Welcome to my Blogger page, thank you for visiting. This is where I will share my reviews of books, movies and other things I enjoy. If you would like to see my ramblings, fanfiction and other general posts, please visit my Livejournal: beren_writes. Visit my pages to learn about me and my books.
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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

2 Useful Excel Tips When Using HH:MM:SS Duration Format


So this weekend I was playing around in Excel trying to sort out our DVD library. I have a nice program that does most of it for me, but I wanted to do some other stuff, so Excel it was. Don't worry I'm not going to go into details about DVDs, but I did learn a couple of things that I just hadn't come across before.

I used to use Excel a lot when I was a consultant, but mostly I was doing hideously complex things in VBA, so a lot of the normal front end passed me by :).

2 Useful Excel Tips When Using HH:MM:SS Duration Format

The DVD program I'm using exports in hh:mm:ss format for the duration of the film. What I wanted was it all in minutes only. Hence some scrabbling around to find out how to make the data useful.

Displaying Hours, Mins and Seconds

We can use formatting to display just the hours, minutes or seconds.
hh:mm:ss[h][m][s]
01:20:151804815
01:40:1511006015
01:20:451804845
  • Highlight the cell or col with the hh:mm:ss in it
  • Right Click and choose "format cell"
  • Choose "cutsom"
  • Type in [h] or [m] or [s] accordingly
The problem with this method is that the formatting converts the larger units into the chosen one ok, i.e. hours into minutes, hours and minutes into seconds but it ignores the smaller untis. There is not round up, only round down.

Hence if we need to take into account the smaller units we need another method.


Calculating Hours, Mins and Seconds

There is no nice function in Excel to calculate hours into mintes or into seconds, so we have to create a formula. Luckily there are funtions to extract the particualr parts so it is very easy.

A2 is the location of the cell where the hh:mm:ss value is stored.

hh:mm:ss to hours - =((HOUR(A2))+MINUTE(A2)/60+((SECOND(A2)/60))/60)
hh:mm:ss to mins - =((HOUR(A2)*60)+MINUTE(A2)+(SECOND(A2)/60))
hh:mm:ss to secs - =((HOUR(A2)*60*60)+MINUTE(A2)*60+(SECOND(A2)))

This gives us a decimal value. If we want a rounded up value so, for example, 01:40:15 converted so hours becomes 2, because that is the closest, then we can just use the format with no decimal places.
  • Highlight the cell with the formula.
  • Right click, choose format cell.
  • Choose "number"
  • Lower the number of decimal places to 0.
Rounded Up
hh:mm:sshrMinSecshrMin
01:20:151.3480.254815180
01:40:151.67100.2560152100
01:20:451.3580.754845181

These are also numbers so they can be easily compared against other numbers.

As with all things in Excel, there are many ways of doing things, but these two were nice and straightforward and quick :). I also don't have the latest Excel, so for all I know there are now functions to do this anyway!

Friday, 6 October 2017

#FreeFictionFriday - Looking for Luticia by Natasha Duncan-Drake


Free Fiction Friday


Can you believe we're in October already? Nope, neither can I. This year has been flying by. It's the first friday of the month which mean it's Free Fiction Friday over at Wittegen Press. We've posted a new short story for our loyal readers to enjoy. This month it's really spooky.

These stories are exclusively for subscribers of our newsletter, but anyone can join and it's really easy.

It is completely free to become a member and all you need is a valid email address. Fill in the form at the bottom of this page and you’re done. Don't worry if you join after the 1st Friday, the password for the month will be included in the welcome email after you subscribe.

What we WILL DO for our subscribers:

  • Send you an email on the 1st Friday of the month to remind you about the short story and give you the password for the month as soon as the story goes live.
  • Send you information about new books, competitions and events, so you don’t miss anything.
  • Give you two Free eBooks just for joining.

What we WON’T DO to our subscribers:

  • Spam you with loads of random advertising.
  • Reveal your email adress to anyone else.

This Month's Short Story

Looking for Luticia
by Natasha Duncan-Drake
Genre: horror, paranormal
Length: ~7.5K wds

Description:
Lucy and her team have the most successful ghost hunting show on UK TV. They investigate, they debunk, and every now and then they catch the supernatural on camera. Their latest project is Darling Manor. This place has a locked room, which may or may not contain the embalmed remains of a dead relative, a very strange inheritance cycle, and more spooky stories than any house really needs.

Lucy and her team have moved in to find out the truth, but the creepy manor has Lucy on edge. Is it her imagination, or is there something to be afraid of? This could be the one investigation that is really dangerous. Will modern technology trump historic legend, or will the supernatural gain the upper hand?

Newsletter Subscription Form

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Wednesday, 4 October 2017

The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Butterfly Approach to Writing #WriterlyWednesdays


The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Butterfly Approach to Writing


The butterfly approach to writing is when we, the author, do not write a story from the beginning to the end. Rather we jump around writing various scenes and then going back and filling in what is missing. It is like the butterfly going from flower to flower in random order until it has visited all the blooms it needs.

On a personal level, this is my favoured manner of writing. I can writer from beginning to end if I have to (you can hear the whine in my voice, right? ;)), but I much prefer to butterfly. When writing I rarely do much planning other than jotting down the odd note. Most often I have the beginning and the end written way before most of the middle.

There are however both advantages and disadvantages to the technique.

Advantages


  • The butterfly approach is very much an inspiration driven methodology, so we are able to write what is in our heads right at that moment.
  • Jumping from place to place in the plot can inspire new ideas and ways forward, rather like storyboarding can, but because we're writing in detail it can spark off even more.
  • Writers can and should be able to write when they are 'not feeling it', but the butterfly approach allows much more leeway for leaving off a particular part and coming back to it later. For example it is very hard to write a good battle scene, or sex scene for that matter, when we are not in the right head space. Butterflying around allows us to come back to those scenes on the right day.
  • If our book has more than one protagonist it is possible to follow through arcs individually without worrying about jumping between characters all the time.
  • Over thinking can sometimes result in writer's block, but because this is all about inspiration, over thinking doesn't often happen, especially in the early stages.

Disadvantages


  • Sometimes ideas change, so later scenes that have already been written have to be edited. This has to be done in-line, or at least notes made or it makes for more difficult editing once the first draft is complete.
  • Once most of the story is there it requires much more discipline to go back and fill in the scenes that have been left out. This can be a bit of a shock to our systems after so much freedom.
  • All the hard scenes (like battles and sex and bothersome character interactions) are left until last, so finishing can be difficult.
  • Some planning is needed to go in and make sure our story has everything it needs - this is especially important when 'show don't tell' come into it. It can be very tempting to skim when putting in the final, often not so exciting, scenes.
So both pansters and planners can use the butterfly approach, although planners are likely to have much more stucture to theirs. It can work for both ways of going about things. If you're the kind of writer who writes from beginning to end, have a go at butterflying once in a while; it might be fun! They do say it's good to try new things.

Are you a butterfly writer or a straight line writer? Have you tried both? Why do you like your particular approach?

Readers, I suppose the equivilant might be reading multiple books at the same time and going to whichever one you feel like at the time. Would that appeal to you or would that lose some of the joy for you?

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Potato and Courgette (Zucchini) Frittata #Vegetarian #GlutenFree


Potato and Courgette (Zucchini) Frittata


This is a very tasty meal that is filling and satisfying for any time of the year. It is also one that you can change up to your heart's content. Don't like courgette? Use green beans or aspargus or peas or even sprouts. Fancy spicing it up? Add some chilli. Want meat? Throw some pre-cooked sausage or such in. Whatever your taste, frittata is a wonderful meal. Leftovers can be popped in the fridge and microwaved to reheat as well.

This is not an exact recipe - I use 8 eggs because they fill my pan to a nice depth, but just scale up and down to your heart's content.

Time - 20-30 mins
Serves - 3 hungry people or 2 very hungry people (I can only eat 1/4, but my husband can eat 1/2 :))

Ingredients

  • 1 medium (18cm/7in or so) courgette (zucchini)
  • 1 large can new pots (560g) (you can use fresh and cook them yourself, but the ones from the can are just fine and quicker)
  • 8 large eggs
  • sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese
  • sprinkling of italian herbs (I have a mix, but they include margoram, rosemary, thyme, basil and oregano)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp oil

Equipment

  • large oven proof frying pan (or casserole dish - 24cm)
  • bowl
  • spatula
  • whisk or fork
  • large plate big enough to sit over the frying pan


Instructions

  1. Split the courgette into 4 length wise and then chop into 1cm sized chunks. Don't go too small or it will disintergrate.
  2. Drain and chop the potatos into bite sized chunks. (I like to make them flat rounds where possible so they fry evenly).
  3. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
  4. Heat the oil in the frying pan and add the vegetables. Fry until pots are going slightly golden at the edges and courgette is just beginning to go tender.
  5. While the veggies are frying crack the eggs into the bowl, add the herbs and salt and pepper and whisk together. (If you are adding other spices, this is the time).
  6. Make sure the veggies are spread evenly over the bottom of the frying pan and carefully pour in the egg mixture.
  7. Cook for a minute or so until the bottom of the frittata sets up.
  8. Sprinkle the top with the cheese and pop in the oven for 10mins (or until the egg is cooked through).
  9. Turn out the frittata onto the large plate (put the plate over the top of the frying pan, hold on using oven gloves and flip the whole thing).
  10. Slice and serve.

My husband likes meat with his veggies and this works very nicely with chunks of ham or pepperoni in it too. Just pop them in before pouring in the egg mixture. Things can even be put into half the frittata, just as if you were putting toppings on half a pizza. When we last had this I had my half with just the veggies (the 1/4 that was left microwaved up for a very nice breakfast the next day too :)) and Rob had his with tex-mex pepperami in it.

Of course this wouldn't work when cooking for a vegetarian and a carnivore because of cross contamination, but it works well for those who just like different things because the flavours do not spread from one half to the other. As long as you are careful when pouring in the egg nothing moves either :).

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Recipe: Curried Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds #TipsTuesdays #Vegan #GlutenFree


Curried Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

I  literally just finished making this and it's yummy, so I had to share. Roasting the pumpkin is a bit of a faff, but it helps get rid of some of its water and starts the sugars going, so it is worth the time. From start to end it took me at least 2 hours, but it makes a lot of soup - easily enough for six hungry people, or packed lunches for days and I suspect it would freeze well. I already sent my parents off with a batch because there was no way Rob and I could eat it all :).

This recipe can easily be made vegan and gluten free, just use the right curry powder and the right stock depending on the dietry requirements of the diners.

Ingredients:

  • 2 red onions
  • 3 tbsp curry powder (check it is gluten free if that is a requirement)
  • 1 tbsp garlic puree (I use it from a tube, but you can crush your own)
  • 1/2 tsp ground dried garlic (optional to taste - I have it in a grinder)
  • salt to taste
  • white pepper to taste
  • 1 large pumpkin (no idea of weight, but when cut into chunks it almost filled my shallow casserole pan)
  • 1 L/4.2 cups stock (chicken or veg - depending on whether you are making the carnivor or vegan version)
  • 400ml/13.5oz can coconut milk
  • oil for cooking

Equipment:

  • 1 large pan (at least 24cm/9.5in x 7cm/3in shallow casserole 3.2L)
  • 1 stick blender (a standard blender can also be used, but the soup will have to be blended in batches)
  • 1 spatula
  • 1 spoon
  • 2 large baking trays
  • baking parchment/paper
  • 1 sharp knife

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F
  2. Cut the pumkin in half with the sharp knife.
  3. Remove and reserve the seeds (if you run your fingers gently through the inside of the pumkin the seeds will come away easily without any of the icky stuff).
  4. Scrape out the stringy insides of the pumpkin with a spoon.
  5. Rub the flesh of the pumpkin with oil (I used a spray oil for ease) and place on the baking tray. (Don't worry if it hangs over the edge, mine did, just make sure it goes in the oven :)).
  6. Place in the oven and bake until tender - this will be at least 45mins if not longer.
  7. Line the other tray with baking parchment/paper and spread the pumpkin seeds on it.
  8. Sprinkle with oil and salt and place in the oven as well. Bake for about 45 mins, turning occasionally until the seeds are lightly toasted.
  9. When the seeds and pumpkin are done, remove them from the oven and allow to cool. The oven can go off now as well.
  10. Chop the onion. (It doesn't have to be too fine, but the smaller it is chopped the faster it will cook, so smaller is better).
  11. Put a teaspoon of oil in the casserole, add the onion, the curry powder and the garlic and cook on low until the onion is soft and translucent.
  12. Skin and cube the pumpkin (don't worry if it isn't all completely cooked because we're going to cook it some more anyway - the roasting was for flavour).
  13. Add the pumpkin, the stock and the salt and pepper to the casserole and stir to mix with the curried onion.
  14. Bring to the boil, still stiring.
  15. Turn down and simmer until all the pumpkin is soft and juicy.
  16. Take off the stove top and roughly blend the pumkin mixture and return to the low heat. Give it another ten minutes to make sure it is completely cooked through. (Best to put a lid on the pan at this point because it's like hot mud and can splooge over the edge as air is forced to the surface).
  17. Take off the heat and add the can of coconut milk.
  18. Blend until smooth. (This can take a long time - there is a lot of soup - don't give up before it has a silky texture).
  19. Return to a gentle heat and taste. Add more seasoning if necessary. (This is where I added the ground garlic to give it a little bit more of a punch, but that may not be to everyone's taste).
  20. Serve with the toasted pumkin seeds scattered on top to give it a bit of crunch.
This is a hearty thick soup and can be stored in the fridge and reheated easily. It can be eaten on its own and be very satisfying or it would go well with a dollop of greek style yoghurt/yoghurt substitute or a sprinkling of paprika or both. I also never met a soup that didn't go well with a hunk of crusty bread as long as diners are not gluten intolerant :).

Creme fraiche could easily be substituted for the coconut milk as well if you happen to have that to hand, and you aren't worried about the dish being vegan. That's the joy of this recipe, it's very versatile.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

To NaNo or Not to NaNo - That is Always the Question


To NaNo or Not to NaNo - That is Always the Question

I know, it's only September, but this is the time of year I usually start planning for NaNo. Well that's if I have a plan. A time or two I have just jumped in and hoped for inspiration.

Just in case you don't know what I'm talking about NaNo is NaNoWriMo - or National Novel Writing Month and happens every November. The idea is to write a novel of at least 50K words in a month. There is a website and lots of things to help you achieve your goal as well as having other events through the year to help you actually polish the novel.


I usually use November to start a new book and get it well on it's way or to finish one that I have just started. I have also used it for fanfic projects.

NaNo is a great way for those of us with a procrastination problem to focus and get things done. The daily word counts etc are very useful as a gentle reminder to get our posteriors in gear :). If you haven't tried it before I recommend giving it a go. It's the perfect help for getting the first draft down since the idea is not to perfect the text, but just to get it on paper.

However...

After some thought, this year I have decided not to do NaNo. First and foremost my choice is based on the fact I don't have a new novel I want to finish at the moment. Instead I have decided to take November to finish the rewrite of Cat's Call and the re-formatting of Cat's Creation and Cat's Confidence so they are ready for paperback in time for Christmas.



I had hoped to have them ready long before this, but let's just say life got in the way and leave it at that. The new covers are done at least :).

When I read through the books to start editing them for paperback the first thing that was blatantly obvious was that the first half of Cat's Call just doesn't have the same flow as the latter half or the other two books. Hence I am rewriting it and Cat's Call will get its second edition. It will be the same story, just smoothed out with the help of my editor :). One of the advantages of it being an eBook until now is that I can make the changes and everyone who already has a copy will be automatically updated.

I'm going to be using a lot of paper in November, but I promise to recycle it. As I learned with Dead Before Dawn: The Vampire Curse, the only way to do a final proof read is to print it out and go through with a red pen. The number of typos, extra spaces etc that slip through if very surprising.




I also want to use November to get a head start on lots of the short stories for Free Fiction Friday. On the first Friday of every month we're giving away a free short story to our Wittegen Press Newsletter members. All the details are here if you would like to know more. If you would like to see what stories have been posted so far click here to see the Free Fiction Friday tag.




Are you doing NaNo this year? Do you find the camaraderie and word count useful? What tips do you have to beat procrastination?

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Recipe: Hearty Mexican Style Bean, Rice and Chicken Soup


Hearty Mexican Style Bean, Rice and Chicken Soup

This is a wonderfully hearty recipe and it is very easy to bulk up for more people. It's also gluten free and if you want to make a veggie version replacing the chicken with tofu or mushrooms or quorn, and the chicken stock with vegetable stock would work well.

This dish also only takes a few minutes to throw together if the chicken and rice are cooked in advance, so it is great for those dinners when there is little time to cook.

Ingredients

serves 4
  • 2 or 3 chicken breasts (you can also use chicken thighs, just up the number depending on the size of the thighs)
  • 2 tsp oil (olive, sunflower, or whichever you prefer)
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 red or green pepper (capsicum) (I use a roasted red pepper from a jar because I don't like pepper skin)
  • 250g/9oz (about 2/3 cup) cooked rice (brown rice cooked = 2x uncooked weight, white rice cooked = 3x uncooked weight) I use a basmati/wild rice combo when I can get it, but plain basmati when I can't - a pouch of precooked rice also works :)
  • 1-2 tbsp chipotle paste (chipotle is spicy, so go with your personal taste on amount, also check the label if you need it to be gluten free - not all of them are)
  • 200g/7oz (just over 1 cup) sweetcorn (I use a can, but frozen is okay too)
  • 400g/15oz can black beans (1.75 cups) (if you can't get black beans, kidney beans, haricot beans or whichever is your fav canned bean will do as long as they are not in a sauce).
  • 1.2 l ( about 4.5 cups) chicken stock (I use dilutable liquid stock)
  • a handful of fresh coriander finely chopped or 1 tspn dried coriander leaf

Optional to serve:
  • 1 large or 2 small ripe avocados
  • 1 lime
  • garlic powder or grated garlic
  • soured cream

Equipment

  • sharp knife
  • large caserole pan that can be used on the hob
  • spatula

Instructions

  1. If using dried rice, cook as instructed on the packet, drain and put aside for later.
  2. Fry off the chicken in the pan with 1 tsp of the oil until it is cooked through, remove from the pan and leave to rest. (You can do this in advance or use left over chicken as well - it does not need to be hot).
  3. Finely chop the onion.
  4. Heat the other tsp of oil in the same pan and throw in the onion, cooking on a low heat to sweat it down until it is translucent. Do not allow it to colour.
  5. Chop the pepper.
  6. Add the pepper to the pan. If it is raw allow to cook for 2-3 mins before continuing, if it is roasted from a jar go on to the next step immeditately.
  7. Add the chipotle paste, rice and sweetcorn to the pan and stir to make sure everything is coated in the paste. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes.
  8. Add the stock and stir.
  9. Drain and add the black beans and stir.
  10. Up the heat and bring to the boil before turning down the heat again so the pot is simmering.
  11. Shred the chicken and add half to the pan along with the corriander.
  12. Let it simmer for a minute or too and then let it sit for another minute.
  13. While the soup is simmering, cut the avocados into small cubes, add the juice of the lime and garlic to taste and stir.
  14. Ladle the soup into bowls and add the rest of the shredded chicken on top.
  15. Serve with a dollop of soured cream and the acovado salsa scattered on top.
For some added crunch, crumble a few tortilla chips onto to the top of the soup before eating. But not too many or they will go soggy :).

This works really well reheated the next day and is great for a packed lunch where there is access to a mircowave. Just make sure the soup is piping hot when reheated because of the rice and the chicken.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

How Not to Write a Police Procedural with Female Leads


How Not to Write a Police Procedural with Female Leads


Please be aware this post has SPOILERS for Women's Muder Club ep 1.

So I just watched the first episode of Women's Muder Club and I'm hoping that it is an aberation and the rest of the season is better, because it get's one more chance and I'm done.

For those who don't know, Women's Muder Club is a TV show that aired back in 2007-2008 based on books of the same name by James Patterson and the reason it caught my eye is because it stars Angie Harmon of Rizzoli and Isles fame. I love Angie Harmon, but if the second episode does not portray the female characters better I am not watching any more.


It was so bad I made claw marks in the table cloth. What is disappointing is is looked so promising with many lead female characters, one of whom is a WoC and all about solving crime.

This is supposedly a show about a female detective (Inspector Lindsay Boxer played by Angie Harmon), a female deputy DA (Jill Bernhardt played by Laura Harris), a female medical examiner (Dr Claire Washburn played by Paula Newsome) and a female crime reporter (Cindy Thomas played by Aubrey Dollar) and yet the entire first episode was all about men.

I kid you not!

In the first ep Cindy isn't really a major player yet, so we will concentrate on the other three.

I'm pretty sure they did not manage to have one conversation that did not revolve around men, and I'm not even talking about the case. The first scene they are all in together is at a crime scene and do you know what they end up talking about? Let me tell you: Lindsay's ex-husband Tom. No, really, and Jill and Claire are trying to convince Lindsay to get back together with him.

BTW - I would like to point out at this point that I only know the women's names becuase I looked them up, but Tom's is forever stuck in my memory because they talked about him so damn much!

So for Lindsay there's Tom - who turns out to be her new Lieutenant too.

Then we have Cindy, who is apparently commitment shy (we aren't given any hints as to why in the first ep). In her first scene away from the murder site, her boyfriend is asking her to move in with him and they almost go at it in her office with the door wide open, but Lindsay interupts them. This woman is supposed to be a well respected Deputy DA and yet she has sex with a man (not her boyfriend) in her office later on without the slighest reguard for professionalism or even making sure the door's locked! This scene is only there to make her realise she really should commit to her boyfriend, BTW.

She only gets to shine once in the episode where she actually does her job and brings a public defender down to size (the same one she later sleeps with if you were wondering and it's him doing the instigating). It's almost as if a woman isn't allowed to dominate a man without there being payback or something.

Claire is happily married and seems to think everyone else should be too.

The only female character with a major impact on the plot whose life does not revolve around a man is the reporter who is killed, Theresa Wu. Yep, that's right the murder victim and she is portrayed as a lonely workaholic, which is what Lindsay is desperately tyring not to turn into.

The entire message of this episode seemed to be that a woman needs a man and is only whole with one. Now I love my husband and I consider him in my life decisions, but I do manage to have whole conversations on a daily basis that don't even mention him - especially when I'm working! I also know many, many women who are perfectly happy without a man in their life at all!

Even the villain of the piece in the first episode is motivated by a man. She is a doctor who runs a free clinic and her husband is a womanising restaraunt owner. The dead reporter was having an affair with her husband, but that wasn't why she killed her. No, the reporter was working on an expose, which was why she was banging the husband to get access to their house. The doctor had been fraudulently claiming money off the government for non-existent drugs by using homeless people, which she was only doing because her husband's resturant was failing and she needed to help him.

In the end she even confesses to save her husband, not because the police  have the evidence or anything, but because they are accusing her husband.

If this had been a rom-com with a police detective in it, I might have forgiven it some of the dialog, because it would have been about romance, but Women's Murder Club is supposed to be a police procedural.  It's supposed to be a show about leading women. I can't be sure, because I was tuning half of it out by the end, but I don't think it even passed the Bechdel test!

This is not how to write a show with leading female characters! What I really don't get is that the shows creators are two women as well. What were they thinking?

Maybe the first ep was a blip. I'm praying it was and the writing will improve, but I'm not holding out much hope.

UPDATE:


So we've watched the next few eps and they aren't as terrible as the first, but the show does make me wince at regular intervals. The women still have relationship talks at the oddest moments, but they are able to have entire conversations without mentioning their significant others or their potential significant others. However, they don't seem to be able to solve a whole case without doing so.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Free Fiction Friday - Dark Celebrations by Sophie Duncan


Free Fiction Friday


It's the 1st Friday of September and that means it is Free Fiction Friday over at Wittegen Press. A new short story is now up for all the subscribers to our newsletter. Soph has written today's offering and it's a little bit spooky with a touch of sci-fi.

It is completely free to become a member and all you need is a valid email address. Fill in the form at the bottom of this page and you’re done. Don't worry if you join after the 1st Friday, the password for the month will be included in the welcome email after you subscribe.

What we WILL DO for our subscribers:

  • Send you an email on the 1st Friday of the month to remind you about the short story and give you the password for the month as soon as the story goes live.
  • Send you information about new books, competitions and events, so you don’t miss anything.
  • Give you two Free eBooks just for joining.

What we WON’T DO to our subscribers:

  • Spam you with loads of random advertising.
  • Reveal your email adress to anyone else.

This Month's Short Story

Dark Celebrations
by Sophie Duncan
Genre: ghost, science fiction
Length: ~9K wds

Description:
Mina is enjoying hers and her brother, Ali's, new posts as Ensign Navigators on board Interstellar Cruiser Queen Elizabeth VI. The entire liner has been booked out by Axis, the company that brought the known universe Carbon Prime, the key to interstellar travel, and they are celebrating their primeversary, so it's party time all round.

Yet, an encounter with an impossible, derelict ship and the death of a guest in strange circumstances lead Mina to think there is something very wrong on board.

Newsletter Subscription Form

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* indicates required

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Recipe: Delicious Sticky Chocolate and Treacle Cake

Delicious Sticky Chocolate and Treacle Cake

This is based of the "Delicious Sticky Ginger Cake" recipe I posted last week. It's my own creation and was consumed with great speed by Rob's work colleagues who were very happy to test it for me. This makes a soft, light, sticky chocolate cake, but you do have like treacle too because that is a prevelant flavour along with the chocolate.

The only changes are:

  • substituting some of the flour with cocoa, 
  • adding vanilla instead of cinamon, 
  • 2 tblsps of golden syrup rather than one to up the liquid content slightly because cocoa is drier than flour, 
  • and an extra 1/4 tspn of bicarb to account for the cocoa being more acidic than flour.

Equipment

  • 1 large saucepan
  • 1 small (milk) saucepan
  • 1 bowl
  • scales
  • spatula
  • 2 2lb loaf tins (approx 21x11x7cm | 8x4x3inches)
  • loaf tin liners or grease proof paper or baking parchment
  • small hand whisk or fork
This recipe uses the hob to heat ingredients, you could probably use a microwave if you are more familiar with that - just use microwave proof bowls instead of saucepans.

Ingredients

  • 8oz | 230g | 2/3 cup Black Treacle (Molasses)
  • 8oz | 230g | 1 cup Soft Spread (you can use butter, but a baking spread makes a lighter cake)
  • 8oz | 230g | 1 1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Golden Syrup (US peeps, if it's not in the baking section, try the international section - at a push you could use corn syrup)
  • 1/2 pt (UK) | 285ml | 1 1/3 cup milk (I used semi skimmed, but the recipe probably originally used whole milk - so just use what you have)
  • 3/4 tspn Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda)
  • 9.4oz | 265g | 1 4/5 cup self raising (rising) flour
  • 2.6oz | 75g |  3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 tblsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C | 300F | Gas Mark 2.
  2. Put the loaf tin liners in the loaf tins or line the tins with you lining of choice. (You really don't want to try and get this cake out of an unlined tin - it is very soft and moist ;)).
  3. Put the treacle, soft spread, brown sugar and syrup into the large saucepan.
  4. Heat gently until these all melt together, stiring at times to make sure it all mixes.
  5. Measure out the flour and cocoa into a bowl and put aside for later.
  6. Put the milk and egg into the small saucepan and beat the egg into the milk using a small hand whisk or a fork.
  7. Add the flour and cocoa to the treacle mixture in the saucepan and stir together.
  8. Add the vanilla to the treacle mixture and stir.
  9. Heat the milk/egg mixture gently to blood temperature (easiest way to measure is to stick your little finger in every now and then and when it feels like it isn't cold it's at the right temperature :)).
  10. Add the bicarb to the milk mixture and stir.
  11. Add the milk mixture to the treacle mixture and stir together.
  12. Pour the cake batter into the two loaf tins.
  13. Put the cakes in the oven and bake for about 1hr (stick a skewer into the middle of the cake to check it is done, if not let it cook a little longer).
  14. Take out of the oven and allow to cool in the tins until cool enough to handle, then turn out onto a wire cake rack to finish cooling.
The cake keeps very well, easily up to a week and even up to 2 weeks - just pop into an air tight tin. This is a moist cake, so it actually improves with age.