Sunday, 31 March 2013

DIY Tiffin

I recently discovered that the Buttery (or canteen) in my college produce what they call 'Homerton Tiffin'. Having enjoyed it with a cup of tea on several occasions, I decided to break my usual aversion to making cakes and try to work out the recipe so I could enjoy it without having to drive to Cambridge. I found a couple of tiffin recipes online which I have taken, merged and modified to come up with my own version.

I have tried a couple of incarnations (so far) and I made the one below for a cake sale at school last week. As I was asked for the recipe a couple of times, I thought I would write it down - rather than making it up as I went along - and share it here as an Easter present for those people who have eschewed chocolate during Lent.

The recipe is very flexible, and I would encourage people to experiment and try different (or additional) fillings or quantities depending on personal preferences; I feel that the ingredients marked with an asterisk are all optional or replaceable, or personal favourites could simply be added.
Time: 30 minutes preparation, cooking, and washing up plus two hours cooling
  • 200g good quality plain chocolate (74% coco) broken into pieces
  • 400g good quality milk chocolate (35% coco) broken into pieces
  • 150g unsalted butter cut into small cubes
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 125g plain digestive biscuits crushed to crumbs (a few small chunks will be fine)
  • 135g bag of Maltesers
  • 2 regular (70g) Mars bars*, each chopped into 10-12 pieces
  • 30g mini marshmallows*
  • 25ml dark rum*
  • 20g raisins or sultanas
  • 23cm (9") square silicon baking tray/cake tin (or metal tray/tin lined with baking parchment).
  1. Place all the chocolate, butter and golden syrup and rum into a heat-proof bowl over a pan a barely simmering water and melt everything while stirring together. It is important not to let the chocolate get too hot, so do not try to speed this process up or it will go grainy and need a lot of faffing to try and rescue it.
  2. When the chocolate is all melted, take it off the heat and add the biscuit crumbs and raisins to the chocolate; stir the mixture until all the crumbs and fruit are incorporated.
  3. Return the bowl to the pan to warm the chocolate up a little again and then remove, add about two-thirds of the Maltesers, and the marshmallows and the chopped Mars bars to the bowl. Stir everything and try to ensure all the bits of chocolate are spread evenly throughout the mixture (try to do this as quickly as possible so that the pieces of Mars bar remain relatively whole).
  4. Tip the mixture into the baking tray and spread around to get an equal distribution. While the chocolate is still soft, sprinkle the remaining Maltesers and marshmallows over the top and push them gently into the mix so they are stuck in but proud of the surface.
  5. Cover the tray with tin foil or cling film and chill for a couple of hours to set the mixture before turning it out and cutting it into the desired sizes.
In terms of the optional items and other things I am considering trying, I have my eye on Twixes and Milky Ways instead of Mars Bars, the rum could be replaced by Brandy or Cointreau for an orangey fix, cranberries could replace the raisins, and nuts could be added for those to whom fruit 'n' nut is not anathema. In short, experiment. Mixing chocolate and biscuits is never going to be a disaster!

I have called this 'Tiffin', but whether that is an accurate description, I cannot say: it was suggested that the marshmallows make it 'Rocky Road', and that the rum and raisins make it a healthy snack for alcoholics.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Technology, Dystopia and Young Adults V

This list has been updated: a newer, expanded version can be found at
17 February, 2017
My reading continues as new books are published but over the past few months I have also considered some slightly older texts and explored sequels in series I have started previously. This is therefore the latest instalment of the reading I have been doing since my fourth such blog post last November.

As before, this is a collection of primary texts which are connected by the common thread of incorporating technology within their plots, and increasingly being concerned with the nature of humanity in technocentric worlds. For other readers this, and my previous posts, remain a remarkably up-to-date list of YA novels in this genre; my Amazon account still has some yet-to-be-published novels listed in the current orders, I keep scouring publishers' book lists for new additions, and I have more texts sitting awaiting my attention so this is unlikely to be my final reading list post.

The order of the list is simply the order in which I have read the texts, and there is therefore no significance to the order. I have included a brief descriptions against each title, but each image links to Amazon where fuller descriptions and reviews can be found.

e-love - Caroline Plaisted (2001)
Sam, the teenage female protagonist meets 17 year-old Dan in an online chatroom and they soon become the closest of friends. They eventually meet in person and e-love charts the 'highs and lows of internet love going real-life'. Rise of the Heroes - Andy Briggs (2008)
While surfing the net during a lightning storm, a group of teenage friends discover they have access to superhero powers at the click of a mouse, although they don't know what the powers will be until they try them. They learn that having super powers brings responsibilities and when a weather-altering super-villain kidnaps their mum, they have to decide to save her or the world.
Hacking Harvard Robin Wasserman (2007)
A group of high achieving geeks accept the ultimate challenge to use their technical and social engineering skills to get a fully unqualified slacker into the most prestigious college in America.
You have seven messages - Stewart Lewis (2011)
A year after Luna's mother, the fashion-model wife of a successful film director, was hit and killed by a taxi in New York, Luna, her father, and brother are still struggling with grief. Luna finds her mother's mobile phone and it contains seven unheard messages. As Luna listens to them, she learns more about her mother and realises that what she's been told about her death is not the whole truth. Council of Evil - Andy Briggs (2008)
In the partner series to, school bully Jake Hunter receives a mysterious email inviting him to join a scheme for world domination and the prospect of unlimited power and wealth proves irresistible. However, to get it he has to become an arch-criminal, entangled in a plan that threatens the planet and he has to make some decisions for himself. 
Hex: Shadows Rhiannon Lassiter (1999)
The second book in the Hex series. Having rescued Revenge, their sister, from the government facility where she was tested for her Hex powers, Raven, Wraith and her are now outlaws on the run from a government set on the destruction of the Hex gene.
Hex: Ghosts - Rhiannon Lassiter (2000)
The third book in the Hex series in which those with the Hex gene are being hunted down by the security forces. However, they also find themselves facing a new form of an old enemy within the net on which the world relies for communication, and only one Hex can save them.
Crashed - Robin Wasserman (2009)
Set six months later, this is the sequel to Skinned. When a voice from Lia's past cries out for revenge, she is forced to choose between her old, human, life and her new one. As she reaches her decision issues of mortality, technology and morality are all considered and explored.
The Mad Scientist's Daughter Cassandra Rose Clarke (2013)
The billion dollar android, Finn, looks and acts like a human and is programmed to assist his owners and perform his duties to perfection. His primary duty is to tutor Cat and he becomes her guardian and constant companion. However, he begins to learn what it is to be human as he tries to find his place in the world and her heart.
Wired Robin Wasserman (2010)
Set a further six months after Crashed, this is the final part of the Skinned trilogy. Lia discovers that everything she thought she knew is a lie and everyone she thought she loved has been stolen away. With her life - her uploaded consciousness - and those of her Mech friends, she sets about trying to save everyone.