January can be a depressing month so what better way to fight the blues than with a delicious, boozy brownie? Not the way to keep up with the January dieting but everything in moderation! I gave a lot of it away to friends.
This recipe was adapted from a recipe found on Sofia's Journal. I had bought some brandy butter from Waitrose, reduced to 19p and wasn't sure what to do with it, when I had a brainwave - to add it to a brownie recipe for a tasty twist. It worked really quite well, giving a subtle extra, 'grown-up' taste to the brownies, and they were perfectly dense but gooey with a crusty top.
P.S Brandy butter is just sugar and butter in equal measures with a dash of brandy, so since it's not the season for it any more, then just adding a shot of brandy (cognac or rum would work nicely too) to the recipe has the same effect.
100g / 4oz butter (200g / 8oz if you've not got brandy butter)
40g / 1.5oz caster sugar (140g / 5oz caster sugar if you've not got brandy butter)
200g / 8oz brandy butter if you have it OR 25ml brandy/rum/cognac
200g / 8oz dark chocolate
175g / 6oz dark muscovado sugar
50g / 2oz ground almonds
50g / 2oz plain flour
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4 then grease and line a 20cm square
brownie tin. Heat butter (and brandy butter if using it) and chocolate in a pan until melted. Stir
through both sugars, and shot of spirit if using it.
Leave to cool for 5 minutes then stir in the (beaten) eggs until
smooth. Mix in the almonds and flour then pour into the tin. Bake for
30-35 minutes. It should be just cooked through in the middle with a
slight crust to the outside.
Yesterday we fancied a trip to the canal, so headed into London. We spent the afternoon walking around Camden and Bloomsbury.
First, we walked from Kings Cross to Camden Lock and had a look around the market.
Then we walked back down to UCL, past the wonderful Art Deco Carreras Building, and North Gower Street, where the 'Baker Street' shots of Sherlock were filmed.
We spent a few hours getting some work done in my department at UCL
Then we walked over to ICCo, on Goodge Street, where the best, cheapest, pizza in London can be found.
We finished up with a walk through Russell Square to get an Oreo milkshake at GBK, before getting the train home.
After April this year, visits to Cambridge will become quite expensive. Either 10% of the relevant EA licence for your boat length if you add it to your EA licence, or 15% of the same if you buy it separately to the EA licence (e.g if you bought an EA licence not planning to go to the Cam then subsequently changed your mind). So something like an additional £50-100.
This letter was published in the Cambridge News yesterday
"I'm taking my cash elsewhere" Thanks to the price increase for boaters to visit Cambridge by the Conservators of the River Cam, I will not be going to your town and will take my pound to somewhere that would like visitors. Donald Gilchrist
What I want to know is: do you agree? Will you come anyway? Or will you cross Cambridge off your cruising list? Comments below. It would really help us to have a cross section of boaters' responses as we challenge this! I think I might put a poll up on Canal World too. If you could also say where you normally moor or if you are a continuous cruiser that would help.
I'm writing this from a cafe, conveniently open until 9pm, near Gas Street in Birmingham- and, of course, Worcester Bar, which led to the very tenuous link in the title.
The photo above was taken last year when we were at Gas Street for the BCN challenge; we went back there about 20 minutes ago, and tried to replicate the shot, but it was too dark to do it justice with mobile phone cameras.
Why are we here? Well, we spent the day at Alvecote in Staffordshire, having travelled up by train. We met several other members of the Young Working Boaters society, and it was good to catch up with them. It wasn't just a social call, although it was fun to see everyone again; no, there's a Secret Mystery Project that's just got underway today. We can't reveal any details yet, and we can't give too much away until things are officially launched, but there is something really exciting happening, which we'll blog about soon.
It's not that we've bought ourselves a working boat, though; not quite yet....
On the way home, we broke our journey in Birmingham to visit Gas Street and do some academic work whilst we waited for a connecting train back to Cambridge, hence why we're here.
Currently, boaters can use the Cam Con water if they buy an Environment Agency (EA) licence,
under an 'Interchange Agreement'. Most boats choose to do this, except
for the 25% who buy a Cam only licence from the Cam Conservancy.
However, from April 2012, the Interchange Agreement is changing
dramatically. This morning there was a meeting of the Cam Conservators which I attended on behalf of Camboaters, and despite arguing our case the following was passed:
For boats who moor on the Cam, buying an EA licence will
no longer be an option. ALL boats moored on the Cam will have to buy a
CamCon-EA licence which will be 110% of the relevant EA licence for
their length, effectively 17% more than a current EA licence because of
the EA's 6.4% (CPI+2%) fee increase this year. This means that for the
25% of boats who currently have a Cam-Con licence, their fees will
effectively increase by an extraordinary 21.5%.
For those moored on the EA waters or elsewhere, they have the option of
1) an EA licence which does not allow access to the Cam,
2) an EA-CamCon licence, at 110% of the relevant EA licence for their boat length,
3) a visitor licence at 15% of the relevant EA licence,
4) if they are found to be on the Cam without a licence, they will be
obliged to pay for a visitor licence at 25% of the relevant EA licence.
it stands, Gold licence holders will have to opt for an additional
visitor licence for the Cam, as the Gold licence will not cover Cam Con
water. the concept of 'trade plates' is being discussed to allow
visiting boats to come to the Cam for services such as slippage and
In terms of enforcement, they are taking on an additional warden in the
summer months whose job will partly be to monitor boat movement and
enforce licensing. How effective this will be remains to be seen but the
Cam Con do not have a good record for enforcement.
This is going to have a huge impact on numbers of boats visiting the
area as most will probably choose to go elsewhere. Camboaters is furious at this huge increase in
licence fees and are taking the matter to the local MP, Julian Huppert
and eventually perhaps to central Government. The Conservancy is a
Parliamentary body and as such is accountable only to central
Government. Camboaters will also be investigating the possibility of
getting the Cam Con amalgamated in the Canals and Rivers Trust in 2015
when the EA may be also incorporated.
The Conservators lowered the Cam to allow maintenance work over the weekend. It looks very different, with hardly any water in it! There are more pictures on the Cambridge News website: http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Home/See-what-shows-up-when-the-River-Cam-is-lowered-10012012.htm
I made a lot of home-made gifts for Christmas presents this year. (I would have blogged about these before Christmas, but wanted them to be surprises)
Crab Apple Brandy
Basically the same technique as any other fruity booze, like sloe gin, so there's no need for precision, it will just turn out slightly different depending on the type of fruit you use and the quantities involved.
Just get a large glass jar and half fill with halved apples (no need to peel or core, they're too tiddly for that!), add 8oz sugar and top up with brandy. Leave for as long as you can bear, shaking the jar to dissolve the sugar every few days. After a few months, strain the fruit and seeds through a muslin and bottle.
Don't throw away the 'leftover' boozy apples - they are simply delicious baked into a fruit cake.
2011 was a big year for us, with our cruise to London in the summer, and starting courses in the Autumn. I also started to focus a bit more on some of my non-boaty interests like cooking and charity shops. Although academic work has meant that I have less time for that now, I plan to keep it up if possible. Here's a quick month by month look back at the year.
January: Found out that James had a place to train to be a teacher, and the river flooded.
Wishing all of our readers (if there are any left now that we don't have time to blog much anymore) a very happy new year! We have had a nice Christmas, visiting family around the country, in
Devon, Cornwall and Berkshire and are now back in Cambridge, preparing
for the new term.