted.
Still no joy getting the music to play - if I moved into my playlists the songs just scrolled by on the screen, like demented puppies on acid.

I deleted the playlists, but couldn't actually delete the songs - puppies on acid again, with extra helpings of "Bite me, Technophobe."
So I decided to bit the bullet and do a restore. I figured I had the weekend to return the apps & get the music sorted out.


iTunes decided I didn't have a sim card in my phone. The one that had been functioning perfectly well until then. I took the sim out. I put the sim back. Rinse, repeat, ad infinitum.

The phone itself won't move past the activation screen, because it says the server is down. iTunes still reckons the sim card is a figment of my imagination. My imagination is pretty Apparently the iphone now has no capacity, no software version, and no serial number. Um. WHAT????

The only solution I've found on-line is to abuse the emergency services number, and I have no real urge to phone my mother from jail next weekend.

Author say naughty word.

Author check warranty. Warranty pretty much keeping company with the pterodactyl.

Author say naughty words in several languages.

If anyone wants to buy a funky buzzing paperweight, let me know. It doubles as a mood-destroyer, supplies ambient lighting when you least expect it to, and is large enough to club yourself repeatedly on the head. The intermittent vibrating noise (must be plugged in) might be good for teasing your cat.


In other news, although the 8-legged spawn of Satan that destroyed my suit jacket has not (yet) re-appeared, I had two close encounters with mini-spawn.

One committed suicide by bouncing in front of my nose and onto my kindle (I tried to get it off gently and it broke. the spider, not the kindle. Cue guilty moment.) and the other one scrambled over my face. Bitch-slapping yourself as a reflex is not recommended, by the way. I evidently slap quite hard, judging from the lovely red welt I left on my own cheek-bone. I either missed that mini-spawn altogether, or I pulverised it so finely it left no trace. I'm hoping for the miss, mainly because I don't think spider-guts are considered effective beauty treatment in any culture.

Both of these, by the way, while howling at iTunes until the early hours of the morning. Neither one has helped my temperament, or my writing this weekend.

Sadly, folks, until I either get this sorted, or win the lottery and can buy a new phone, I'm going to be scarce on twitter during the day. I promise to try and catch up in the evenings and on weekends though.

In the meanwhile, tips, hints and sympathy will be gratefully acknowledged and appreciated.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Pardon me, I seem to have lost my cat ...

This morning had one of those events happen that makes me view my life as a random series of strange (and frequently entertaining) moments. (I get these a lot; they just happen to be linked by happening to me. Often.)

I got to the barriers at the last tube stop, and couldn't find my Oyster card. For any readers not in the UK, this is the card swipe system that lets you travel on London public transport. You can get them as weekly, monthly, and annual versions, all at an eye-watering price that is the equivalent to TFL (Transport for London, the darling pirates running the system) bending your bank account over a chair without any KY.

After ten frantic minutes of slapping, then digging into, every pocket and pouch I had on my bag and jacket, a member of the tube staff wanders over to me. By this time I'm trying to not to whimper out loud.

TFL guy : Are you alright there?
Me (not-quite-wailing) : No - I can't find my Oyster!
TFL guy : Where did you get on?
Me : Walthamstow. (Technically Chingford, but you need to swipe through when you change at Walthamstow, so I knew I'd had it then.)
TFL guy : Let's have a look.

At which point I had the fun experience of describing my Oyster sleeve to him.

Me : White, with a bald cat holding a lightsaber.
TFL guy: A what with a what?
Me : It has a grey robe on. The cat, I mean, not the Oyster.
TFL guy starts edging carefully away...
Me : Didn't you ever watch Star Wars? Obi-Wan? I AM YOUR FATH - no?
TFL guy moves faster, shaking his head. The British transport cop who's been watching our exchange starts towards us.
And then - I see something lying in the corner, next to the escalator. It's white and grey and has a bright neon yellow streak of colour that winks up at me. With a joyful squeal, I stampede past TFL guy, swoop on it, and wave it triumphantly in the air at both him and the cop, who must have moved VERY fast when I made that cooing noise and dived at the floor.

Cop : Alright here?
Me : We're great! I thought I'd lost it!
TFL guy : Me too...

I went bouncing through the barriers and down the road to work. It was only afterwards that I realised that the TFL guy (who is probably 3 times my size both vertically and horizontally) was actually a bit unnerved by me. I'm guessing the Darth Vader impression didn't help.