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The Primal Games 6 | Hasselback and Egg-Stuffed Potatoes



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

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



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

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


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



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



♪ Hasselback… hasselback POTATO ♫

Egg-stuffed potatoes
Adapted from: Cheese and Chocolate

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

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

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

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

Hasselback potatoes
Adapted from: BBC

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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



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



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

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

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



Not only does this recipe make for some amazing bars, but it’s a clever way to sneak in more fruit! Especially bananas; they can improve insulin sensitivity and provide an abundance of minerals to treat your DOMS… so these really are a great workout snack! Check out Well-Being Secrets to learn more benefits of eating bananas and the best ways to keep and store them, as well as for a few more banana recipes. 🙂

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

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

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

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

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 175°C.

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

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

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

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

First made: 19.07.2014

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



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

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

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

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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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


With goji berries and walnuts, and with cashews:

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

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

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

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

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. 🙂