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The Primal Games 6 | Hasselback and Egg-Stuffed Potatoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

♪ Hasselback… hasselback POTATO ♫

Egg-stuffed potatoes
Adapted from: Cheese and Chocolate

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

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

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

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

Hasselback potatoes
Adapted from: BBC

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

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

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

Roasted Aubergine & Potato Moussaka | Chemical Musings

Last week, in my physical chemistry lecture, I was really intrigued by the more philosophical rather than scientific introduction to a new topic. The lecturer, who also happens to be my dissertation supervisor, spoke of the Greek Epicureans who created theories as to why olive oil is more viscous than water back in around 400BC, and they were definitely on the right track!

They believed that if molecules were to have set paths, the formation of the universe is therefore set. So, one the “ball is rolling,” then the formation of the universe and all of the interactions that took place will follow on from that, and we can just sit back and relax while the world as we know it is created. However, this logic denies the existence of free will. So there must be some wobbly molecules of unpredictability in their “paths.” Which explains the formation, I suppose, of human nature.

I mean, this is pretty indepth stuff. I may even be wrong with what I’ve written, but it’s definitely something I’d be interested in reading more about. I’d quite like a big book on the topic just to sit and read when my mind is feeling inquisitive. These sort of things make me feel so small and humble, and I actually feel privileged that I get to learn some of the incredible things that have been pondered over for centuries.

My lecturer was also saying that if you ever get the opportunity to go to Florence, Italy, there is a museum that displays not only Galileo’s scientific equipment, but also his finger, which was from when he was tortured for standing by his claims that the Sun in the centre of the Solar System, and not the Earth.

So, in a bid to combine my passion for cooking, and to celebrate the Greek’s fantastic discoveries, which were way ahead of their time, I pieced together a beautiful moussaka. When I first looked at the ingredients and saw that there were no potatoes, I thought perhaps the recipe missed it out. But it turns out that potatoes aren’t actually a traditional part of the dish, but can be incorporated within. I also thought the potatoes would be mashed, placed on top and sprinkled with cheese, similar to that of a shepherds, cottage or fish pie. However, you’re supposed to incorporate slices of either roasted or fried potatoes in with the aubergines.

And that’s another thing: what healthiness there is of this dish is ruined by shallow or deep frying the aubergines and potatoes (if you choose to use them). But of course you can get around this by roasting them, which is a common option most of the recipes I’ve looked at online seem to choose.

I was going to use only aubergines, but when I asked my mum to get the ingredients for this, she only bought about 550g of aubergine (rather than 1kg). So I just replaced what was missing with potato.

One of the downsides to this dish, is that it requires quite a few pots and pans. However, as it’s finished off in the oven, you can prepare it ahead, so you appear the cool, calm and collected cook. 😀

Roasted Aubergine & Potato Moussaka
Adapted from: Food and Cook (in Spanish)
Serves 6-8

• 4 tbsps olive oil
• 3 x medium potatoes
• 2 x large aubergines
• 3 x cloves of garlic
• 2 x onions
• 800g lamb (or beef, if preferred)
• 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
• 125ml (½ cup) red wine, white wine or vegetable stock
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• 1 tsp ground mixed spice (or allspice)
• 1 tsp dried mint
• 1 tsp dried parsley
• a few fresh mint leaves
• salt and pepper
• béchamel sauce
• 1 tsp nutmeg
• approx. 90-150g grated cheddar (or combine with other cheese, such as goat’s cheese)

For the béchamel sauce:
• 100g flour
• 100g butter
• 800ml milk
• 2-3 tsp nutmeg
• salt and pepper

Aubergine preparation:
First, wash the aubergines, and slice them lengthways into fairly thin-to-medium-sized slices. Then, cover both sides with a generous sprinkling of salt, and leave them to sit in a colander for 30 minutes. Make sure you leave them in or over a sink, as their oil will seep out.

Afterwards, wash the aubergine in cold water, and then dry them with kitchen roll, trying to squeeze some of the water out, too.

Roasting the vegetables:
Preheat the oven to 200◦C. Slice the potatoes into discs (don’t bother peeling them) and place them, along with the aubergine slices, into a roasting dish. Sprinkle them with 2 tbsps olive oil and mix them about to cover them all a little. Then, pop them into the oven for 10 minutes, and then turn the tray around and roast for another 10 minutes. Then, remove from the oven, mix the vegetables around and then place back into the oven for 5 minutes. Finally, turn the tray around and roast for a final 5 minutes.

This makes the total roasting time of the vegetables 30 minutes. So in the meantime you can prepare the lamb.

Preparing the lamb:
Firstly, dice the onions. In a large skillet heat a tablespoon of olive oil, and add the minced garlic into it. When you hear the garlic starting to sizzle, smell beautifully and turn a little brown, add the diced onions and continue to cook until they turn golden brown.

Then, add the lamb, cinnamon, ground spice, salt and pepper, and cook for about 10 minutes; until all fo the lamb had turned brown. Then incorporate the tomatoes, stock or wine, parsley and mint into the mix,and let cook and reduce for about 20 minutes.

While this is cooking, you can prepare the béchamel sauce (but don’t forget about the vegetables).

Making the béchamel sauce:
Put the butter into a saucepan, and gently melt. Then sieve in all of the flour and mix to create a roux. Then, before the roux burns, add the milk, salt, pepper and 2-3 teaspoons of nutmeg, and turn the heat up a little. Continue to stir until it’s all combined and starts to thicken. A smooth and silky sauce, with a pale yellow colour, will start to form. The secret is to heat is slowly, with continuous stirring, and to be patient. It will take about 10 minutes in total.

Assembling the moussaka:
Before assembling the moussaka, put 1 tbsp of oil into an oven dish, and grease the whole inside of it. Then layer the bottom with half of the potatoes and aubergines. Don’t worry if they overlap, just try to make sure there are minimum holes in the bottom. Then, spread half of the lamb across the aubergine and potato layer, and then layer the rest of the potatoes and aubergines, before finishing off with the rest of the lamb.

Then, pour the béchamel sauce across the top of the lamb, making sure to cover everything. Sprinkle over the cheese, and then 1 tsp of nutmeg.

To cook and serve:
The moussaka is probably still quite warm, so simply pop it into the oven at 200◦C for 30 minutes. However, if you choose to bake the moussaka another day, pop it into an oven preheated at 175◦C for 90-120 minutes.

To finish, if you want, turn the grill on the brown the cheese on top. And serve, hot, with salad.

Mmmm, enjoy the flavours. 🙂