Nut Free Easter Eggs

Nut-free Easter Eggs

We’ve known for about 20 years that our eldest son has a nut allergy. I remember very clearly him sitting in bed with us one weekend morning when we offered him some of our breakfast – crunchy nut cornflakes. It was the tiniest amount, no more than a teaspoonful if that, but he immediately spat it out and his lips went red and swollen. We had him tested and sure enough he was allergic to nuts and seeds.

As any other nut allergy sufferer will tell you it can be a nightmare finding food that doesn’t contain a blanket warning “Recipe: no nuts. Factory: no nuts. Made in a world where nuts exist so eat at your own risk” (Tesco I’m looking at you). Twenty years ago it was almost impossible to find any allergy information on labels.

Easter has always been a problem as while the contents of the eggs may be nut free the egg itself typically isn’t. My son rightly felt aggrieved (still does) that he was missing out on a huge influx of chocolate that was sanctioned by his parents. Each year we would hunt high and low for something suitable and come up short. In recent years Kinnerton have done a good job of producing nut free eggs but they are small and pricy.

This year we had the same dilemma and then an epiphany – “why don’t we make our own?” This was swiftly followed by another thought: “we didn’t we think of this years ago?”

A quick look on eBay showed up quite a few options but the moulds were more expensive than I had expected and wanted to pay. A trip to our local Lakeland shop was a success though. Two large egg moulds and several moulds for small solid eggs and all for less than the price of postage of some of the eBay items.

Choosing the chocolate was easy as there is only one that our son likes and we know to be nut free – Galaxy. We bought five bars along with two small packets of jellied sweets to put inside the egg.

The process was easy enough: melt the chocolate, allow to cool a little, paint onto the inside of the mould, allow to cool in the fridge and then repeat another three times. Actually our eggs were still a bit thin in places so in future I would probably do another layer as well as not allowing the chocolate to set quite so much before painting on.

We then left the eggs to fully harden in the fridge and then the fun began. Getting the egg out of the mould without destroying it into thousands of pieces turned out to be the biggest challenge of all. Eventually I discovered that there was a knack to it but putting pressure on the top it could be coaxed out of the mould. Unfortunately we only discovered this after cutting a couple of moulds. Top tip – cutting the mould works no better. Next time I will take the advice I saw on the BBC good food website to lightly oil the mould first.

Now the eggs were out I could join them together by painting some remaining chocolate on the halves and refrigerating again. Sealing the halves together did leave fingerprints in the chocolate which was a shame but apart from that they looked great.

Overall I would say it was a great success. We had made a nut-free egg and had fun doing it. It was more expensive than a shop bought egg but we could guarantee that it was safe for our son and that was the whole objective. Next time we might also look into making them look more attractive too.

The egg was devoured in less than five minutes after all that work. I would have objected but it’s hard to have parental control on chocolate intake over a 21 year old!

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Say No to 01189

Many years ago in 1995 I was involved in the PhONEday number change when UK telephone numbers had an additional one forcibly inserted into the dialing code so, for example, Reading went from being 0734 to 01734. The purpose of this was to allow for more capacity across the network as a whole.

My part in this was working for Yellow Pages where on the National Code Change project I had to write the code to update to do this insertion. For such a simple change you cannot believe how long it took to run – days. That’s what you get for running on an IDMSX database the smug buggers in the new media team who were running on Oracle were done in a matter of hours but that’s another story.

For some reason within a year it was deemed necessary to change the code for Reading again this time from 01734 to 0118. The reason was the same that there was insufficient capacity and this would resolve the issue. Why nobody had thought of this a year before has always puzzled me.

So we went through the whole exercise again but by this time I had moved on from Yellow Pages and I played no part in the actual switch over. However, I was there for the lead up and one thing that always bugged me and continues to do so now is how poorly the change was explained to the residents of Reading and leads to confusion to this day.

What happened was that the code was changed from 01734 to 0118 and a nine was inserted at the front of all existing numbers so 01734 123456 became 0118 912 3456. Unfortunately through a lack of publicity and that people assumed that code had to be five digits most people assumed that the code for Reading had become 01189 and for a while dialling local numbers without the code and the leading nien still worked. They don’t now.

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The whole point of the change was to give greater capacity and that was achieved by  effectively allocating ten codes to Reading 01180 to 01189 but initially only 0118 9 was used. Then the hospital and university became 0118 3 and now, as you can see from above, 0118 4 is being used.

The problem is that plenty of people still think that the code is 01189 and it isn’t difficult to find marketing material with 01189 on it. Does this matter? Not greatly. Anyone dialling the number without the code just won’t get connected and the company won’t get the business. But it just bugs me!

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Bletchley Park & The National Museum of Computing

Bletchley Park is somewhere that I have wanted to visit for quite a while given it’s historical significance to both the country and myself. To the country for the work on cracking Enigma and to me as so many of the iconic computers I have worked on are housed in the separate National Museum of Computing there.

The park museum was brought to life for us by a talk showing the Enigma machine in action and explaining how it worked. This meant that we got to see the machine with the protective glass casing removed and even better beneath the keyboard so you could see the inner workings. This was followed by a short talk and demonstration of one of the ‘bombe’ machines. Regrettably I struggled to understand this as well as I had the Enigma explanation.

We then wandered around the rest of the park looking into some of the huts that are open to the general public but none were as interesting as the main museum.

After lunch we made our way to  National Museum of Computing. The Colossus and Tunny galleries are open daily but the rest of the museum is only open on selected days. The place is a veritable Tardis going on for seemingly ever covering computing over a very long period and includes the worlds oldest working computer.

ICL 2900What was fascinating to Helen and I was that it has so many of the computers we have used in our lives, including a room housing an ICL 2900 which we both used extensively in our first job at CAP in Reading. We were able to reminisce about VME, Application Master and magnetic tapes!

Of course, this may well not have the same significance to you but it is still a fascinating snapshot of just how far computing has come in a very short space of time.

If you are to visit Bletchley I would ensure that you enquire before setting off if a demonstration is due for day of your visit as if made a world of difference to our tour. Also make sure that you go on a day when the Nation Museum of Computing is fully open (currently Thursday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 12 noon) as you can pass quite a bit of time there but be aware that there is a separate charge for this.

If you like your history, code braking and computing then there is no better place to be than Bletchley Park.

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Canterbury Tales

I’d never been to Canterbury before last week and that’s a shame as it is a lovely place. Even better was that the sun came out after nearly three months with enough rain to make Russell Crowe consider building a boat.

The heart of Canterbury is the cathedral. I made the mistake of assuming that it was just the, admittedly, very grand church but, in fact, the grounds are extensive, something that isn’t evident from outside the gates. The cloisters were particularly atmospheric with the morning sun streaming through. There is also a very posh looking school there where the very well behaved pupils wandered by some in bright purple gowns.

The rest of the town has much to see too, including a relatively short stretch of wall, the view from which is great to one side and pretty bleak to the other. It was easy to spend a day there wandering around but do expect to pay handsomely to get into the cathedral but it is worth it.