Food

Difficult Decisions – Lent

Ok. Confession time. I’m not a religious person. Despite attending a Roman Catholic school my religious beliefs are neither here nor there. For that reason alone primary school was a little weird and more alienating than it should have been. For all my pals celebrating getting confirmed, getting blessed during mass or even having the honour of becoming an altar boy I stood by and watched. I didn’t really mind, the experience as an outsider let me look in from a position of n0n-commitment and I never really understood the ceremonies.

To that extent the only occasions I have ever been barely considered religious are the holidays. When I was growing up there was never a furore over celebrating Christian holidays, no-one refused to attend the nativity play, no-one clamoured to rename the occasion and everyone made pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. It’s just tradition.

There was often noises about giving up something for Lent yet I’ve never really bought into it. The prospect of resisting chocolate or biscuits or wine never appealed to me. Sure, I could see the point of setting yourself a challenge but giving up treats seemed absurd. Something has changed and this year I have taken the very difficult decision of giving up cake for Lent. That’s right, CAKE.

Anyone that knows me should realise that this is going to be very, very hard. Part of the joy of travelling was sampling the local pastry delicacies and I adore baking. Lord knows how I’m going to make it to the end. During grocery shopping yesterday afternoon my sister decided to pick up my own Kryptonite, a pack of Jaffa Cakes. Even typing those two delicious words out makes me want to run downstairs and gorge down the pack. Still, I must stay strong.

So for anyone having a birthday, wedding or any other celebration that necessitates cake bear in mind that you will be driving me nuts should I have to stand there and resist taking a piece. We all have to take difficult decisions in our lives, this one may be just a challenge too far.

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Food

My Top Ten Biscuits

Due to a playful yet strenuous discussion over the merits of certain biscuits I have decided to come up with this, a definitive list of my top ten biscuits. This was difficult and there were some hard decisions and several compromises. Of course, this is wholly down to my opinion so feel free to nod in approval or hurl abuse in disagreement or even add your own top ten in the comments. There are some old-school favourites and some controversial choices (one goes against The Queen but sod it) yet top ten lists are never going to please everyone so here goes.

10. Malted Milk

A grossly underrated biscuit and one of my childhood favourites. Just thinking of them takes me back to wondering if my head would explode with joy if I dunked one in a glass of milk. It didn’t and it so worth the dare.

Malted Milk

9. Fig Roll

The first of a few controversial entries which ponders the eternal question – ‘What exactly is a biscuit?’. I shall give you a clue to my thinking, all of these entries can be found in the same supermarket aisle. Anyway, you could argue that this is actually healthy and constitutes one of your five a day yet after eating a pack in one go I doubt your doctor would agree. Still, I wouldn’t blame you due to their rich, sticky interior and modest, complimentary casing.

Fig Roll

Fig Roll

8. Fruit Shrewsbury

Another fruity favourite is the Fruit Shrewsbury which, unlike most of these inclusions, is actually a little posh and tricky to find. That sweet combination of lemon, rosewater, caraway seeds and raisins is well worth tracking down though.

Fruit Sjrewsbury

Fruit Shrewsbury

7. Oreo

Yes, there’s a zillion varieties. Yes, the Oreo is American. Yes, it is still a damn fine biscuit. Up until my recent trip to America I thought I had tried every variety available but how wrong I was. Thanks to my Auntie I am now aware of the Heads or Tails (one side is chocolate biscuit, the other is vanilla) and the BerryBurst Ice Cream which tastes as orgasmic as it sounds. For the sake of argument I am going to include the mere classic black and white version; perfect for splitting, licking and dunking.

Oreo

Oreo

6. Jammie Dodger

Another childhood favourite. I’m not sure if it’s the playful heart shape or the sweet, gooey filling that lures me in. Incidentally, one of the most difficult omissions was shortbread and since that is the biscuit used here this inclusion proves a compromise.

Jammie Dodger

Jammie Dodger

5. Ginger Nut Creams

Another near-miss for this list was the humble Ginger Nut which is such a favourite I have even tried to re-create my own. Still, it’s tarted up comrade does get in as proof that nearly any biscuit can be improved with a layer of cream.

Ginger Cream

Ginger Cream

4. Dark Chocolate Digestives

As with most foodstuffs, a layer of chocolate also elevates many a biscuit. The humble Digestive is a favourite of my parents as it remains a solid, dunking biscuit; unpretentious, dependable and you know exactly how long you can leave it in your brew. However, the dark chocolate simply adds a layer of sophistication to it.

Dark Chocolate Digestive

Dark Chocolate Digestive

3. Penguin/TimTams

The biscuit that began the debate. It was not until I arrived into Melbourne that I discovered just how amazing this chocolate sandwich is. One of my housemates, Zoe, got me a cup of tea and excitedly produced a packet of TimTams (basically the Australian equivalent of a Penguin) and asked if I had heard of the ‘TimTam Slam’. I had not so she instructed me to dunk the biscuit into the tea and suck through the open end. My mind was blown. Not only is this an improvement on dunking but shortly after sucking through a gulp of your beverage you know it’s exactly the right time to scoff down the moist biscuit. After all that, it is still only ranked third.

TimTams

TimTams

2. Jaffa Cake

Apologies Maam. The Queen will disagree yet as the Jaffa Cake resides in the biscuit aisle I am implored to include it. Those unaware of the historical debate of whether a Jaffa Cake is a biscuit or a cake will be heartened to know that this actually went to a court of law, I certainly was. Under UK law when a biscuit is covered in chocolate it becomes a cake and subject to the standard VAT rate. However, in 1991 McVities challenged this ruling and came up against Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise. The case went to the courts who were forced to settle the debate and they ruled in favour of McVities. One of the critical arguments being the difference between what happens when biscuits and cakes go stale. Of course, biscuits go softer yet the Jaffa Cake actually goes harder. Case closed.

There are few things I truly missed more than Jaffa Cakes when I was traveling, so much so that my Mum posted a few boxes across to Australia. It’s been well known that I can scoff a whole packet in one go and have even gone to the extreme of pimping it to a full size cake version. For the record, the jelly is not orange flavoured but tangerine.

Jaffa Cake

Jaffa Cake

1. Monte Carlo

Top of the pile is the Monte Carlo. Sorry. What do you mean you’ve not heard of it? Shame that. Australians are rightly mocked for their lack of culinary expertise yet in the Monte Carlo they have created a gem of a biscuit. Two oval shaped biscuits of golden syrup, honey and coconut are sandwiched with a layer of rich vanilla cream and raspberry jam. Every component compliments each other and having worked in several Australian offices I can vouch for it’s versatility in the dunking and splitting stakes. You can also gauge it’s popularity by the very fact that it’s own secret fan club would get to work early just to hoard a couple.

Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo

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