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Mum’s Plum and Raspberry Crumble | DWF 2014

Mmmmm, I dream about this dish; this crumble is certainly one of my favourites! When mum makes it for my bro and I to have, I’ll usually have the leftovers cold the next morning for breakfast. It really is a delicious dish, hot, cold, with cream, ice cream, leftover chocolate ganache (from making macarons). It really is just delicious and packed with fruit. It’s so comforting; perfect for a winter’s day, or a summer’s evening.

This is a simple dish that gives great results. It can be made ahead, so is perfect to have on a busy day, but the flavours are so good that you can have it for a dinner party dessert. I love this with Cornish ice cream. The topping can also be made ahead and frozen. It’s an Ina Garten recipe; she’s one of my mum’s favourite chefs and she loves to watch The Barefoot Contessa cooking programme.

Hmmm, so any recent news? Nothing too spectacular. I went to Aberdeen last week for the Unconventional Gas conference and stayed with Ed. It was probably the highlight of my PhD; things have been going really well recently, and spending a week in great company tops it off (especially as attending conferences generally motivates me, anyway!). And I bought mum a haggis as a gift from Aberdeen.

Maurizio, Katie and I drove there and back! It took 11 hours to get there, and the journey was smooth. We stopped only once and Maurizio drove all the way. He also drove all the way back, but unfortunately we were stuck in traffic for 3-4 hours, which put a dampener on things, but road trips are always fun with good company! It was also great going out in the evenings with great people, and it’s even better when everyone gets along and talks about varied things!

I also found some beautiful dresses from AX Paris, which is probably now my new favourite place to buy things! I don’t really deviate much from Amazon to be honest, and certainly don’t’ buy clothes online, but I recently bought two beautiful dresses: this beautiful blue cocktail/bodycon dress, and this skater dress.

I told Ed about these dresses, and said to him that if I am able to present in Paris, then I’ll wear the blue dress. And before I knew it, Ed had surprised me by having it delivered to my address! I was quite touched by it, and thought it was really thoughtful, but Ed seemed to think nothing of it really. Some other friends and my mum certainly agree that it was a romantic thing to do! :) <3

Oh, and on April 1st, Google launched their Pokémon challenge! I managed to find just over 100 Pokémon without help (by going to famous landmarks, Japan, etc.). But I needed a few guides (1, 2, 3) to help… either way, it was a great way to procrastinate in uni and a nice way to chill after Crossfit in the evenings while watching South Park or something with my bro before bed. Below are some screenshots of my phone, which turned into my Pokédex, of Japan, London, and I also included screenshots from San Francisco. I love Japan their culture, language and traditions, and of course, London. But San Francisco is one of the more recent places I’ve visited and loved it, so thought I’d pop them in here. That place/trip holds important lessons for me so thought I’d just use screenshots from the very areas I have visited. :D

Anyway, onto the *bigger* news… our team made it to the Divided We Fall (DWF) Games! That means Samantha, Luke, Simon and I have to travel to Cardiff at the beginning of May to compete!

We did 3 qualifying WODs as a team, and had someone to judge us. I was feeling ill when we did them the week before I went to Aberdeen. We did three in the space of, like, 25 hours, and I think those WODs pushed me from being ill to getting pretty ill. I really don’t know how I did what I did when I felt so bad, but I hope I didn’t let my team down! One thing that did really scare me though, was that Luke went blind because he pushed himself so hard… maybe it was s side-effect of the supplement combined with how hard he worked (he did do three rounds of 5 ground-to-overhead at 80k, 10 box jump overs (24”) and 5 toes 2 bar in, like, 3 minutes. It really scared me and I’ve never seen such a thing before. I’d never push myself to that sort of effect but I hope it won’t happen again!

Samantha and I tried our first pre-WOD supplement (literally a shot each), before the guys went to do their 300 wall balls (the guys had to do 300 wall balls between the two of them, and then Samantha and I had to do 300 wall balls between the two of us, and had to do 30 double unders on the minute, every minute, before we could proceed with the wall balls). I don’t know what it was called, but we spoke about a supplement called Jack 3D, and I just Googled the stuff, and two worrying articles appeared: this one, that says it has been banned in Britain because of potential lethal side effects, and this one, that says this guy nearly passed out a few times and had a racing heart. I think I’ll stick to the au naturel way, thank you very much!

Samantha and I got a little hyper because of it, I think. Although it may have been because of the nerves. While the guys were finishing off their 300 wall balls, we were dancing a little! But an idea was to create a pre-WOD cake! If I can make it paleo, the better (yeah, right!), but I’m thinking it’ll have to be as moist and as tasty as the Oreo cake, and as colourful as Rose’s cake to show how it’ll make you feel! Maybe it can have pre-workout stuff, protein powder, post-workout stuff, supplements, etc. I don’t take all of these things, myself, but it’ll be fun to try and incorporate it into a cake!

When I first checked on the night just after all of the scores had to be validated, we were in 42nd place. I have just checked where we are now, and we’re currently 51st, so after the processed the results we moved down quite a significant number of places. :( But fortunately, we were still in the top 100 teams out of 298 teams that registered. Although I counted the number of teams that didn’t’ submit any scores, and that totalled to 83. So I guess we were 51st out of 215 teams. Not too bad I suppose… I’m surprised that more teams didn’t register, but oh well! It’ll be an experience to compete!

I’m really excited, but at the same time so nervous that I’ll let the team down and be the weak link. All I can do is try my hardest, but right now I feel the most unfit I’ve felt in the past couple of years. I’ve really lost motivation for training, and can’t seem to get hold of my nerves at the moment. I always get pretty nervous heading down to the gym/box, but recently it’s been out of control and I need to reign it back in. It’ll be a real challenge but it’s making me get really upset with myself as I’m not being the person I want to be. But at least my teammates are really encouraging and fit themselves. It’s fantastic to train with people who inspire you and are fun to be around.

Maz, who came 2nd in the CrossFit Open for her age category, has asked me and Alan to train with her! We had our first training session on Friday, and it was super fun! She’s got such motivation and is in amazing shape (her age doesn’t even come into play to be honest; she could beat anyone half her age, except for Samantha Briggs, I think!). I’m really inspired by her and she’s so much fun to train with! :)

Thank you Kayleigh for the DWF photos! :)

Anyway, the take home message: when you’re resting (I’ve been doing far too much of that these days…), it’s great to indulge in this delicious crumble. Thanks, mum! This makes me think of you, every time! :) :) :)

My mum gave my brother and I two of these in slightly smaller aluminium trays… I ate a whole one for breakfast with cream. I’m not ashamed! I have a big appetite, ok!

Plum and Raspberry Crumble
Ina Garten, Food Network
Serves 6

Ingredients
For the cake; 2 x 9″ cakes:
• 1 ¼ cup (160g) plain flour, sieved
• ½ cup (45g) rolled oats
• 115g butter (or coconut oil), diced
• ⅔ cup brown sugar
• pinch of salt
• ½ cup (25g) slithered almonds
• 2 tbsp orange juice
• 450g sliced plums
• 2 punnets (500g) raspberries

Preparation
Wash fruit. Preheat oven to 175°C.

Pop the plums, ⅓ cup sugar, ¼ cup flour, orange juice and raspberries in a large baking dish. Toss well so everything is coated nicely.

In a bowl, add 1 cup flour, ⅓ cup sugar and salt into a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is the size of peas. Pour the mixture back into the bowl and add the oats, working with your hands until it’s a crumbly mixture. Add the almonds, mix well and spread on top of the plum and raspberry mix.

Sprinkle with some extra almonds, if desired, and pop into the oven for 45 minutes until the fruit is tender and bubbly, and the top is golden brown.

These particular crumbles were made in March 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 9″ cakes

Ingredients
For the cake; 2 x 9″ 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

Vegan Carrot Cake with a Cream Cheese Frosting | Spring Has Arrived (as has the Exam Period!)

It’s now spring and the weather recently has been spectacular! Two days ago was the deadline of the last piece of coursework for the academic year of my brother’s course, and now he’s freeeee and can enjoy a summer of training hard. BUT, it is the start of the spring exam period… doh! But at least Tim prefers exams to coursework. :)

In order to celebrate the coming of spring and to help get Tim through his exams, I decided to make my most favourite carrot cake recipe! I’ve also made this into a paleo version (with paleo icing and everything!), and will hopefully post that soon. :)

Actually, the real reason to make this carrot cake was to take it to a friend’s housewarming party. However, Tim and I ended up eating most of it before the party… and so I had to quickly whip something up the night before and it turned into some ooey-gooey peanut butter bar things. They were delicious, but I did feel very fat for having eaten something I was going to take. But it was just so good and I have no self control! I’m sure many people can relate though… right? But the cake that was leftover, I took to the party, and was offered a place to stay in her house because of my baking. Woop woop!

Carrot cake is one of my all time favourite cakes. It has to be moist, with not too much frosting, but not too little, either. It has to be light, and slightly sweet, but not too sweet (i.e. no sugar in the frosting and not too much, if any, in the cake). It also has to have plenty of nuts and dried fruits of different varieties, and chocked full of carrot.

This carrot cake recipe, in my opinion, is pure perfection. The cake itself is soft and moist, full of nuts and fruits and plenty of carrot. The icing is smooth and delicate, and the cake satisfies a sweet tooth without being too sweet. The ratio of icing to cake is perfect, and one doesn’t overpower the other. Carrot cake, I believe, is the ultimate combination of flavours and is sheer bliss.

To decorate this cake, I used some crushed cocoa beans from Hotel Chocolat, and it made the cake look more like a white chocolate cake, but I really wanted to try and decorate it like this! Otherwise, I would have used pecans, walnuts, or pistachios to decorate. In some ways I wish I had made it distinctively a carrot cake, as I do usually, but I quite like this presentation. I think it looks soft and very eye-catching!

The cocoa beans are the ones to use in a cafetière, and I bought them when I was in Aberdeen visiting Ed. He influences me so much, and he makes coffee over the hob from a little moka pot; it’s so cute and I love the smell and the idea of brewing coffee over the stove, but I just don’t like coffee! So this is a lovely alternative. :)

When I first made this cake a few years ago, mum took a bit and asked if I had soaked the dried fruit in orange juice. She noticed! She said she bit into a raisin and it burst with flavour. So I definitely recommend soaking the dried fruit for as long as possible.

The frosting I tried to use when last making this cake was a Swiss meringue buttercream, but it failed miserably. In fact, the frosting itself tasted fine and the carrot cake was beautiful, as usual, but it just looked like someone had puked all over the cake and was quite off-putting and unappealing. And in actual fact, I do prefer cream cheese frostings because, yes, they’re easier than meringue frostings, but I find that the cheese compliments the carrots and spices in the cake so much better than a super-sweet meringue icing. Although, the very first time I tried a cream cheese frosting, it was really lumpy! This time, I actually bothered sifting the icing sugar and melted the butter and cheese together to ensure that it was well homogenised. Yes, the little extra effort is almost always worth it (yet another life lesson learnt through baking escapades!).

Failed Swiss meringue buttercream from 18.08.2011…

Anyway, back to this cake; it’s so delicious with double cream and fresh strawberries and blueberries. The flavorus complement one another and the tastes are indescribable. Seriously, try it for yourself! To me, it’s reminiscent of something you’ve have at Wimbledon. :)

I struggled for ages with the composition when taking photos. I’m not sure at first if I really liked the orange colour, but I think it looks nice with the brown of the cocoa beans, nuts, the paper cocoa bean bag, and the cream frosting.

And to end this post, I’ll leave you with some witty Little Britain dialogue (as I did with the banoffee pie!):

”Carrot cake, carrot cake, have ye any nuts?”

Friday’s WODs @ CFP:
DWF qualifying WOD 2 and WOD 3 with Samantha, Simon and Luke! :)

Vegan Carrot Cake with a Cream Cheese Frosting
Apt 2 Baking and The Little Epicurian
Makes 2 x 9″ cakes

Ingredients
For the cake:
• 2 ¼ cups flour, sifted
• 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
• 1 tsp ginger
• ½ tsp nutmeg
• 1 tsp all spice
• 1 ½ tsp baking soda
• ½ tsp baking powder
• 1 cup pecans, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, macadamia nuts…
• ¼ cup toasted coconut
• ⅛ cup dried goji berries
• ⅛ cup cocoa beans, crushed/broken
• 1 cup orange juice
• ½ cup mixed dried fruit
• ½ cup groundnut oil
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 2 cups grated carrot (about 2 large carrots)

For the frosting:
• 450g tub of soft cheese/cream cheese
• ½ cup (115g) butter
• 1 ¼ cups icing sugar, sifted
• pinch of salt

Preparation
For the cake:
Add the mixed dried fruit in a medium-sized bowl with the orange juice, and leave to soak for 45 minutes (overnight would be better).

Preheat oven to 175°C.

In a large bowl, sift in the flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, all spice, baking soda, and baking powder. Add in the nuts, toasted coconut, dried goji berries, and cocoa beans.

In the bowl with the fried fruit, grate in the carrot, add the sugar and groundnut oil.

Pour in the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, and pour into 2 x 9″ silicon cake moulds, and pop into the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Take out of the oven and leave to cool in the moulds on the kitchen worktop.

For the frosting:
Melt the butter in a large Pyrex bowl in the residual heat of the oven (or you can turn the oven back on, or do it over the hob). Then add in the soft cheese and mix well until homogenised. Leave to cool to room temperature before sifting in the icing sugar and salt, and mixing well.

Assembly:
When the cakes have cooled, remove one from the mould/tin, and put it on a plate (be careful, the cakes are delicate!). Spread a layer of the frosting on top, and then carefully place the other cake on top. Cover the assembled cake in cream cheese frosting, putting it all on top, and using a knife to spread it around the outside. Decorate as desired, with nuts, carrots, cocoa beans, etc. Keep in the fridge. When the cake is cool, it will be easier to move to another, cleaner plate.

Baked: 28.02.2014

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

Dark Chocolate Walnut Brownie Torte | Trip to Aberdeen

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



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

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



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


Peeling the wallpaper off in the hallway!


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


A lovely Valentine’s meal :)

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

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


Dunnottar Castle.


Stonehaven.


The famous deep fried or battered Mars Bar from…


… The Carron Fish Bar!


And the story of how they supposedly came to be!

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



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


A Muhammad Ali poster in Plan 9, Aberdeen.


Some Batman posters in Plan 9, Aberdeen.

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



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

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

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



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



CrossFit Aberdeen.

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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. :D

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

Tribal Clash 2013 | Apple “Coffee” Cake & Upside Down Summer Berry Sponge



Wow, where do I start? I’m currently in a nice hotel in Reno just waiting for our flight home from the amazing PrimalCon Lake Tahoe 2013! I have so many things to write about but that’s for another post! I was supposed to briefly write about another event that took place at the end of August. Although it feels like it was eons away, it will always hold a special place in my heart: The Tribal Clash 2013.


The Tribal Clash was seriously an epic event, with brilliantly crafted WODs, squatting 50kg logs, ocean swims, tribal runs up and down huge hills through a trail run, running on shingle (hardest thing I’ve ever done!), tyre deadlifts, beam pull ups, the works! I learned that I’m not actually bad at running, and I’m actually not bad at all at swimming, either! I hadn’t swam since school, and I think I did really well! If improved my technique, who knows? That’s just another thing I need to learn to do with everything else!

The same team wants to go again with me next year, so hopefully we’ll be more prepared! We were first in every heat, which gave us a serious disadvantage. I believe we came 30th overall out of 100 teams; after the first day we were 12th. Not bad considering we had no strategy for any of the WODs and just winged it! Next year will hopefully be just, if not more, epic! :)




The reason I have chosen this particularly unhealthy recipe was because my mum made it that weekend (and the weekend before I believe!). She made a delicious apple cake with fresh apples from our garden, my grandmother’s garden and the garden of our local friends! :) Actually, at PrimalCon, chef Rachel Albert demonstrated some delicious reecipes with apples – some I’ll definitely be trying soon and then posting on here! :)

The apple cake (which I’m quite proud of how the photos turned out; I really struggled at first, but think I got there in the end!) was used with a third less sugar than the recipe called for. In fact, I think a lot more of the sugar can be omitted. And of course, the apples can be subbed with various other fruits. The sponge was very soft, especially straight from the oven, and with double cream it was divine! This cake will make a great basis for other flavours and fruits! Great to take on picnics, good to give away, for impromptu coffees with friends, etc. It really is an all purpose cake, but the name sounds too plain! It should last for a few days and keep its springiness!

We tried it with berries following this simple fruit sponge recipe, and although it turned out really nicely, it wasn’t cooked in the middle. We tried it about three times, and each time the outside was starting to burn but the inside remained uncooked. I think a lower temperature fro longer *should* do the trick! You can see from the pictures above that the inside was rather “smushy.” But it was still really creamy in texture and super silky soft. Either way, it was delicious!

Apple “Coffee” Cake
Adapted from: BCC Good Food 1 and 2

Ingredients
For the cake:
• 125 g softened butter
• 80 g caster sugar
• 3 x eggs, beaten
• 50 g ground almonds
• 100 g self-raising flour
• 2 x large apples (i.e. the size of cooking apples), cut into chunks
• 75 g raisins or sultanas
• cinnamon

For the topping:
• 2 tbsp brown sugar
• 2 tbsp softened butter
• a handful of flaked almonds

Preparation
Heat an oven to 160°C. Beat all of the cake ingredients together in a bowl, and transfer to a silicon baking dish. Add the topping ingredients evenly to the top of the cake. You can even reserve some apple to do so, too! Pop into the oven for 50-55 minutes until a skewer/knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.