Kung Fu Café
Since 2011

Bûche de Noël Entremets | Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everybody!



I’ve been looking forward to Christmas so much for the last few months; a time to relax a little, catch up with some work and things I haven’t had the time to do recently, getting up late, eating lots of food, drinking copious amounts of tea, not worrying about training, and doing it all with the family in the countryside… perfect! I’ve had such a brilliant end to the year – I feel generally happy with myself as a person, the last PhD meeting I had of the year was a success and I’m finally moving forward with results that have turned out the way I had hoped, all of my family are alive and well, I’m so blessed and am loving things the way they are right now. I couldn’t ask for any more! What a better way to celebrate with the people you love than with some Christmas-y activities and food?

I also decided to make this Yule log entremets for the family, as it can be kept in the freezer, and it’s made of several different components, it’s perfect to make piece by piece over a period of a week or so, and so it’s overwhelming and doesn’t take up much time. And, once it’s put together the whole thing looks so complex! I also love Yule logs; I made one when I was in secondary school for Food Technology, and it came out so well and found it delicious! My mum and I usually don’t like chocolate cakes, as they’re usually quite dry, but I suppose the frosting and use of real chocolate makes the Yule log cake so tasty and moist!

Another reason for making French themed desserts and things is so I can be inspired more the keep up with the Open University’s beginner’s French course on which I’ve enrolled. It started in September, and because it’s only a 30-credit level 1 course, the workload is definitely easier to keep up with than the level 2 60-credit courses!

I find that I go through periods where I’ll catch up, and get ahead, then really busy periods where I don’t do any for a few weeks, but because I was ahead, I end up then being right on track. Although I don’t think this is really the optimal way to learn a language (I think little and often is way better than doing it all at once and not touching it for weeks), at least I’m keeping up with the materials. So that’s why the level 1 courses work well for me, and they run from September to September. The level 2 courses, however, such as the upper intermediate Spanish, run from February to September… so there’s twice as much work to do, which is harder, but in a shorter period of time… that just spells chaos! I struggled so much to keep up with the materials for this course that I had to split this course over two years. But either way, it was worth it. I dread to think as to what the level 3 courses are like!

If I study at least one module each year with the Open Uni, I get to keep their transitional fees, which is great, especially as I really enjoy the materials. I love learning, and doing so in my own time, but sometimes I do find that these courses, for me at least, just move at too fast a pace and I find that I need more time to immerse myself into the language and play around with the pronunciation and new material.

Another thing to boost my French-learning-motivation is that I’ve entered a science writing competition. I don’t expect that I’ll get anywhere with it, but if you don’t try then you’ll never improve with anything. I spoke about the chemistry behind patisserie and chocolate, and after having done all of my reading around the subject, I’m seriously considering going into that industry when I’m done with my studies. Maybe I can go to Paris and work as a chocolatière? Who knows?! 🙂 It’s amazing how applicable my area of science would be in this industry! One of the science communication competitions I’m thinking about entering requires talking about chemistry in health, and so I thinking of talking about the health benefits of chocolate. I’ve been learning all about the flavonoids and minerals that help to make it healthy, and so I’ve used the best quality dark chocolate I can find in this dessert (~70-80% cocoa), which totally justifies eating it! 🙂


At first I was really disappointed with this dessert; but it is the first entremets I’ve ever made, and the more I think about and look at it, the more I’m pleased with the way it turned out. I made flavoured the crème brûlée with matcha (green tea powder) to represent moss on damp logs. At first I think it looked weird but I grew to like it. The coating was supposed to be über smooth, but the sugar clumped together and made lumps. I decided to use the coating, anyway, but I’m actually quite pleased with it because it adds to its log-like appearance. I also struggled to make the inside super tight and stuffed with filling, but it worked out well in the end. I decorated it with desiccated coconut and crushed pistachios, along with homemade plain chocolate leaves and marzipan mushrooms dusted with cocoa powder. I’ve love to try making mushrooms out of meringue, but that’ll be a project for another day. Next time I’ll hopefully get better at making entremets. Perhaps I’ll make another type of Yule log next year!

I also found it quite hard to make the leaves because my choice of leaf wasn’t very good. I used a variety, but it sort of goes without saying that you want a strong and sturdy leaf to support the chocolate once it’s coated, but a leaf with intricate details that will transfer to the chocolate. I couldn’t find a leaf with both of those qualities; a detailed but flimsy leaf, or a sturdy yet lacklustre leaf. Oh well! I think the shapes are what counted! 🙂

Right, I’m off not to watch a film with the family, before preparing for St. Nick’s visit, later 😉 Mince pies and carrots it is! 🙂



Bûche de Noël entremets
Adapted from: L’Atelier Vi, BBC Food, Rosa’s Yummy Yums, and How To Cook That

Ingredients
Element #1 ~ Dacquoise layer:
• 80g ground coconut (coconut flour)
• 50g icing sugar
• 2 tbsp plain flour
• 3 tbsp cocoa powder
• 3 x egg whites
• 50g granulated sugar

Element #2 ~ Praline Feuillete Insert:
For the feuillete:
• 100g dark chocolate
• 25g unsalted butter
• 2 tbsp Rice Krispies or Coco Pops (to replace 60g gavottes)
• 30g praline*

For the praline*:
• 10g granulated sugar
• 20g pistachio nuts, shelled and crushed

Element #3 ~ Matcha crème brûlée insert:
• 115g double cream
• 115g whole milk (I accidentally weighed somewhere between 150-160g… I wasn’t paying attention!!!)
• 1 tbsp matcha
• 1 x vanilla pod
• 4 x egg yolks
• 25g granulated sugar

Element #4 ~ Milk chocolate mousse:
• Powdered gelatine, the equivalent of 2 leaves (will say on back of packet)
• 175g milk chocolate

• 350g (1 ½ cups) double cream

• 3 x medium egg yolks

• 40g granulated sugar
• 10g honey
• 1 tbsp water

Element #5 ~ Ankou-infused chocolate ganache insert:
• 1 heaped tsp of ankou (read bean paste)
• 135g (⅔ cup less 1 tbsp) double cream

• 135g plain chocolate (>70% cocoa)
• 45g butter, softened

Element #6 ~ Dark chocolate coat:
• Powdered gelatine, the equivalent of 4 leaves (will say on back of packet)
• 120g (¼ cup) double cream
• 120g caster sugar
• 100g (¼ cup) water
• 60g cocoa powder

Equipment:
• a u-shaped mould
Preparation
Element #1 ~ Dacquoise layer:
In a mixer, pulse the coconut flour and icing sugar briefly, just to break apart the lumps. I didn’t do this, and although I sieved the icing sugar, the lumps of coconut still remained, and thus I immediately regretted it. I recommend to do so. Although the texture was still nice and it did look as though I intentionally speckled the sponge with coconut! Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the mix. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites (with an electric mixer), and gradually add in the sugar. Keep whisking until stiff peaks are formed. Pour in the coconut mixture, and fold in gently, until all is homogenised.

Preheat an oven to 175°C, and line a baking sheet with non-stick baking paper. Spread the egg white batter across the baking parchment, so it encompasses at least the dimensions of your mould (as this lines the bottom of the entremets when unmoulded). Bake for 20 minutes.

Element #2 ~ Praline Feuillete Insert:
For the praline:
Put the sugar in a small frying pan/saucepan. Turn the heat up to medium-high, and melt the sugar. Add in the crushed pistachios, and coat. Scoop into a ceramic bowl (or on top of non-stick baking parchment), and leave to cool.

For the feuillete:
Melt the chocolate and butter over a bain-marie, or in a saucepan over a very low heat. Add in the praline and Coco Pops/Rice Krispies, and coat everything in chocolate. Spread on non-stick parchment paper to a size slightly larger than the dimensions of what will be the base of your Yule log entremets.

Element #3 ~ Matcha crème brûlée insert:
Put the milk, cream, and matcha into a saucepan. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the milk and heat until just boiling (keep an eye on it!). Remove from the heat.

Whisk the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white). Pour the matcha milk mixture over the yolks, and mix well. Preheat an oven to 100°C.

Use a wet cloth to wipe the inside of your Yule log mould, and line with non-stick baking paper. Pour the mixture into the mould. Put the mould into a roasting pan, and add enough hot water to the roasting pan so that it comes half way up the mould (don’t do what I did and pour a splash of water right into the crème brûlée!!!). Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the edges are firm and the middle wobbles slightly when shaken/jiggled. Let cool and then place into the freezer for at least 1 hour.

The next day, I took the mould out of the freezer for 20 minutes (in a warm kitchen), and popped the crème brûlée out of the mould (still wrapped in its parchment paper). I gently wrapped it in foil and placed it back in the freezer for keeping, until I’m ready to use it.

Element #4 ~ Milk chocolate mousse:
In a large bowl, dissolve the gelatine in the minimum amount of hot (not boiling) water necessary. Set aside.

In a saucepan, heat the sugar, honey, and water until it starts to look syrup-y and coats the back of a spoon. In the meantime, in another bowl, beat the egg yolks (using an electric mixer) for about 5 minutes until white and frothy (this is a pâté à bombe). Drizzle the sugar syrup into the pâté à bombe slowly whilst mixing, and keep going for about another 5 minutes. It should thicken and start to froth a little. Set aside.

In another saucepan, or bain-marie, very slowly melt the chocolate with 2 tbsps of double cream. Let cool a little, then pour into the gelatine, and mix well.

In a separate bowl, whip the cream until stiff. Add half a cup to the gelatine/chocolate mixture, and mix well to temper. Then pour the pâté à bombe into the chocolate, mix well, and then pour the mixture onto the whipped cream. Fold gently until homogenised, and place in the fridge until ready to use.

Element #5 ~ Ankou-infused chocolate ganache insert:
Measure the double cream into a saucepan, and stir in the ankou until homogenised. Set aside.

Break the chocolate into a bowl and set aside.

In another saucepan, melt the sugar by spreading it evenly over the bottom on a medium-high heat, until dark amber in colour; swirl the pan, but don’t stir. Bring the cream to a boil, and then pour into the hot sugar syrup, being careful not to burn yourself if it spits.

Pour this cream-syrup mixture over the chocolate, wait for about half a minute, and then stir until smooth. Add in the butter, and use an electric mixer (I used a wooden spoon) to whip hard and fast until smooth and shiny. Make sure you whip/mix it well, otherwise you’ll have sugar lumps (which, actually, I think are quite nice!).

Assembly:
1. Take your crème brûlée out of the freezer.
2. Line your mould with non-stick baking paper; I used honey to stick it down to the mould.
3. Pipe a third of your mousse into the mould.
4. Place your crème brûlée on top of the mousse, and press lightly to ensconce it into the mousse.
5. Spoon (or pipe) a second third of mousse onto of the crème brûlée.
6. Cut the praline feuillete insert a little smaller than the dimensions of your mould, and lay on top of the mousse (mine, unfortunately, shattered).
7. Spoon/spread/pipe the rest of the mousse on top of the praline feuillete insert.
8. Freeze for an hour or so, so the mousse hardens.
9. Now, this is where you should make the ganache (element #5), but I did before I assembled my log… luckily my kitchen was warm! If you make this mistake, just gently reheat the ganache over the hob until it’s a consistency that you can deal with/pipe.
10. Spoon (or pipe) the ganache onto the top of the mousse, being careful not to go too far to the edges, so that when you press the dacquoise base on, the ganache won’t seep our of the sides.
11. Close the entremets with the dacquoise.
12. Freeze overnight.

Element #6 ~ Dark chocolate coat:
Bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil over the hob. Turn the heat down and cook an additional 3 minutes. Let cool a little, then add the gelatine and mix well. Let cool. When the mixture is smooth and coats the back of a spoon well, it is ready.

Unmould the entremets and set on a wire rack over a baking tray. Smother the cake in the coating, wait for it to set, and return the entremets to the freezer for it to set entirely.

Decorate as desired; decorations can be pressed into the coating before it’s set, or placed on top afterwards. Place in the freezer to set.

To serve:
Transfer the entremets to the fridge no longer than 30 minutes before serving. Be careful about certain elements (i.e. decorations, chocolate coating, etc.) that may start to melt, depending on the temperature of your kitchen/room.

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. 😀

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 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 the Overcoming 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! 😛

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.

Quick Bordelaise Sauce | Stand Up for Yourself

Ahhh March… the first sign that winter is ending and that spring is a’coming! 😀 So it’s time to get out some lovely spring vegetables, such as asparagus, and to pair is with an equally sophisticated sauce!


Asparagus is a sexy vegetable. Let’s face it, it looks delicate and exotic, even though it’s really a robust, strong and hardy vegetable. It looks different to most vegetables, and breaks free from the ground, defying gravity and shows everyone that it’s here! It even sounds foreign – those sexy ‘s’ and ‘r’ sounds make is so much more distinctive from something such as everyday ‘broccoli,’ which sounds like ‘brick,’ or something.

Steamed asparagus is so beautiful, but it’s one of those vegetables that’s so easy to overcook and then it goes all mushy and soft. Although it’s not one of my favourite green vegetables, when compared to something I love such as cabbage or kale, I do love the prospect of eating it; it’s so exotic-looking that I get really excited when I see it on my plate, but it’s a little bit stringy in texture if you eat the whole stalk (asparagus tips steamed well are really delicious, though). When steaming, once the water has boiled in your steamer, your asparagus is probably cooked. Check it by stabbing your fork into the thickest portion of the stalk. If it pierces it easily, then it’s done. Take it from the heat straight away. If left any longer, it will cook in an instant! You have to keep an eye on your asparagus.

But now that I’ve gone on about my love for asparagus, and before talking about the sauce, let’s talk about life.

There’s so much going on at the moment. With Crossfit, there are quite a lot of competitions coming up. This is the first weekend of the CrossFit Open… 14.1, which I haven’t entered (for many reasons!), but I think I’ll just do the WODs for fun if I can. The first WOD for DWF (Divided We Fall) has also been released, and with my awesome team of Samantha, Simon and Luke, it should be quite fun. 🙂 I do like team WODs… I usually work harder than I would by myself, providing that I’m not too nervous or feel like I’m letting anyone else down!

But, last week was one of the most stressful weeks I’ve had during the PhD I’ve had so far. To be honest, I have been fairly depressed and suffering from PhD Depression for most, if not all, of my PhD so far. I know I’m not the only one (seriously, just Google “PhD depression”), but I sure feel alone at times. I have the support from many, and I’m so thankful for that, but sometimes it just feels like there’s no way out.

I feel like an imposter, and that I don’t know enough. Whatever I do isn’t good enough and won’t please everyone… and the stress and demands are really brutal at times. The thing is, I enjoy the work and the scientific enquiry, the challenge… but I can’t cope with feeling so stupid all of the time. I think I know my strengths and weaknesses, but sometimes that just isn’t enough and it all becomes so overwhelming.

The whole PhD has actually turned me into a depressive person. I think I’m quite good at putting my mood behind me. If I’ve had a bad day in the office or lab, I won’t let it affect my Crossfit, a week with my other half, or a weekend with my family… but it will ruin an evening alone, because I just can’t switch my mind off. In some ways, I say to myself that when I get a job, it’ll be different, but deep down, I know it won’t be. I’m a natural born worrier and I’m going to have to learn to deal with that and develop different habits.

But last week was very character building for me, as I got myself into hot water (a.k.a. touble!). Basically, I have issues with my project, and instead of going to my first supervisor, I went to my second. This didn’t go down well what-so-ever. I can see why my first supervisor got upset, but he was very reasonable with it all, I feel. I still have the same issues with the project, but maybe as a lesson for my own assertiveness, I should bring them up as they arise, rather than wait. Although in my defence, I didn’t realise they were issues at the time, until I looked back on them and realised that certain things shouldn’t have happened, etc. Now, I appreciate that everyone’s only human, but I still feel that so many things shouldn’t have happened in order to have made for a smoother project.

Anyway, I could talk about this and make a whole post of it, but I won’t. My friends know what I’m talking about and I don’t feel that I should air my dirty washing/laundry in public. So I shan’t. But I do feel a little unfairly treated and reprimanded like a child. So instead of being talked to, my funding was threatened. So of course, I got a little ill last week just because of the sheer stress of it all, because of the potential bad relations that may have been between me and my supervisors, but also, of course, the prospect of having to find a job and spending almost three years on a road to nothing. I’m only just getting over it and my mild-flu.

Anyway, let’s talk about this dish! 🙂

Bordelaise sauce, according to Wikipedia, is a classic French sauce named after the Bordeaux region of France, which is famous for its wine. The sauce is made with dry red wine, bone marrow, butter, shallots and sauce demi-glace (a rich brown sauce used as a base). This sauce is adapted from an AllRecipes recipe, and it tastes very rich and elegant without going to much hassle at all. Although I guess technically, it couldn’t be a Bordelaise sauce, as it doesn’t have bone marrow (unless you wanted to add some!).


I seared the beef steak with a grill pan in order to try to get some lovely sear marks on it. I always call those pans a “Jamie Oliver pan,” as they always just remind me of him… I swear he uses them almost all the time! But I had to smear a small amount of oil on each side of the steaks in order to get the marks… otherwise it just wouldn’t work!

I think this sauce would go really well with any dark meat, such as lamb, beef, or even liver. I cooked this for Ed and I in Aberdeen a couple of weeks ago (wow, where does time go?!), and we had it with veal, steamed vegetables, leftover sweet potato and apple mash, and honey-roasted parsnips. Mmmmmm. I think if you added in double cream, it’ll work just as well, although of course will add a different dimension to the dish, rather than being rich and dark.

I would also quite happily eat this as a soup! I was taking photos of it in the white bowl, and my brother immediately exclaimed “that looks really nice… can I have it?” He was very disappointed when I told him that I’m going to be taking photos of it the following day, so will have to wait. I went out and bought a specific bowl from Marks and Spencer, because Ed had these really nice shallow white bowls with a rim. They looked great with everything and anything in it! I’ve never really been into shallow bowls, but these “pasta bowls” just make everything in it look great.

As Ed currently has no Tupperware, I put the remainder of our Bordelaise sauce in one of these white “pasta bowls.” It just looked amazing and I wanted to take a photo of it then and there! But I didn’t (because it was dark at the time), so I decided that I would do it myself when I got back to Plymouth. 🙂 Ed also has lovely plates, as you can see in the photos: the yellow Mediterranean-looking ones. And he even had this brown-blue-white plate that was very sophisticated-looking, and I used it to take photos of the chocolate-walnut brownie torte. So after all my babble, what I’m trying to say is that even though Ed was moaning about his kitchen (he really seemed to want to do it up!), he had some lovely plates that I just wanted to take back to Plymouth with me. 🙂


Although I do like white plates (as they’re guaranteed to display any food well and look good in pictures), I invested in four more, too: a beautiful blue plate that I bought with Ed, a wooden pant pot stand (that I’ll use as a plate), a small, white rectangular plate, and a larger and flatter white, rectangular plate with a sauce dish. You’ll see them featured in my photos a lot more from now on, and I think now is the right time, too, as my photography is getting better, I’d like to experiment with different plates, colours and backgrounds, too.

I hope to go back to Aberdeen in three week’s time… it’ll be to go to the Unconventional Gas conference to promote the research groups porous structure modelling software and its applications in fracking. This means, of course, that I will get to see Ed! I believe two of my colleagues will stay in the city centre, and hopefully I can stay at Ed’s! My two colleagues are hoping to drive up, and are going up regardless of whether I go or not, so not only will we have a fun road trip, but me tagging along for personal development, means that I don’t have to pay any extra for travel, anything for accommodation, and only £25 (as a student) to enter the conference for a day! I think that’s just an opportunity on a plate! 🙂

Sunday’s WOD:
NOTHING! 😀

Oh, it’s pancake day on Tuesday! 🙂

Bordelaise-esque Sauce
Adapted from: All Recipes
Makes enough sauce for 4-6

Ingredients
• 1 tbsp butter
• 1 x kg shallots (or 2 x large leeks), diced
• 1 tsp garlic, crushed
• 500 g of chestnut mushrooms, sliced
• 250 ml (1 cup) beef stock (or vegetable stock to make it vegetarian)
• 85 ml (⅓ cup) red wine
• 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (or soy sauce or balsamic vinegar)
• 2 x bay leaves
• a bunch of fresh thyme, washed
• 1 heaped tbsp cornstarch (or arrowroot powder to make it more primal)

Preparation
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the garlic and shallots and/or leeks. Sauteé until translucent. In the meantime, pick the leaves off of the thyme, and chop the thyme stalks. Throw in the mushrooms, bay leaves and diced thyme stalks, and cook until soft. Add the wine, beef broth and sauce/vinegar. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer until the sauce reduces slightly. Maybe 20 minutes or so. Dissolve the cornstarch in a mug in 4 tbsps of cold water, and add into the saucepan. Simmer for about 10 more minutes, remove the bay leaves, and serve. 🙂

Dark Chocolate Walnut Brownie Torte | Trip to Aberdeen

I had a generally lovely week last week! 🙂 I took a week off to go and see my lovely other half all the way in Aberdeen!



I even missed out the appalling storms and 100 mph winds and rains at home in the South West, fortunately! The weather in Aberdeen was actually rather pleasant throughout that week; sure there were a few days when it was raining, but generally it was cold and crisp, but bright and sunny. I was also a little concerned that my flights would have been delayed due to the weather, but on the outward and inward journey, the flights were seamless. No turbulence at all! I was very, very lucky! Thank you! 🙂

There’s so much going on at the moment, but I seemed to have taken the perfect week off, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I was really stressed out with a few things regarding my PhD, and that week was just after I had sorted some things with my colleagues and was feeling good about it. But anyway, that’s rather confidential stuff and for another blog post entirely! In some ways I felt a little resentful that I took a whole week off to spend elsewhere (if I have time off I’d rather it be at home so I can catch up on sleep, spend time with my family, pursue my own hobbies and go training as much as possible), but it was so lovely to see Ed and his new place. 🙂



It was so nice to actually do nothing, no work, not even any Crossfit (I only visited CrossFit Aberdeen once! They’re a lovely bunch, and a few even recognised me from my visit a year and a half ago which was great!). All I did was spent my day browsing through FoodGawker, Tastespotting, baking, cooking, annoying Ed, pretending I was helping him while he was plastering his walls when in actual fact I really wasn’t (well, that’s not true; I stripped a bit of wallpaper, brought him coffees and food, and just generally didn’t stop talking), and strolling around the city centre.


Peeling the wallpaper off in the hallway!


The newly plastered hallway… Ed’s a very handy man!


Pretty much my position for the week: PJs, tea, Kindle, laptop, duvet and comfort!

It was Valentine’s Day during my visit while I was spending the week with Ed, which was the first Valentine’s Day we spent together in probably years. It was also the mark of our 6 years and 1 month together… that’s a long time! One thing I decided that I’m going to try to do and add to my list of “resolutions” (or things to work on) is that I’m not going to worry or endlessly fret about things beyond my control, or procrastinate and over think things until I actually come to do them. For example, I fret so much about WODs at Crossfit that it engulfs a lot of my mental energy the entire day before I go and do the WOD. I’m the same when it comes to work as well. I even asked my second supervisor if I could go to some conferences at which my abstract has been accepted for an oral presentation, and I received a really positive reply back, yet I was STILL fretting about how I’m going to be knowledgeable re: questions (what if I miss something and they think I’m stupid and I get embarrassed?), and about getting enough and the right kind of work done on time, etc, etc. That’s why I get stressed out easily, too. I worry about everything, about whether things will go right, whether the future will work out, whether my family are well and aren’t too stressed out themselves, whether my training is going to pot, my diet and eating habits… everything. Sometimes it just gets too much and I can’t see a way out.

But it was nice to get away from that for a week. Just being somewhere else and doing something completely different from the usual routine made me feel as though I was in a time blip. That week was nowhere in time, and it felt as though my normal life in Plymouth had frozen for a while.

One thing it was nice to get away from was eating “cleanly.” I are so much crap I put on weight! Every morning I had jam, banana and peanut butter on toast, or peanut butter, Nutella and banana on toast. Sure, it was delicious at first, but now I’m struggling to feel perky and just feel plain old fat. I also made this brownie torte, which was delicious, but full of unhealthy things! I also made a banana bread (again, very unhealthy!) with walnuts, oats, banana, chocolate and all of that delicious stuff. So it was bittersweet; in some ways it was great to just go off the rails and eat rubbish… at first… but then by the end, I was hooked on the stuff, wanted to get out of eating it, but felt like I couldn’t. I can easily see how people get into bad ways of eating and get stuck there. It’s so easy to do that, but once you’re out of the rut, you’d be amazed at how great you feel.

Anyway, it was nice to bake things, especially for Ed. I love to bake, cook and dine with people I love. It’s my way of showing them that I love and appreciate them, and a way I enjoy spending time with them (over a relaxed meal talking about anything and everything). It was also nice to take photos in a different location! The light in Ed’s kitchen was great as he had a large window, and the set up meant that the light shone from the left (which is usually how I do things in my own flat!), so in some ways it didn’t change the set up! But it was just nice to be working elsewhere and seeing if I could get ok pictures working with someone other than my brother around (even though Ed was too busy doing his walls to notice what I was up to!), and in a different environment with a makeshift reflector and no tripod (as a couple of days it was rather overcast).

Right now I’m quite heavily focussed on food. I think that’s because it’s nice to take a break from the PhD and it’s been stressing me out a lot. I’m not really into training at the moment (going through a lull for a variety of reasons… again, that’s for another post!), and I’m struggling with Spanish, because recently I’ve been spending a lot of time in front of the computer trying to read publications or typing some sort of document, that I don’t want to study in my free time. Cooking, however, it’s entirely creative, and taking photos, and being with people you love and sharing with them what you’ve done… it’s 100% satisfying. You’re learning something, you’re being creative, and you’re having fun. What’s more to love?

In Aberdeen city centre, on my various wanders when Ed was either at work or sorting out his flat, I came across a culinary school, the Nick Nairn Cook School. I looked in through the windows of this beautiful granite building in a lovely part of the city centre, and could see all sorts of kitchen utensils for sale on a shop floor, right next to an open plan kitchen where there were a couple of chefs busily preparing something on an immaculate kitchen worktops. I wanted to be involved so badly! Looking at the prices of some of the courses, I wasn’t so sure if I would want to part with such money for only a few hours, especially when it was a simple “how to cook a steak” class. Now, that’s not to say that my steak cooking ability is great (I’ve never really tried and think I’d miss what I was going for completely), and maybe I’m being ignorant here, but when it’s something you’ve never tried before and it’s just one aspect of cooking that you’re a beginner in anyway, I say just go learn it yourself initially! I think self-teaching is, in some ways, more rewarding, until you get to a more advanced level where you need some guidance and fine tuning and help with technique and knowledge. But then saying that, I am a student who always moans about money, and think that actually I’d really enjoy the classes. The quality of the teaching may well be worth every penny, and if I had the money I’d love to take one of these classes and a sushi class, as I think I’d enjoy the group atmosphere, too, and if I won the lottery, these sorts of things is that I’d be doing with my free time! No work, but plenty of cooking, photography, piano, Crossfit, gymnastics, weightlifting, martial art, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese and Icelandic lessons, along with travel and adventure!

Maybe one day I’ll hit it big, and live out my dream of owning a Crossfit and martial arts gym with my own restaurant and café, that promotes eating for health and body composition, whilst bringing out my own cookbook full of my own photography… maybe one day… I had better get proficient in all of the above, pronto!

Anyway, I’m going off track now! I spent the time cooking all sorts of dishes… some came out quite well, and others came out not as well, but everything was edible and Ed was just pleased that he had something cooked for him after long days of sorting his flat. On Valentine’s Day though, he did save some lobsters that he had, and prepared a really beautiful lobster thermidor. I hadn’t had lobster since I was a child, and I do have bad memories of lobster (I was sick in the local village hall that night whilst playing badminton… I know it wasn’t because of the lobster, but it was probably the whole tin of oranges I had shovelled down my throat afterwards and I think, from what I can remember, I was ill anyway… of course when I’m ill I don’t lose my appetite like most people!). I knew that I would enjoy lobster anyway, as I know I like crab and all other seafood I’ve come across, so hopefully now, I can push that memory of lobster out of my head and replace it with this one. 🙂


English breakfast cooked by Ed (in Scotland! How controversial!)!


A lovely Valentine’s meal 🙂

We also spent some time with a lovely friend and work colleague of Ed’s and his beautiful girlfriend, who chose a really lovely restaurant at which to have lunch; Le Cafe Bohéme, which was well hidden, but was a gem. The prices were affordable, and great considering the deliciousness and class of the dishes. My favourite was definitely décor and atmosphere that was created from the moment you stepped inside. Definitely my kind of place!

After that, Ed and I briefly visited Stonehaven for a battered Mars Bar from The Carron Fish Bar (which claims to be the birthplace of the deep fried Mars Bar! We couldn’t find a battered/deep fried Crème Egg, unfortunately!), and then popped along to Dunnottar Castle (it was cold and windy… but luckily not raining!). It was really beautiful, right along the coast. Being in the city centre, I often forget that Aberdeen is right by the ocean, just like Plymouth. Next time I’m going to visit the harbour, definitely. The castle itself has a very interesting history, and I believe the official website is here. According to the website, a part of the castle was used for the imprisonment of Covenanters in 1685. It was also home to one of the most powerful families in the land, but then was seized by the government in 1715 because of treason. And a small garrison fought Cromwell’s army for several months and saved the Scottish Crown Jewels, which can now be found in Edinburgh Castle. How exciting!


Dunnottar Castle.


Stonehaven.


The famous deep fried or battered Mars Bar from…


… The Carron Fish Bar!


And the story of how they supposedly came to be!

I also love a lot of the shops and restaurants in Aberdeen, too. Sure, there are a lot of the well-known places to be found that can be found in every British town, but there were also a lot of local and independent places, too. I loved Yorokobi, which is where Ed treated me to a Japanese meal, and also the last time I visited about a year and a half ago. I also loved the comic book, toy and general geek shop, Plan 9, where I bought my brother (well, both of us I suppose, really!) a Muhammad Ali poster. It was a decision between batman and Ali… tough choice! But I went for Ali because he’s real, looks classy in our living room, and is a constant reminder of how we must consider ourselves to be great and more than capable of achieving our goals if we ever are to achieve them.



Muhammad Ali poster from Plan 9 now in mine and my brother’s living room.


A Muhammad Ali poster in Plan 9, Aberdeen.


Some Batman posters in Plan 9, Aberdeen.

There are some lovely tea and coffee houses, too. I had a fantastic vanilla white tea at CUP (but unfortunately I had to let Ed into the flat because he came home from work earlier than expected as the window guy was inspecting Ed’s windows!), bought some lovely tea from the small but beautiful shop (that smelt of such a strong coffee smell) MacBeans, and really wanted to try and have a coffee in The Coffee House, but they were always too busy whenever I walked by! The day that I left, Ed and I went into town for a couple of hours and sat in a shop called Books and Beans, and again, was always busy whenever I walked by. I love being able to sit in comfort, with a hot drink, chatting away whilst surround by books, knowledge, literature, adventure. I find it really exciting, and back to the theme of winning the lottery; if I ever was to win, I’d have a library in my house with a coffee, tea, juice and smoothie bar! We spent ages in there! The food smelt good and looked good, too! Luckily, we were there on a Sunday, so it wasn’t as busy as during the week, and this is definitely the kind of place that my friend Lucy and I have discussed about opening in the future! 🙂



Sushi, ramen and Korean sizzling beef at Yorokobi, Aberdeen.

Anyway, this brownie torte wasn’t made on Valentine’s Day (in fact, the banana bread was!). It was made a couple of days before, and devoured by Valentine’s, but it looks like a romantic sort of dessert, with the chocolate, marscapone cream and strawberry. The ingredients in this are so simple and the procedure is really straightforward, yet they make, combined with the marscapone, such a decadent dessert.

I accidentally over-baked this dessert… Ed had a very old and retro oven, and I don’t think the temperature is what you set it as. Or it may be, but because the oven isn’t fan-assisted, I tend to find that the heat doesn’t really penetrate the whole thing you’re trying to bake and just crisps the outside (seriously, I’m not making this up! I swear!). After 30 minutes, the inside was still completely raw yet the outside was turning black. So by the time the inside has just about cooked, the outside because a thick, hard shell. Even when I baked sweet potatoes at the same temperature as I do in other ovens (being my own and my parent’s), the inside was deliciously soft as I was expecting, but the inner side of the skin was black and had burnt!



I made this dessert ahead of time (I believe I went to Crossfit, or something, so made it a few hours in advance before putting gin the oven!). It was very delicious though, especially warm and straight out of the oven. But even cold the next day, it was really tasty! The next day, Ed had a slice with milk. 🙂 Of course, you could pop these into a square tray and just have them as brownies! I also think pistachios or Brazil nuts would make for a romantic dessert, also.



CrossFit Aberdeen.

As lovely as it was seeing Ed, I always feel a little empty the week after I get back from seeing him. In some ways, I’m glad he’s not in Plymouth anymore, as I’m struggling enough as it is to keep up with everything I’d like to and need to do, and having him down here would most probably just distract me. But after I’ve seen him, I realise how much I miss him and wish we would see each other more frequently like we did when we were both at the uni down here. 🙂 Unfortunately, I have to wait until next time…




Friday WOD @ CFP with Mike, Jon and Christie (Benchmark Friday!):
5-3-1 strength (deadlift, bench press and front squat)
Angie (100 pull ups, 100 push ups, 100 sit ups and 100 squats!)

Dark Chocolate Walnut Brownie Torte
Adapted from: All Recipes
Makes 1 x 9″ torte

Ingredients
• ¼ cup butter
• ½ cup honey
• 1 cup dark chocolate, roughly broken
• ¼ cup granulated sugar
• 3 x eggs
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 1 cup plain flour, sifted
• 1 cup broken walnuts (I think pistachio nuts or Brazil nuts would work, too!)

Preparation
I used a 9″ cake tin with a removable bottom lined with non-stick baking paper, as I wasn’t at home, but I think my silicon mould at home would have worked just as well. 🙂

Melt the butter and dark chocolate over a gentle heat in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and then add in the honey, sugar, and vanilla. Stir in the eggs and add the nuts and flour.

Pour into the pan, and bake at 175°C for 30 minutes.

Serve straight from the oven, warm, with strawberries, marscapone and grated chocolate.

Paleo Quiche with a Grainless Crust | Primal Games 3

What an event! The Primal Games 3 was just so epic! What a way to send off the old before moving into a brand new venue just down the road after Christmas. I can’t WAIT! 😀 The only thing that marred it was having to wash the Tupperware boxes when I got home. 😛

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to compete this time, but was able to cater, along with a very strong and lovely physio friend, Sam (who makes a killer primal cheesecake!) 🙂 …she’s pictured in the yellow hat below!

Well, who won the event? Crossfit Kernow! Followed by CFND (North Devon) coming in second place, and third place was taken by Crossfit Exe!

Everyone hit PBs in some kind of way, and the atmosphere was electrifying! It was so fantastic to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. One woman from Crossfit Avon told me that when she last saw me do a load of kipping pulls ups that it inspired her, and that’s something she holds in her memory bank. It really touched me and I’m so glad that I’ve made a positive impact on someone. It’s one of the most amazing feelings I’ve experience in life, and don’t think there are too many more feelings that can top that! 🙂 I will remember that for the rest of my days, and will make a mental note to remember this when I’m feeling blue!

The food went down a treat! I hope we made a profit (yet to count everything up!). It all sold out (apart from a few salad boxes), and I had people throughout the day asking me for recipes for things, and got great feedback in general… I even already have people on Facebook and in person asking me for some more goodies! I’m so honoured!

On the menu we had:
*Savoury*
A huge salad (with tomatoes, cucumber, carrot, coconut, dried apple, nuts, egg, etc.) and dressing (balsamic vinegar and vinaigrette).
~ 25 slices of pork, apple and sweet potato meatloaf
~ 25 honey and lemon roasted chicken drumsticks
~ 20 homemade beef burgers
16 slices of paleo pizza (made with almond and coconut flour) topped with tomato, cheese, spinach and mushrooms

*Sweet*
24 slices of sweet potato pie with an chocolate-y oat-based crust
~25 banana & nut paleo brownie bites
~25 coconut brownie bites
~20 banana and date sponge cake bites
~ 20 protein balls made with a combo of nuts
~20 slices of primal cheesecake

And of course, there was Sam’s cheesecake. Oh boy, that stuff is lethal. If ever she is in my debt for anything, she’d have to pay me back in cheesecake, I’ve decided.

Throughout the day, I heard cheers and shouting and screaming and barbells hitting the deck. Unfortunately, where I was, I couldn’t see the action at all, so whenever I heard the crowd go wild I’d get this surge of energy go through me; I wanted to WOD so badly! And seeing these people perform was incredible! Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and seeing teams having to communicate and work together was definitely eye opening. Crossfit is very tactical, indeed.

Oh, and I even saw an amazing woman deadlift 165kg. I’ve never seen a deadlift look as easy as this one. It’s great to know that it is possible to do such feats! And Alan from CFP got a 130kg clean I believe! How cool is that?! I can’t even fathom lifting that much!

I was so worried about how the food would go down. Making food for over 100 people definitely came with its challenges, especially as I wasn’t using my own kitchen and equipment…. especially when the oven is very different to your own! And so things didn’t come out the way I had expected, and I worry so much as to what people will think of everything. It was lovely to have a kitchen other than my own to work in, but I think when you know your own gadgets, equipment and are in your own place, it’s so much easier!

The oven didn’t seem to cook the sweet potatoes well enough, and so I wasn’t very happy with how my brownies came out (they’re like my signature baking item, I suppose!), especially the banana ones, so I redid them, and they came out a little better. The gas oven in the kitchen I was working with cooked the brownies thoroughly on one side, but the other side remained uncooked, so I turned the pan around to even them up, but they just ended up being overcooked. I also wasn’t happy with the meatloaf in that the apple and sweet potato weren’t homogenised in with the pork as much as I would have liked. And I didn’t like me sweet potato pie because being unable to homogenise the sweet potato properly meant my pie looked slightly anaemic! And the pizza base came out too thick due to the size of the pan I had to use, but in some ways I think that actually was quite nice to have a thick crust, so people could sample some primal stodge!

I really hope that everyone feels as though the food warranted their money. Sometimes cooking for the masses takes the fun out of a hobby, and making things in a production line style takes away the time that you’d normally spend on preparing dishes for special, individual people. That’s not to say I didn’t put love and care into what I did, just that it was stretched out in such a short space of time, and there’s only so much to give!

I also spent the end of last week and weekend worrying entirely, not to mention the next few days I’ll probably spend worrying what people thought of the food! The day before and the morning of the event I was so nervous (as nervous as doing the Battle of London WODS, of which I cried during 2 out of 3 of them!)! I just need to learn to relax, focus on what’s at hand, and forget about what’s done. But I think that’s something a lot of us struggle with. 🙂

I would love to do this event again in the future (of course, if I’m allowed), but unfortunately we’ll have to see how my studies go down. Studying for a PhD full-time and doing other degree modules part-time, as well as training and general life is hard enough as it is, and I’d rather be decent at what I do than spread myself too thinly (as tempted as it is to take on more than what I can chew; I am rather ambitious!). We will have to see! But whatever happens nit he future, I’m a part of CFP’s history, and for that, I’m proud!



If anyone’s reading this from the Primal Games and feels to leave a genuine comment about the food, please leave a comment on this blog post (or on Facebook!); you can leave it here anonymously (or email me; go to the “contact” page), if you so wish.

Anyway, onto the recipe in this post!

I was also testing out a reflector I bought from Amazon. It’s awesome! It has four different reflectors and a diffuser that compresses into the size of something you can easily store in a cupboard. You can see in the photos above the difference with using no reflector and just natural light (on the left), and the silver reflector (on the right). It definitely highlights the colours a lot better than without. But different situations, angles, light and composition calls for different techniques. 🙂

I also have a 500W halogen lamp and a 135W 5500K tungsten lamp to try out, that I managed to buy cheaply! Can’t wait to try!



You can’t see the crust so well, as I had way too much egg filling, and after baking the crust (which naturally shrinks a little), the eggs spilt around the outside of the crust, and so was baked around it! But it tasted great, either way!

The egg mixture was very creamy! I liked it, but I think most people are used to their quiches with cheese. Cheese would have definitely gone down well! 🙂

Paleo Quiche with a Grainless Crust
Adapted from: Preppy Paleo
Makes 8 slices

Ingredients
For the crust:
• ¾ cup coconut flour
• ¼ – ½ cup melted butter or coconut oil
• 2 x eggs, beaten
• 1/2 tsp salt

For the filling:
• 5 x eggs
• ½ cup coconut milk (or regular whole milk, if primal)
• ½ tsp crushed garlic or garlic powder
• pinch of pepper
• 1 tsp salt
• any other fillings! I used mushrooms, chives, halved cherry tomatoes, and cooked pigs in blankets! 🙂

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 175°C.

For the crust:
Combine all of the ingredients into a bowl until well incorporated. Then press and spread into a cake tin (I used an 20 cm diameter beautiful silicon cake mould), all up the sides, too, to make a pie case. Prick the dough with a fork and bake for 15 minutes.

For the filling:
Beat the eggs in a bowl and add in the remaining ingredients. Add to the pie crust and decorate as desired (with leftover mushrooms, for example), and pop into the oven for another 30-35 minutes, or until the centre is firm and cook through.

Leave to cool completely, as this enables it to be cut cleanly. Or can you just eat hot if you don’t mind slightly messy slices! 🙂

Baked: 14.11.2013

Pan-Fried Lamb Chops with Mushrooms, Peas and Sprouts in a Creamy Sauce and Avocado and Pea Salsa | Tim’s Trip to the Pyrenees



Weeelll this week has been really busy! My brother has been away for 12 days in the Pyrenees on a geology field trip, and so I’ve been cooking really simple food… although there’s no reason it still can’t be full of flavour! But of course, the first morning Tim was back, we had pancakes ^_^

Tim really enjoyed his trip and I’m glad he did! Not only did he make some new friends on his course but he got a picture with Professor Iain Stewart, but unfortunately his friend has the photo! Tim also volunteered to help record some information about Geology in a bid to make an educational geological video, and I popped a YouTube video at the bottom of one! I’m really impressed with it and proud of my bro! I think he speaks really well and he did it without a script or any practice! 🙂

Edit (03.10.2013):Tim and Iain 🙂



Anywho, a couple of weeks ago I picked up half a lamb from a guy at Crossfit whose other half’s cousin owns a farm in Ugborough, and so this stuff is supposed to be grass fed, organic, free-range, and all that good stuff. Now thsi lamb is awesome! I have just over 10kg of the stuff: chops, neck, shoulder, legs, etc. All I can say is that my freezer is full!

I think this dish was really simple, but really tasty… although there are a lot of different flavours, they seem to work well together. I really enjoyed the lemon zing in the avocadoes… I made that last night with my parents after we celebrated me passing my transfer! Friday 13th now has a new meaning to me! And the creamy sauce with the lamb is really nice, too; makes a change from gravy! Not only is it really simple but you really don’t need much cream to add a whole new dimension to the dish. The cream mixed with the lamb juices makes such a nice and delicate sauce that goes so well with sprouts, mushrooms, peas, and leeks.

I also couldn’t choose how many photos to take; they all look quite similar, but I just like the colours so much. The photos look a bit too busy for my liking, but what’re you gonna do? ^_^

Saturday’s WODs:
Advanced:
Max reps of (4 rounds):
BW bench press
Strict pull ups
Strict HSPUs
2 x BW deadlifts

Then 20 minutes to achieve:
1RM of 2 x full snatch into 1 x full hang snatch
max. reps muscle ups

The session was so busy this morning and hectic! Boo!

Intermediate:
In pairs, 20 minute AMRAP: each do alternating rounds of Cindy while the other does burpees! (Cindy = 5 pull ups, 10 press ups, 15 squats)

Me and Emily = 236 burpees and 14 rounds of Cindy, rx’d. 🙂

They were both fun but I need to push myself more! Whenever things start to get uncomfortable, I always pull back, and if I continue sometimes I get teary and upset. Why? What is wrong with me?!

Pan-Fried Lamb Chops with Mushrooms, Peas and Sprouts in a Creamy Sauce and Avocado and Pea Salsa
Avocado salsa/salad adapted from: Home Cooking Adventure
Serves 1-2

Ingredients
For the avocado salsa:
• 1 x avocado
• 1 x cup spring onion, chopped
• ¼ cup raw peas
• 2 x garlic cloves, minced
• 3 tbsp lemon juice

For the lamb and cream sauce:
• 2-4 x lamb chops
• 2 x cloves of garlic, minced
• 1 x small onion, diced
• ~200 g button mushrooms, halved
• ~½ cup of peas
• 2 tbsp dried rosemary
• splash of double cream
• sprinkling of pine nuts

Preparation

For the avocado salsa:
Mash the avocado in a bowl, and fold and mix in the rest of the ingredients.

For the lamb and cream sauce:
Pop the lamb chops in a large non-stick fryign pan on low until you your them start to sizzle and the juices start to run out. Then turn the heat up to medium and add the onions, garlic, mushrooms and rosemary. Continue to dry until the garlic is fragrant, the onion is translucent, and the mushrooms have soaked up the lamb juices. If the lamb is cooked to your liking before the rest of the dish is ready, take the lamb off the plate or push it to the side of the pan. Add the peas about 1 minute before you turn off the heat.

When ready to serve, turn off the heat, put the lamb on the plates and add a splash of double cream to the pan, and mixing in with the juices, mushrooms, onions, etc. Serve over the lamb chops, sprinkle some pine nuts and enjoy with the avocado salsa. 🙂

Enjoyed solo: 11.09.2013

Seared Scallops with Plum and Dill Sauce

Well today has been a lovely day! First off, training at CFP! We have a great team at the DWF competition in Wales this weekend; really wish I decided to go! But at the same time, I’m quite glad to have spent this lovely day training and cooking for my lovely family 🙂

Tim and I have been having busier and busier weeks as time goes by! By the weekend I specifically make no plans other than to spend time with my family and pursuing hobbies. I’m so lucky to be living where I live, doing what I do and knowing the people I know. Almost every other Saturday, when dad’s home from work, our parents come over to our place for a nice, gourmet (well, as gourmet as I can make it) meal. I really love being able to share something that I’ve created, something that’s a product of my time, energy and enthusiasm, with the people I love. I miss them all the time and just want to attempt to give back things I’ve taken from them over my twenty-three years. Although that’s an impossible task, I’ll do what I can to show them how much they mean to me, and that not once, have I ever taken them for granted. As I’ve grown older, I’ve been able to count my blessings more, and relish in the beauty of life. I’ve definitely found myself “high” on life quite regularly these past few of years!

Anyway! This afternoon, we had a lovely three course meal (if I do say so myself!). For starters, we had a colourful salad with mixed leaves, grated carrot, pecans, dried fruit, pomegranate, various seeds, plum, strawberries, tomatoes, olives, raspberries, onion, toasted coconut, Parma ham… you name it! And the best thing, was that these scallops were so simple to rustle up!

Scallops are one of those things you absolutely can’t walk away from. You have to be watching over it constantly. Do not attempt to do what I do, and just take a couple of seconds to do something else, assuring yourself that you will remember to check back in literally one minute’s time… because trust me, you won’t. You’ll forget, and find yourself munching on chewy, over-cooked scallops. What a waste!

Scallops can indeed be eaten raw, but are definitely tasty hot and toasty! However, it is far better to have a slightly undercooked scallop than an overcooked, overly-firm one.

Also, if you’re lucky enough to get them with the pink sack of goodness (the “roe” or “coral”), eat it! I hear it’s packed with omega-3’s and they are so tasty! I believe in America that it’s extremelt difficult to buy them with the coral still attached. But in Europe, they’re rather a delicacy. 🙂 I omitted them from my plate for taking the photos, but added them back when I sat down at the table to scoff them with my family. A lovely dish I wanted to try and to share my efforts with some of my most treasured and beautiful people on the planet. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did!

Seared Scallops with Plum and Dill Sauce
Adapted from: Fou de Food
Serves 4

Ingredients
• 1-2 tablespoons (clarified) butter
• 12 x scallops (with or without the coral/roe)
• 4 x plums
• a couple of strawberries and raspberries
• ½ tablespoon dried dill
• Pinch cayenne pepper
• Splash of lemon juice
• Salad (as a side)
• Lemon zest (to garnish)

Preparation
For the sauce:
Cut plums and strawberries, and pop, along with the raspberries, into a saucepan. Heat on medium until all fruit sweats and becomes tender. Do not crisp or blacken. Add the dried dill, lemon juice and cayenne pepper (only a pinch though!). Leave to cool for a bit and then blend everything.

For the scallop dish:
Firstly, prepare the salad on the plates.

Rinse the scallops under cold water and remove the coral and gut. Keep the coral and cook as well if preferred, it’s really tasty, but they don’t take a long to cook as the scallop itself.

Heat the butter in the large non-stick frying pan until hot and almost smoking. Pop the scallops into the pan and sear for 1 minute and 30-45 seconds on each side, depending on the side. Don’t move the scallops, otherwise you’ll hinder the lovely browning process. But if you need to take a peek at one, hey ho, go ahead. 🙂

If you’re not sure whether they’re cooked or not, you can perhaps cut your own scallop open to see whether they’ve turned from translucent to opaque throughout. Ideally, you want them to have a slightly translucent centre.

In the meantime, heat up the sauce!

When the scallops are done, pop them on kitchen towel for a moment to drain any excess butter, if any. Arrange the scallops on the plate, top with a little sauce, spoon some on the side and sprinkle zest over the plate. Serve immediately.

Eaten: 03.11.2012 with my lovely family 🙂

Macarons au Chocolat

Chocolate macarons are my most favourite macaron. They’re so beautifully rich, and the osmotic-like absorption of the ganache’s flavour from the shell makes them so much more delectable. But they’re also incredibly simple to make… once you’ve got the technique. After I made the macarons for the second time, I knew the recipe and what to do off by heart. It’s not the recipe itself that’s difficult; it’s just keeping an eye on the consistency of the batter (i.e. knowing what to look for), and getting to know your oven!

Perhaps I’ve finally mastered the recipe and got to grips with my oven?! Or perhaps not… just because I’ve made decent looking macarons a couple of times doesn’t mean a thing! Especially as on a more recent attempt, they failed completely.

I ran out of icing sugar, and used desiccated coconut in place of the almonds. When I baked the cookies, they developed no foot at all, and had a completely different texture to regular macaron shells. However, I still sandwiched them with the chocolate ganache and put them forward in the badminton league buffet. I did get compliments though, as they were quite tasty, although nothing like the macaron I was hoping for!

There are many variations of making macarons posted all over the internet; some people try it and have great success, while others try and have little. Sometimes it’s just that the instructions can be quite ambiguous. When a recipe states something along the lines of “now, incorporate the almonds and icing sugar with the egg whites, being sure not to over mix. You know that you’ve over mixed when the batter is dull,” it can mean anything! But for me, the most important part of making macarons was the “macaronage,” which some people use to refer to the part where the almonds and icing sugar are incorporated into the egg whites, and the right amount of air is knocked out of the whites. If the batter is over mixed it will become very runny, and won’t be able to hold its shape when piped. However, if it’s under mixed, you won’t get a perfectly smooth shell and too many air bubbles inside. The piped macaron shells are then left on the worktop for about an hour to air-dry. This helps to create a hard shell, so that when the air inside of the macaron shell expands in the oven, the shell is forced upwards thus creating the “foot” at the bottom. If the shell isn’t tough enough, then it’ll crack and no foot will develop. I have read on a few other blogs that leaving them out to “air-dry” wasn’t a necessity for them, but in my experience, is it a necessity for me!

The following video is a great instructional video on how to make macarons. The part about knocking the air out of the egg whites was what I found the most helpful: if you plop some of your batter onto a plate before baking, and the peak slowly disappears, then you’ve got the perfect batter. It should have a “magma” like consistency. I found that to be a top tip!

I use a roasting tin with parchment paper to bake my macarons, because it doesn’t distort with the heat of the oven, therefore giving lopsided shells. Also, I place the roasting pan on top of a broiler pan in the lower part of my oven. This stops the heat from the bottom of the oven being too harsh on the shells, and also keeps the macarons perfectly at mid/lower-level in my oven! However, I can only bake about a maximum of 12 shells at a time. So macaron baking requires patience!

The temperature at which people bake their macarons is also a hot topic. Too low or too high temperatures result in undesirable consequences, which is why it’s important to “get-to-know” your oven. A further note is that the size of the macaron shell I believe is entirely of your choice, as I’ve seen and bought macarons of varying sizes. Some like them rather large but other prefer them bite-size. Personally, I prefer slightly larger maracons, that require two or three minute bites. But that’s just me. 🙂

And finally, macarons do taste better with time, which probably goes against almost all rules of French pâtisserie! But I suppose that as macarons aren’t pastry, the rules of pastry don’t apply. It takes time for the shells to absorb the flavour of the ganache, which gives them a very soft and flavourful interior. Some people recommend eating them after 2 days, but the ones that I bought from Zürich airport (along with other sources) suggested up to 5 days for maximum flavour. In fact, the blog Not So Humble Pie suggests that if you’re leaning towards either over or under-baking your macarons, go towards over-baking them, because if they’re a little too dry, the moistness from the ganache can help to rectify the issue after a few days of mingling!

A great trouble-shooting guide, as well as other tips and discussions, can be found here.

Macarons au Chocolat
Adapted from: Not So Humble Pie and Kokken 69
Makes 8-10 shells (4-5 macarons)

Ingredients
For the shells:
• lemon juice
• 40g ground almonds
• 57g icing sugar
• 10g cocoa powder (or replace with icing sugar and add some vanilla essence instead)
• 35g egg whites
• 11g granulated sugar

For the ganache: (enough for about 15-20 macarons!)
• 200g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
• 200g double cream
• 70g butter, at room temperature

Preparation
For the 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, cocoa powder 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 half of the oven for 16-18 minutes.

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

For the ganache:
Melt the chocolate and cream over a low heat in a saucepan; allow to cool to around 50C. Cut up the butter in a bowl, pour over the chocolate sauce, and whip until smooth. Pop into 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.

Assembling the macaron:
Fill an icing syringe or piping bag with the ganache, and dollop a splodge into the centre of a macaron shell; not too much or too little. It takes a little practice to get the right amount, so that when the two shells are sandwiched together, the ganache spreads to the edges of the shell but no farther, and so that there’s a smooth, unblemished edge around the ganache. 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. 🙂

Bon appétit!!

Shells baked: 19.12.2011, shells filled: 20.12.2011.

Macarons

I’ve been dying to try and make some macarons for a long long time now. But before I attempted, I would like to try them first. A few weeks ago, my PhD led me to Switzerland to visit my sponsor company for a couple of days. I was certain that Zurich airport would have macarons… and indeed they did! I ended up purchasing a box of 6 of these fairly expensive Lindt macarons from their “Délice” selection,” while my supervisor bought some Swiss chocolate for his family/friends. So finally, I get to taste Swiss macarons! I’m sure they’re the same as the French ones.

And as a side note, Zurich airport is the best airport I’ve ever been to. The security is such a pleasure to go through. That’s probably because they had security stations for groups of gates, rather than one large security area for loads of people. It made everything to much quicker and relaxed. Also, every time I see the recent Lindt advert on TV with Roger Federer, I think to myself “woo, Switzerland!” I much prefer the normal-TV version to the extended one:

However, I just found it quite funny though when, about two weeks later, my mum went to a supermarket and found mini macarons on sale for a fraction of the price of the Lindt ones… I’ll have to decide if they rival those of Lindt when I get home this weekend!

Now that I have finally tried macarons, I had no excuse to attempt to bake my own. I have to admit, I was terrified that something would go horribly wrong after hearing how difficult they are to get perfect, how you have to become accustomed to your own oven and all of these Swiss and French meringue methods. But I think that my macarons are ok! Sure, they look a little homemade (I think it’s partly to do with using too small a nozzle on my piping bag – so it’s difficult to pipe smooth circle – but then again I still think my batter is too under mixed, after reading this post by Brave Tart).

Light in new place difficult for photography as it only comes from one angle and is so depepdent on the day.

My first attempt at macarons this week were lavender shells. However I think that the batter I used was severely under mixed (due to my fear of over mixing the batter, after hearing dreaded things about that!), as the shells were so thin and crumbly. Although when they were in the oven, I did get excited when I started to see the “feet” developing and even thought to myself “perhaps I’ve got this macaron stuff down!” Of course, I hadn’t. The only good thing about these ones was that they had fairly bump-free tops (most probably as a result of under mixing and the batter being too runny).

The second attempt weren’t too bad. I think that the feet were good! I did get a little impatient though and sandwiched the white chocolate ganache between the banana flavoured shells before it had completely cooled. But they tasted ok and weren’t too bad!

I was quite pleased with the coffee and Nutella macarons I made on my third attempt, but was very disappointed that there seemed to be no feet.

I’m going to attempt one more time this week using a slightly different method I’ve found during my readings of macaron baking. And seeing as it’s nearly 4pm on a Friday afternoon, I only have a few hours of the day left to get cracking…