Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Rhubarb crumble cake

I had grave doubts about this recipe but they were all unfounded (although I did adapt it a bit).  Hubby says the only thing it's missing is a great big dollop of custard.
IMG 9970

You will need a 23 or 25cm square tin.  The recipe I had said 23cm but I used 25cm tin.
The recipe says serves 8 and, for pudding, I'd agree, but for a little treat with coffee you can cut into 16.
  • 300g rhubarb
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 175g caster sugar (I'm pretty sure granulated will work too)
  • 175g softened unsalted butter or soft marg (I used soft marg)
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
and for the topping
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 4 tbsp self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar (or granulated, or soft brown)
  • 2 tsps ground ginger
  • When the cake goes into the oven you need it heated to 160˚C.
  • Grease and line (or use Lakeland magic baking parchment and don't grease) your 23cm or 25cm tin
  • Wash and trim rhubarb into 3cm pieces.  I had chunky rhubarb so cut it into 3cm lengths and then chopped the lengths so they were about 1.5cm max wide.
  • Pop rhubarb in a bowl with the lemon juice.  I might omit this next time as I have no idea how this helps the recipe.
  • In a separate bowl rub the flour and butter for the topping together and then add topping sugar and ginger.  Mine looked like this.
IMG 9967
  • In a separate bowl beat together (using the all in one method) the flour, butter (or marg), eggs, and sugar.  This needs to be light and well beaten.  It can probably be overbeaten but I have no idea how you know when to stop.
  • Fold in half the rhubarb.  This is a ridiculous instruction - just do your best.
  • Put the resultant mixture in your tin and spread it around using a spatula.  This was also ridiculous and I ended up shoving the rhubarb around the tin to try and make it evenly spread around the tin.
  • Scatter the remaining rhubarb over the top in a random but evenly placed way.  (Just do your best.)  My random evenness looked like this.
IMG 9968
  • Spoon the crumble topping over the top and it should look a bit like this.
IMG 9969
  • Bung it in the oven for about 40 minutes.  You need to use your eyes to judge whether it's turned a gorgeous colour before you whip it out.
  • Now the recipe contains pretentious twaddle about dusting with icing sugar and serving with créme fraîche and honey.  In this house we're happy with either cream, custard, ice cream or just the cake on its own.
Lovely. Yum.

It's nice when that happens

I have a hair styling thingy made by BaByliss.  It has provided good service for a couple of years and is a sort of half hairdryer and half hairbrush.Babyliss2

Well it was working well until a couple of weeks ago it stopped working and started to smell funny and emit smoke.  Given that it had been working well for a good couple of years I figured it needed replacing.  I accepted that it would have gone beyond the one year guarantee and popped out to the High Street to pick up the latest model (essentially the same with a colour change).

As there had been a burning smell and smoke when it failed I thought I ought to let BaByliss know, so I pinged them an email.

They came back quite quickly and asked for the model number mentioning I could have it serviced.

I was sceptical.  How often does a service for a low cost item like this end up costing as much as the item itself, so I asked how much a service would cost.

Armed with the model number they were able to tell me that it was still in the three year guarantee period and the service would be free.

I was surprised there was a three year guarantee and also surprised I hadn't owned it longer.

So I popped down to the Post Office and a couple of emails later Babyliss advised that the model I had was no longer available.  Would I accept the latest model?

Of course I would, and did, and it arrived today.

So I posted it on ebay today too, because I'd already bought a replacement.

I hadn't expected much from BaByliss and they had significantly exceeded my expectations.  It's nice when that happens.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Scottish liars

A couple of months ago we left Scottish Power and moved to Ovo Energy.  I believe I mentioned it here.

Well this week Scottish Power were on the phone again.

When I was a customer they had promised to tell me about any deals they had that could save me money.  While I was a customer they didn't phone me once to tell me I could save money.

Well now I'm not their customer they think it's still OK to phone me (it's not!)

The phoned to tell me their prices had come down and they believed they could save me money over the tariff I have with my new supplier.

They asked why I'd switched.  I explained initially cost, then environmental considerations, and thirdly customer service.  I ran through the litany of customer service faux pas I'd experienced from Scottish Power.

They were sorry but they still wanted to tell me about their new prices.

I stayed quiet.


"I'm still here…, go on."

"We've got your annual usage as xxxxx for gas and yyyyyy for electricity, is this correct?"

I had no idea but said "Yes."

"And which tariff are you on with Ovo?"

I couldn't remember exactly.  It's not as though I received the call just as I was reviewing my power supply paperwork.

"I think it's their 100% Green Fixed Price Tariff"

"Is that fixed for a year?"


"Well if you switched to Scottish Power we could save you £136 a year."

"Really?  On a 100% renewables tariff?"

"I'm not sure it's guaranteed 100% renewable energy but Scottish Power are leaders in renewable energy.  Let me check."

While she was checking, I did some of my own checking.

I plugged the usage numbers into the uSwitch site and then checked on the percentage of Scottish Power's energy that's renewable, and checked to see if they offered a free tariff.

Their level of green energy is just under 13%.  This is higher than the industry average (just) but lower than the Ovo Energy standard tariff at 15% and much lower than my tariff of 100%.  

When my caller returned she advised that she didn't currently have access to the system that could tell her the percentage of renewable energy in the Scottish Power supply.

I told her that was strange, because I'd found it (here).  I also explained that comparing their 12.9% renewable tariff with my 100% renewable tariff was not a fair comparison and that she needed to compare apples with apples, or 100% renewable with 100% renewable.

She told me that she was just trying to see if she could save me money.

I explained that if I wanted to save money I could switch to Ovo Energy's standard tariff which has 15% renewables and is still cheaper than the Scottish Power 12.9% renewable tariff.

Most call centre operatives would have given up, realising they were beaten fairly and squarely but this one didn't.  It was a reasonable argument and a reasonable person would have moved on.

I suggested that consumer organisations might  be interested to hear that Scottish Power are trying to persuade people they are saving money by comparing completely different products and that whilst she had phoned me and  could find the information whilst she was talking to me, not everybody else would be able to do this and the tactics seemed very underhand.  I thought about throwing in the fact that they had broken the data protection act because they didn't have permission to contact me as i was no longer a customer, but I thought I'd save that for next time.

This was the first day for about a fortnight that they had successfully called me.  They had been calling once or twice daily.  Unacceptable behaviour from a loathsome company with appalling customer service.