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.

Two-Ingredient “Healthier” Pancakes with Nut Butter and Honey Sauce | Shrove Tuesday

Happy Shrove Tuesday everybody! Today is the last day before Lent (a time of abstinence before Easter Sunday), and so pancakes were eaten and indulged in as they contained all of the things that were forbidden during Lent (such as butter and eggs!).

Now sure, you’re probably saying “Pancake Day is always on a Tuesday and I’m just too busy to make pancakes before going to work.” So I’m going to show you a recipe with minimal ingredients for some really simple, but delicious, American-style pancakes! (I do love Crêpes, but that’s for another post 🙂 ).

These pancakes use only two ingredients that are pretty much in everyone’s pantry. And to be honest, you can make these pancakes with just eggs and NOTHING else! Just follow the same recipe below, but leave out the flour portion. My brother and I go through phases where we have eggy-crêpes almost every morning with nut butters, fruits, sometimes leftover meat and maple syrup. Delicious!

For the past few months I’ve been eating lots of junk food. And I’ve put on weight! But I’ve also gained strength. I am a large advocate of the paleo diet; always have been, always will be (unless the scientific evidence proves otherwise). But I’ve always known that the paleo diet promotes health and is great for fat loss, whereas the Zone, for example, is something that focuses on performance. I know a few people down at CFP who have complained about a loss of energy when doing WODs when following a strict paleo diet. I do agree, from my own experience, that it’s great for daily energy levels and body composition, but personally, I think it did hinder my strength gains a little (it’s difficult to tell though, to be perfectly honest! It’s a combination of a lot of things, but I think that eating more calories, even from junk food, have helped to make me stronger). So I think, for me at least, a paleo diet with a few modifications (i.e. more carbs, perhaps? More general calories? But NOT just junk food full of sugar and wheat!) would suit me and my training well, and I think that these pancakes fit the bill!

There are lots of recipes I’ve found, paleo and otherwise, and some also call for many ingredients that I don’t feel are necessary. Most recipes that make the softest and fluffiest pancakes call for the fewest ingredients. Maybe when you understand the function of ingredients a little better you can alter things a bit to your tastes, likings and needs at the time.

You can replace the oats with other flours and ground things, like flax seeds, almond flour, coconut flour, oat flour, etc. It has the same effect although the texture may vary a little. Try is out to get your favourite flavour and texture! This recipe is similar to this paleo pancake recipe, although as the oats in this recipe cook and makes the pancakes slightly less eggy. Either way, they’re all delicious combinations, and there’s no point in me talking about it. Just try them out and decide for yourself which flavour combinations you prefer! 🙂

I love these pancakes with different fruits in the mixture, on top of the final pancake, cooked, raw, etc. I also love nut butters, syrups and honey, lemon juice, fruits, meats, etc. So good!

You can also freeze them, and to pop them in the toaster to reheat on really busy mornings!

Anyway, I took these photos a long time ago, and am pleased with how they came out! I still don’t know anything about anything when it comes to photography, but I remember trying to play with the backgrounds a little more than just having a plain ol’ white background (although easier to work with!).

I like to keep the backgrounds as simple as possible, because as an amateur, I find that the more elements there are in my frame, the more difficult it is to arrange something with a nice composition and flattering colours – at my level, the simpler, the better! And sometimes, simple photos are nicer, too, as I also dislike crowded photos with too many elements. I guess I get that minimalist side from my dad!

I’m pleased with the first photo in this post, because I think that it sets a scene, and I love photos that do that. It makes me think of someone’s worktop in a modern kitchen, who’s just prepared their pancakes whilst drinking OJ, quickly slapped some butter on top and has just turned around to pop something in the sink before taking their pancakes to the table to scoff before a busy day. 🙂

These photos have no post processing either (the same with all of my photos – only a few I’ve attempted to correct for white balance. I used to shoot in RAW as well as JPEG… but I stopped because I just don’t know what to do with a RAW file! All I know is that they take up a LOT of space! So when I learn how to use them, then I’ll start shooting in RAW again. I think I’m getting better at composition and food styling, as well as knowing which angle would complement the food better along with the type of lighting, even though I still don’t know what I’m doing with a camera on manual. At least my intuitive senses when working with light are getting better. More of my photos are being accepted by FoodGawker and Tastespotting (although just because they accept or reject a photo, doesn’t mean that your photography is good or bad… Emma Gardner has stopped submitting photos to these two sites), although I do have about four times as many photos rejected than I have had accepted. But it doesn’t bother me. I’m still proud of my photography progress, considering it’s only a hobby and not the focus of my life or career (for now!). Ironically, the very food photo I took with my DSLR was accepted by Foodgawker, even though I’d tried desperately to get something accepted using only a digital camera (I had previously with Tastespotting). So in that way, it is the camera that takes nice shots, and not the photographer! Hee hee 😉

Happy pancake-ing! I’ll be making them for breakfast AND dinner! 😉 What will you have with yours?

Two-Ingredient “Healthier” Pancakes with Nut Butter and Honey Sauce
Syrup from: Southern Plate
Makes 6 pancakes

Ingredients
For the pancakes:
• 6 x eggs
• 6 heaped tbsps of rolled oats (or flax seed, coconut flour, almond flour… of course the texture of the final pancake will be different)

Optional extras for pancake batter:
• 5 tbsp milk (or coconut milk, almond milk, buttermilk…)
• 2 tsp vanilla essence
• dried fruit
• cinnamon
• toasted coconut
• nuts
• chocolate chips
• fruit (see below)
• bacon
• peanut butter

Fruit:
• banana
• blueberries
• nectarines
• strawberries
• cherries
• apples
• etc!

For the peanut butter sauce:
• crunchy peanut butter (or nut butter – or even chocolate or Nutella!)
• honey (use twice as much honey as there is butter)

Other optional syrups/sauces:
dulce de leche
• Nutella
• honey
• (whipped) double cream
• yoghurt

Preparation
For the pancakes:
Mix the eggs, oats, and any extras in a bowl until homogenised. Heat a large non-stick frying pan until hot, so that when the batter is dropped onto it, it sizzles. Use a large spoon to spoon on two dollops of pancake batter, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook for about 4-6 minutes. Then use a spatula to flip and cook for about 2 more minutes.

Fruit preparation:
Chop up the fruit before making the pancakes. You can either incorporate the fruit raw into your pancakes or serve on the side, or you can fry in their own juices on low (or a little higher with some butter) and serve them on the side or incorporate into the pancake batter.

For the syrup/sauce:
Put the honey and butter in a non-stick milk pan, and continuously stir over a low heat until it all blends together and is nice and runny. If you would like a sauce, as opposed to a syrup, keeping cooking and stirring over a low heat until the syrup thickens into a sauce. Be careful not to overcook it though otherwise the texture will be dry and a little brittle.

Sunday treat: 04.08.2013

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. 🙂

Deep Dish Paleo Berry Pie | An Ode to Pie

Ahh pie. So comforting. There’s nothing like burying your problems, woes, and tackling procrastination by tucking into a large serving of pie with a heavy helping of clotted cream (hmmm, on further introspection, this is not a healthy habit; I should do something about this)…

I can’t believe it’s the end of January already; I’ve never understood the cliché phrase “Where does the time go?” more at any point of my life than I do now. I guess being busy is a good sign, because it means that my glass is full, overflowing if you will.

I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, because I don’t believe that you need a new year to make goals. Why is a new year going to be any different to the previous one if you don’t make changes? Once the clock strikes midnight, and it’s no longer December 31st, but January 1st… how has your life changed in such a way that your goals are finally achievable?

What I’m trying to say, is that New Year’s resolutions are goals that you must have been holding dear to your heart and think of often, so why is it that overnight you can suddenly achieve your goals? Heck, you don’t even need a new week to start new goals and decide that you’re going to go for it. You just need a new moment, or the present. And I think that’s what commitment is; deciding that you want to achieve your goals at every new moment, rather just because it’s customary to do so at a particular time.

Anyway, the goals I am working towards, in no particular order (not resolutions, because these are things I’ve been working on for a while, and haven’t made just because it’s a new year!):
1. Start writing thesis;
2. Get better at running, rowing, and endurance-y stuff;
3. Get really strong!
4. Try my hardest to fit in Spanish studies;
5. Eat clean and to not be influenced by bad eating habits and the eating habits of others;
6. Be happy and continue my spiritual growth.

Last week, I had some good news with my PhD! I was in contact with a Japanese researcher, who invited me to study in his lab if I could obtain a JSPS Fellowship. However, Omya will not allow me to go because of patents, secrecy of research, etc. Nevermind! Perhaps this is something for a future endeavour. 🙂 And I also received an email saying that I was “accepted” to present at a conference… in Hawaii! Well, I’ve made the first hurdle! My abstract was accepted, and now I need to hand in a manuscript, and from there, they’ll decide if they really do want me to present. But to be honest, I doubt I’ll be able to get adequate results in such a short space of time, and even if I was, I don’t think I’d obtain the funding to be able to go. This saddens me, however I will try my hardest, and if it doesn’t happen, then it just wasn’t meant to be.

Anyway, I still made time to post this pie recipe this week, and bake a few other things, as well as take photos of them (and post them to Facebook). There’s no point in saying “I’ll wait until I’ve done this to do my hobby” or something similar… you just have to grab it. Which is why I bake and take photos; I love it! It reminds me that life is something to be enjoyed NOW and not to be put off for another time. You have to MAKE time for your achievements, for your work, for your family and hobbies, and you have to sacrifice and prioritise for them all. I personally think that you can have and do it all, but just not at once.

And, onto the pie!

I didn’t really expect much from this pie… I just sort of threw it together. I felt like making something hearty and relatively healthy (compared to other desserts). But now I think it’s going to be a delightful addition to my repertoire of recipes! I mean, sure, it’s a paleo pie, but even if you’re not on the paleo diet, this pie is absolutely fantastic and I really prefer it to conventional pies, as it’s not too sweet. I used cherries and blueberries, but you could easily use other fruits. Favourite combinations of mine are apple and blackberry, forest fruits, and peach and raspberry (my mum makes a delicious peach and raspberry crumble… mmmmmm!).

I made this for one weekend when we were all together at my parents’ and we had this with mum’s rib-eye beef! Was delicious!


The morning that I had baked this pie, my brother and I were working in the living room, and the pie was cooling on the kitchen worktop. I went into the kitchen with the lights off, and the light from the living room was shining through the serving hatch and illuminated the pie in such a picturesque and angelic way that I had to capture it was it was! I’ve never been a fan of using indoor lights, and always try to use natural lighting, but I had a good tripod and the right angle, and I think the pictures below came out beautifully, despite the darkness and small amount of fake light!

I also took photos at my parents’ house, because I absolutely love their rustic kitchen as it’s large and beautiful, and full of light, but I really struggled with the composition. Well, more so the lighting and angles to make it look delectable without making the colours look flat. The typical example would be taking photos of salads: with the right lighting and angles they can look crisp and delicious, but with the wrong lighting (i.e. in a dark restaurant with a flash) it can look limp, boring and lifeless.

I love how the crust of the pie is stained purple, and the colours inside. 🙂 And how it looks so impressive yet is so simple to put together! And, a great gift idea would be mini pies!

The pie is delicious when hot and straight from the oven, with a generous dollop of clotted cream. But then this is also wonderful cold with double cream as well. If you leave it for a day after baking and before eating, the flavours mingle with one another and with the pie case. It’s perfect all year round: hot in the winter, and cold in the summer!

The pie case is also great for savoury pies, because it’s not sweetened with coconut flour, it goes with every taste! I used it to make a savoury beef pie that was absolutely delicious! 🙂

Thursday training:
1km run into a 100m farmer’s walk 16/24kg
800m run into a 100m farmer’s walk 16/24kg
600m run into a 100m farmer’s walk 16/24kg
400m run into a 100m farmer’s walk 16/24kg
1 min pull up rig hang (weighted if possible)
400m run into a 100m farmer’s walk 16/24kg
600m run into a 100m farmer’s walk 16/24kg
800m run into a 100m farmer’s walk 16/24kg
1km run into a 100m farmer’s walk 16/24kg

Deep Dish Paleo Berry Pie
Serves 8-10
Case adapted from: Elana’s Pantry; filling adapted from The Yoghurt Pot

Ingredients
For the pie case:
• 4 cups almond flour
• 4 tbsp coconut oil, melted (approx. 2 heaped tbsp coconut oil if hard)
• 2 x eggs

For the filling:
• 350g cherries, pitted (fresh or thawed from frozen)
• 350g blueberries, (fresh or thawed from frozen)
• 250g mixed dried fruits (soaked overnight in hot water)
• 3 generous tbsp maple syrup/honey
• 2 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 tsp arrowroot powder (optional)

Preparation
Drain the dried fruit that has been soaked overnight in water. Mix all of the ingredients for the filling together in a saucepan, bring to the boil, and let simmer for around 10 minutes (if not using arrowroot powder, maybe simmer for 15 minutes to evaporate a little more of the liquids?). Then set aside.

In the meantime, prepare your pie cast. Mix all of the in a large bowl and homogenise well with the back of a spoon. Line a cake tin with baking paper (my cake tin had a removable base, and was 15cm in diameter and 8 cm in height), and press the case mixture all around the cake tin, ensuring that the walls are thick enough to hold the weight of the fruits. (I used about ¾ of the mixture for the base and walls, and the remaining for the top.)

Pour in the berry filling. Then pat the remaining pastry mixture on top of the filling. Make sure to seal as best as you can any gaps between the lid and the walls of the case, without splashing juice anywhere!

Pop the pie into a preheated oven at 200°C for 20 minutes, and then turn the oven down to 160°C for 15 minutes. I then let my pie cool in the oven.

If you wish to present the pie to guests, I recommend to cool the pie entirely before removing it from its tin, so that it holds its shape better.

This is delicious straight from the oven when hot and fresh, but is also beautiful the next day, as the juices inside become a sauce, and the flavours mingle with each other and the pastry case.

Bon appétit! 🙂

Baked and constructed: 24.01.2014 @ the Kung Fu Kitchen! 🙂

Coconut Chocolate Ganache & Coconut Cream | Homemade Christmas Puddings & Perspective



I’m feeling really rather Christmas-y this year and absolutely cannot wait to be curled up with my loved ones all under the same roof, all having a laugh and a bit of down time. Christmas is that time of year where I shut myself off from work and worries for a couple of weeks and just do the things I love, catch up on sleep and rest, and eat. 🙂

I’ve even gone as far as making my own Christmas puddings! I’ve looked at various traditional and gluten-free Christmas pudding recipes, and from those my own concoction full of brandy, mixed nuts and dried fruits, apples, coconut and general Christmas-ness is born. 🙂 I think that I’ve used minimal but best ingredients in order to make it as primal as possible. I absolutely love these hot and covered with a mixture of coconut-chocolate ganache and double cream (see pictures further down the page!). Clotted cream works well, as does coconut cream.

The photo above and in the middle was taken in the dark using a 135W 5500K tungsten lamp and a silver reflector. How cool is that?! I love the result, actually! I just had to be careful with the light, as it was too weak to use a diffuser, but strong enough to make harsh shadows on the pudding. Luckily, the reflector worked nicely.

The two photos above and below it are taken in natural light (on a perfect day; overcast yet not grey!) with a gold reflector. I’m really glad that I used the gold reflector; I was a little worried about mixing daylight, which is a little more blue, with gold, but I really like the effect. 🙂 I think that’s because I feel as though it makes the spices come alive, and it’s also a little reminiscent of home. I can image myself being at home on a cold winter’s eve with the fire flickering in the background. The only thing that would have made this more homely is if this plate was on a pine table, rather than a white board! It would have so reminded me of being at my parent’s house in the countryside in beautiful rural England. 🙂

That’s what food photography does for me; it has to have a story, a theme, a memory behind it. It has to evoke feelings, emotions and daydreams. It’s not just about the food, but it’s about the sentiment and enjoyment of, yes, the food, but also the situation and the people you’re sharing it with. My photos are rather minimalistic, but that’s because I struggle badly with the composition of the photo if there’s too much going on in the frame. I’ll get good one day if I keep practising! When I look back over the photos on this page, I see my improvement, although it’s easy to forget how far you’ve come. So it’s good to review regularly to inspire and motivate yourself. 🙂



Anyway, enough daydreaming! And onto talking about the two sauces in this post. These sauces are really rather delicious and go with everything you can think of! The photo below is the coconut-chocolate ganache on a pistachio sweet potato truffle, which is absolutely beautiful!

The sauce can be used for a lot of things. It does dry, as you can see in some of the pictures on this page, which not only makes it great to photograph (as there’s no shiny bits on the sauce), but also makes it great to coat truffles, for example. But if you’re in a warm environment (as coconut oil has a low melting point), or serve it immediately, it makes a really rich sauce that goes great with double cream (I’ve already said that earlier, but it was that good I had to say it again!).

I suppose you could make the sauce in advance, put it in a jar, keep in the fridge, and reheat over a VERY gentle heat when needed. Or you could periodically take spoonfuls from the jar (as we do with Nutella and peanut butter!).

Honestly, I could make this stuff and shape it into balls, pop in the fridge and have chocolate truffles or something. I have a silicon chocolate mould in the shape of coffee beans, and it’s tempting to just pop in in there and eat it. The coconut oil is so light on the tongue and melts as soon as it touches anything warm. It’s delicious and utterly divine!

And in actual fact, that’s what I did do (see the picture below)! I also added a little bit of instant coffee granules (or I suppose you could use freshly made espresso if you wanted), popped them into my silicon mould, and popped in the fridge. They were AMAZING!



Coconut cream is also another *must* to have available in the kitchen, especially around Christmas. This stuff has such a lovely texture and taste, and goes with just about anything! I think it could also be substituted for yoghurt. It’s delicious and silky smooth! Below is pictured a black bean brownie smothered in coconut cream. 🙂

Anyway, just briefly, I’ve decided that I’m not going to worry anyway (yeah right!). Today, and this time last week, I have given a presentation to an audience about my research, and I was really nervous, especially for last week’s! I was worried about the sorts of questions I was going to be asked. But I think it’s all about seeing these presentations as opportunities to grow, and discuss my work and see what I may have overlooked, rather than a sort of interrogation or an attempt to show me up. I if I didn’t know something, there was no need to be embarrassed to admit that “I don’t’ know/haven’t thought that far ahead yet.” But I managed to answer everything, and I answered it well (although the askers genuinely seemed to be interested in my work, rather than trying to tear it apart as it happens at other more specific conferences!). Even Iain Stewart asked me a question! Eeep! 🙂

I was also quite tempted to shout out to all those “feldspar jockies” during the CRES conference (which is essentially a room full of geologists; so my presentation was unique in that sense!) that “geology isn’t a real science!” in the style of Sheldon Cooper! (Apparently my work colleagues nearly died of hysterics after reading my “status” on Google+!)

My point is, I suppose, to just focus on the now. I spent a bit of time worrying about what may never have been, and after the presentations were over, it wasn’t! I did worry about what wasn’t! What a waste of time! And that was on the small scale! Imagine how much time we, as humans, spend worrying about so many things that don’t happen or mean anything. That’s time we could dedicate to just being happy.

So, forget the future, and enjoy the now! I prepared for questions as best as I could. After I did that, I could do no more. So why worry and put yourself through painful mental situations? And even demonstrating in the labs; I’m worried about how the students will perceive me, but again, there’s no shame in not knowing something and I can see it as a chance to get to know the students and improve my teaching, CV and public speaking. 🙂

I’m nervous about tonight’s WOD, but I’ll worry about that when I get there… 🙂

Wednesday’s WOD @ CFP:
Battle of London qualifier 3!

As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of:
50 wall balls 9kg to 10ft/6kg to 9ft
40 KB swings Russian 32/24kg (to just above shoulder height)
30 down-ups (burpees without the jump and clap)
20 pull-ups
100 double unders

Score = total reps

442 reps rx’d

Coconut Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from: Nutrition Stripped and The Sweet Life Online

Ingredients
• ¼ cup cocoa powder
• ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
• 1 tbsp maple syrup or honey

Preparation
Melt the coconut oil over the hob (VERY gently; do not boil the sauce!) and take off of the heat. Add the maple syrup and cocoa powder, and stir to create a sauce. Add more coconut oil to make the sauce thinner, less coconut oil/more syrup and cocoa powder will make it thicker.

Coconut Cream

Ingredients
• 1 x tin of coconut milk

Preparation
Simply open the tin, empty it into a mason jar, mix well, and put it int he fridge overnight! By morning, it should have a smooth, creamy texture; perfect for desserts, or even as a yoghurt replacement! 🙂

Please note that this will not work with all brands!