Sunday, August 29

Cinnamon Breakfast Cake

Were two words ever more perfectly suited than 'breakfast' and 'cake'? Anna made this for me yesterday during a little holiday at her house in Harrogate, from a recipe her mum gave her, and I have to share it with you here. It's essentially a tray-bake cake/pastry hybrid. You make the cake batter and sprinkle it with sugar, then you melt a load of butter with cinnamon and pour it over the batter, creating seams of glorious spicy/sugary goo. This recipe uses the American cup system, but I have put the conversions you'll need for this recipe below:

1 cup flour = 150g
1 cup sugar = 225g
1 cup butter = 175g
1 cup milk = 240ml

And don't thank me, thank Anna's mum!


Heat your oven to approx Gas Mark 6. Line a smallish deepish roasting tin with parchment- or a deep cake tin.

Cake Ingredients:

1 egg
3 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar (white not brown for the cake)
1 and a half cups milk

For the Topping:

Lots of cinnamon
1 and a half cups brown sugar- demerara works best
Half a cup melted butter


Melt your butter.
Mix all the cake ingredients together and pour into your lined tin.
Sift over the cake surface all the sugar- add a bit more if you like it extra gooey.
Sift a generous amount of cinnamon all over the sugar.
Drizzle all the butter all over the sugar topping.
Bake for 35 minutes or until it looks done on top, but not too brown.
The butter and sugar sink through the top to make streaks of goo throughout the cake.

Eat warm if you can wait that long, and it reheats quite well.

It should look like this once it's cooked:


I just made this. I used caster sugar for the cake, because I'd run out of granulated, and it was fine. I also used extra butter, and the cake was REALLY gooey on the bottom, but I like it that way.

Friday, August 20

Adam and Jane

I HATE BT's Adam and Jane, they are the budget Gold Blend couple. The adverts have been going on and on for years now, with little sign of stopping. I have no affection for either character; I hate Adam and I hate Jane. She's got really pinched-looking as the saga has rolled on, and he's completely sold out and now wears a suit and shirts with cufflinks all the time.

The latest advert has them both sat in stunned silence before the great 'reveal' that Jane is pregnant. And apparently this is because WE, the great British public, wanted this to happen. I never made it to the forum on to have my say, and I never got to cast my vote, but if I HAD then I definitely would have gone for 'not pregnant' because now if he dumps her and goes off with his unruly mates (1:54) he's going to look like a heartless bastard. And if she dumps him everyone's going to say 'Oooh, you cow, you're the mother of his kid!' etc etc. So they'll probably just stay together and have occasional tiffs, like usual. Yawn.

Below are a series of suggestions for the next advert which I would have made on the forum, if I had the chance, and one 'red herring' which is boring and most probably what will happen:
  • Jane goes for ultrasound, discovers 'baby' is, in fact, giant teratoma containing mainly hair and teeth. Goes home and gives birth to it on the kitchen table. Adam watches on his BT broadband via webcam.
  • Jane raids Adam's hard drive, finds video he was watching with mates on stag night, projectile vomits and drops dead.
  • Adam kills Jane. Wears her face as a mask to fool the kids on webcam chat. Feigns trip to theme park and drives minibus with kids into Thames. 
  • Adam wakes up and discovers he has the face of Keanu Reeves, he turns to Laurence Fishburne who says 'That's what happens when you take the blue tablet'.
  • Robert Lindsay and Zoe Wanamaker turn up to pick up Adam, he is their oldest son and this whole thing has been one of his 'pranks'. They tell him off and he starts wanking.
  • Jane goes into labour, Adam finds out about it via his BT phoneline, gets to hospital just in time, uses his BT phone to ring his parents and tell them, and his BT broadband to email them pictures.
Feel free to add more suggestions below.

P.S. I made the jam. It set and everything.

Rainy days and sick days

I'm currently recovering from a nasty bout of milk-based food poisoning. I'm not longer vomiting every three minutes but I'm still a bit nervous of leaving the house. I can't bake, because of all the food touching involved, and the TV is getting SOOOO boring. But I've hit upon an ingenious plan - jam making. I don't have to touch it, and I can eat it on toast when I am better. I've trawled the web for recipes, and have created this one, which takes into account the ingredients that I already have in my cupboard, and what I like the taste of.

MissGembles's Plum Jam

700-750g plums halved and stoned, then quartered
600g granulated or jam sugar
175ml water
2 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla pod with seeds scraped out)

Sterilising jars:

To sterilise jam jars and lids, wash, rinse and dry them (remove any traces of old labels if you’re recycling) and put into the oven for 10 minutes at 150 degrees C/gas 2.

Put the plums, and 175ml of water into a pan.

Bring to a simmer and cook gently until the fruit is tender and the skin soft. May take 20 minutes depends on the size and variety of the plums.

Add the sugar and vanilla and stir until dissolved. Bring to boiling point and boil rapidly until setting point is reached, usually 10 – 12 minutes. If you have a sugar thermometer you can check, setting point is 105C or 220F.

Take off the heat. If the fruit is bobbing about at the top of the pan then it may not be cooked enough. If this happens, cook for a few more minutes, about 3 – 4.

*You should always pour the jam directly into the hot, sterilised jars after it has reached setting point, and you need to seal the jars up straight away. Pop them in the fridge when they have cooled. The jam lasts about 2 months.

Purists amongst you might have noticed the omission of gelatine, or pectin. That's because the cooking process I have used above SHOULD bring out the pectin that is already contained in the fruit. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, August 14


James and I received a small aquarium for Christmas. We put an ugly bottom feeder and a Siamese fighting fish in it (which died after about two weeks).

(RIP Cromwell)

Then we populated it with platys (a much hardier fish) and two out of three have survived, despite constant attention from the cat.

I am fast becoming a 'fish person'. I often find myself drawn to aquatics shops, murmuring appreciation of enormous koi carp and tutting when the tanks do not meed my standards.

Today we bought a Glass Fish to replace Bowie, the silver platy who blew up like a pine cone and died. He looks like a ghost so we've called him Hopkirk. He's ace. I already want another one.

I have Aqualust.

Saturday, August 7

Letter to my sixteen year old self...

Turn the music down and pay attention, close your bedroom door and have a sneak peek at what the next thirteen years of your life will bring.

Firstly, your hair is going to change colour multiple times, to orange, pink, purple, red, blue and blonde. It's never going to forgive you for this. Please stop dying it.

I suspect you've been listening to the Manics, and gazing longingly at your copies of Melody Maker (you're going to get work experience there, next year!), imagining life passing you by as you rot in your Fenland bedroom doing your Geography homework. You want to get out, but you're scared of what you'll find. You're scared that you won't be able to cope on your own, without your cosy bedroom to fall back on.

You've just started smoking. YOU IDIOT. You're about to waste the next nine years of your life pissing money away on Marlboro Lights. You conceal your smoking habit from mum and dad for nine years. You think you've got away with it. You haven't. They know. They've known all along.

Recently you've been experiencing feelings of unreality, where you imagine yourself detached from what is happening around you every day. You cry more than is necessary. Getting drunk and stoned is scary and disorientating, and you can't understand why everybody else is so keen on it. Sometimes you're frightened to leave the house. I know all this scares you, but trust me, I've had a lot of experience of all this and you don't need to worry. It's called 'depression'. You'll suffer with it all your life. But you will be fine. Every day of your life from now on is a baby step towards happiness and freedom. Even the days when you feel like you are sliding backwards into despair will teach you a valuable lesson. Try to talk to Mum about this, she wants to understand but she's not sure how to approach you. Dad's not angry with you, he's just afraid.

Don't be so afraid of being alone. Your lonely moments tend to be defining points in your life. You need them to think and move on.

You've got your GCSEs by now, so you know that English is your strong point. Stick with it, it'll serve you well in your future. And pay more attention in Geography, because it'll feature again in your life. You're working harder than you've ever worked because you've realised that the only escape from the boredom of being a teenager in West Norfolk is to get the hell out of there as soon as possible. You're quite right. Keep it up. I won't reveal your grades but you will pass your A-Levels and you will get into your first choice of university.

You LOVE university. Nobody laughs at your clothes or calls you 'weird' (or, worse still, 'original', urgh). You make friends that will stay with you for life. You study Film. You live in a shared house and in this house you find the freedom and acceptance that you've yearned for. Be good to Elin and Anna, they'll take good care of you when you need them the most.

Someone you really fancy off the telly is going to try and have sex with you when you are 26. You knock them back because you've fallen in love with someone else. You think you fall in love at 20. You learn a lesson. At 24 you fall in love for real. He is marvellous, and intelligent, and funny, and all the things you have found lacking in the male populace so far. He gives you confidence and brings you into the light. You move in with him in London and have pets and lots and lots of books and DVDs (they're like videos, only on CDs). He writes comedy for BBC radio, and you are immensely proud of him. I can guarantee you'll still be with him at age 29.

Now, I don't want to alarm you, but I must warn you that at some point in your twenties something bad is going to happen. I've decided not to tell you what it is, because as I look back I wouldn't change a thing. All you need to know is that this event will test you to the very precipice of your soul, but you will cope with it, and you will emerge from the wreckage a stronger and more sympathetic person.

Joe is fine. He never grows out of his epilepsy, but it is controlled, and he has a good quality of life. Maria is fine. You and her live close to each other in London for a few years, and you miss her when she goes back to the North.

You never really 'grow up'. You will feel sixteen forever. But you'll get better and better at being sixteen as the years go by, and your life will sprawl out around you like a rich carpet. It's all going to be okay.

Do Google searches and that...