I'm happy to read pretty much anything apart from proper horror, although I tend to the modern fiction (apparently - that's what someone told me once, faced with my 'books I had read recently list' that I was asked to provide on a job application form - although I had to explain that the way I chose books was pretty much on cover alone) and I've usually got a few books on the go. At the moment, I'm reading John Sargeant's autobiography, The Tent the Bucket and Me by Emma Kennedy (again - in preparation for the camping season - it's hilarious) The Red House by Mark Haddon, and 'The Welsh Learner's Dictionary' (!) but there's always room for more books in my life - just never enough time.
Blue recently started to ask me if he could read 'The Hunger Games'. Now, this hasn't been completely off my radar, but with both children at primary school, and my understanding that this was 'teen fiction', it hasn't been anything I've paid much attention to - I've paid so little attention to it that initially I assumed it was some kind of Sweet Valley High (anyone else remember them?) teen trash about Valley girls and their competitive eating disorders. How wrong can you be?
By the time he asked if he could read them, I was aware that there was a little bit more to it than that - the posters for the films suggested that if nothing else, and just before we moved, I had a conversation with a couple of other mums whose kids are the same age as Blue, and who were reading them. I'm all for the children reading as much and as widely as possible, but in the same way that I want to know what they are watching on TV, when a book comes along that I'm not too sure about, I want to make sure I'm not setting off to read something that's completely unsuitable. My mum helps a lot - she seems to spend hours rooting out good books for him: most recently she introduced him to the Alex Rider books by Anthony Horowitz. Totally fantastic. Blue has devoured them, both on his own and with us reading them to him, and I've been hooked too.
The Hunger Games hasn't cropped up on Mum's reading list yet, so I was on my own. Fortune found us the trilogy very cheaply in The Works (I meant to get it from the library, but we haven't sorted out library membership yet) and I started reading the first book in the trilogy - the eponymous 'Hunger Games') on Friday night.
Well I was utterly gripped from the start. If you haven't read it, it is certainly not teen valley trash. It's a very gripping adventure novel, and although an adult version might include more complexity, as far as I'm concerned, it was pretty much perfect. I knew I was going to have to give in and read, hang the ironing and everything else that needed doing yesterday afternoon - I'd already walked the dog and made a chilli for dinner and we had no other plans.
The fire was blazing, and I was all set, but then, disaster! No biscuits!! In our old life, I might have just popped up to the Co-Op, 2 minutes round the corner on foot, but popping to the shops here involves a 6 mile round trip.
Still, with nothing more pressing to do than read my book, a bit of light baking was perfectly acceptable. The original recipe was a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall one in River Cottage Everyday, but although I had oats, I had no oatmeal, and only muscovado sugar - but even if I'd made the round trip to the shops, I wasn't convinced I'd find what I needed, so I improvised (although in writing this post, I see that Hugh also improvises the same way when he repeats his recipe 5 years later...)
I've made these digestives once before - I mean who doesn't like a digestive biscuit? Especially a chocolate one. What I had forgotten though is that I've only made them once because the dough is of the crumbly and tricky type, so clear the area if you have a propensity for bad language when baking doesn't go your way...
The last time I made them, I didn't add the chocolate - the recipe I used didn't even suggest it. I was idly wondering how to achieve the chocolatey-ness, then I found this fantastic idea on another blog called I'd Much Rather Bake than... . Well, exactly.
250g wholemeal self raising flour
250g unsalted butter, cut into cubes and at room temperature
250g rolled oats, whizzed up in a food processor to resemble oatmeal
100g light muscovado sugar
2 tsp fine salt
1 tsp baking powder
1-2 tbsp milk
squares of dark chocolate - this makes about 25-30 biscuits depending on the size of cutter you use, so you need one per biscuit.
Process the flour and butter together (or rub together as you would for a crumble) till they look like fine breadcrumbs.
Mix in the oats, sugar, salt and baking powder taking care that there are no lumps of the sugar, and add the milk a little at a time till you have a slightly sticky dough.
Form the dough into a flat disc, wrap in clingfilm, and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Depending on how long the dough has been in the fridge you may want to get it out for a little before you attempt to roll it out (to reduce the likelihood of language). It's also a good idea to roll this out between 2 sheets of greaseproof or clingfilm. Am I putting you off yet?
Anyway, pre-heat the oven to 180C, line some baking trays with greaseproof, roll out the dough however which way you want, and cut out with an appropriate cutter. I used the open end of a pint glass which was about 8 cm, so I got fewer, bigger biscuits.
Pop the biscuits on the lined baking sheets and bake for around 10 minutes, then whip out the tray, pop a square of chocolate on each biscuit and pop back in the oven for 30 seconds or so till the choc starts to melt.
Get the trays back out of the oven then use a knife to spread the chocolate round. Leave the biscuits to cool on the tray for a few minutes before using a palette knife to put them on to a cooling rack.
You'll see that mine aren't the most beautifully chocolated biscuits ever - that's because I didn't have enough chocolate, so I used half a square on each biscuit rather than a whole one. Also, I had a book to read. You can take more time making them beautiful.
Make a cup of tea, get your book, a plate of biscuits and settle down for a good read.