Kung Fu Café
Since 2011

The Primal Games 6 | Hasselback and Egg-Stuffed Potatoes



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

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



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

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


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



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



♪ Hasselback… hasselback POTATO ♫

Egg-stuffed potatoes
Adapted from: Cheese and Chocolate

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

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

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

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

Hasselback potatoes
Adapted from: BBC

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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



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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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



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

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



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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shells baked: 16.03.2014
Shells filled: 17.03.2014

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

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

Ladurée
21 Rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris, France
Website

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

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

Pierre Hermé
72 Rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris, France
Website

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

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

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



Happy 20th birthday, Tim

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



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


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

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

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

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

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



He’s always been my best friend. :)





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

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

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

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

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

For decoration:
• roasted and salted peanuts

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

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

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

Baked: 11.06.2014

A Planned Spontaneous Weekend | Chive and Cheddar Scones



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

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

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

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

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


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

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



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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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



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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Easter! | Primal French Apple Tart

Happy Easter, everyone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I even did my first ever WOD alone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Set aside to cool.

Made 11.04.2014.

Three-Tier Chocolate Oreo Cake | Birthday Celebrations

Last weekend was the birthday of a good Crossfit friend and training buddy. She’s famous for her Oreo cheesecake, so of course, the best way to celebrate was with an Oreo cake! :)

One of her good friends arranged a meal out at one of her favourite places. I said I’d make a cake, and got to it. She ended up with two cakes, because her friend was concerned that mine may not be big enough to feed all of the people at the meal, but it was THAT BIG that it did!

Geraint said that it was the best cake he ever had (yep, I had permission to put this on my blog as a direct quote :) ), so if you’re looking for a good party cake that’ll go down well with everyone (I mean, who doesn’t like Oreos?), then here’s the cake!

However, I was faced with a predicament. How can I get photos of the inside of the cake without cutting the cake? I can’t give my friend a cake with a massive slice missing! Plus, my brother, Tim, was desperate for some. So of course, I made TWO cakes!

I was going to make two two-tier cakes, but I wasn’t happy with the first batch of chocolate cakes I baked (maybe I didn’t mix the batter well enough and assume that there was still sugar in the bottom, so it seemed that the cake didn’t cook for long enough). But then after making the other two batches of cakes successfully, I put the first batch back in the oven to soak up the residual heat, and they seemed ok. And hence, I had two three-tier cakes! One of which I covered in white frosting (I do like contrast; usually with a white cake one expects the cake inside to be light, I suppose), and the other turned grey because of the Oreo crumbs I mixed in (it tasted amazingly but it looked like plaster or wallpaper paste!).

So my plan was to give a cake away to my friend for her birthday, and to have the other cake to give to various other people. But I ate so many Oreos whilst baking these cakes and got through spoonfuls of the frosting. If I could just eat a slice and be done with it, great, but I eat most of the cake in its raw and deconstructed form! Damnit!

I didn’t really have big hopes for this cake, but it was so soft and moist, and I put that down to the copious amount of sugar and the hot water. Just make sure that you put the hot water in last, because it’s just easier to make sure it’s all mixed that way and then you get great cakes from the oven. Last week I made the cake in Ed’s flat with his very retro oven, and the cake just didn’t work. Although I blame his oven for that (because I’ve had the same issues when baking cakes when I was there in February; it would cook the outside so quickly but the inside would remain raw…)! Ok, so they say that a bad workman always blames his tools, but this is such an essential tool!

So I ended up eating about half of the cake with my brother and I, gave some to someone at Crossfit, to my parents, to my four work colleagues, and a load to Ed when I went to Aberdeen for the Unconventional Gas conference. Everyone said it was great, and I agree; it was a tasty cake! The cake on its own was nice, but combined with the Oreo cream in the middle and the frosting on the outside was great. Definitely make sure you put cream in the middle, rather than frosting; it adds a completely different dimension and all of the all of the flavours just meld together.

A lot of people also asked me how I made it, to which I replied that it’s full of sugar! Everyone then referenced the BCC Horizon documentary that says that the most palatable combination is half sugar and half fat, and that’s how we get fat. No wonder the frosting tastes so good! It’s literally butter and sugar! This is just the visual representation of diabetes. Seriously. But I want to watch the programme myself; I presume there’s lot of pseudo-science going on in there, especially if their whole programme is only based on observations of twins eating stuff, then generalising it to a whole population. But anyway, I’ve not seen it yet, but hope to at some point!

The restaurant we went to was really nice. It’s South American food, so all of my favourites. Tim ordered a burrito and I ordered a spinach curry as it sounded a little different from the things I’d usually order. But of course, Tim and I remain disappointed, as we usually do, with food when we eat it. It’s so overpriced for what it is. I felt so sorry for poor Tim, because he was so looking forward to his beef-stuffed Burrito, but he was so disappointed and actually angered by the burrito. Lol.

Anyway, this is definitely a cake I will make again in the future. It’s absolutely delicious, and the Oreo tastes definitely comes through. And one thing I have noticed, is that when I post food on Facebook, people usually comment, and tell me in person that it looks great, which is lovely.

Two-Tier Chocolate Oreo Cake
Two Tiny Kitchens, AllRecipes, and BBC Good Food
Makes 2 x 20 cm cakes

Ingredients
For the cake; 2 x 20 cm cakes:
• 2 cups sugar
• 1 ¾ cups plain flour
• ¾ cup cocoa powder
• 1 ½ tsp baking powder
• 1 ½ tsp baking soda
• 1 tsp salt
• 2 x eggs
• ½ cup groundnut/peanut oil
• 2 tsp vanilla essence/extract
• 1 cup boiling water
• Oreos

For the filling; three-tier cake (two-tier cake):
• 284 ml double cream (190 ml double cream)
• 1 tbsp icing sugar (1 tbsp icing sugar)
• 4 tbsp Oreo crumbs (3 tbsp Oreo crumbs)
• 1 tsp vanilla (1 tsp vanilla)

For the icing/frosting; three-tier cake (two-tier cake):
• 1 ½ cups (172.5g) butter (1 cup butter)
• 8 cups icing sugar (5-6 cups icing sugar)
• ⅔ cup milk (⅓ cup milk)
• 2 tsp vanilla (1 tsp vanilla)

To decorate:
• Oreos!

Preparation
For the cake:
Separate a pack of Oreos. Put the Oreos with the vanilla filling still attached in the bottom of two silicon cake moulds or pre-lined baking tins, filling side up. Reserve the other side of the Oreo.

Preheat oven to 175°C.

Sieve the flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl. Add the sugar and salt.

Then mix in the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Mix well until homogenised.

Then add in the hot water (make sure you mix all of the other ingredients first before adding the hot water, because it’s more difficult to mix and you’ll end up with a weirdly textured cake). Mix well until 100% homogenised. The batter will be very thin and runny.

In the meantime, use a food processor to grind the leftover Oreo shells into Oreo dust (it looks like dirt!). Or you could pop them in a resealable plastic bag, and bash them with a rolling pin until they’re crumb-like (just don’t split the bag!).

Pour the batter into the baking tins/moulds, and bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tins/moulds.

For the filling:
Empty the cream into a bowl, and whip using an electric mixer/food processor/beater until thick. Add the vanilla, Oreo crumbs and icing sugar, and whip until combined.

For the frosting:
Just before you want to assemble and frost the cakes: sieve the icing sugar in a bowl and add in the milk. Mix until combined. Then melt the butter in a large Pyrex bowl in any residual heat in the oven (or you can turn the oven back on, or do it over the hob). Then add the vanilla and mix well until combined. Leave to return to a consistency that’s easy to handle/use.

Assembly:
When the cakes have cooled, remove from the mould/tin, and put it on a plate. Use the frosting to make a ring around the top of the cake (this is a sort of barried for the filling). Then spread the filling all over the top, and then gently place the other cake ontop. Then cover the whole cake in the frosting, and decorate as desired with Oreos, cookie crumbs, etc.

Enjoy with friends and a huge glass of whole milk. Mmmmmmmmmm.

Baked: 20.03.2014
Iced: 21.03.2014
Enjoyed: 22.03.2014

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

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! :)

Gratefulness | A Degustation of Paleo Delights (long and reflective post alert!)

Menu du jour:

1. Mashed butternut squash with coconut and macadamia nuts
2. Pork, apple and sweet potato meatloaf
3. Cauliflower risotto
4. Green breakfast smoothie

This week’s been a funny week!

For me, it started on a low, and ended on a high!

I’m not sure why exactly, but on Monday and Tuesday I felt really insecure in myself, rather upset and couldn’t stop thinking about certain “issues.” I’m worrying about quite a bit, going to Frankfurt for a few days next weekend, getting back into OU Spanish when I get back (can I keep up with the workload? Or rather, can I actually achieve the grades I want to achieve?), not being able to cook for a while due to other commitments, worried about people’s impressions and opinions of me, lots of emotions, etc. But thanks to my lovely mother I was able to see it through and by Wednesday I was back to my normal self again. :)

On a more positive note, I was picked for a team to compete in The Tribal Clash 2014! I briefly wrote about the competition that took place this year, and it was an amazing experience! A LOT of teams applied for it in 2014, including from various other countries, too, such as the Portugal, Norway, Finland, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Spain, Poland and the USA. And Josh picked me to be in his team! Along with Kim (we were teammates last year, too!) and Thom! There were 144 team slots, and 607 applicants (I assume the applicants were individual people who had a team in mind they wanted to put together, so I suppose that’s a potential 607 teams registering their interest!)!

However, as it turns out, after all of the places were allotted, those teams that won that ballot had to claim their place before a certain date (yes, it’s only October and we have to commit to an event that’s taking place in August). Of course, a lot of teams didn’t claim their place (which I think is understandable, because if there are people who need to come in from abroad of across country, they don’t know if they can commit to the money to get there and stay, and even local people; who knows if they can have that time of guaranteed? Who knows what’ll happen!). So as a result, there was a “smash and grab” event, in which at midday on a certain day, the applicants could log online and claim the places that successful ballot winners failed to claim. As a result, there are a total of 7 teams not from CFP (there were only 2 before!)!

I’m really excited for it, and honoured that I was chosen by a very strong crew to be part of their team, although I am very nervous about letting them down on the day. The thing is though, they’re all lovely people and I feel comfortable around them, so even if I did let them down, I don’t think they’d say it (I don’t know if that makes me more nervous or not!). But either way, it’s 10 months away… that’s 10 months to prepare!

This week in uni/at work has been… productive, but at the same time, not so much. I’ve had very productive mornings, so I’ve been doing about 5 hours of productive work each day this week (except for Friday, which was very productive, but I’m going in on Sunday to make up for slack time this week!). But for some reason, in the afternoons, I found it extremely difficult to concentrate.

This week has really brought up the lesson, again, that life is all about what you think!

I keep on learning this, over and over again. So why do I sometimes make myself dwell and focus on the little “what if’s” and make what other people may think of me a priority in my life, rather than concentrating on right now?

Nobody knows what’s around the corner. And I’m not talking about major life events or disasters. I’m talking about little everyday occurrences. Every day, every week, every month, I’m pleasantly surprised by people’s kindness, nice comments, invitations to places, etc. I try to enjoy it in the moment, but I also try not to let it get to my ego (i.e. I should be just as happy even if no one appreciated how hard I worked to achieve this, or if no one invited me out anywhere this weekend, or if I didn’t get any attention from that person today, etc.). But then I also know that bad things will happen, too. Again, I’m not talking about disasters that are life-changing here, I’m just talking about little things, such as someone making a sarcastic remark and hurting you, someone using you and talking to you only when they feel like it, not being as productive as you would have liked, or achieving a result that you wanted, etc.

But I know now, through experience, that life’s always going to be cycling between the two, and as a result, you get times in life when you feel really high on just experiencing the everyday, and then you get times in life where, although nothing has changed, you feel really low. This can happen within such a short space of time that it feels as though an alien has invaded my brain when it does and I’m no longer my true self!

But knowing isn’t enough. Application is the key! I feel as though I know enough on how to survive in a happy-for-the-most-part-manner in life. I feel as though I’m knowledgeable enough to guide myself and give myself the advice I need to overcome everyday insecurities. But then why don’t I listen to myself? “Lessons in life will be repeated until they are truly learned.” Well, of course they will be, because you’ll always be falling for the same traps until you learn to overcome them. But in a way, that’s the beauty of it; life always presents you with an opportunity to better yourself and to overcome something that previously held you back. And if you don’t succeed, then life will present you with countless opportunity to succeed again, and again, and again. But life will never not present you anything that you find uncomfortable or difficult to deal with, because then you’d never develop and grow as a person, and then, in my opinion, life just wouldn’t be interesting or worthwhile.

It’s like eating for health and losing weight. If someone wants to lose weight, they (as most people I know) get so obsessed about food, being around it, restricting it, planning every calorie, etc… but then when they’re offered some chocolate, for example, they eat it! But it isn’t aligned with their plans, so why do they eat it? Well, some people would blame the other person for offering them chocolate. They try to control the outside. To be honest, no one is ever going to be in a situation where they’re never offered anything that’s full of calories. I went to a buffet meal the other night and had this plate of dessert (I’m quite ashamed!); but my point is, is that no one made me eat it. I put the food on the plate, I ate it, and I have to suffer the consequences (sugar rush, sugar crash, calories, etc.). I could blame the food for being so tasty and looking so delectable. Or I could have attempted to control the situation by not going to a buffet restaurant. Or I could see it as a chance to improve myself. I could have had maybe only a little bit of each, or chosen one thing, etc. In other words, life will always give me a chance to improve myself and enhance and strengthen every lesson I’ve learnt. Once I’ve truly learnt it, then it will seem as though life no longer throws it at me.

When I’m in that period where I’m in my own bubble, life couldn’t be any better. That’s not to say that people still don’t influence me or that I don’t care, but it’s to say that I’m just happy with what is, and I just absorb myself in the moment and focus on what’s to be done at hand, without referring to possible future outcomes or dwelling on the past.

This is why I love this food blog; it’s so cathartic, spiritually renewing my, ego isn’t involved, and I can explore my creative side in a relaxed manner by carefully selecting what dish to construct and how the flavours will complement one another, purposefully preparing it and cooking it with love, and how to photograph it by bringing out the colours and right angles (that’s another reason as to why I love to eat paleo; the food is just so colourful!).

Sometimes, I look through recipes online and admire the photography of others and wonder how they created such a magnificent image. I look at things in their photos such as the colours, the props, the composition, the light source, how harsh the shadows are and how that contributes to the appearance of the texture of the food, etc. I ask myself: what can I do in my place to improve my own photography making use of the light source and location that I have? Should I play with aperture or shutter speed settings next time? How can I get better photos with less light, or should I consider buying a halogen lamp? What should I play around with next time? What can I create that my family would enjoy? I think it’s obviously worked, because the improvement I’ve seen in my own photography has been phenomenal! I can’t even explain to you what exactly I did to improve it, but it was asking myself these questions, being analytical, and developing a sense of intuition and experience to judge situations. Of course struggle with more things than others; some dishes are just easier to photograph than others, and sometimes the light one day is perfect, while another day it’s too harsh or not enough. But just looking back at the first few pictures I took with my camera, I’ve come a long way, and I can’t wait to go even further!

It’s doing things like this, such as contributing/maintaining a food blog, that lead to a higher path in life. When you’re so utterly absorbed in what you do, it’s so unexplainably enjoyable and there’s so much satisfaction to be found in any activity. It just brings you limitless happiness. And I get this bubbling passion and enthusiasm for everything. That’s when life is truly worth living.

That’s why I like doing a PhD; it’s a 3-4 year project that you work on, after which you become an “expert” in your field. On those days when I really get into my project, it’s incredible. Take a meeting I had this week, for instance: we discussed the use of electrolytes in a solution of adsorbent and adsorbate, and how a more concentrated solution of electrolyte will compress the double layer on the adsorbent, thereby possibly enhancing the adsorption of the adsorbate, but more electrolyte will screen any electrostatic repulsions. So how do we calculate the Debye length under my given conditions? It got really more indepth than that, and it was interesting. The satisfaction I get after discussions like that is incredible. I feel as though what I’ve been working towards is finally being realised. When you solve a problem, immerse yourself in such analytical thinking and go about investigating what happens when this changes that, etc., it’s just so amazing. However, it does take a lot of mental effort. And a lot of times, there are those days when you apply effort, effort, effort, but nothing comes to fruition for days, weeks, months… it’s about pushing through. Just like a WOD. Get that last rep done, get that last experiment done, and when you finally see the end, the buzz, the adrenaline, the amazement at what you can achieve becomes apparent!

Anyway, my point is, is that when you throw yourself into things, the rest of life falls into place. In my most insecure times, I feel as though I’m waiting for the next good thing to happen (i.e. I spoke with this person the other day and worried that they don’t like me, so when they next contact me I’ll be happy), or going over in my head how bad an impression I give to other people or how they think this or me, etc.

But yes, life is all about human relations, I believe, for the most part at least. But at the same time, at the end of life, it’s all about what you thought about the most. What occupied your mind throughout your life? Was it focussing on how this wasn’t right, how that person may not have liked me or didn’t invite me to this (or even if you were invited, who cares?! Why place so much emphasis on it?!), or was it focussing on all of the beauty there is in life?

That’s why I’m a very keen advocate of finding hobbies, and lots of them (well, that’s another blog post in itself! But my mum always tells me that life is about sacrifice. There are so many things in life I would love to do but not enough time and mental energy to do so all at once, so sometimes some things have to give and sacrifices have to be made if you want to achieve what you want. And she also advocates simplicity; i.e. simplify your life and do as few things as possible as well as you can. And again, she also talks about balance; life is all about balance! So finding the right amount of hobbies to keep you interested in each, or if you dwindle in one area, then you have other areas/hobbies to pick you up, but picking few enough so that you can really get the best and put your mental energies 100% into each without spreading yourself too thinly).

Just doing something as simple as appreciating other’s food blog posts and photos, to cooking, serving my family and photographing (or trying to!), makes me appreciate how beautiful life is. We take these things that grow out of the earth, apply heat and other spices in various ways and we have a meal that every human enjoys the eating experience. Isn’t it amazing? And the camera itself; what a fantastic contraption! Life is full of amazement every day and it’s up to us to see it for what it is and how physicists and inventors were able to think in such abstract and creative ways to manipulate the laws of the universe to do something at will. Incredible!

Gratefulness is the key to living a fulfilled life! I have to say, that when I’m feeling blue, it’s usually because I’m taking for granted what I do have going for me and focussing on the negatives. Actually, I’m not even focusing on the negatives (as there really are none!), but on the potential perceived negative, that isn’t even really that big a deal anyway, and I know isn’t logical thinking either. But that’s what insecurities are.

However, it’s part of the human condition, which to some may be an affliction, but to me, even in my down times, I remind myself that this is my once chance, and I feel so honoured that I get to experience it and that so far everything has turned out perfectly, and it always will (there’s a little bit of Susan Jeffers’ life teachings and sentiments right there in that sentence!).

Anyway, onto the food – enough spirituality for the week! I could type forever about this stuff but it’s always incoherent and just a stream of consciousness! I wish I had more time to edit these blog posts to make a lovely accompaniment to the photos, but this’ll have to do for now! :)

As you can see, the other week I decided to whip up a fair few different things as I just couldn’t decide which one to make. The meal we had was roast pork with crackling, meatloaf, cauliflower risotto, mashed squash with apple, coconut and macadamia nuts and steamed broccoli and sprouts (I steamed enough broccoli and sprouts for the first few days of the following week to take to uni/work in lunches!).

We also had cauliflower rice with this lamb’s liver I cooked in tomato sauce. It was beautiful! There was just enough sauce to coat the liver, and the cauliflower was moist, as were the vegetables. I actually take a preference to meals that aren’t caked in sauces. Sometimes it’s nice to have a roast dinner covered in homemade gravy, but for the meal you can see that had the meatloaf and butternut squash – no sauce was needed! I drizzled some pork juice over the top of the dish, but I didn’t want to smother the colours and flavours in a generic gravy. It really wasn’t needed as each element of the meal could have been eaten alone.

I would love to cook the cauliflower in coconut milk, too! In these photos, I cooked it in water and a bit of dried sage – nothing else! I think coconut milk would have made it creamier and thicker, which may have been a bit too much here, with everything else, but if it’s the main element of your dish, then it’d be great! I’m definitely going to try that sometime. :)

The meatloaf was also incredible; this is by far my favourite meatloaf recipe ever. I’ve made it about twice before, and it was always ok (just minced meat moulded into a load shape…), but this was something else! Each bite was just a little bomb of flavour in your mouth, and I think fresh apple diced and thrown into the mix would have gone really well with the rest of the flavours. But we ate the load straight from the oven, and so it crumbled easily. It’s only when it’s cool does it keep its shape and then you can cut it (as with cakes). My brother and I had it in lunched for uni the following week. :)

Saturday’s advanced WOD @ CFP:
In any order, in pairs
a) Row 1600 metres
b) 30 snatch anyhow 70kg\45kg
c) 20 rope climbs
d) 14-12-10-8-6
HSPUs
C2B pull ups
One starts on HSPU, one starts on C2B, both complete 14 then swap and complete 14. Continue down the sequence until they are finished.

I did this with an awesome partner and she’s really strong! Power snatching 45k like it’s nothing! I really struggle with power snatching at anything more than 40k, and I know I bleed a lot of energy from my hips and don’t extent. I’ll have to practice tomorrow in the open session. I was full snatching 45kg, but struggling today! It’s funny because last time I was snatching I hang snatched 45kg three-times in a row and did a 47.5kg hang snatch, and that was easy – and right at the end of a workout, too (so I felt really warmed up). Maybe it’s because I’m a little sleep-deprived from the week and under the weather (I did get almost 11 hours of sleep last night and really needed it considering how little I’ve had during the week!), but I was surprised that I nearly had an accident full snatching that bar. I didn’t pull it high enough, got under it and it fell on the back of my neck and starting pushing me forward. Lucky I just sort of pushed it back, but it could have been serious.

I never really did get into this morning’s workout, but I think that demonstrates how serious lifting things and doing skilled movements (even doing stuff like HSPUs, rope climbs, etc.) can be when they go wrong, and so never ever do something like that hardheartedly! Never have I had anything happen to me that could have been that potentially serious!

But I really struggled this morning with those snatches! I put the weight down to 40k and I can power snatch it ok (I know I don’t extend my hips enough and bleed lots of energy from them – gotta work on that!), but I can work at 40k doing hang snatched really easily. As soon as it’s 45k, I get scared and think I need to work more at that weight to get more confident and stable.

Here’s a video of some snatch practice from this week! It’s a bit wobbly at the bottom, but I think I know why (thanks to paying attention to what coaches say in class, reading, and help from others, of course!). It’s supposedly my “1RM” from a while ago, but I just need to practice at this weight now to get comfy and confident with it, too! :)



Mashed Butternut Squash with Coconut and Macadamia Nuts
Adapted from: Coffee and Quinoa and The Healthy Foodie
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
• 1 butternut squash
• 3 x apples
• ¼ cup (60ml) coconut milk
• ~50-100g toasted coconut
• ~50g macadamia nuts, halved or crushed
• 1 tbsp maple syrup
• splash of lemon juice

Preparation
Halve the butternut squash, and put in the oven with the whole apples for 1h 30m at 160°C, or until the apples are bursting with their juices and the squash is soft when a knife is pushed all the way through.

When cooled, scoop out the flesh of the squash and put into a saucepan. Remove the core, seeds and stems from the apples (this can get messy!) and put in with the squash. Mash using a potato masher, and homogenise thoroughly.

At this point, you can sauté onions and garlic in butter or coconut oil, and add those to the butternut squash and apple mix.

Add the coconut milk, toasted coconut, crushed macadamia nuts, maple syrup and lemon juice, and homogenise well.

Gently heat over the hob until warmed/heated through. Serve immediately and enjoy.

Pork, apple and Sweet Potato Meatloaf
Adapted from: Paleo OMG
Serves 8-10

Ingredients
• 1.5 kg of pork mince
• 6 x small sweet potatoes
• 2 x apples, cut into small chunks
• 1 tsp garlic, minced
• 2 x small white/yellow onions, diced
• 6 x rashers of smoked bacon, chopped into lardon-sized pieces
• 1 cup of almond flour/ground almonds
• 2 x eggs, beaten
• 1 cup mixed dried fruit/raisins
• ½ tbsp cinnamon
• hard-boiled eggs

Preparation
Put the sweet potatoes in the oven for 1h 30m at 160°C, or until they are is soft when a knife is pushed all the way through. Let cool.

Put the bacon, garlic and onions in a non-stick frying pan. Turn the heat on low until the juices are released from the bacon. Sauté the garlic and onions until the onions are translucent and the bacon is cooked al gusto/to your liking. Add these ingredients to a large mixing bowl.

When the sweet potatoes are cool, cut the ends off of the sweet potatoes, cut into rough pieces, and add to the large mixing bowl, along with the apple chunks, ground almonds, eggs, raisins and cinnamon. Homogenise well.

Rinse/wash the mince, and add to the large mixing bowl. Use your hands to really mix everything well. Press around the hard-boiled eggs that you have and then press everything into a non-stick/buttered/silicon/lined with non-stick baking paper baking tin (I love silicon moulds!). Mine was a square 20 x 20 cm silicon mould.

Bake for ~2h minutes in a preheated oven at 175°C.

Cauliflower Risotto
Adapted from: page 172 of Paleo Comfort Foods
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
• 1 x cauliflower
• ¼ tsp black pepper
• 2 x cloves garlic, minced

Preparation
Steam the cauliflower until tender. Put into a bowl along with any seasonings (herbs, spices, sauces, etc.), and mash using a potato masher until the texture resembles rice. Serve immediately, or if preparing in advance or wanting more flavour, reheat later over the hob with a little bit of water, stock or coconut milk for creaminess.

Green Breakfast Smoothie
Adapted from: About.com
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
• 3 cup of filtered water
• 1 handful kale leaves
• carrot tops from a bunch of carrots
• 1 apple, cored and cut into chunks
• splash of lemon juice
• 2 kiwis, peeled and roughly chopped
• 1 ¼“ slice of ginger

Preparation
Blend the kale and carrot tops with two cups of water. Press through a sieve and put the resulting juice in a large glass storage bottle. Blend the rest of the ingredients, and incorporate into the juice. Shake/mix/homogenise, chill, enjoy. :)