Kung Fu Café
Since 2011

Bûche de Noël Entremets | Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everybody!



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

• 350g (1 ½ cups) double cream

• 3 x medium egg yolks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Break the chocolate into a bowl and set aside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Primal Games 6 | Hasselback and Egg-Stuffed Potatoes



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

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



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

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


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



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



♪ Hasselback… hasselback POTATO ♫

Egg-stuffed potatoes
Adapted from: Cheese and Chocolate

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

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

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

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

Hasselback potatoes
Adapted from: BBC

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

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

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

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! 🙂

Merry Christmas from Kung Fu Café! | Sweet Potato Truffles & Coconut Chocolate Ganache

Here’s to seeing the end of 2013 with loved ones and continuing the good fight by achieving many more goals in 2014. Merry Christmas everyone!

This year has been an amazing year full of personal growth and lessons learnt. I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings and whatever happens, if I continue to improve as I have been in 2013, then I’ll be stronger because of it. 🙂

These photos are the first photos I’ve taken with a background! I decided to give it a go as it was Christmas, and I absolutely love Christmas themed food photos! Not only was it a nice and simple challenge for me (i.e my first use of a background, albeit simple!), it captured what I love most about Christmas; preparing food especially for loved ones (although the meal was my mum’s, not mine!) and being grateful for everything.

My parent’s house is absolutely perfect for shooting photos; the kitchen is so rustic, the living room is very grand with pine furniture, dark leather sofas and a roaring fire, and the whole house is just absolutely bathed in light – there are windows everywhere! I love this place so much, and really don’t want my parents to scale down and sell it! I’ll buy it from them for my photography practice (for a greatly reduced price, of course 😉 ).

Anyway, as you can see, these photos are of my Christmas dinner just before devouring it. So I’m very pleased with how these photos came out providing that it was a few quick snaps (although I did prepare the setting and gold reflector, candle and regular old orange lamp before dinner was served. I really like how the Christmas lights, candle and Bucks Fizz came are out of focus and the dinner looks so perfect. We didn’t eat around this table (hence why I could set up all of my photography stuff there!), but the meal was certainly as delicious as it looked! Thanks mum! 🙂

And for dessert, we had a friend’s Christmas pudding! She makes and sells them every year, not giving out her recipe, and packaging them in beautiful red crepe paper, plastic and gold string. This is where I got the inspiration for making my own paleo Christmas puddings! These ones are definitely different to conventional Christmas puddings in that they’re more moist and fruity. I think you can see how moist they are in my photos, and they’re slightly lighter in colour than regular puddings. But they were absolutely delicious! Today we had my Christmas puddings. 🙂

So, as well as making my own Christmas puddings, I’ve also been making paleo mince pies! The crust/pastry is made from a recipe I’ve adapted a little and is made from almond flour, egg and oil, and the middle is my own mincemeat creation that includes fruits soaked overnight in brandy and all sorts of Christmas flavours. Someone ordered 20 mince pies from me (without the tops; someone who ordered 12 mince pies from me said a mince pie isn’t complete without a top; differing opinions I suppose!) and tried to call me on Christmas eve to thank me and tell me that the pies were “unbelievable!” That definitely made it all worthwhile! I don’t make a massive profit from the foods I make, and if I’m going to go into business with this, I think it’s worth playing around with prices to see what is the biggest profit I can make without taking advantage of my customers; but the mince pies I only just scrape myself into a profit margin with the price I’m selling them for. Mince pies are so cheap in the supermarkets, but it’s so timely to make them by hand (pressing the pastry into the moulds, and forming the lids, too, not to mention making the mincemeat in advance). But I suppose that these mince pies would be more expensive as they’re homemade and are also gluten free, too!

You can also see in the photos below that the texture of the mince pie crusts are different, and I think that’s dependent on the coarseness of the almond flour I use, and also how much I pack the dough into the moulds. In some ways I like the large pies with a smoother crust, and having a bulging top means you can put more filling in the middle. But at the same time, I quite like having flat tops because you can stack them more easily.

Anywho, the recipe below is for sweet potato truffles/balls. I absolutely love these and they’re perfect for the Christmas season! I think they’re great for a healthier treat, especially if the ball is left plain or perhaps covered with nuts. And even if they’re covered in cocoa powder and chocolate ganache, at least they’re made with healthier and more natural ingredients, rather than all of these additives formed in a lab!

I think a large ball would be a great post-workout snack, as they’re chocked full of carbs like sweet potato, and fat like almonds. The photo below is a ball covered in cocoa powder, and it looks just like the MCCs (modified calcium carbonates) I work with! You can see an SEM (scanning electron micrograph) of an MCC grade in the left picture below. Of course, the MCCs and sweet potato balls are on a completely different size scale. 🙂

I made these relatively large. They were fairly small when plain, but after adding and rolling them in different things, they plumped up in size. I rolled them in currants, desiccated coconut, dried goji berries, crushed pistachio nuts, cocoa powder and hemp seeds. Some I even rolled in this delicious chocolate-coconut ganache (which I thoroughly recommend serving with any dessert!).



I think these would be great for parties, lunch boxes, snacks, post-workouts, as a breakfast on the go, a snack before bed… any time, really!

I would love to make these again, but a little smaller, and all covered in chocolate ganache. These would be great on any party table, especially around Christmas, as they just have so many Christmas-y flavours and tastes… not to mention colours! They’re perfect to give as gifts, too, especially if presented in a nice box with a ribbon. 🙂

Maybe these could even be made into some sort of cake/patty as a starter, but with apple incorporated into the mix instead of dates? Some experimenting is afoot!

It’s not necessary to blend the ingredients; you could just mash them. The dates would be better blended, but of course you could omit the dates (if sweetness isn’t your thing) and perhaps replace them with more sweet potato or oats or something. I would also love to stuff these with melted peanut butter! Now THAT would be amazing!


Boxing day WOD:
Leftovers for time! 🙂

Sweet Potato Truffles
Adapted from: Nutrition Stripped
Makes 24 truffles

Ingredients
For the truffles:
• 4 x small sweet potatoes
• 1 x cup of almond flour
• ¾ cup of rolled oats (or coconut flour)
• 1 cup dates or dried fruit
• 1 tbsp coconut oil
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• ½ tsp nutmeg
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• pinch of salt

For garnishing:
• *nothing*
• dried currants
• cocoa powder
• desiccated coconut
• dried goji berries
• crushed pistachio nuts
• raw shelled hemp seeds

For the chocolate ganache (makes how much?):
• ¼ cup cocoa powder
• ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
• 1 tbsp maple syrup or honey

Preparation
For the truffles:
Put the sweet potatoes, whole, in the oven at 175°C for an hour, or until they’re soft when inserting a knife in the centre. Leave to cool.

When cool, peel off the skins off (keep the skins to pop in the oven for a primal-style pizza!) pop them with the rest of the ingredients into a large food processor, and process until smooth.

I only had a small processor, so I processed the oats until they became flour, the dried fruit until it turned mushy, and mashed the insides of the sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Then I homogenised by hand; it took a little longer but everything came together into a dough in the end.

Roll these balls out into as many truffles as you desire! 🙂 I rolled them out into sizes about ¼ the size of the palm of my hand, and got 24. I could happily eat one in a large bit, or in two more moderate bites 🙂

For garnishing:
Roll each truffle into your chosen garnish, ensuring that you don’t smush the shape of the balls with your hand!

You could incorporate the cocoa powder into the actual ball itself to make it entirely chocolate.

For the chocolate ganache:
Melt the coconut oil over the hob (VERY gently) and take off of the heat. Add the maple syrup and cocoa powder, and stir to create a sauce. Add more coconut oil to make the sauce thinner, less coconut oil/more syrup and cocoa powder will make it thicker. I like mine thick! Let the sauce cool a little.

Roll each truffle into the chocolate ganache, or drizzle on top, and pop on non-stick baking paper. Store and cool in the fridge. Serve on a cool day (or immediately from the fridge) to ensure that the ganache will remain hard (otherwise the coconut oil will melt!). At this time of year in the UK, there will be no problems with ensuring that it remains cool!

Store in the fridge in an air tight container.

All baked in my lovely kitchen: 22.11.2013

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score = total reps

442 reps rx’d

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

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

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

Coconut Cream

Ingredients
• 1 x tin of coconut milk

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

Please note that this will not work with all brands!

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. 🙂

Rave at the Box (any excuse to bake!) | Quadruple of Primal Treats

Menu du jour:
1. Banana & nut brownies
2. Coconut brownies
3. Honey, lemon & almond cookies
4. Chocolate & pistachio biscotti

What a week and what a crazy weekend! Where do I start?

Firstly, I should probably apologise for a very photo heavy post. But these brownies are just so damn photogenic. I love the colours of these banana brownies in particular, and the fact that they’re a little thicker/taller than the coconut ones (although the coconut brownies are a little gooey-er) makes them slightly easier to shoot.

I also tried a slightly different set up when taking these photos; I put my white boards on a coffee table so I could get differently angled shots easier than before, and it seemed to work! I took the Friday afternoon off because a) I was being incredibly unproductive that afternoon and all of the labs were packed, and instrumentation I needed was in use, and b) it was sunny and so I wanted to make the most of the light (as it had been dark and raining all week!). Although, it did get too sunny that afternoon (too sunny?! Yes!) and the direct sunlight made the shadows too harsh! Can’t win, eh? But I managed to get around it. 🙂 (I have posted a photo of my set up, but please excuse the cables; I was testing my internet connections and there usually aren’t that many!)

So anyway, onto the food!

Although these treats are technically primal (paleo for the most part), they’re still concentrated (i.e. too many nuts, lots of honey, maple syrup, dried fruits, etc.), and so they’re still only a treat. I need to keep reminding myself of this; I swear there were twice as many of these treats before I took them to the party at CFP, but I just ate most of them in the space of two days. I tried my hardest to resist, but I just couldn’t. I would have eaten them all if it wasn’t for the potential shame of turning up with an empty box and broken promises!

Of course you can alter the sweetness with the amount of honey/maple syrup you add, and as well as the squidgy-ness with the amount of sweet potato and flour. Also, the more things you add, the less squidgy they will be (hence why the coconut brownies look a lot moister than the banana ones!).

These also go superbly well with coconut cream! How do you make coconut cream, you ask? Just open a tin of coconut milk, mix well, put in a mason jar and pop into the fridge overnight, et voilà‎! Coconut cream! It’s light to taste and so delicious! Although these brownies are moist enough to enjoy without anything else. 🙂

Just make sure that the brownies are cold before you cut them, otherwise they’ll crumble a bit too much! Although if you’re like me and put a million different things in them, it’s always going to be difficult to cut a clean slice every time.

And don’t get rid of your sweet potato skins! They make excellent pizza bases! Just put on some toppings and pop them in the oven. 🙂 I would love to try and make these with avocado or beetroot. I would also like to try these with oats, too. I’ve used black beans in brownies, and they came out really well, although a little drier. I think my next test will be to try them with mung beans as they’re a little bit mushier in texture and may make for a softer brownie. We will see and I will post the results at some point! If they come out well, I may well try and scale it up to make it in to a cake for my brother’s birthday. He’s into health foods and getting as much protein as possible. Beans have a lot, so I’ll make it into a protein cake! I could even add protein powder and peanut butter, but I think adding a large chunk of meat will be taking things a bit too far…

The honey almond cookies were supposed to be biscotti, but I think I accidentally put in twice the amount of honey and syrup, as well as too much baking powder! So when I popped the batter (yes, batter, not dough!) on a baking sheet, I thought that it was too runny, but it sort of kept its shape. And when I had baked it for the first time, it was as flat as a pancake (and just about spilling over the edges, too!). It still tasted really nicely though, and would have been a shame to have got rid of those lovely ingredients. So I scooped the batter back up, made them into cookie shapes, and baked them again. And ta daaaa! Saved biscotti turned biscuits!

I’ve never even been a big fan of biscotti. They definitely have nice feelings and associations… when else do you have biscotti other than with tea or coffee? And tea and coffee means either a break, time to relax, or good old ramblings and nattering with someone special. Or that first cup of tea in the morning… that’s to die for! Anyway, getting off topic… the photographs on the other blogs made the biscotti look SO divine, so I thought I would give it a go! But one thing that puts me off of biscotti is that they are SUPER crunchy! I like crunchy things, but sometimes they’re too hard… maybe I’ve just had bad biscotti in the past? But either way, the ones I baked weren’t hard at all – they were still quite soft and fairly chewy with a really nice taste! More like soft biscuits/cookies than hard biscotti and remind me of Roman sweets. 🙂

The brownies are definitely my sort of thing though! Especially the banana ones, as I love banana! But then again, the coconut ones were so chocolately and moist, so I liked those, too. I did have a lot of complements the night that I took them to the rave at the box! And even afterwards, on Facebook, someone posted that they only remembered having little brownies/cakes that tasted delicious. I’m glad they went down so well! I’ve even had several people ask me for recipes, and so, here they are! Today, someone from the box even posted photos of this sweet potato pie that they had made, but added pumpkin in, too, and served it with Swedish glacé (dairy free ice cream)… and it looked so good!

It turns out that I have inspired quite a few people to cook more things and eat more paleolithically, and I’m always really pleased to hear such feedback. And not even regarding food and nutrition, but I’ve recently had feedback about how I inspire some people down at the box with their training and various other things. It really touches me every time I hear something like that, and really makes me feel great, as though my work on this planet is helping me to fulfil what I set out to do. If I can inspire people to try new things and push harder in order to try and better themselves in some way, then I am very happy, indeed. 🙂 That’s what I believe we’re all here for, and I believe that’s what optimises the human experience!

Earlier that day we had a “leaving WOD,” beautifully crafted and it was a partner WOD, too, which are always fun. The atmosphere was epic! I was with Emily and we kicked butt! The WOD was as follows:
Cash in: kettlebell handwalk in plank position in pairs (using 3 KBs)
WOD: 30 partner alternating wall balls 9/6
30 partner alternating pull ups
30 partner alternating sit ups
30 partner synchro skips (1 rope)
30 partner alternating press ups (legs of one partner on another)
30 partner alternating plate complex 20/15
-burpee
-cluster to overhead
-2 x alternating OH lunges
Both partners then stand on a 2.5kg plate for 5 seconds to finish WOD!

The photos from Crossfit are not mine, but nabbed from Facebook. 😀

The photos of the hoodie are also another surprise in the post I received last week from a friend I made at PrimalCon a few weeks ago! It was such a thoughtful gift, and the postcards are of Emerald Bay around Lake Tahoe, as we toured there one evening on a beautiful boat. In return, I have posted a load of English tea to the US! He has tea most probably for life! Although if he drinks it at the rate I do, it certainly won’t be for life! I was very touched by this gift, as it was incredibly thoughtful, and will take place in my heart along with a few other special gestures I’ve received in my lifetime. Thank you. 🙂

Oh, what else? Plymouth Raiders won their basketball match on Sunday night again Durham Wildcats! It was a great match to watch and I’m so glad I was with my favourite people!

I could go on about a lot of different things, but I will stop there, and maybe save it for next time. 😉 Here’s Monday’s WOD!

Monday’s WOD at CFP:
(After-party WOD I think!)
“The Grim Reaper and his gurned up mate”
In pairs with a 40 min timeout:
100-70-40
Push press 35/25
SDHP 35/25
KB swing 24/16
Press ups
Sit ups

Banana & Nut Brownies
Adapted from: Eat Drink Paleo

Ingredients
• 3 x small sweet potatoes
• 2 x large bananas, chopped (+ 1 for decorating!)
• 2 x eggs, beaten
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
• ½ cup honey
• ½ cup coconut oil
• ~1 cup dried fruit and nuts (I used a mix of walnuts, dried cranberries, dried goji berries, pecans, dried physalis, large raisins, golden raisins and a handful of macadamias!)
• 1 cup of good quality, unsweetened, cocoa powder
• 2 tbsp coconut/almond flour
• 1 heaped tbsp baking powder (gluten free)

Preparation
Put the sweet potatoes, whole, in the oven at 175°C for an hour, or until they’re soft when inserting a knife in the centre. Leave to cool.

When cool, peel off the skin and mash the insides in a large bowl (keep the skins to pop in the oven for a primal-style pizza!). Add the rest of the ingredients (dry ingredients first, followed by the wet ingredients) and mix until well homogenised.

Spread in a baking tin lined with non-stick parchment paper (I used a silicon baking tin; they’re fantastic!) so that they’re 1″ thick. Use the one banana reserved for decoration by chopping it into 25 slices and arranging them on top of the batter. Cook for 25-30 minutes at 185°C, and let cool. Carefully remove the brownies and cut into sizes as big as you like. (In my case it’ll just be one big portion all for me!)

I used a 20 x 20 cm silicon baking tray, but I think a slightly smaller one would have been better for thicker brownies.

Coconut Brownies
Adapted from: Eat Drink Paleo

Ingredients
• 3 x small sweet potatoes
• 2 x eggs, beaten
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
• ½ cup honey
• ½ cup coconut oil
• ½-1 cup of toasted, flaked coconut
• 1 cup of good quality, unsweetened, cocoa powder
• 2 tbsp coconut/almond flour
• 1 heaped tbsp baking powder (gluten free)
• White chocolate and double cream to decorate

Preparation
Put the sweet potatoes, whole, in the oven at 175°C for an hour, or until they’re soft when inserting a knife in the centre. Leave to cool.

When cool, peel off the skin and mash the insides in a large bowl (keep the skins to pop in the oven for a primal-style pizza!). Add the rest of the ingredients (dry ingredients first, followed by the wet ingredients) and mix until well homogenised.

Spread in a baking tin lined with non-stick parchment paper (I used a silicon baking tin; they’re fantastic!) so that they’re 1″ thick. Cook for 25-30 minutes at 185°C, and let cool. Carefully remove the brownies and cut into sizes as big as you like. (In my case it’ll just be one big portion all for me!)

I used a 20 x 20 cm silicon baking tray, but I think a slightly smaller one would have been better for thicker brownies.

I melted white chocolate (not paleo, I know!) with double cream, spread it across and sprinkled flaked coconut all on top for decoration.

Chocolate & Pistachio Biscotti
Adapted from: Paleo Spirit

Ingredients
• 1 cup almond flour
• ¼ cup coconut flour
• ¼ good quality cocoa powder
• ½ tsp baking soda
• ¼ tsp salt
• ½ cup maple syrup
• ½ cup pistachios, halved/crushed
• 100 g milk chocolate, broken into pieces

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 175°C.

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl until homogenised. The dough should keep its shape when pressed together, otherwise you may have added too much syrup!

Form the dough into one 1″ thick log on a baking tray lined with baking paper, and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool completely (about an hour).

Cut into ½” thick slices, place on their side, and put back into a preheated oven for 15 minutes.

Allow to cool before decorating and serving. I covered the biscotti in the white chocolate/double cream glaze I made for the coconut brownies, but it didn’t look as nice as I hoped it would! I think pure, intense white chocolate would have been better, but we live and learn! 🙂

Honey, Lemon & Almond Cookies
Adapted from: Steak, and Sass

Ingredients
• 1 cup almond flour
• ½ cup coconut flour
• ½ tsp baking soda
• ¼ tsp salt
• zest of 1 lemon
• 8 tbsp lemon juice
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• ½ cup maple syrup
• ½ cup honey
• ½ cup slivered almonds

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 175°C.

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl until homogenised. Spread onto a baking tray (with large sides!) lined with baking paper, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely (about an hour).

Scoop the dough up, shape little balls of equal size, and press onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes.

Let cool entirely before serving.

All baked in my lovely kitchen: 24.10.2013