Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Hunger Games - and Chocolate Digestives

One of my favourite things to do is to curl up with a good book, a cup of tea, and a packet of biscuit. I'm a sucker for a book and a biscuit, but the combination rarely arises. For a start, I'm not a fan of eating biscuits in bed (sorry, I just can't do crumbs in bed. Too itchy.) and bed is where I tend to do most of my reading, cramming as many pages in before unconsciousness engulfs me.



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. 

Chocolate Digestives

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.




18 comments:

  1. I'm really curious to hear your further thoughts on the books!

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    1. I'm on to Catching Fire now so Ill let you know :-)

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  2. great post! I loved the Hunger Games too, read it ages ago and was very compelled. I'm a true believer in allowing kids to absorb as much reading as possible, without editing. Did you read Northern Lights yet? Another book for teens that I think is very adult but so much more beautifully written that The Hunger Games... nice choccy biscuits too... we have a dedicated reading chair at home and i'm in it most of the time!

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    1. I've read the Northern Lights trilogy and loved the books, but haven't passed them on to the kids yet - I think when I read them a few years ago, the kids were too young, but Blue (he's 10) would definitely enjoy them.. I love books that can be read on many levels - have been reading the Narnia books with my daughter and I thnk we've both enjoyed them equally.

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  3. What a great recipe! And just the thing to nibble on while reading a great book. I am currently reading 'The Shakespeare Secret'. It's a bit like the Robert Langdon series by Dan Brown; clues found in old documents, that kind of thing. Definitely worth reading when the kids are old enough.

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    1. Sounds good - I like a bit of Dan Brown - ridiculous, but keeps you gripped to the end! I'll look out for The Shakespeare Secret

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  4. I'm with you on the not eating biscuits in bed! And the dislike of horror....are we the same person???

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  5. No - your cakes always turn out so much better than mine :-)

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  6. RJ, there is nothing that I don't absolutely love about this post; books, biscuits, children reading, biscuits (they look awesome), a fire, books again... We haven't read the books yet but I'm sure it's just a matter of time x

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    1. Well, I'm hooked - half way through the second one. How I'm going to get any work done today in an empty house, with a tin (well, half a tin) of biscuits ltying around is anyone's guess...

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  7. I haven't read the books not having any teens in the house any more, but you have tempted me and I might give them a go. I do empathise with the 6 mile round trip for biscuits though, country living requires planning!

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    1. Plenty of planning - I thought where I used to live was rural, but turns out it was only pseudo-rural! The books are definitely worth it, I'd say - very much enjoying them. I think the boy (and the girl, when she's a wee bit older) will too

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  8. I must read Hunger Games. I've seen lots of people reading it on the train. My boys loved loved the Alex Rider series. My husband and I did too! Elinor x

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    1. The Alex Rider books are fantastic, although I'd say somehow the Hunger Games is more so - may be because it's set in the future, it's actually a little more believable - I don't know what it is - but I am hooked. Working at home is proving tricky - perhaps I should have sent the books to work with the Husband!

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  9. Well I love a good biscuit and these sound good to me. I'm battling to find time to read books again - it was one of the main casualties of having to do too many other things. Not sure I'm winning the battle at the moment but maybe biscuits would help. The idea of a 6 mile round trip to the shops induces a slight feeling of panic in me, though - I'd have to grow up and be organised.

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    1. Yes, the being grown up and organised bit is tricky :-)

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  10. Those sound like tasty bites!

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    1. They are indeed - which reminds me - there's one left...

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