Monday, May 30, 2011

White Chocolate Cheesecake

As with many British Bank Holidays, it rained. So, with time on my hands the family asked me to make a cheesecake. I've not made one before, mostly because I don't like cheesecake. (yes, I hear the thoughts... "how can you not like cheesecake?"... but it's a consistency thing for me)

Anyway, I made a white chocolate cheesecake today and when I served it up to my tea time diners, it went down a treat, so after a few tweet requests for the recipe, here it is:

You will need;

675g of you favourite soft cheese. (I used Philly)
140g of white chocolate. Don't skimp on the quality
156g minimum of Oreo Cookies (that's the size of a regular tube pack, but if you have more than 1 pack, bulk it up to about 180g)
160g of sugar
60g of soft butter
60g dried cranberries or substitute cranberries for whatever you like
3 Eggs
1 teaspoon of grated Orange zest, but if you don't want too much orange sent, halve it

Ingredients at the ready? Lets bake.

  • Preheat your oven to 170°C

  • Whilst its warming up, crumble those Oreos up. I used a big bowl and a rolling pin as my favoured technique, but you can break them up in which ever way floats your boat as long as the end result is a load of small crumbs.

  • When they are nicely crumbled up, add the softened butter to the mix and blend in fully.

  • Once you have the butter and Oreos nicely combined, you need to tightly pack them them into a springform pan, about 8-9 inches. I used 8.5 and this mix came right to the top. If you don't have a springform pan though, get a normal pan, put it on a baking sheet, draw round the base, cut out the paper circle and drop the result in the bottom of your pan. That will help you get the cheesecake out at the end. You may want to very lightly grease the sides.

  • Put your chocolate on to melt down. Don't micro it.. naughty naughty ;)

  • Now, you need to put all the sugar and all the soft cheese into a large bowl. Give it a wizz with a hand blender to get it all nicely blended.

  • Add the eggs one at a time, blending quickly after each egg is added.

You should now have a large bowl of cream coloured liquidly looking stuff.

  • Add to that bowl the final ingredients.

  1. Your melted white chocolate

  2. Your dried fruit of choice

  3. The Orange Peel

  • Now you have a full bowl of blended and mixed ingredients, carefully pour it over the Oreo base in the tin to complete the cheesecake, pre bake

  • Now, take your creation to the oven and put it in for around 50mins or until its practically set. You can tell by sticking a cocktail stink in it.

  • When its finished in the oven, remove and allow to cool. Once cooled, remove it from your pan (carefully if you don't have springform. Just rock it between the pan and an upside down plate or something)

  • Finally, stick it in the fridge. It needs to refrigerate for at least a couple of hours, but overnight is fine too if you can wait that long.

Just before you serve, you may want to add some more dried fruit or grated chocolate to the top. Whipped cream is a good choice too but be steady.

White Chocolate Cheesecake

Then, you are good to go. Enjoy.

Let me know how it goes if you try it. Also, we thought a ginger nut base might go with this really well instead of Oreo so happy to hear of any changes you make.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Where your UK passport fee goes

The answer! Finally.

Seems to be now on the website as follows:

What the fee covers
IPS does not make a profit. Passport fees cover the costs of providing passport services in the UK. Part of the fee is called 'the consular premium'. This covers the costs of providing consular help to British nationals who find themselves in difficulty while overseas.
Consulates and embassies
If you're interested in how the cost of a UK passport compares with that of passports around the world, check the comparison table from IPS.
International passport fee comparison table from IPS

The IPS link takes you to this PDF, which is continently.. bearing in mind IPS are saying it is a comparison table, laid out in every country's own currency... so for your info £77.50 as of 26th May 2011 is 89.15 EUR and 126.39 USD.

So we have one of the most expensive passports in the EU but still cheaper than a US one it seems.

My next question, who has ever used a British Consulate, other than for banqueting?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Soft Top Waterproofing - Perfect Result!

So, when I first got this new car I didn't go with the dealers autoglym whatever deal. Instead I took it to Jonny at Pure Detail.

He left me clear instructions which I passed on to the dealer, not to touch the car body work. So, when I picked it up it was still covered in the plastic and delivery stickers, as well as a load of dust and muck.

Perfect. :)

Anyway, at his place he told me he had a waterproofing bit of kit that we were going to try on the roof as part of the detail. Its been on now for 4 months and is still exactly the same. In fact, I was at the dealers just yesterday and the sale guy commented on how brand new the roof was looking. Because, essentially, it is. Nothing has got thru to lay on it. This was the video we did after it was first done and really I should get another at 6 months and again in a year.

The product is from GTechniq which seems to have been borne from the sailing world but it works an absolute treat. Water is like mercury when it hits it and if you have a new soft top, I cant recommend I1 Smart Fabric enough. As Jonny at Pure Detail will tell you tho... it doesn't make you yourself more waterproof! ;)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Passport Update

So, a quick little update.

A day after I left a message to call me back RE Passport and its costs, I got a phone call from the IPS. To be totally fair they called me back within 24hrs which is good enough.

The chap that called back was probably a phone operative. When I asked him where the money for a passport went, he told me that it went into the making of the passport and some when to the embassy.

This made me think he is making this up, so I asked for more information. Which Embassy? Can I get a discount for less pages because of the other family passports in the house, I'm the only one with any stamps on the page? If I have to pay for more pages, why don't people get discounted for less?

He didn't have any answers so I asked to be referred to somewhere I could find this information. He hung up.

To be continued...

Oh, and whilst I remember, £20 for a driving license update.... another sting!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Great UK Passport rip off?

I often thought that the statistic of passport ownership in the US was an interesting one. I though things like "Unlike us in the UK, maybe they don't have the requirement to travel to other countries when there is such diversity right there in their own country"... (I also laughed when I heard things like World Series but that's another story)

According to a 2008 State data report, about 28 percent of the U.S. population has a passport, with 85.5 million U.S. passports in circulation as of February 2008. It's $165 for a passport book and card according to The Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Now compare this to Britain and a Q&A on about Identity Cards sited 80% of the UK population own a passport (in 2009). The Office for National Statistics estimated the UK population to be 61,792,000 therefore there are around 49,433,600 passports out to UK Nationals.

Which brings me to my gripe. Today, whilst choosing somewhere hot and, well hot for a family vacation, I remembered that my passport was run out. I had to start the renewal process for my passport.

This is a little red-ish/purple-ish (I guess that makes it burgundy?) book that sits safely in a building for all but 2 or if I'm really lucky, 4 weeks in a year had done its time. Pages stamped with Praha, Quintana Roo, Hewanorra et al. that brought back some happy and some hazy memories, were about to be phased out. (Incidentally, I have look after multiple passports, as I'm the dad in the family and as such, anything involving passports is multiplied)

So, off I go. Renewing a passport is easier now than 10 years ago it seem, so there was no standing in line at the Post Office as you can 'begin' the renewal process online . That's about the only good news though in this passport renewal saga.

My gripe mostly comes down to how much this thing costs! For the privilege of having to have a passport to travel, be that a renewal or your first adult passport, you will be charged the princely sum of £77.50. This will get you a standard 30 page passport. If you want to step up to a jumbo passport due to travelling more then you can get the Jumbo 48-page passport for just £90.50. The full table of costs can be seen here

So, along with hefty summer flight costs, baggage allowances, Pound v Euro etc. I have an extra cost for new documents. Over £200 extra cost. This really yanked my chain. What does this £77.50 go to? I thought I'd call the Identity & passport Service (IPS) to find out. Firstly, I pressed '1' to enquire about fees. This took me to a long automated response about everything that I could already read on their website, then hung up on me. Classic. So I dialled back pressed a few other buttons and got through to a queue, which then gave me the option of a callback instead of waiting. That's where I am now as of 19:23.

Anyway, my question and reason for this post is to ask, is £77.50 good value for a passport? Does a passport even offer any value? If I'm forced by the government to have one, shouldn't it be provided for me or is the £77.50 actually a subsidised cost?!

If we roll back to the figures at the start of this post, then the IPS charges about 49,433,600 x £77.50 (flexibility for child passports at £49 and Jumbo at £90.50).


Three Billion, Eight Hundred and Thirty One Million, One hundred and Four Thousand Pounds.

As a comparison for your interest (if you're still following), the US figure comes out at $14,107,500,000/£8,606,690,681.47

It IS over 10 years though so lets cut is down some more.



Through writing this post I've gone from feeling ripped off, to thinking well it is £70 over 10 years so only £7 a year. Sounds like value like though in that time frame (although brings me back to can a passport HAVE value)

So now I really want to know from IPS where the cost of a passport goes to.

Feel free to chip in cause I bet they don't call me back today.

FYI from DirectGov:

For help, call the IPS Passport Adviceline on 0300 222 0000.

The Adviceline is open:
- 8.00 am to 8.00 pm Monday to Friday
- 9.00 am to 5.30 pm weekends and public holidays

If my Gran needs a new passport though, its free. Result!