Kung Fu Café
Since 2011

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

Beware: Photo heavy and ramble-y post! 🙂


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



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

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



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


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

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

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



Myself, Igor, Özer, and Tim, outside of Cathédrale Notre Dame 🙂

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

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

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


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

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


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

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



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

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



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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shells baked: 16.03.2014
Shells filled: 17.03.2014

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

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

Ladurée
21 Rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris, France
Website

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

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

Pierre Hermé
72 Rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris, France
Website

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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



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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Easter! | Primal French Apple Tart

Happy Easter, everyone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I even did my first ever WOD alone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Set aside to cool.

Made 11.04.2014.

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. 😀

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.

Chili con Carne | Easter Eggs!

Yesterday, a family friend came for dinner! And what’s better than to celebrate Easter with….Chili!? He also bought us some nice Easter gifts, including flowers and eggs! And mum also wanted me to take pictures of her graduation cards. 🙂

I was a little tight on time, with revision and all that, so I tohught I’d make something simple but hearty. I found this chilli website and thought it might not have been too flavourful, as it was quite simple, yet it had really good reviews. And it was very flavourful: it had a mild kick, a nice taste, and I’m wishing I did a little more with it than just piling it on some rice with salad. Although mum does make a killer salad! It’s not just lettuce and tomatoes, but there’s cucumber, sweetcorn, olives, boiled eggs, peppers, grapes and strawberries! It’s full of colour, flavour and health!

Next time, I’d love to use this chilli to make burritos with, and then have nachos, salsa, sour cream and guacamole!

There was enough for 6 portions I’d say; of which a large bowl of chilli was saved for dad for when he came home from London. 🙂

Chili con Carne
Adapted from: BBC Good Food
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
• 2 tbsps butter/oil
• 1 x large onion
• 1 x large red pepper/capsicum
• 2 x garlic cloves, diced/minced
• 1 heaped tsp hot dried chillies
• 1 tsp paprika
• 1 tsp ground cumin or parsley
• ½ tsp dried marjoram
• 500g lean minced beef
• 400g can chopped tomatoes
• 1 tsp sugar/dark chocolate
• 2 tbsp tomato purée
• 410g can red kidney beans (in water)
• salt and pepper, to taste
• long grain rice, sour cream, guacamole, etc., to serve

Preparation
Dice the onion and the pepper. Heat the butter/oil in a large pot over a medium heat, and then sauté the onions until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, red pepper, chillies, paprika, cumin/parsley and marjoram, and cook for another few minutes.
Brown the mince all over. Turn the heat up a bit, add the meat to the pan and break it up with your spoon or spatula.
Add the tinned tomatoes and crumble the stock cube into the pan. Add 300ml/½ pint of hot water. Add the sugar (or chocolate) a good pinch of salt and pepper. Then squirt in about 2 tbsp of tomato purée and stir the sauce well.
Simmer it gently. Bring the whole thing to the boil, give it a good stir and put a lid on the pan.
Drain and rinse the kidney beans, then add them to the chilli.
Turn the heat off and leave it for 10 minutes to allow the flavours to mingle (an important step!)
Then, bring the chilli back to the boil, and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes. Check the pan occasionally to stir it and make sure the sauce isn’t drying out. The sauce should be thick and aromatic.
Serve on a bed of plain, boiled rice, with a spoonful of soured cream on top. Pile it on tortilla chips and sprinkle it with grated cheddar. Wrap it up in a tortilla with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and guacamole for a great burrito!

¡¡Buen Provecho!!