Ahhh March… the first sign that winter is ending and that spring is a’coming! So it’s time to get out some lovely spring vegetables, such as asparagus, and to pair is with an equally sophisticated sauce!
Asparagus is a sexy vegetable. Let’s face it, it looks delicate and exotic, even though it’s really a robust, strong and hardy vegetable. It looks different to most vegetables, and breaks free from the ground, defying gravity and shows everyone that it’s here! It even sounds foreign – those sexy ‘s’ and ‘r’ sounds make is so much more distinctive from something such as everyday ‘broccoli,’ which sounds like ‘brick,’ or something.
Steamed asparagus is so beautiful, but it’s one of those vegetables that’s so easy to overcook and then it goes all mushy and soft. Although it’s not one of my favourite green vegetables, when compared to something I love such as cabbage or kale, I do love the prospect of eating it; it’s so exotic-looking that I get really excited when I see it on my plate, but it’s a little bit stringy in texture if you eat the whole stalk (asparagus tips steamed well are really delicious, though). When steaming, once the water has boiled in your steamer, your asparagus is probably cooked. Check it by stabbing your fork into the thickest portion of the stalk. If it pierces it easily, then it’s done. Take it from the heat straight away. If left any longer, it will cook in an instant! You have to keep an eye on your asparagus.
But now that I’ve gone on about my love for asparagus, and before talking about the sauce, let’s talk about life.
There’s so much going on at the moment. With Crossfit, there are quite a lot of competitions coming up. This is the first weekend of the CrossFit Open… 14.1, which I haven’t entered (for many reasons!), but I think I’ll just do the WODs for fun if I can. The first WOD for DWF (Divided We Fall) has also been released, and with my awesome team of Samantha, Simon and Luke, it should be quite fun. I do like team WODs… I usually work harder than I would by myself, providing that I’m not too nervous or feel like I’m letting anyone else down!
But, last week was one of the most stressful weeks I’ve had during the PhD I’ve had so far. To be honest, I have been fairly depressed and suffering from PhD Depression for most, if not all, of my PhD so far. I know I’m not the only one (seriously, just Google “PhD depression”), but I sure feel alone at times. I have the support from many, and I’m so thankful for that, but sometimes it just feels like there’s no way out.
I feel like an imposter, and that I don’t know enough. Whatever I do isn’t good enough and won’t please everyone… and the stress and demands are really brutal at times. The thing is, I enjoy the work and the scientific enquiry, the challenge… but I can’t cope with feeling so stupid all of the time. I think I know my strengths and weaknesses, but sometimes that just isn’t enough and it all becomes so overwhelming.
The whole PhD has actually turned me into a depressive person. I think I’m quite good at putting my mood behind me. If I’ve had a bad day in the office or lab, I won’t let it affect my Crossfit, a week with my other half, or a weekend with my family… but it will ruin an evening alone, because I just can’t switch my mind off. In some ways, I say to myself that when I get a job, it’ll be different, but deep down, I know it won’t be. I’m a natural born worrier and I’m going to have to learn to deal with that and develop different habits.
But last week was very character building for me, as I got myself into hot water (a.k.a. touble!). Basically, I have issues with my project, and instead of going to my first supervisor, I went to my second. This didn’t go down well what-so-ever. I can see why my first supervisor got upset, but he was very reasonable with it all, I feel. I still have the same issues with the project, but maybe as a lesson for my own assertiveness, I should bring them up as they arise, rather than wait. Although in my defence, I didn’t realise they were issues at the time, until I looked back on them and realised that certain things shouldn’t have happened, etc. Now, I appreciate that everyone’s only human, but I still feel that so many things shouldn’t have happened in order to have made for a smoother project.
Anyway, I could talk about this and make a whole post of it, but I won’t. My friends know what I’m talking about and I don’t feel that I should air my dirty washing/laundry in public. So I shan’t. But I do feel a little unfairly treated and reprimanded like a child. So instead of being talked to, my funding was threatened. So of course, I got a little ill last week just because of the sheer stress of it all, because of the potential bad relations that may have been between me and my supervisors, but also, of course, the prospect of having to find a job and spending almost three years on a road to nothing. I’m only just getting over it and my mild-flu.
Anyway, let’s talk about this dish!
Bordelaise sauce, according to Wikipedia, is a classic French sauce named after the Bordeaux region of France, which is famous for its wine. The sauce is made with dry red wine, bone marrow, butter, shallots and sauce demi-glace (a rich brown sauce used as a base). This sauce is adapted from an AllRecipes recipe, and it tastes very rich and elegant without going to much hassle at all. Although I guess technically, it couldn’t be a Bordelaise sauce, as it doesn’t have bone marrow (unless you wanted to add some!).
I seared the beef steak with a grill pan in order to try to get some lovely sear marks on it. I always call those pans a “Jamie Oliver pan,” as they always just remind me of him… I swear he uses them almost all the time! But I had to smear a small amount of oil on each side of the steaks in order to get the marks… otherwise it just wouldn’t work!
I think this sauce would go really well with any dark meat, such as lamb, beef, or even liver. I cooked this for Ed and I in Aberdeen a couple of weeks ago (wow, where does time go?!), and we had it with veal, steamed vegetables, leftover sweet potato and apple mash, and honey-roasted parsnips. Mmmmmm. I think if you added in double cream, it’ll work just as well, although of course will add a different dimension to the dish, rather than being rich and dark.
I would also quite happily eat this as a soup! I was taking photos of it in the white bowl, and my brother immediately exclaimed “that looks really nice… can I have it?” He was very disappointed when I told him that I’m going to be taking photos of it the following day, so will have to wait. I went out and bought a specific bowl from Marks and Spencer, because Ed had these really nice shallow white bowls with a rim. They looked great with everything and anything in it! I’ve never really been into shallow bowls, but these “pasta bowls” just make everything in it look great.
As Ed currently has no Tupperware, I put the remainder of our Bordelaise sauce in one of these white “pasta bowls.” It just looked amazing and I wanted to take a photo of it then and there! But I didn’t (because it was dark at the time), so I decided that I would do it myself when I got back to Plymouth. Ed also has lovely plates, as you can see in the photos: the yellow Mediterranean-looking ones. And he even had this brown-blue-white plate that was very sophisticated-looking, and I used it to take photos of the chocolate-walnut brownie torte. So after all my babble, what I’m trying to say is that even though Ed was moaning about his kitchen (he really seemed to want to do it up!), he had some lovely plates that I just wanted to take back to Plymouth with me.
Although I do like white plates (as they’re guaranteed to display any food well and look good in pictures), I invested in four more, too: a beautiful blue plate that I bought with Ed, a wooden pant pot stand (that I’ll use as a plate), a small, white rectangular plate, and a larger and flatter white, rectangular plate with a sauce dish. You’ll see them featured in my photos a lot more from now on, and I think now is the right time, too, as my photography is getting better, I’d like to experiment with different plates, colours and backgrounds, too.
I hope to go back to Aberdeen in three week’s time… it’ll be to go to the Unconventional Gas conference to promote the research groups porous structure modelling software and its applications in fracking. This means, of course, that I will get to see Ed! I believe two of my colleagues will stay in the city centre, and hopefully I can stay at Ed’s! My two colleagues are hoping to drive up, and are going up regardless of whether I go or not, so not only will we have a fun road trip, but me tagging along for personal development, means that I don’t have to pay any extra for travel, anything for accommodation, and only £25 (as a student) to enter the conference for a day! I think that’s just an opportunity on a plate!
Oh, it’s pancake day on Tuesday!
Adapted from: All Recipes
Makes enough sauce for 4-6
• 1 tbsp butter
• 1 x kg shallots (or 2 x large leeks), diced
• 1 tsp garlic, crushed
• 500 g of chestnut mushrooms, sliced
• 250 ml (1 cup) beef stock (or vegetable stock to make it vegetarian)
• 85 ml (⅓ cup) red wine
• 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (or soy sauce or balsamic vinegar)
• 2 x bay leaves
• a bunch of fresh thyme, washed
• 1 heaped tbsp cornstarch (or arrowroot powder to make it more primal)
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the garlic and shallots and/or leeks. Sauteé until translucent. In the meantime, pick the leaves off of the thyme, and chop the thyme stalks. Throw in the mushrooms, bay leaves and diced thyme stalks, and cook until soft. Add the wine, beef broth and sauce/vinegar. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer until the sauce reduces slightly. Maybe 20 minutes or so. Dissolve the cornstarch in a mug in 4 tbsps of cold water, and add into the saucepan. Simmer for about 10 more minutes, remove the bay leaves, and serve.