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The Primal Games 6 | Hasselback and Egg-Stuffed Potatoes



Well, that time of year is coming up again… Christmas! I’ve been eating a lot of stodge recently, mostly in the form of sugar, chocolate, and cheesecake… so I thought I’d share something that isn’t in that form… for now! This is definitely the sort of stuff I love to eat over the winter period; tonnes of vegetables, starch-y goodness, and lashings of gravy, so thought I’d share a recipe for some potatoes (a definite winter staple!). Having these with pork and apple chips definitely makes for a real treat (breakfast!) to dip into the egg. :)

This past week has been pretty busy, rather stressful, and a bit naff since my previous blog post, which spoke about Recession Proof Body coming to CrossFit Plymouth. They posted a link to that particular blog post on Facebook, and I had a flurry of people come onto the blog again – how lovely. :)



And, to top it off, the Primal Games 6 (held at CFP) was a few weekends ago, and it was SO MUCH FUN! Not only did I equal my snatch PB of 60 kg (I had only done it once before and was pretty surprised that I managed it in a comp this time) but got my first ever bar muscle ups! :) The team I was with were also super fun and encouraging, and it was an amazing day all around… it left me buzzing for the WHOLE WEEK afterwards! It was great that everyone seems genuinely supportive of one another, regardless of what level of fitness or ability, it was just an amazing environment.

I was quite surprised about the bar muscle ups, considering how little I’d ever practiced trying. But I was the only member of my team not doing them, and I think that the sheer desire to want to contribute to some points and help them out was my driving force. Never have I ever been more determined to get over the bar or do something as I was then; usually, when snatching heavy weight or doing movements like muscle ups, I get quite scared at the prospect of injuring myself or the movement going wrong, but during this instance I never thought once about injuring myself, I just thought about getting to the end of the movement. It goes to show how the real desire and intention to do something makes that something happen!


In September, I went to the Particulate Systems Analysis and conference and UKPTF, and whilst in Manchester I stopped off at an amazing box called Train Manchester (the home of Samantha Briggs!). I managed my first real muscle ups there (i.e. starting with straight arms at the bottom)… I reckon it was because Samantha Briggs’ touched the rings, and some of the magic transferred to me! I’m not amazing at muscle ups, but even though deep down I knew I had the ability to do them, I didn’t really believe it… until I did just the one… then I did four more afterwards. When I got home, I then did an OMEM drill, and managed fourteen muscle ups, one every minute for fifteen minutes… I failed one once, but still, that’s a big improvement from zero, to being able to do them overnight!



It’s nice to be busy with so many projects going on, but I cannot believe that I’ve hit the ripe old age of twenty-five; where has the time gone? I absolutely cannot wait for Christmas, where the time will hopefully slow down a bit and I can catch up with some important people. Even though times can be busy, stressful, emotional, etc., personally, I feel stronger mentally and physically than I have in a long time; I used to be scared of getting older, and of course, I still am, as we all are, because the future is never certain or guaranteed, but as I get older I learn more and more, and life keeps getting better and gives me amazing gifts. So although getting older is sometimes seen as a negative (i.e. ageing, more responsibility, less time, etc.), it’s actually something to be proud of, and to simply enjoy (unfortunately, some don’t get the chance to be older). In some ways, I can’t wait. :D



♪ Hasselback… hasselback POTATO ♫

Egg-stuffed potatoes
Adapted from: Cheese and Chocolate

Ingredients
• pre-baked potatoes
• eggs (as many as you have potatoes)
• butter
• salt and papper
• various other fillings (my favourites being bacon, sausage, spinach, broccoli, roasted garlic, cheese, etc.)

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 175°C. Find where you potato stands upright, and slice off the top to make a lid. Scoop out enough of your potato to make room for your fillings (you can save the flesh to mash up and have as mash another time).

Add some salt and pepper to the inside of your potato, place some of your fillings in, and crack in your egg. Sprinkled with more salt and pepper, and add some cheese.

Bake for about 25 minutes, although the baking time depends on how you like your eggs, and serve.

Hasselback potatoes
Adapted from: BBC

Ingredients
• white potatoes
• butter
• pepper
• salt
• parmesan cheese (although I like cheddar)
• breadcrumbs

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 220°C. Wash the potatoes well, and dry. Score the top of the potatoes ¾ of the way through. You can slice through the potato whilst it’s sitting in a large serving spoon to prevent slicing cleanly through the potato. Put a lump of butter on top of each potato and pop in the oven for 5 minutes. Then bast using the melted butter and sprinkle on some salt and pepper. Return to the oven and bake for 45 minutes. When done, remove, sprinkle with the cheese and breadcrumbs, and return to the oven for 15 minutes until the potatoes are soft and the crust is browned a little.

Bacon would also be a nice addition. Even without the cheese and breadcrumbs, these potatoes offer a different texture to a regular baked potato, mashed potatoes, or roast potatoes.

Recession Proof Body Workshop | Peanut Butter Energy Bars (Vegan)



Well, a couple of weeks ago, Recession Proof Body visited us lot at CFP to give a workshop all about street workout and calisthenics.


The image above is of Lee, Ranjit, and Sai (from left to right), and I nabbed some of these images from their Facebook page (the others are either from my phone or from Claire Summers!).

Lee and Ranjit took the course that day, and of course, the first thing we all notice about them is the size of their arms. I knew what sort of movements we’d be going over today, and I had only ever seen people perform them on YouTube before, and so I feel that that standard of skill in calisthenics wasn’t actually real; I couldn’t wait to see them being performed before my own very eyes!

I do believe, as well, that these guys are being featured in every issue of Muscle and Fitness magazine for 6 months showcasing their various abilities and progressions to achieve their skills.

There were around 20 people in this workshop, and the workshop itself involved learning about some movements and their progressions, and trying them out ourselves, as well as watching some amazing demonstrations! The movements we covered were:
• Push up variations
• One arm push ups
• Pull ups
• One arm pull up
• Ring muscle ups
• Bar muscle ups
• Front lever
• Back lever
• And various progressions!

The picture above is Ranjit just before completing a strict one arm pull up, and Lee doing a strict ring muscle up with an extra 20kg plate!

The emphasis with street workout is that everything is strict! Most people have this idea that in Crossfit we ‘kip’ everything. Kipping is great to keep the intensity in workouts, but we do train a lot of strict stuff in Crossfit, too! I love it! I feel so bad-ass when I rep out strict pull ups and dips. Yeah buddy. I just find the gym memes on Facebook really hilarious! For example, take the one I found here:


The last time I checked, Rich Froning, Jason Khalipa, Dan Bailey, etc., sorta looked like the guy in that meme, am I right? Anyway, going a little off topic now! Back to the movements…

The great thing about these sorts of workshops, is that people discover their hidden skills; some people were pleasantly surprised with how strong they were! But of course, no one is going to be able to replicate the skill that these guys have, but they do give very useful progressions that people can follow, and how they achieved their ability. It’s a great reminder that we’re only human, yet with hard work and dedication, we can indeed achieve superhuman abilities. I will definitely be incorporating these things into my workouts, because I had no idea how to go about keeping strength training interesting and displaying strength in so many different ways.


Personally, the things I’m quite good at are the basic strict movements, such as pull ups, dips, and push ups. But I need to work with my front lever (I couldn’t get my abs to engage… just my arm pits!), and my explosive strength!

A lot of these moves are incredibly creative. We saw Ranjit perform strict bar muscle ups, which involves incredibly explosive strength, and then he showed us the sort of things they would do “for fun” or at comps, such as a cross grip bar muscle up, or a bar muscle up where you start with your hands with a chin up grip, and end with a pull up grip!

These displays of skills and strength were incredibly beautiful to watch, and these kinds of things are what I like to fill my weekends and spare time with. Some people don’t understand, but fitness is its own reward. I’m always working towards achieving various goals in a wide range of disciplines (currently it’s my PhD, Spanish, and Crossfit – all of which encompass many goals), and so I don’t understand why there’s so much hate in the world. Instead of hating another group of people or directing your energy towards destruction, why not create a better world for yourself, and others, by inspiring others and pushing yourself beyond your limits? I genuinely believe that if more people strived towards goals, there would be less hate.


So, yes, if you’re looking for motivation or even just a show, these are your guys! I was so buzzed the week after (and even now just thinking about the workshop) that I had such a brilliant week after, just because I was feeling so inspired after talking to these guys and being coached by them! I had rejuvenated energy, and more guidance for my own strength goals after just a one-day workshop, and so if they come back to the South West again, I’d love to see them in action again! Hopefully by them, I would have hit some of my own strength goals. :)



I’m definitely incorporating these progressions into my own training. I remember at the beginning of the workshop, Lee said that they don’t squat too much because they don’t want their legs too big for things like front levers, etc.! I still can’t tell if he was being serious or joking playfully :-/ Ranjit mentioned that if you did want to develop leg strength, pistols don’t really do anything for you, unless they’re weighted, and I agree, from personal experience! He also said that he runs and squats, but he focuses mostly on street workout now.



After being inspired by the amazing Recession Proof Body group, I thought I’d write up this recipe for peanut butter energy bars, because if you’re going to be doing their routines, you’re going to need a lot of energy! These bars are great to take into work or competitions, as they’re easy to wrap up or pop into lunch boxes.

If you store these in the fridge, I’m sure they’ll keep longer, but the texture changes as I suppose the peanut butter solidifies. I prefer these when they’re room temperature, if not warm!

Also, I LOVE these when they’ve come straight out of the oven, covered in the melted chocolate, popped into a bowl, and smothered with double cream… it is absolutely the BEST comfort dessert!



Peanut Butter Energy Bars
Adapted from: All Recipes, Peanut Butter Girl, and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Enough for a 20 x 20 cm mould

Ingredients
Base:
• 4 x bananas
• 2 cups peanut butter
• 2 cups oats

Fillings:
• 2 tbsp chia seeds
• 1 tbsp cinnamon
• 1 tsp nutmeg
• 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
• ½ cup seeds
• ¾ cup whole almonds (cashews, walnuts, etc.)
• ¼ cup whole pistachios, shelled (macadamia nuts, pecans, etc.)
• A handful of toasted coconut
• ¼ cup goji berries (cranberries or other dried fruits)
• ¼ cup cacao nibs
• ⅓ cup honey (optional)

Topping:
• 200g dark chocolate
• 3 tbsp coconut oil
• Pinch of desiccated coconut, cacao nibs, or flaked almonds, to decorate

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 175°C.

Mash the bananas with a fork in a large bowl. You may wish to gently melt the peanut butter over the hob in order to make it mix more easily. Add the oats and mashed bananas into the peanut butter, mix well, and then transfer back to the bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients (the above ingredients are what I added, but I didn’t use honey. Feel free to add in whatever you want!) and mix well, before transferring to a baking dish lined with non-stick baking parchment (I used a silicon mould, so it was non-stick anyway!). Bake for 20 minutes.

Break the chocolate up into small pieces and place in a saucepan with the coconut oil. Melt over a very low heat whilst stirring to combine. Pour over the top of the bars, and leave to set. When partially set, I sprinkled the top with cacao nibs and desiccated coconut. Flaked almonds would also work well, too!

Store in an air-tight container in the fridge. I prefer to eat them when they’re room temperature, though!

First made: 19.07.2014

Tribal Clash 2014 | Rich Chocolate and Peanut Butter Fudge (Vegan)



Well, I have an announcement… this is my first post using a Mac! *Sorry that the announcement was pretty lame…* But I’ve managed to get the hang of a Mac preeeeetty quickly already! :)

At the moment I’m still preferring Windows… but I don’t know if that’s because I’m still getting used to the Mac’s shortcuts. Although, there are some things I do prefer about Microsoft (such as their Office package), I do love the speed of the Mac and some of their functions. But I quite like being up-to-date with some of the leading brands… I’m usually quite slow with this sort of stuff, as it was just last year I got a smartphone (which is Android!), but I’m going to try and make more of an effort to stay in the know! :)

Oh, and did I mention how lightweight my little MacBook Air is compared to my previous laptop (which was 4.5 years old and still functioning as well as it was on the first day I received it!), and combined with its battery life (my old laptop has about a 40-minute battery life) will definitely make travelling to Manchester and back a little nicer, knowing that I can do some work or reply to emails whilst waiting int he airport and actually at the conference. I’m rather nervous, as I’ll be presenting at Particulate Systems Analysis 2014, and also a poster presentation at 12th UK Particle Technology Forum 2014. Next week my colleagues are going to listen to me and I’m actually quite nervous for that! I hope it goes well. :)

Anyway, this post was done rather hastily because quite a few people have PMed me on Facebook asking for the recipe to this fudge; out of all of the food photos I posted, I didn’t think this one would get quite so much attention, but it did! So I decided to put together a quick blog post; besides, it’s about time I updated!



I’d love to write about some of the recent trips I’ve been lucky enough to have this summer to Paris, Santiago de Compostela, and Provence, but that’ll have to wait until I have more time to go through all of my photos and reminiscence fondly about these experiences, unfortunately. However, I will speak of this year’s Tribal Clash (here’s a link to last year’s event!); it happened just last weekend, and the weather for it was once again beautiful! It was one of the best events of the year for me, and I had such an awesome team (same bunch that I competed with last year!). I actually had post-holiday blues after the event! Thanks to Claire and Natalie for the lovely photos! :)



Because this was Luke’s last competition before leaving for a whole year to work in Australia, we all decided that we’d just have a blast! After the first day (3 events), we were 12th out of 144 teams! The following day saw 2 events, and we dropped a whopping number of places and sat in 27th, which still isn’t too bad. It highlighted to me that I’m better than I thought at certain things, and know myself quite well (I didn’t ache whatsoever after the day, but I think that’s because I knew when to rest and when not to… or just my teammates did all the work for me, so they were effectively working as a team of 3!).



The WODs were super varied and we all had a go at proper Atlas stones! The girls had stones weighing 20, 35, 45 and 65kg, and we could choose which one to do. The jump from 45 to 65kg is massive, especially without adequate warm up, and one girl tackle the 65kg stone once… and then Samantha did 65kg for many, many reps! I was so proud of her. :) I think that she realised then that she’s capable of far more than she thinks she is, too! And of course, Sam (who was also on Samantha’s team) doing his 95kg Atlas ball multiple times was amazing to watch! Their team did very well in that event, as Rachel and Doug were lifting both fast and heavy!



And as fun as the Atlas stones were, my shoulder certainly didn’t agree! Although it just felt like a little bruise and didn’t hurt at all, the colouring was quite impressive!



But it gave me some rejuvenated motivation for competing next year and believing in myself a little more. It’s great to have goals and feel completely inspired by other people’s commitment to them as well. And just being with good company from CFP in a beautiful and natural environment will always make for a perfect weekend, anyway! There has been talk about Luke, Simon, Kim and myself competing again next year, and hopefully we will get to! :)



Anyway, onto the dessert! I absolutely love this fudge because it’s so simple to make! Definitely keep this fudge in the freezer and get it out whenever you want to eat it; even if you eat it straight from the freezer, it tastes absolutely lovely when it melts in your mouth. And the sea salt and cacao nibs really make for a nice aftertaste. Tim and I love this with fresh fruit and double cream as a dessert.



Oh, and while we’re talking about fudge, my teammate recommended this almond butter, and I had to try it because it sounded like it’d taste amazing, and it didn’t let me down whatsoever! It tastes rich and smooth; just like fudge itself, and also has the consistency of fudge as well, so thought that it’d be appropriate to speak about it here.


With goji berries and walnuts, and with cashews:

Rich Chocolate and Peanut Butter Fudge
Adapted from: Apple of My Eye and The Wimpy Vegetarian
Enough for a 19 x 13 cm dish

Ingredients
• 1 cup coconut oil
• 1 cup peanut butter (or any other nut butter)
• ½ cup cocoa powder
• ¼ cup honey
• Dried fruits and walnuts (optional)
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• Pinch of coarse sea salt
• Sprinkling of cacao nibs

Preparation
Melt the coconut oil, peanut butter, and cocoa powder over a bain marie. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour into a baking dish (lined with parchment paper). Pop into the freezer for 10 minutes, and then sprinkle with salt and cacao nibs. Pop back into the freezer for storage.

Take out anywhere between approximately 10-30 minutes before you want cut it and enjoy it. :)

A Trip to Paris!! | Macaron Délicat à la Thé Vert

Beware: Photo heavy and ramble-y post! :)


“Like a good Chanel purse, the macaron is timeless and elegant, and always a treat!”
Bake Bellissima



I absolutely love a good cuppa tea, and being British, tea is a large part of our daily lives. However, I also love the Japanese culture, and have taken a very fond liking to their sencha 煎茶; whenever I’d have green tea in a Japanese restaurant or café, it would always have a delicate taste and leave my mouth feeling refreshed, although others would complain of how weak the tea appeared to be. But for me, I think that’s the key! I love the way these leaves are processed and I love how soft and subtle the flavour is. I bought some good quality sencha tea bags, but to use a whole teabag would make the tea so strong that it leaves a bitter after taste in your mouth, even when using warm water (as opposed to hot)! I had never liked Chinese green tea because of this reason, but perhaps it’s not the flavour of the leaf, it’s just its strength that I dislike. So now I simply rip open the teabags, and use literally a small pinch of leaves, pop them in the bottom of my cup, and pour over hot water, and I absolutely love the taste! I just keep the ripped teabag in my empty pot of Teapigs matcha, which has made a very useful pot for varying my sencha around! Not forgetting that the matcha itself was beautiful! I’ve converted dad to green tea because of this, too, and now I feel that I can enjoy this lovely Japanese daytime ritual into my daily life, too.

So yes, I love a good British cuppa, and also a gentle chawan of matcha. I’m very confused as to what to believe regarding the health benefits of tea; some say that it counts towards your daily water intake, although I think that these days most “experts” agree that it doesn’t because of its caffeine content. However, I have read that tea has as much caffeine, if not more, than coffee, but it simply releases it over a slower period. Both green and black tea contain around 30,000 polyphenolic compounds, some of which have been shown to have numerous health benefits, including reducing cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and inflammation, and their exact biomechanical mechanism is still not clear.1 Also, polyphenols can act as antioxidants, and for a long time this was thought to be the reason for their health benefits.1 However, recent studies have shown that this only plays a small part in their effectiveness.1 Yet, according to Disler et al. (1975), drinking tannin-containing beverages such as tea with meals may contribute to the pathogensis of iron deficiency if the diet consists largely of vegetable foodstuffs. 2



Anyway, regardless of whether it’s healthy or not, I believe that it’s a marvellous beverage! It’s perfect for any occasion: celebrations with loved ones, get-togethers with friends, consoling one who’s upset, as a snack, a post-meal cleanse, a breakfast necessity… and so I decided to infuse matcha (powdered green tea) into macarons in order to celebrate my love for tea and the Japanese culture, and also because I’ve just recently got back from a trip to Paris! These were originally a trial of green tea macarons to be had as a spring treat for Father’s Day, especially seeing as dad took quite an interest in the Japanese culture, and they were secondarily going to be for celebrating a trip to Paris should my abstract have been accepted. But they came out so well the first time I decided not to make them again, and the next time I will make them, I will try and feature a different flavour, I think. Flavours I’ve love to try and make include, and are not limited, to a few I have just quickly found on Foodgawker:


• Chocolate macarons with an orange ganache, or orange macarons with a chocolate ganache!
• Lime macarons (green) with a coconut buttercream (white), sprinkled with desiccated coconut
• Pistachio macarons (green) with a raspberry or strawberry buttercream (pink/red)
• Rose macarons (pink)
• Vanilla macarons (white/light) with a Nutella filling (dark brown)
• Basil macarons (green) with a strawberry ganache (red)
• Matcha macarons (green) with a match and white chocolate ganache (green and/or white) with a dusting of matcha
• Chocolate macarons (brown) with a dark chocolate and pepper ganache (dark and spicy!)
• Lavender macarons (pink) with honey-early grey infused buttercream
• Chocolate macarons (brown) with a peanut butter frosting (yellow-brown)
• Vanilla macarons (pale) with vanilla bean buttercream and a fresh strawberry (to make it very pale pink)
• Chocolate macarons (brown) with a coffee ganache
• Custard cream macarons (or another English biscuit!)
• Wasabi macarons (with strawberry, ankou, or white chocolate filling)
• Savoury macarons with dill, cream cheese, and salmon

I went to Paris to present at my first ever international conference, the 10th International Conference on Diffusion in Solids and Liquids DSL-2014. Seeing as this is a food blog, I won’t talk too much about the conference, but will focus on my various pâtisserie exploits of Paris! :) Originally, I was going alone, but then Ed suggested that perhaps he could come along. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out because our dates for various things clashed, which was a shame. :( But I thought “hey, why doesn’t my bro come?” He agreed, and so he came! I could have gone alone, as I’m always up for doing things alone, but this was just a little holiday (as we spent a few days extra in Paris after the conference), and doing things in the capital is always much more fun with a friend than alone.

The conference venue, Le Tapis Rouge, was absolutely stunning, and I felt so privileged to have been there. I did feel rather out of place at first, so I was pleased that I decided to dress up relatively smartly, although there were others there in jeans and white trainers! We even had amazing live instrumental music and delicious pâtisserie in our coffee breaks, such as madeleines, pains aux chocolates, and even macarons, along with various other hors d’oeuvres… yum! The conference itself was interesting, and I met two lovely fellow researchers, Özer who is a fellow PhD student from Turkey, and Igor who is a researcher from Russia with 43 publications, and spent the evening gala meal on the Wednesday with them and my brother.



Myself, Igor, Özer, and Tim, outside of Cathédrale Notre Dame :)

I was really quite disappointed with my presentation. It didn’t go nearly as well as it did in the practice runs, and I was way more nervous when I presented at the CRES conference last year in front of about five times more people, including Iain Stewart! I think the proximity of the audience (i.e. I was standing really close to the audience in Paris) and perhaps knowing that the speciality of the audience in Paris was closer to my field than the geologists at the CRES conference, but I still don’t understand why I got quite so nervous. Usually, I read quite a bit from a script that I have, because I know then that everything will go according to plan, and that’s always worked really well for me and I can still project my voice well. But this time I was just a nervous and jittering wreck. I also think I had too much content to get through in the allocated time… which was fine when I was confident in presenting, but then as soon as I lost confidence, everything went out the window! I didn’t run out of time, but next time I will reduce my content so that I can speak slower and more thoughtfully, but it’s difficult to know until you’ve run through the presentation under more nerve-wracking circumstances. I wanted to put in as much as possible, but there were some things I should have left out, even though it was nice to have them in… oh well. It was an experience, and I was quite down on myself for a few days afterwards. As long as I learn from it then it would have been worth it. I just feel so lucky to have had this experience, because if it wasn’t for Omya and Plymouth University, then I wouldn’t have gone to Paris.

So, naturally, being in the capital of France, one has to sample as many pastries and delicacies as possible. Tim and I went to LOTS of places, and I tried a few of the things I set out to try. On the first morning, we had an early morning breakfast at Du Pain et des Idées. I wanted to visit this bakery as I had heard (more like read on blogs) a few things about it. As we walked to Rue Yves Toudic, Tim pointed the bakery out saying “that looks like a really nice place,” and it turned out to be the place! Tim had a snail pastry with raspberry and cream cheese, and I had a pain au chocolat with banana. It was absolutely delicious, although I have to say that mine was slightly burnt on the bottom. Nevertheless, the layers inside were soft, the pastry was crisp on the outside and the flavour was amazing. Tim also made a really good choice with his pastry flavours, although I think that whatever we chose would have been great.

Later that day we went to Jacques Genin, who according to David Lebovitz, may be the makers of some of the best caramels in the world. On the first of our visits, we tasted seven of their beautiful chocolates: milk chocolate, grapefruit milk chocolate (couldn’t taste much difference to the natural), ginger milk chocolate (lovely combination of flavours!), dark chocolate, dark chocolate infused with tea (what type of tea I don’t know, but the flavour was extremely subtle if non-existent), raspberry dark chocolate (I found it quite “fragranced,” but Tim really liked this one), and basil dark chocolate (very distinctive, and probably my favourite one!). We also had a green and purple pâté de fruit (or “Posh fruit pastels”), and we think the green one was kiwi and the purple was blackcurrant. The flavours were really delicious; they must use real fruit extract. We bought a couple of fruit jellies for friends and families, and left.


The following day we decided to return, and had a dégustation of six caramels this time, along with a thick hot chocolate to share, which is just like the Spanish chocolate a la taza that I love so much, and a mille feuille vanilla. The caramel flavours we tried were mangue passion, natural, café, pistache de Sicile, noix de cajon and cassis. I’m not a massive fan of caramels but they were definitely of the variety to make me want to try and make my own some day! We bought some caramels as gifts for others, and cried as I handed over my debit card. The caramels are sold at 110 € /kg, and the pâtés de fruits at 90 € /kg…

The next morning we had breakfast at a the bakery Liberté; I really enjoyed the clean and modern look of this place, and seemed really busy yesterday lunch time when we walked past. We bought all sorts of things, such as a pistachio financier (with a possibly raspberry filling), a large madeleine, pain au chocolates, pain aux raisins (which is Tim’s favourite), a Viennese chocolate bread, and a large chocolate log. Unfortunately, the chocolate log bread actually seemed a little undercooked, as it was quite doughy in some parts, but the quality of their cakes and pastries made up for this tenfold! The only thing I would complain about is that there was nowhere I could get a British cuppa to wash it all down with!


Of course, we tried some nouvelle cuisine, which was delicious, and again, I wept as I handed over my debit card. But it was definitely a lovely treat and something I’m going to try and do myself at home! We went to L’Office and Chez Marie Louise, but this is all for another blog post. :) We also had an amazing falafel at L’As Du Fallafel, and delicious crepes at Crêperie Josselin, my two favourite hangout spots. Actually, I think L’Avant Comptoir was probably my favourite, and I made a special stop there just to try Le Beurre Bordier, or the Bordier Butter, that I’ve heard so much about. It took us a second glimpse to make sure we found the right spot, as the stand-up wine bar is a little hidden. The place smelt absolutely delicious and reminded me of the best Spanish tapas bars you could find, with cured meats in the background, wine glasses everywhere and their menu, with each of their different tapas, hanging on card from the ceiling. We each had a different glass of red wine, and ordered a portion of poitrine de porc caramélisée and a mini crème brulée; the only complaint I have is that there wasn’t enough. The pork was cooked to perfection, and the crème brulée was the best I’ve ever had, with a wonderfully caramelised top, yet not too caramelised (i.e. burnt), and a very smooth, creamy and rich pudding underneath. We also helped ourselves to baguette slices and Bordier butter… if I had the means to store the butter in our hotel rooms and carry it back, then I would have found some to buy to take back home. It was some of the creamiest butter I’ve ever had!

Of course, I visited Ladurée, and sampled six of their macarons: réglisse (liquorice; unfortunately we couldn’t taste any liquorice…), l’incroyable guimauve chocolat coco (chocolate and coconut “guimave;” the subtle taste of coconut was lovely), l’incroyable guimasse fraise bonbon (strawberry candy “guimave;” Tim really like this one!), caramel fleur de sel (salted caramel; by far my favourite, as the combination of salt and caramel is always a winner!), fleur d’orange (orange blossom; couldn’t taste any orange, but I guess orange blossom doesn’t taste of orange! It sounded intriguing, though), and menthe glaciale (iced mint; a seasonal flavour, and was nice, although not my favourite macaron flavour). We were quite lucky with queuing in this store, because I walked in when there were only a few others in there at the counter; after I arrived, suddenly a flurry of other people did, too! I would loved to have stopped off in their café for some tea and pastries, but we decided that we already had enough that day!



I also tried to visit Pierre Hermé, but unfortunately the queue was so large that it backed out into the street, and people were shielding themselves from the rain using their umbrellas. I had already dragged Tim around many pastry shops and things that day, so we decided not to queue, especially seeing as we were to have macarons from Ladurée, anyway. However, I’m by no means an expert in the art of pâtisserie, but I must say that going by other people’s reviews that the photos I’ve seen, I am slightly tipping to the side of preferring Pierre Hermé’s macarons over Ladurées. This is because the macarons from Ladurée usually have a shell that’s not as dome-shaped as Pierre Hermé’s, and their feet seem to protrude over the edges. Either way, I’m sure they both taste equally as great, and Ladurée do claim to be the creators of the first ever modern day macaron that we enjoy today. Tim also said that mine tasted just as good as Ladurée’s and so to me, that was a great compliment! Thanks, bro! :)

And finally, we visited Sadaharu Aoki, which is probably my favourite pâtisserie that I’ve found in life so far! We bought a bamboo, which is layers of biscuit joconde, crème au thé vert, ganache au chocolat noir, punch au thé vert (altering layers of matcha-infused buttercream, dark chocolate ganache, and biscuit sponge). I was tempted to go for matcha-adzuki, as it combined traditional Japanese flavours like matcha and ankou (red bean paste). But I love the combination of matcha and dark chocolate, which is also what prompted me to use this combination for this macaron recipe that I’ve posted. We also bought a tarte caramel salé, one of the most sought after pastries in Paris. They were both absolutely delicious, but as Tim said, nothing that I couldn’t make myself. Of course, I took this as a large compliment, and so my next baking mission is to make a lovely little entremet, that I will try and develop my own recipe for, and also a chocolate caramel tart, as there is a recipe I can follow for that here. These are the sorts of things I’d make for dinner parties, perhaps a trio of desserts, being macarons, a tart of some sort, and a joconde or opera entremet.



Macarons, in actual fact, are definitely better up to three days after they’ve been made (three days is what Ladurée recommends!). This is because the flavour from the ganache has its chance to impart itself into the macaron shell via osmosis. I find that macarons are nice when they’re fresh, nicest after a few days, and then after that they shell gets a little soggy; the flavours are there but the shell doesn’t have that crispness to it on the outside anymore. I remember biting into my first ever batch of chocolate macarons after a few days left to “marinade” in the fridge, and the flavour was so rich; much better than I had ever imagined!

I struggled deciding what filling to put inbetween green tea/match macarons; I love the visual impact pink and green has, because it stands out right away, yet they complement each other quite naturally, I find. So I decided to make a pink buttercream of raspberry and strawberries. Now, I absolutely love buttercream, but I found that it just didn’t complement the macaron that nicely, because it’s just too sweet. Cover a birthday cake in it, why not? But I don’t think it was meant for macarons, not this one at least. I also wanted to use typical Japanese flavours, such as wasabi and ankou (red bean). But the wasabi would have also been green, and I wanted to try and make a contrast of colours, but the ankou filling I made was too runny, unless I added lots of icing sugar, in which case it would have been a buttercream, which I didn’t quite want. So I decided to go for a rich classic ganache combo that I really love: green tea and dark chocolate.



Matcha and dark chocolate just go really well together; fact! That’s what made me choose the Sadaharu Aoki’s bamboo entremets over all of the others; because it had Japanese flavours that just meld really well with typical Western ones. I went really upmarket and used Tesco Finest dark chocolate in my ganache, and I had a choice of two flavours: Tesco Finest Peruvian 70% dark chocolate, single origin, fruity with subtle red berry notes and Tesco Finest Ecuadorian 74% dark chocolate, single origin, floral & spicy with subtle notes of green tea. I certainly preferred the latter; it was rich, dark and spicy, and really went well with the macaron shell. The other flavour was just too sweet and perfume-y for me. Here’s some more blub regarding the Ecuadorian chocolate (it sounds delicious!):

“Made with cocoa beans from plantations in Esmeraldas, Los Rios and Manabi in Ecuador. A slight hint of coconut aroma contrasts with the rich earthy tones of this Ecuadorian bar. The initial flavour of molasses is followed by notes of green tea, with a depth of gentle woody spices to finish.”

I also really struggled with what to decorate the macarons with. I would liked to have done so with a chocolate “paint” or a cocoa powder dusting, but decided to settle with a matcha paint and a sprinkling of broken sencha leaves from a teabag. The paint was a little too translucent, and when it dried it didn’t have the effect I was hoping for. I also didn’t have a brush so it was difficult to get the desired design, too.

To make the macarons, I decided to go for the chocolate macaron recipe, as it’s one of my favourites and has worked really well for me each time I’ve tried it. But perhaps the cocoa powder stabilises it in a different way to the matcha, or was it simply my technique this time wasn’t good enough? I think that I knocked too much air out of the batter during the macaronage phase, or perhaps I simply didn’t stiffen the peaks enough, because after the hour of waiting, the piped macaron batter had flattened almost entirely. And also, at 45 minutes, the tops weren’t sticky to the touch before baking as is the case with the chocolate macarons. This is the ratio of ingredients that I used(which yielded 10 shells, although 3 of them were green, oddly shaped, and undercooked, so fell apart…):

• 35g egg whites
• 40g ground almonds
• 67 g icing sugar
• 11g granulated sugar
• 1 tsp matcha

Ratios:
• Eggs: 1
• Almond: 1.14
• Sugar: 2.23; icing: 1.91; granulated: 0.31

I also put these macarons on the top shelf of my oven (top shelf out of three shelves in oven) and then some in the lower third portion. The ones on top rose nicely, but browned; that made me REALLY disappointed because they looked perfect except for their colour! I also think that rotating the pans, even if you think it’s unnecessary, to ensure an even rise of the foot, because you don’t know if there are hotspots in your oven or not. And the ones on the lower shelf didn’t rise enough because the top macarons were shielding them (do not use a fan assisted oven… so I used top-bottom heat!). Luckily I could practice this a few times because we make such small batches of macarons at a time! It’s a bit fiddly, but it’s worth it, I think. Patience is definitely the key, because I can only cook one tray at a time in the lower third of my oven for (almost?) perfect macarons! So, I put the lower macarons in the top shelf for a few extra minutes, and they then rose spectacularly, but collapsed with an uneven foot as soon as I took them out of the oven and sank unevenly (wish I had a photo of when they immediately came out of the oven!). Perhaps this is also a sign of them not being in the oven for long enough? Here, it says that if the tops don’t move from the feet when nudged, they’re done. I don’t know if they were done or not but I’ll test next time!

The next recipe I decided to try was adapted from Not So Humble Pie, and I think was successful, because I had to make my sugar ratio a little higher:

• 100g egg whites
• 120g almonds
• 200g icing sugar
• 30-35g granulated sugar

Ratios:
• Egg white: 1
• Almonds: 1.2
• Sugar: 2.3-2.35; icing sugar: 2, granulated: 0.3-0.35

I followed the same recipe as for the chocolate macarons, but I whipped the egg whites for longer and don’t think I “knocked” as much air out as previously.

I left them on the side for an hour and still thought that they were slightly “tacky” to touch, but put them in the oven anyway and they came out really well! I did pipe very small shells, as they do spread out a lot more than you think! I did this by drawing a small circle on the underside of the baking parchment with marker pen, using a cork from a wine bottle as the template, and I would make sure that my piped (*ahem* dolloped) macaron batter was within that small circle, so ideally they would all spread out to the same degree. They spread out perfectly and the “feet” were even! For me, the best results for even feet came from baking my macaron shells on the underside of a roasting dish that I have in the lower third of the oven (so that they don’t brown!). The ones on the circular pizza dish I rotated every 5-10 minutes to ensure that they feet were even, yet on the roasting dish I didn’t have to… I think I’ve found my method! :)

According to Evan’s Kitchen Ramblings, having to leave the macaron shells on the side to “dry” before being put in the oven is a myth, and that not leaving them to dry works for her (and in Singapore the humidity is 60-100% every day!). I have to say that I’m a little scared of having cracked shells and no feet, and so I always have left them to “dry” before baking them as I’ve had those aforementioned baking disasters before. But it must have been other factors that contributed to those things, but perhaps drying them can be my own macaron ritual! ;)

I think I tried to fool myself into thinking that these were healthy; made with eggs and almonds, and infused with green tea! But then of course there’s the icing sugar in the shell, the granulated sugar in the shell, and the chocolate! I suppose that cream and butter in the ganache are healthy, though, but not the amount of sugar in the buttercreams. :) I would love to try and make paleo macarons someday and see how well they come out!

Anyway, onto the recipe! I tried to be all posh and that by putting the name in French, as if they were part of my own pâtisserie shop (one can dream, can’t they?), but I came up with all sorts of combinations for names in French… I’m not sure which is correct, and I should probably ask Ed (especially seeing as I took some all the way up to Aberdeen when I saw him there!):

• Macarons à la thé vert avec ganache au chocolat noir ou de la crème au beurre de haricots rouges et fraise.
• Crème au beurre de haricots rouges et fraise.
• Macarons au thé vert avec ganache au chocolat noir ou crème au beurre aux haricots rouges et fraise.
• Macarons à la thé matcha et crème à la haricots rouges.
• Macarons à la thé matcha et la crème de haricots rouges.
• ???

Macaron Délicat à la Thé Vert
Kung Fu Café and Not So Humble Pie
Makes 8-12 shells (4-6 macarons)

Ingredients
For the matcha shells:
• 43g ground almonds
• 67g icing sugar
• 1 tbsp matcha
• 35g egg whites
• 15g granulated sugar

For the dark chocolate ganache:
• 100g dark chocolate
• 100g double cream
• 35g butter

To decorate:
• cocoa powder
• matcha
• sencha leaves
• cocoa powder or matcha “paint”

Preparation
For the macaron shells:
Add a splash of lemon juice to a very clean bowl together with the egg whites. Whisk for about 30-60 seconds until very frothy. Sprinkle in the granulated sugar, and continue to whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form (the kind where you can hold the bowl upside down over your head!).

Then sieve in the icing sugar, matcha and ground almonds together over the egg white peaks. Now, this is the part some people refer to as “macaronage” (i.e. macaron-ing). Use a wooden spoon or pastry scraper to knock the air out of the batter. Use the spoon to scoop the batter around the outer edges of the interior of the bowl and then almost scrape the batter down the middle of the bowl in a zig-zag pattern until the final consistency is similar to that of magma. A useful video to watch can be found here.

A test to see if the batter is of the appropriate magma-like consistency is to take a clean plate, and dollop a spoonful in the middle. If the peak slowly disappears into itself, then the batter is ready. If it’s still visible after about 30 seconds or so, then it needs some more air knocking out! If the batter is too runny, then you’ve over mixed!

Prepare a heavy-duty baking sheet with baking parchment. Spoon the batter into your piping bag (or icing syringe, etc.), and dollop macarons onto the parchment paper, leaving at least an inch worth of space between each shell. This depends entirely on how large you want your macarons.

Bash the tray on the surface of the worktop 4 times, rotating each time. This forces air bubbles in the macaron batter to rise to the top. Use a toothpick to pop any large ones. Leave the macarons on the side for an hour to air dry, so that they’re not sticky or tacky to a light touch.

Preheat the oven to 155◦C, ensuring that you do not use fan assist. Pop the tray into the lower third of the oven for 16-18 minutes.

Leave to cool completely before peeling the shells off the parchment.

For the dark chocolate ganache:
Melt the butter and chocolate over a very low heat until melted and combined. Remove from the heat, pour in the cream, homogenise well and pop in the fridge until thick enough to pipe. Before piping, leave the bowl out of the fridge for a while to bring the ganache up to room temperature.

Assembly:
Fill an icing syringe or piping bag with the ganache, and pipe some around a macaron shell leaving about a mm of edge, working your way into the centre. Then, very gently pop the other macaron shell on top, and press VERY lightly to make the ganache pop out and spread to the edges of the shell but no farther, and so that there’s a smooth, unblemished edge around the ganache. Be very careful not to crack and break the shells with your fingers.

Pop in the fridge for anywhere between 2-5 days before taking out of the fridge to bring it up to room temperature before devouring. :D

Shells baked: 16.03.2014
Shells filled: 17.03.2014

Du Pain et des Idées
34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010 Paris, France
Website

Jacques Genin, Fondeur en Chocolat
133 Rue de Turenne, 75003, Paris, France
Website

Ladurée
21 Rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris, France
Website

L’Avant Comptoir
3 Carrefour de l’Odéon, 75006 Paris, France
Website

Liberté
39 Rue des Vinaigriers, 75010, Paris, France
Website

Pierre Hermé
72 Rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris, France
Website

Sadaharu Aoki
35 Rue de Vaugirard, 75006 Paris, France
Website

References
[1] Uncovering the secrets of tea, Chemistry World, January 2013, Page 31.
[2] Disler, P. B., Lynch, S. R., Charlton, R. W., Torrance, J. D., Bothwell, T. H., Walker, R. B. & Mayet, F. (1975) ‘The effect of tea on iron absorption’. Gut, 16 (3). pp 193-200.

Happy 20th Birthday to My (Not So) Little Brother (and Happy Father’s Day!) | Simple Chocolate Cake with a Peanut Butter Filling



Happy 20th birthday, Tim

The above Polaroid is my brother celebrating his 10th birthday in our family home. Yesterday, he turned 20, and I can’t believe where the time has gone.



Yesterday, he also got back from the Isle of Wight; it was a two-week trip he had to undertake as part of his geology and ocean science degree. The unusual thing about it, is that it was out of term time… Tim’s degree is actually really full on, and he’s only just finished his second year. Just before he started this academic year, he had to take a field trip to Spain for two weeks before term time. He also gets a LOT of work during the year (I should know, because I’ve been there helping him when the chips were low!), and with his dyslexia and dysphraxia, I really don’t think Tim could have done any better. :) We’re so proud of him and he’s come a long way! I think that calls for a celebration in itself. :)


I looked through Tim’s photos, hoping there would be some nice ones, and it was a typical “feldspar jockey’s” (thanks, Sheldon Cooper, for the diminutive :) ) camera… nothing but photos of rocks! Rocks, rocks, and more rocks! Oh, there were three photos of the above fish n’ chip meal, and two photos of the above Isle of Wight landscape, which looks beautiful. Other than that, it was all rocks… Considering how hot it was, I was expecting more photos of the scenery! The photos below show how much of a tan he got from two weeks of collecting samples… looks like he went abroad on a lad’s holiday or something; but no, it is possible to get that tanned in the UK! :D

I decided to make this recipe because it’s simple. I usually try and make more extravagant, interesting and bigger cakes than a simple chocolate one, but this time is a little different; Tim’s just got back from the Isle of Wight as part of a trip for his geology degree, and I know he will be moaning about not having eaten well while away… so rather than make a large cake, we have a smaller one simply for celebration purposes.

I would loved to have made a cake from oats and peanut butter, because it’s the typical bodybuilding food and would go well with his exercising theme… perhaps for the next special occasion, just in case it doesn’t turn out nicely! For his next birthday, though, I’m going to make a superhero themed cake! :)

Unfortunately, this cake wasn’t flat on top after it had been baked, and it was on the website from where I got the recipe. It didn’t even rise evenly, but I still think it looked nice! I think that if I had baked it at a lower temperature, like this chocolate cake, then it may not have risen and would have had a flat top! I’ll have to experiment in the future for when I make the superhero cakes! :)

Mum said that she really enjoyed the cake, and I was a little worried, because I know she doesn’t like chocolate cakes; she always says that they’re too dry, and I do agree with this sentiment. However, she said that this was the best chocolate cake she has ever had, and that it even topped this one that she liked a lot! She said that the peanut butter really set off the cake, and there was just the right amount; not too much and not too little. It reminded us of a Reese’s peanut butter cup! :) And I also feel that the ganache/fudge icing really helped to moisten the cake, too! It was lovely, and definitely something I’d make again. Just make sure you mix all of the baking powder and soda in thoroughly; I accidentally got a clump in one slice, and trust me, it doesn’t taste very nicely!



He’s always been my best friend. :)





Oh, and of course, happy Father’s Day, dad. :)

Simple Chocolate Cake with a Peanut Butter Filling
Adapted from: King Arthur Flour
Makes a one-tier 20 cm cake

Ingredients
For the chocolate cake:
• ⅔ cup granulated sugar
• 1 cup plain/all-purpose flour, sifted
• 1 tbsp cornstarch, sifted
• ⅓ cup cocoa powder, sifted
• 1 tsp baking powder, sifted
• ½ tsp baking soda, sifted
• 1 tsp instant coffee granules
• ½ tsp salt
• 2 x eggs
• ⅓ cup coconut oil, melted
• 1 tsp vanilla
• ½ cup + 2 tbsp water

For the peanut butter filling:
• ¾ cups peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
• 1 ½ cups icing sugar, sifted
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• ⅓ cup double cream

For the chocolate ganache:
• 1 cup chocolate (I used a combination of dark and milk chocolate, as mum’s not too keen on the dark, bitter stuff)
• 7 tbsps of double cream

For decoration:
• roasted and salted peanuts

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 175°C. In a large bowl, add the sugar, flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, coffee granules and salt. Then add the eggs, oil, vanilla and water, and beat until smooth and homogenised. Pour into one 20 cm cake tin (lined with baking parchment if not silicon), and bake for about 35 minutes, or until a skewer or knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan.

To make the filling, simple beat all of the ingredients together until homogenised. When the cake is cool, carefully slice it in half and generously spread the filling over the cake, and assemble.

For the chocolate ganache, simply melt the chocolate with the cream over a very low heat. Leave to cool until it’s a spreadable consistency (i.e. not too runny), and cover the cake. Decorate with the peanuts, and put in the fridge to set.

Baked: 11.06.2014

A Planned Spontaneous Weekend | Chive and Cheddar Scones



There’s nothing like a warm, fresh, chive and cheese scone with a little goat’s butter for breakfast whilst watching the beautiful woodland life right in your back garden. :)

What a lovely weekend I’ve had, embracing the English summertime weather! It was certainly a weekend planned in advance, but everything was pretty spontaneous, as it completely depended on what the weather was doing, as is usually the case when planning what to do in the UK. Ed suggested that we could go surfing, but I said I wasn’t really up for it. I mean, I’m a complete novice and have really enjoyed surfing the few times I’ve been, and call me lazy, but I just can’t be bothered to get wet… I find that I stay cold for hours after (unless it’s a particularly hot day), can’t be bothered with wet and salty hair, and my skin dries out and eczema flares up.

The top left picture is the ledge off of which the boys were tombstoning/jumping… dangerous!

Anyway, the past few weeks I’ve managed to get a lot of work done, except for last week… I was procrastinating making my presentation for Paris in less than a few weeks, and preparing for Ed’s visit (by making a lovely paleo cheesecake and non-paleo bread!). But you only live once, and I’m sure that I’ll make up my slack last week once I’m back from the conference. And it’s all part and parcel of living and doing a PhD anyway! Speaking of living, I’m going through a phase with Crossfit in that I don’t really care how well I do anymore.; my perspective has completely shifted and it’s actually rather liberating. I mean, I’m still going to train, and hope that my hunger comes back for it soon, but it’s just a hobby! And even if I don’t progress as fast as others, who cares?! My family still love me, and I’m pretty sure that Ed wouldn’t think any less of me based on that. I also have a lot of other hobbies and aspects about myself as a person; Crossfit is just one of them and it doesn’t define who I am. I’ve been telling myself this for a while but it’s only recently I’ve actually felt it. And it feels great! :)

Anyway, Ed came to visit and we actually did a lot over the weekend! I was treated to a lovely Japanese meal (one of my favourite cuisines!) and then we just went for a walk around Plymouth. Although Ed used to study at the same university as me, he’d never seen where I do my work! So I showed him the office and some of the labs, and then continued along the Hoe. It was such a lovely day that we decided to jump into Tinside Lido! It looked so inviting and cool… and it was ABSOLUTELY FREEZING! The sun was quite hot and the breeze cool, but after one dip in the water I couldn’t stay in there for longer than about 30 seconds! So I just spent the rest of the time sunbathing. I did feel like a proper tourist and felt far removed from Plymouth! :)


The lido water looked soooooo inviting, but was freezing!!!

It seems that we chose the right day to go sunbathing and swimming, because it rained on the following day (even though it started quite warm and sunny!). We visited the old Victorian Hazelwood House (home of the Peek family), and things had certainly grown since last time! We went for a walk around the grounds before settling down for some tea, and it was at that time it decided to rain. It was so beautiful though; no one else was around and it was so typically British. I would absolutely love to stay for a weekend in a place like this; although I would love the weather to be warm and sunny (it would make splashing in the stream a lot more enjoyable!), I think that even if the weather was raining, it’d still be a charming place to stay and be cosy. They have beehives, beautiful scenery, and lovely scones and cream teas. What more could one want? :)



The foliage sure had grown since our last visit a few weeks ago… look at the size of these leaves compared to Ed!!!

On the way back we decided to visit a pet shop called Sign of the Owl and it is full of all sorts of birds and animals. I loved the chicken varieties and the ducklings, too! I’d visited before where my dad had a large bird on his shoulder (got a cracking photo of that!) and my mum had another cute little bird pecking at her shoes laces. I would also do anything to buy some chicks and ducklings and keep them as my own! Sooooo cute!!!


My dad with a parrot on his shoulder at Sign of the Owl Bird Pets Centre, and the other bird pecking at my mum’s shoes! May 2008.

We also stopped off at my parent’s house; dad was away working and Tim was away with the uni, so mum made us welcome. My parents have also had a cute little bunny take up residence in their back garden, and makes an appearance several times a day. Unfortunately, it didn’t show itself when Ed was there. But it’s so adorable and when I returned with a different lens I managed to snap some pictures of it! :) We named him “Bunny;” how original, hee hee! We put out some carrot for him and he took forever to find it! We’ve now left him a bowl of fruit (lettuce, cucumber, cherries and a few other things), yet he still hasn’t found it yet!


Anyway, when Ed left, I decided to make some scones as a way to show how much I appreciate how much I love the British countryside (apart from the hayfever…) and for my family to munch on. I should have made these scones a little thicker and smaller so they rose upwards a little more; I suppose that’s because I used a small plastic bowl (my mum bought some delicious Christmas puddings from a friend last Christmas) rather than a biscuit cutter, and so it squashed the edges a bit, and my scones were more like buns. But that’s ok, they were still delicious! Especially when warm and fresh out of the oven, smothered in butter! It’s also a lovely dough to work with; it’s not sticky at all, and I just kneaded it in the bowl so there was no mess on my kitchen worktop. I think that when they’ve cooled, they’d be a great alternative to sandwiches with some cured hams and lettuce. Yum, yum, yum!

Tuesday’s WOD @ CFP with Samantha:
5 x 5 deadlifts, 2-3 mins rest between sets

5 x 5 back squat, 2 sec pause at bottom, 2-3 mins rest between sets

6 x hill sprints, jog back down, and at the bottom do 10 tricep dips and 5 tuck jumps

Chive and Cheddar Cheese Scones
Little Spice Jar
Made 11 scones, 2.5″ in diameter

Ingredients
• 2 cups all purpose flour
• 2 tsps sugar
• 2 tsps baking powder
• ½ tsp baking soda
• 1 ½ tsps garlic, crushed
• 1 tsp salt
• ½ tsp pepper
• ½ cup butter, melted
• 1 x egg
• 2 tbsps water
• ½ cup sour cream
• 30g fresh chives, chopped
• 1 ½ cups mature cheddar, grated
• 1 x egg, beated, for brushing

Preparation
In a large mixing bowl, sieve in the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add in the sugar, garlic, salt, and pepper.

In a separate, smaller bowl, crack in the egg, add the sour cream and 2 tbsps of water. Whisk until combined. Add to the flour mixture and combine. Add in the butter, chives and cheddar, and mix well until combined.

When you can’t mix well anymore, knead with your hands a few times until it all comes together. Preheat the oven to 205°C.

Line a tray with baking parchment. Roll the dough out on a separate surface, or press it out flat, until the dough is about 1 inch in thickness. Cut using a cookie/biscuit cutter and place on the baking parchment. Crack an egg in a cup and beat. Use a pastry brush to brush the egg over each scone. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Pop into the oven for 16-20 minutes. These are best served warm with slathering of goat’s butter. :)

Baked: 08.06.2013 on a beautiful day, in many different ways :)

Divided We Fall 2014 | Mum’s Pecan Pie

According to the recipe in this cookbook, this pecan pie is “a classic American version of our own old-fashioned treacle tart.” It was a lovely surprise! The weather this past week has been absolutely spectacular and this weekend my brother and I have escaped to our country manor (a.k.a. our parent’s house) for some great company and good grub. :D

We went for a a lovely walk around the last castle built in England: Castle Drogo, built in 1911. The weather was a lot more overcast than in Plymouth (which makes a change!), and unfortunately I forgot my DSLR. The hot chocolates were really good; not sweet at all! And sitting outside in the beautifully well kept gardens was lovely for the soul. Next time we go we’ll take a picnic and my camera, as the valley and rolling hills were absolutely stunning, especially when bathed in sunlight. The only downside to the beautiful weather was that my hayfever played up a bit this weekend. But no matter; it’s still beautiful around here and as the days go by the more I’m pleased that I decided to do my undergraduate and PhD here, in the South West of England; close to my beloved family <3 .

Last weekend, we (team Chocolate Thunder) went and competed at the Divided We Fall games to compete with 99 other teams. Some of the photos on this page are from RX’d Photography. Another person from out box went up to volunteer as a helper for the weekend, and he was awesome! Such a supportive teammate :) I learnt a lot during this weekend. I learnt a lot from this weekend.


WOD 1 felt pretty good; it was definitely nerve wracking, but at the same time I also felt as ease, because we already did this one before (it was one of the qualifying WODs; hence why it was called “repeat”) I knew that we just had to do it again! The last 100 wall balls between Samantha and I sucked; I just wanted to take a break for a few seconds but knew I couldn’t! We did better than I thought we would: we came 26th for this WOD! Although still way off of the times of the top teams (they did it in 22 minutes or something like that!).

REPEAT
For Time 600 Wallball 20/14LB
EMOM 30 DU

NOTES
All 4 athletes will complete this workout.
2 Male athletes start:
300 Wallball 20LB
EMOM 30 DU
Once the male athletes complete 300 Wallball the female athletes begin immediately the clock does not stop or reset.

2 Female athletes continue:

300 Wallball 14LB
EMOM 30 DU
One athlete working at a time partition reps for Wallball and DU as needed
The Wallball cannot be continued until all 30 DU reps have been completed. If the DU are not completed when the next minute begins another 30 DU are added. Athletes may have the skipping rope in their hands but cannot begin until the start of each minute.
STANDARDS

Wallball: The wallball shot, the medicine ball must be taken from the bottom of a squat, hip crease below knee, and thrown to hit the target. If the ball hits low or does not hit the target, it is a no rep. If the ball is not caught between reps, it must come to a full stop on the ground. Catching the ball bouncing off the floor is not permitted. Athletes can switch after the ball has hit the target while the ball is in the air provided the standards mentioned are achieved.
Double Unders This is a standard double-under in which the rope passes twice for each jump. Only successful jumps are counted, not just attempts.


WOD 14.1: Repeat

Samantha and Luke did WOD 2; and they did really well :) What more can I say? :D

UNBROKEN
In a 9 Min Window
Establish an Unbroken GTOH
9 – 6 – 3 rep max

NOTES

2 athletes are needed – 1 Male 1 Female
In minute 0-3
9 Rep Max Unbroken GTOH.
In minute 3-6
6 Rep Max Unbroken GTOH.
In minute 6-9
3 Rep Max Unbroken GTOH.

1 athlete lifts at a time. The remaining team mate can help load / deload when not lifting. The athlete must call out the load to the judge before attempting the lift and collars must be used.
The athletes can decide how many attempts each athlete has in each time window. If a Rep Max is not achieved in a given time window a score of 0KG will be recorded.
Example: Male athlete fails to get a unbroken 6RM during minutes 3-6 scoring 0kg but the female athlete achieves an unbroken 6RM of 50kg the score for that section is 50kg (0+50kg).
The scores for both athletes and all 3 sections are added together for a total score.

STANDARDS

GTOH The barbell is taken from the floor and finishes with hips the knees fully extended, feet under hips showing control with elbows in front of the bar. The athlete may use a Power Clean, Squat Clean, Muscle Clean or Split Clean.
Once the barbell is on the shoulders it must finish with the weight fully locked out overhead. A shoulder press, push press, push jerk or split jerk may be used, as long as the elbow, shoulder, hips and knees fully extend, and the bar finishes directly over the heels with the feet inside shoulder width. If a split jerk is used, the feet must be brought back together with the hips, knees and elbows fully extended before the repetition is completed.
All reps must be touch and go. Resting overhead is allowed. Resting at the hang or rack is also allowed. The bar cannot be rested across the thighs.
Updated standards video:


WOD 14.2: Unbroken

Simon and I did WOD 3, and this was the one I was the most nervous about. I know Simon’s knee was painful, so he was nervous for that. But I had no excuse other than I’m rubbish at pistols. I can pistol on my right leg, but my left leg has always been hit and miss. I wore oly lifting shoes but the heel elevation just isn’t high enough (when I do happen to do pistols at the box I always put my heels on a 2.5 kg plate, and that works just fine). I also think that I took too long to hold my foot and set myself. Such time wasting! But oh well, it definitely was a weak point of mine. I also struggled with the chest to bar… if it was pull ups, I could have done them quite well (as I can do pull ups while hanging from the bar with only my fingers), but chest to bar requires me to have more of a grip, and I found that my hands kept slipping off of the bar! I think it was just too slick, and I guess my hands were sweating more than usual, too. All in all, this WOD didn’t highlight my strong movements, and was the one I was the most nervous about. Oh well. I was so disappointed with this and after this WOD my morale was at rock bottom. As you can see, this really made up drop a lot of places.
CLAY
10 Min AMRAP
12 Burpees
8 Pistols
6 CTB Pull Ups

NOTES

2 athletes are needed – 1 Male 1 Female they cannot be the same athletes from 14.2 UNBROKEN
1 athlete works at a time and must complete a full round before next athlete can begin. Athletes completing a round must “high 5” at the end of a round before the new athlete begins.
Score is total reps.
STANDARDS

Burpees – Each burpee must be performed so that chest and thighs touch the ground at the bottom. There is no requirement for how they stand up. At the top the athlete must jump so that feet leave the floor, the hip is fully extended and the athletes hands are clapped behind their head.
Pistols (One Legged Squats) – Athletes must alternate legs for each repetition. If at any point they cannot complete a repetition on a leg, they cannot alternate legs until a repetition has been completed on that leg. The one-legged squat begins with the athlete standing and the hip fully open with the knee fully locked out on the squatting leg. The hip must pass below parallel at the bottom of the repetition, and the opposite foot (non-supporting leg) cannot touch the ground until the repetition is completed with control. The non-supporting foot must be in front of the supporting foot during the entire repetition. You may hold the foot of the opposite (non-supporting) leg with your hand while performing the one-legged squat.
CTB Pull Up – This is a standard chest-to-bar pull-up. Dead hang, kipping or butterfly pull-ups are allowed, as long as all the requirements are met. The arms must be fully extended at the bottom. At the top, the chest must clearly come into contact with the bar into contact with the bar below the collarbone.


WOD 14.3: Clay

I was also dreading WOD 4, because I know my deadlifts are bad and doing that many overhead squats at a heavy-ish weight (38-39 kg) is not pleasant. Samantha went first out of Samantha and I, and I think she struggled with this one. Perhaps she was fatigued from the previous WOD and I know she was having shoulder pain. I took over her last 9 overhead squats, and had I have known earlier that I could have swapped with her at any time (once we swapped, though, we couldn’t swap back), I think it would have been best to have just done 7 minutes each. Oh well! I’m pleased with how well I did in the last few minutes I had to do. It was certainly a boost for me after the previous WOD!

ANARCHY
FOR TIME
21-15-9
DEADLIFT 225/155LBS
OVERHEAD SQUAT 135/85LBS
NOTES
All 4 athletes will complete this workout.
1 Male and 1 Female athlete will be working at the same time. Athletes will have a bar each but will need to change the load at the completion of each Deadlift set 225lbs to 135lbs for Men and 155lbs to 85lbs for Women. Then again at the completion of each Overhead squat set. 135lbs back to 225lbs for Men and 85lbs to 155lbs for Women. The resting athletes cannot help with changes. Collars must also be added.
Once the first Male athlete completes the 21-15-9 the next male may begin. Once the first Female athlete completes the 21-15-9 the next Female may begin. Time is called when the last athlete finishes.
There is a 15min cap for this workout and each uncompleted rep will incur a penalty.
STANDARDS
Deadlift – This is a traditional deadlift with the hands outside the knees. Sumo-deadlifts are not allowed. Starting at the floor, the barbell is lifted until hips and knees reach full extension with the shoulders behind the bar. The arms must be straight throughout.
Overhead Squat – The hip crease must be below the top of the knee at the bottom. A full squat snatch is permitted, but not required, to start the movement if standard depth is achieved. The barbell must come to full lockout overhead with the hips, knees and arms fully extended, and the bar directly over the middle of the body.


WOD 14.4: Anarchy

I believe that we were supposed to do WOD 5 on day 1. But as the event ran way over time we did it first thing on day 2. I was nervous for this one, but it turned out to be one of my best WODs. The guys’ morale was really quite low on day 2. Luke was knackered and Simon nearly broke his thumb when power cleaning, and as a result I think he struggled with them. When Samantha and I jumped in we really did quite well and I think this definitely would have been our WOD!

GUN RUNNER
For Time:
42-30-18
Clean 185/135lbs
Burpee Box Over Jumps 30/24in

NOTES
All 4 athletes will complete this workout.
Male athletes go first and can break the work up as needed – only one works at a time. Once they complete the clock does not stop or reset and the females go. When performing the burpee box jump if alternating the athlete cannot begin the burpee until both of the previous athletes feet have hit the ground after the box over jump.
There is a 20min cap for this workout and each uncompleted rep will incur a penalty.

STANDARDS
Clean – The barbell is taken from the floor and finishes with hips the knees fully extended, feet under hips showing control with elbows in front of the bar. The athlete may use a Power Clean or Squat Clean.
Burpee Box Over Jump – The bottom of the burpee has the athlete face down with the chest and thighs touching the ground. There is no requirement for how they stand up. The athlete must face the box and jump over the box to the other side. The jump must be a two-footed jump. Landing on top of the box is allowed, but not required. Each rep, including the final rep, is complete once the athlete has jumped over the box.


WOD 14.5: Gun Runner

WOD 6 was a simple WOD. Unfortunately, the morale was so low at this point! Simon was frustrated because he couldn’t snatch with the state of his thumb, and that cause a little ruckus. But I was pleased with how I did! I got 47.5 kg (105 lbs) and did 1 hang snatch at 115 lbs (52.5 kg) and failed on the 2nd. I think I could have done the 3 had I have been calm enough and there was enough time; that 10 minutes between 4 people goes REALLY quickly! There’s a picture of me snatching at the bottom of this page, and for some reason the mobility in my legs looks a little worse/shaky than usual. I’m going to attribute that to the ache in my quads from the pistols adn 300 wall balls the day before!

ABEL
In a 10 minute Window
Establish a team total 3 RM Hang Squat Snatch
NOTES
All 4 athletes will complete this workout.
Each athlete will have as many attempts as they wish to establish their heaviest 3-rep hang squat snatch. The workout will begin with an empty barbell and a stack of plates. It will be the team’s responsibility to load the bar for each lift and declare the weight to the judge prior to lifting. The score with be the total of each athletes heaviest 3 rep hang squat snatch.
STANDARDS
This movement begins with the athlete deadlifting the barbell and stopping at this position prior to snatching. The athlete may not lower the bar past the knees after deadlifting the weight. The barbell must be received in the overhead squat position. A power snatch followed by an overhead squat will not be permitted. Only the feet may touch the ground during the lift.
Resting overhead is allowed. Resting at the hang is allowed but the bar cannot be supported by any part of the body.


WOD 14.6: Abel

I think everyone was pleased that this was the last WOD! I was at the point where I felt like the group’s morale was so low that I just wanted to go home. Samantha did so well with the rowing (she rows better than most guys!), as did Luke and Simon. I was to roe 500 m and only rowed about 300 m (maybe less?)… I got down to a 1:37 m /500 m split, but only for about 100 m. My quads then cramped and I had to get off the rower as I slowed right down to 1:55! This has highlighted how much I need to learn to push with my glutes, and then have the “quick hands” with the pull into the rest, as Samantha says. When Luke got on after me, he was surprised how little he had rowed… then realised that was because I didn’t row the 500 m! Samantha got on to finish the last 750 m or so. There was a point where she got so tired and stopped, and she had less than 100 m to row! We were shouting at her to switch, but then realised that she may as well continue. Unfortunately, in those few seconds, the team next to us (an awesome team from CrossFit Cumbria that we spoke to for the whole event!) beat us by a second! It goes to show high tight competition is! And how important planning is and knowing your strengths and weaknesses are. The placings were separated by only seconds. But after this, I felt so bad, especially in combination with doing badly on the pistol WOD.

SAMCRO
Row 3km For Time:
NOTES
All 4 athletes will complete this workout.
Teams can break the work up in any order
There is a 15min cap for this workout and each metre not rowed will incur a penalty.
STANDARDS
Row – Final Athlete must remain on the rower until the display reads greater than 3000 meters. The athlete may coast over the required distance, but cannot make an attempt to get off the rower (e.g., unstrapping early or standing up) until they are past the required distance. The athlete may adjust the damper setting and foot positions at any time during the row and team mates can help with this. Athletes must keep feet in footstraps when rowing.


WOD 14.7: Samcro

After all that, we finished 44th… not the best finish (I think Luke was disappointed), but we did say that we wanted to be in the top 50. And it’s true, that it’s not the placing, it was definitely yhe experience. And sometimes it’s good to do these things to realise more about yourself and keep yourself motivated. I guess for me it was a make or break thing. It was our first big comp! And it highlighted the importance of planning and that playing to your strengths can be a huge advantage when the WODs are in your favour! I saw on Facebook that the team that qualified 112th (so must have been invited when teams from the original 100 qualifying teams dropped out) came 28th after the weekend!

The comp then cut to the top 12 teams, who then went on to do 2 more WODs.


Our final placing…

Post-DWF I was feeling so unmotivated that I didn’t go to the box to train all last week. I learnt that you need to train around the right people to get the best out of you, and that in the world of sports, things are very ephemeral; just because you do badly doesn’t mean you’re bad and can’t improve, and just because you do well doesn’t mean that you’re the best. It also highlighted to me how that I really need to stay on top of my own training and start programming myself, and really build some tenacity when WODing. I was going to try out some programming but Maz at the box convinced me that I’m intelligent enough to programme myself, and that I should utilise all of the knowledge at the people from the box. She’s right, she really is. I can do it myself! :)


Anyway, after DWF, and spending some time to recover mentally, someone had also made the Oreo cake, which seemed to be a huge hit! It really made me smile!!! :D


Oreo cake was a big hit!! :D

Anywho, after a stressful week (re: uni work… starting to slow down a bit now; waiting around for my supervisor to read my report, and struggling with this modelling stuff… I don’t think I’m going to be able to do it. And now Paris is getting closer, I’m wondering if it’s wise that I do go and present my work… as much as I’d love to, I just feel like I need more time to prepare myself mentally and physically… time’s moving too fast :'( ), and spending it indoors, it was lovely to train for fun yesterday morning, and be treated to some lovely food by my lovely mother. :) Thanks, mum and dad! :) :) <3 :) :)

Pecan Pie
Page 224 of The Dairy Book of Family Cookery
Serves 6-8

Ingredients
• 200 g (7 oz) English butter
• 175 g (6 oz) flour
• pinch of salt
• 3 x eggs
• 15 ml (1 tbsp) milk
• 175 g (6 oz) demerara sugar
• 150 ml (¼ pint) maple or corn syrup
• 2.5 ml (½ tsp) vanill flavouring/essence
• 175 g (6 oz) pecan nuts, halved
• fresh double cream to serve

Preparation
Whisk 150 g (5 oz) butter. Gradually stir in the sifted flour and salt; beat well after each addition. Add 45 ml (3 tbsp) cold water and mix thoroughly with the hands. Knead lightly with extra flour, as this pastry is sticky to handle. Chill.

Roll out the pastry and use to a line 23-cm (9-inch) ovenproof flan dish; flute the edge. Chill the case while preparing the filling.

Beat the eggs and milk together. Boil the sugar and syrup together in a saucepan for 3 minutes. Slowly pour on to the beaten eggs and stir in 50 g (2 oz) butter and vanilla flavouring.

Use half the nuts to cover the base of the pastry case, spoon the syrup mixture over and cover with the remaining nuts. Bake in the oven at 220°C (435°F) mark 7 for 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 170°C (325°F) mark 3 and cook for a further 45 minutes, until the filling is set. Serve warm or cold with the fresh cream.

Devoured on a beautiful summer’s day at my parent’s: 17.05.2014

Plymouth Half Marathon | Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownies/Cake with an Avocado Frosting

Yesterday was the day that myself and eight other CrossFit girls ran with a stretcher loaded with 50 kg, and ran the Plymouth Half Marathon in order to raise money for The Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund.

We managed the whole thing in 2h 59m and 38s… sub-3 hours! Wohooo! Eight of the guys from CrossFit Plymouth also ran with a 70kg person on their stretcher, and completed it in 2h 36m and 50s. It was pretty cool that the guys could find someone to be on their stretcher… unfortunately, the person that we were going to carry couldn’t make it. So we carried a sandbag! It didn’t look as impressive because a lot of the crowd were saying “oh, what’s on the stretcher? Nothing.” It was pretty frustrating!

The weather was a little overcast, a little sunny at times, windy, and even a little rainy. It wasn’t as sunny as it was on Friday (we did a Hero WOD combo of DT and Murph… not fun!), and when we were training it was actually pretty hot running in the sun! So thankfully it wasn’t as sunny on the day, but I still managed to get tan lines on my legs!


The map of the route we ran, as recorded by my Garmin watch – thanks Ed!

We only did one training day with the stretcher and ran only half of what we were supposed to run. Not only that, but we didn’t even have all of our teammates on that day (think there were 6 of us girls). Oh, we did one other run with the stretcher in the pouring rain late in the evening in January sometime. We ran only a couple of km and realised how difficult it was going to be. That said, there were only 4 of us carrying the thing. Although it did feel really cool because it reminded me of the Xbox game Left 4 Dead I play with my bro (zombie apocalypse thing… standard).


The guys coming back to cheer us on for the last 800 m or so and over the finish line!

I personally made the big mistake of eating a few (*ahem*) jelly babies and drinking some Lucozade. At one water station they were handing them out and I missed the water. But instantly it made me feel sick (this was at mile 6, I believe) and felt that way for the rest of the run. I didn’t need any of the sugary stuff, and I wish I’d listened to my gut (no pun intended!). But when you have loads of people telling you that you need it for energy (i.e. websites, onlookers, other people), then you kind of start believing them. I wish I just had water for the whole thing!



But what was worse was my knees! I even said to everyone at mile 7 that this is loads easier than I thought it was going to be, to which they told me not to jinx the rest of the run! But by mile 9 or 10, my knees were in pain! I was really worried that it’d be my calves that would go (as I always complain about my calves on long runs), but I suppose the fact that we were running slowly and I was making an effort to strike on my heels first maybe meant my calves were protected? My knees became so painful and today, my hips are a little sore and my knees are rather bad. Although nowhere near as bad as I thought I was going to feel. I even feel so fine that I may go to CrossFit and hammer my shoulders tonight… There’s no rest for the wicked as we have DWF in less than 2 weeks… and I feel extremely underprepared…


There was PLENTY of this cake consumed, along with copious amounts of sushi and sake with my bro the evening after the race! Needless to say I’m very proud of myself, and proud of how we all pulled together and supported one another; that’s what the CrossFit community and friends are all about :)

We had quite a few supporters from CFP and others’ friends and family come out, which was really lovely. Thanks to those guys for coming out and shouting to us! :)

When I got home, I felt a little sick for a while, and wasn’t hungry at all. Still managed to eat loads of food in the evening though! My brother and I treated ourselves to some takeaway sushi (we’ve been saying for months that we need to do that!) and some warm sake. Then had some of these brownies in cake form for dessert! :)


I made these brownies on a very rainy Easter Sunday to share with my lovely family. The weather cleared by the evening so my dad, brother and I went for our usual walk. :) I took some into work and those who tried them said they were surprised that there was no flour. Katie wants to recipe, hence why I’ve written it up! :)

I then made two brownies in the form of a cake. This was I could “treat” myself to dessert and control my portions every evening. So if I wanted to have a dessert, it would have to be a portion from the cake – nothing more! But having said that, within two days over half of it had gone between my brother and I… and that was us trying to be “conservative.”

I was going to decorate the cake with raspberries, as they’re so visually stunning, but I did so with the Oreo-crusted tart. So then I thought I’d decorate it with more frosting piped around the edges of the top, but then couldn’t be bothered to waste previous avocado frosting in my piping bag (as thare’s always loads leftover/stuck in the bag).

They’re similar to the sweet potato brownies I made for the CFP party, but different. And then basically covered in chocolate avocado pudding

This really is definitely one of my most favourite chocolate cakes, and with double cream it just tastes absolutely amazing. Really. It’s so moist, creamy, chocolate-y, yet sturdy enough to cut slices and look visually attractive. Just all the things that you could possibly want from a chocolate cake. I tried to catch the moistness and textures of the cake in my photos, so I hope I’ve managed to do that!

If you’d like to make the brownies, follow the recipe below. If you’d like to make it into a cake, simply double the recipe and then split the batter into 2 x 20 cm cake tins. :)

Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownies with a Chocolate Avocado Frosting
Not Quite Nigella, Eat Drink Paleo, PaleOMG, and Kung Fu Café
Makes 20-25 squares

Ingredients
For the brownies:
• 800-900g raw sweet potato
• 4 x eggs
• ⅔ cup honey or maple syrup
• ½ cup coconut oil, melted
• ⅔ dark chocolate when solid, then melted
• 6 tbsp coconut flour
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
• 3 tbsp chia seeds
• 4 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted
• 1 heaped tbsp baking powder, sifted
• ½ tbsp baking soda, sifted
• ½ tsp mixed spice/allspice
• pinch of salt

For the frosting:
• flesh of 3 ripe avocadoes
• 4 tbsp honey or maple syrup
• 4 tbsp of cocoa powder, sifter

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 175°C. Pop the sweet potatoes in for maybe 1.5 hours until the middles are soft. Take out and leave on the side until cool enough to handle. Scoop out the insides of the sweet potato (reserve the skins for sweet potato skin pizzas!), and place in a large bowl. Add all of the other ingredients and homogenise well. Pour into a 20 x 20 cm silicon baking mould (or a greased tin!), and pop back into the oven for 45-50 minutes. When the time is up, turn the oven off and leave the brownies in the oven for about 15 minutes. Take out and leave to cool on the side.

To make the frosting, blend the avocadoes, honey and cocoa powder in a food processor until smooth. Add more honey and/or cocoa powder until the desired taste has been reached.

Brownies made: 20.04.2014 (Easter Sunday).
Cake made: 24.04.2014.

Happy Easter! | Primal French Apple Tart

Happy Easter, everyone!

Unfortunately, today is raining so much! The first time in about a week. Fortunately, the last week has seen absolutely stunning weather. On Good Friday, I woke up in such a bad mood, feeling overwhelmed with the amount of things I had to do, with worries, stress and insecurities, so I decided not to go into work/uni, not to do any of it, and go home to my parents house down the road. Tim didn’t come with me as he was doing his own thing that day. But I’m so glad I went.

We went for a cream tea and a walk at Hazelwood House, an early Victorian house that was the home of the Peek family for generations, just down the road from my parent’s.

“The Peeks were originally tea merchants who later amalgamated with the Freans to become famous for tea and biscuits. In its pre-war hey-day the house was a hub of a 1000 acre estate with four farms; a chapel and a schoolroom for children living on the estate. They even had their own Mausoleum as well as a separate burial ground for staff. Those pre-war years saw dances in the drawing room and Boxing Day meets outside the front door. The beautiful wood-lined stables housed hunters and no less than nine gardeners were employed to keep the gardens. Servants lived on the top floor and estate workers came through the back door to the office behind the kitchen to collect their weekly pay. Post war years saw the decline of this style of living. There were fewer staff; the chapel became a squash court and the schoolroom a billiard room. Keeping up with the extensive gardens, driveways and buildings became too difficult to manage and soon the lifestyle that there once was had gone.”

“In around 1986 the son who was to inherit the estate decided to put Hazelwood on the market. Property developers bought it and sold off the adjoining farms and land leaving 67 acres, the heart of the estate, which they planned to split into 27 small lots and sell off for separate development. It was at this point, in 1988, that the present owners came upon the house and through a miracle found the money to buy it and give it a new lease of life for all to enjoy.”

The sites around Hazelwood House were absolutely beautiful. And there was a sweet little Jack Russell that followed my dad and I when we went walking around the grounds. She was weary of us when we first arrived by soon realised that we meant no harm, and seemed to latch onto us. Any excuse for a walk, I suppose!

We had to book our cream tea in advance because they make the scones fresh on site. Our scones were so fresh that they were warm when we got them! They weren’t your typical scones either, but perhaps made with whole wheat flour and spiced. It made a nice change. :)

We also went for a visit to Topsham, and a little walk around there. It’s the area where my parents live which reminds me of my childhood, and also of video games such as The Legend of Zelda. I believe Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of said video game, said that he was inspired by the surrounding area of where he grew up in Japan, and that led to him creating the worlds and landscapes where The Legend of Zelda took place. I feel inspired in the same way. :)

I feel so lucky that I live where I live, and I’m so glad that I didn’t move after my undergrad. My parents live in a beautiful area surrounding by rolling green hills and hedgerows, and I’ve moved just down the road to live in the perfect city by the sea. I love where I live: the climate (although more sun and a little more warmth wouldn’t hurt!), the beauty, the people… I’ve been so lucky. I would describe my life as serendipitous, which actually was one of the many names I was thinking of calling my blog, and everything for me has turned out fantastically. I’m so lucky for my family, location, experiences, work, how things have turned out, and even who I am, I suppose. :)

Now, that’s not to say that I’m going to stay in Plymouth forever. I won’t rule out moving, but I certainly am not ready to leave just yet. :)

One thing I’d love to make for my family as a starter is a wild garlic soup. There’s a photo on this page of wild garlic, and it smells lovely. If you squeeze the oils out of the stem, a beautiful and subtle garlic scent is released. I’d also love to make a horseradish also using that found in our wonderful edible hedgerows.

So yes, basically, this Easter I’ve done nothing other than enjoy my family with my newfound happiness (as my PhD is back on track, I feel like I literally have nothing to worry about – other than trivial issues which I’m continually learning from :) ), and eating! One of the pictures here is of some really divine Jeff de Bruges chocolates sent from Ed’s parents from France. They send them every year (which is really very lovely of them :) ) and I love the cute little farm yard animal shapes and Easter themed chocolates. They’re really very smooth and I could eat the whole box to myself.

And I even did my first ever WOD alone!

It sounds pretty trivial but I think (or at least, I hope) it was a big mental barrier broken down for me. I’ve only recently got comfortable doing strength stuff on my own, since starting a 5/3/1 programme at the beginning of the year. But I’ve never really worked out alone. Partly because I dislike it as it’s not fun, but mostly because I never work hard enough, and I get stupidly scared; scared of working too hard, scared of finishing, scared of being tired, scared of being looked at and laughed at. It’s stupid, but it’s true.

I didn’t feel tired whilst doing the WOD, but sometimes I think it’s a subjective thing. I know, though, that I’ll be unhappy with whatever workout I do because I know I just don’t work hard enough, but I’m so afraid of doing so. I really need to get into the mind frame of doing something imperfectly rather than not doing it at all. As Scooby, Tom Venuto, and parts of theOvercoming Gravity book say, that it’s better to do an imperfect workout than waiting for the perfect workout that never happens.

But whether I worked hard or not, hopefully it’s a mental barrier broken for me. I am a very emotional person, and by that I mean that my emotions govern how well I do things. If I’m feeling tentative or scared, then I won’t have a good session and get annoyed and frustrated with myself. If I’m working with people and feeling happy and confident, then it’ll be great. That’s why I work better in group sessions. But now they’re 1.5 hours (rather than 1 hour long) for something like a 20 minutes WOD, I’m better off learning how to suck it up and do it myself to save time.

I just want to get into the mind set of doing things alone and not needing anyone to do anything. If I can work with someone great, but now I don’t have a consistent training partner and I train with various people randomly. I want to not rely on others and stick to my own commitments, regardless of whether other’s can push me and train with me, or not.

The WOD was 5 rounds of:
• 250m row
• 12 alternating pistols
• 12 pull ups
• 90s rest

Anyway, onto the apple tart! I love French apple tart, but here is my almost paleo version… it has double cream in it, so it’s not paleo. But I wonder if it could be replaced with coconut milk to make it so? It can always be made without the creamy base.

I made this for a dinner party at a friend’s house last weekend, and I also made a chocolate mousse tart with an Oreo base. This is actually great with store-bought custard! :P

Oh, and when making this, you don’t need nearly as many apples as you think! I suppose that looking at the tart, it looks like a lot of apples went into it, but an apple goes quite far! :)

Primal French Apple Tart
PaleOMG, BBC Food and 86 Lemons
Serves 8-10

Ingredients
For the crust:
• 2 cups almond flour
• ¾ cup coconut flour
• 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
• 1 x egg
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ½ teaspoon baking powder
• ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon

For the filling:
• 15g unsalted butter
• ½ tbsp lemon juice
• 65g honey
• ½ tbsp apple juice/calvados (if not, just lemon juice will be fine!)
• 4 apples (used the standard supermarket ones), washed, core removed and cut into segments (just cut around the core)
• 100 ml double cream
• 1 x egg

Preparation
To prepare the crust, mix all of the ingredients together, and press into 20 cm silicon tart case.

For the filling, heat the butter, lemon juice and 15g (1 tbsp) of honey in a small saucepan until the butter has melted and everything is mixed well. Remove from the heat, stir in the apple juice and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Pop the apple segments in concentric circles, overlapping as you go. Brush the apples with the butter mixture, slide the tart into the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce to heat to 200°C and bake for 20 more minutes until the apples have caramelised.

Meanwhile, whisk together the double cream, egg and remaining 50 g of honey until well combined. Pour the mixture over the tart, and bake for a further 10 minutes until the mixture has just set. When I poured the mixture over, it covered most of the apples. If you want the pie to look bursting with apples, I got around it this way: I got 3 more apples, sliced them as before, fried them in butter until they were a similar texture/cooked like the apples in the tart, layered them on top of the mixture, sprinkled with flaked almonds and continued with the baking.

Set aside to cool.

Made 11.04.2014.

Mum’s Plum and Raspberry Crumble | DWF 2014

Mmmmm, I dream about this dish; this crumble is certainly one of my favourites! When mum makes it for my bro and I to have, I’ll usually have the leftovers cold the next morning for breakfast. It really is a delicious dish, hot, cold, with cream, ice cream, leftover chocolate ganache (from making macarons). It really is just delicious and packed with fruit. It’s so comforting; perfect for a winter’s day, or a summer’s evening.

This is a simple dish that gives great results. It can be made ahead, so is perfect to have on a busy day, but the flavours are so good that you can have it for a dinner party dessert. I love this with Cornish ice cream. The topping can also be made ahead and frozen. It’s an Ina Garten recipe; she’s one of my mum’s favourite chefs and she loves to watch The Barefoot Contessa cooking programme.

Hmmm, so any recent news? Nothing too spectacular. I went to Aberdeen last week for the Unconventional Gas conference and stayed with Ed. It was probably the highlight of my PhD; things have been going really well recently, and spending a week in great company tops it off (especially as attending conferences generally motivates me, anyway!). And I bought mum a haggis as a gift from Aberdeen.

Maurizio, Katie and I drove there and back! It took 11 hours to get there, and the journey was smooth. We stopped only once and Maurizio drove all the way. He also drove all the way back, but unfortunately we were stuck in traffic for 3-4 hours, which put a dampener on things, but road trips are always fun with good company! It was also great going out in the evenings with great people, and it’s even better when everyone gets along and talks about varied things!

I also found some beautiful dresses from AX Paris, which is probably now my new favourite place to buy things! I don’t really deviate much from Amazon to be honest, and certainly don’t’ buy clothes online, but I recently bought two beautiful dresses: this beautiful blue cocktail/bodycon dress, and this skater dress.

I told Ed about these dresses, and said to him that if I am able to present in Paris, then I’ll wear the blue dress. And before I knew it, Ed had surprised me by having it delivered to my address! I was quite touched by it, and thought it was really thoughtful, but Ed seemed to think nothing of it really. Some other friends and my mum certainly agree that it was a romantic thing to do! :) <3

Oh, and on April 1st, Google launched their Pokémon challenge! I managed to find just over 100 Pokémon without help (by going to famous landmarks, Japan, etc.). But I needed a few guides (1, 2, 3) to help… either way, it was a great way to procrastinate in uni and a nice way to chill after Crossfit in the evenings while watching South Park or something with my bro before bed. Below are some screenshots of my phone, which turned into my Pokédex, of Japan, London, and I also included screenshots from San Francisco. I love Japan their culture, language and traditions, and of course, London. But San Francisco is one of the more recent places I’ve visited and loved it, so thought I’d pop them in here. That place/trip holds important lessons for me so thought I’d just use screenshots from the very areas I have visited. :D

Anyway, onto the *bigger* news… our team made it to the Divided We Fall (DWF) Games! That means Samantha, Luke, Simon and I have to travel to Cardiff at the beginning of May to compete!

We did 3 qualifying WODs as a team, and had someone to judge us. I was feeling ill when we did them the week before I went to Aberdeen. We did three in the space of, like, 25 hours, and I think those WODs pushed me from being ill to getting pretty ill. I really don’t know how I did what I did when I felt so bad, but I hope I didn’t let my team down! One thing that did really scare me though, was that Luke went blind because he pushed himself so hard… maybe it was s side-effect of the supplement combined with how hard he worked (he did do three rounds of 5 ground-to-overhead at 80k, 10 box jump overs (24”) and 5 toes 2 bar in, like, 3 minutes. It really scared me and I’ve never seen such a thing before. I’d never push myself to that sort of effect but I hope it won’t happen again!

Samantha and I tried our first pre-WOD supplement (literally a shot each), before the guys went to do their 300 wall balls (the guys had to do 300 wall balls between the two of them, and then Samantha and I had to do 300 wall balls between the two of us, and had to do 30 double unders on the minute, every minute, before we could proceed with the wall balls). I don’t know what it was called, but we spoke about a supplement called Jack 3D, and I just Googled the stuff, and two worrying articles appeared: this one, that says it has been banned in Britain because of potential lethal side effects, and this one, that says this guy nearly passed out a few times and had a racing heart. I think I’ll stick to the au naturel way, thank you very much!

Samantha and I got a little hyper because of it, I think. Although it may have been because of the nerves. While the guys were finishing off their 300 wall balls, we were dancing a little! But an idea was to create a pre-WOD cake! If I can make it paleo, the better (yeah, right!), but I’m thinking it’ll have to be as moist and as tasty as the Oreo cake, and as colourful as Rose’s cake to show how it’ll make you feel! Maybe it can have pre-workout stuff, protein powder, post-workout stuff, supplements, etc. I don’t take all of these things, myself, but it’ll be fun to try and incorporate it into a cake!

When I first checked on the night just after all of the scores had to be validated, we were in 42nd place. I have just checked where we are now, and we’re currently 51st, so after the processed the results we moved down quite a significant number of places. :( But fortunately, we were still in the top 100 teams out of 298 teams that registered. Although I counted the number of teams that didn’t’ submit any scores, and that totalled to 83. So I guess we were 51st out of 215 teams. Not too bad I suppose… I’m surprised that more teams didn’t register, but oh well! It’ll be an experience to compete!

I’m really excited, but at the same time so nervous that I’ll let the team down and be the weak link. All I can do is try my hardest, but right now I feel the most unfit I’ve felt in the past couple of years. I’ve really lost motivation for training, and can’t seem to get hold of my nerves at the moment. I always get pretty nervous heading down to the gym/box, but recently it’s been out of control and I need to reign it back in. It’ll be a real challenge but it’s making me get really upset with myself as I’m not being the person I want to be. But at least my teammates are really encouraging and fit themselves. It’s fantastic to train with people who inspire you and are fun to be around.

Maz, who came 2nd in the CrossFit Open for her age category, has asked me and Alan to train with her! We had our first training session on Friday, and it was super fun! She’s got such motivation and is in amazing shape (her age doesn’t even come into play to be honest; she could beat anyone half her age, except for Samantha Briggs, I think!). I’m really inspired by her and she’s so much fun to train with! :)

Thank you Kayleigh for the DWF photos! :)

Anyway, the take home message: when you’re resting (I’ve been doing far too much of that these days…), it’s great to indulge in this delicious crumble. Thanks, mum! This makes me think of you, every time! :) :) :)

My mum gave my brother and I two of these in slightly smaller aluminium trays… I ate a whole one for breakfast with cream. I’m not ashamed! I have a big appetite, ok!

Plum and Raspberry Crumble
Ina Garten, Food Network
Serves 6

Ingredients
For the cake; 2 x 9″ cakes:
• 1 ¼ cup (160g) plain flour, sieved
• ½ cup (45g) rolled oats
• 115g butter (or coconut oil), diced
• ⅔ cup brown sugar
• pinch of salt
• ½ cup (25g) slithered almonds
• 2 tbsp orange juice
• 450g sliced plums
• 2 punnets (500g) raspberries

Preparation
Wash fruit. Preheat oven to 175°C.

Pop the plums, ⅓ cup sugar, ¼ cup flour, orange juice and raspberries in a large baking dish. Toss well so everything is coated nicely.

In a bowl, add 1 cup flour, ⅓ cup sugar and salt into a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is the size of peas. Pour the mixture back into the bowl and add the oats, working with your hands until it’s a crumbly mixture. Add the almonds, mix well and spread on top of the plum and raspberry mix.

Sprinkle with some extra almonds, if desired, and pop into the oven for 45 minutes until the fruit is tender and bubbly, and the top is golden brown.

These particular crumbles were made in March 2014.