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Was I stuck or grounded?

How a simple ingredient brought a recipe to life

This blog is a little later this week as I was lucky enough to be taken away to London for my birthday over the weekend. Before I became ill, I used to commute regularly to London and loved it. The speed of working life, the lights, the buzz and, of course, the shopping. During the first few months of the illness, I craved those busy days of commuting. Yes, some days I was too ill to even lift my head off the pillow, but it didn't stop me wondering where that life had gone. I was struggling with my new life, I literally felt stuck as though I were trying to move through a hardening cement. Interestingly, at times, my chest felt so tight that, as though the cement was setting around my neck. What also affected me was my inability to cope with even the tiniest of tasks and I couldn't understand how quickly the illness had taken over from my previously busy life. I was lucky to receive physiotherapy at home and was given exercises to do. Although they seem simple to me now, they felt impossible then, causing me to break down in tears on a number of occasions - I just couldn't do what was being asked of me. Again, I felt stuck.

Being stuck wasn't a word I had thought about much before, but in looking up definitions, one positive word jumped out at me - Grounded - I like that word, because even though at the time I felt stuck, that was where I needed to be, I needed to be grounded. If I hadn't been, I would have carried on the way I had been going, rushing from meeting to meeting, worrying if I was late, worrying if I hadn’t done something well enough, worrying if I had offended someone. I had been a human "doing" and not a human "being". Being stuck at home with M.E. allowed me time, time to become who I am today. By reframing the word “stuck” to “grounded” it allows more positive thoughts to flow. Being grounded is about being strong on one’s own feet and knowing one's own strength, even though at the time I didn't feel it. Being grounded was an absolute necessity, in order for me to heal and become stronger and in order to start on my own road towards recovery.

As the clocks are about to go back, my recipe this week portrays the colour of autumn. The name even sounds autumnal - Cinder Toffee - thinking of Pumpkins on Halloween and the fires burning on Bonfire Night. Also, as I have been talking about feeling stuck, I thought it only right that I make a recipe that can literally get stuck in your teeth. This recipe’s textures also change very dramatically, like a firework - from the simple base of sugar, water and golden syrup to the fizzing mound of golden colour by the simple addition of one ingredient - bicarbonate of soda. It literally brings the recipe to life.

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Cinder Toffee

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup water

⅓ cup golden syrup (dark corn syrup)

2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

1½ cups dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) - optional

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and put to one side.

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Put the sugar, water and golden syrup in to a very large saucepan (you need this because the mixture does froth up quite a way). Bring to the boil (do not stir as the sugar will crystallise) and swirl the pan carefully a couple of times to loosen the contents. After about 3 minutes of boiling the mixture should be a nice golden caramel colour. Take the pan off the heat and quickly whisk in the bicarbonate of soda. The mixture will froth up and move up the sides of the pan. Quickly, and carefully, pour the mixture onto the prepared baking parchment and leave to cool. You will need to move quickly as this stuff sets very fast (the baking parchment is crinkled as I find it stays in place better when pouring this molten liquid onto the sheet).

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When it is cooled, using a little toffee hammer or the end of a large spoon, bang on the cinder toffee to break into smallish parts.

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If you would like to dip the golden shards in chocolate too, melt the chocolate in the microwave for a couple of minutes, stirring every 30-40 seconds until fully melted.  Dip the broke pieces of cinder toffee in the chocolate and leave to dry on some more baking parchment on a cold baking sheet.

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Put in an airtight container as soon as possible and keep in a cool place. Ideal for gifts, with or without the chocolate! Watch your teeth!