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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

So anyway, onto the food!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Banana & Nut Brownies
Adapted from: Eat Drink Paleo

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

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

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

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

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

Coconut Brownies
Adapted from: Eat Drink Paleo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chocolate & Pistachio Biscotti
Adapted from: Paleo Spirit

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

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 175°C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 175°C.

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

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

Let cool entirely before serving.

All baked in my lovely kitchen: 24.10.2013

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.

Pan-Fried Lamb Chops with Mushrooms, Peas and Sprouts in a Creamy Sauce and Avocado and Pea Salsa | Tim’s Trip to the Pyrenees



Weeelll this week has been really busy! My brother has been away for 12 days in the Pyrenees on a geology field trip, and so I’ve been cooking really simple food… although there’s no reason it still can’t be full of flavour! But of course, the first morning Tim was back, we had pancakes ^_^

Tim really enjoyed his trip and I’m glad he did! Not only did he make some new friends on his course but he got a picture with Professor Iain Stewart, but unfortunately his friend has the photo! Tim also volunteered to help record some information about Geology in a bid to make an educational geological video, and I popped a YouTube video at the bottom of one! I’m really impressed with it and proud of my bro! I think he speaks really well and he did it without a script or any practice! 🙂

Edit (03.10.2013):Tim and Iain 🙂



Anywho, a couple of weeks ago I picked up half a lamb from a guy at Crossfit whose other half’s cousin owns a farm in Ugborough, and so this stuff is supposed to be grass fed, organic, free-range, and all that good stuff. Now thsi lamb is awesome! I have just over 10kg of the stuff: chops, neck, shoulder, legs, etc. All I can say is that my freezer is full!

I think this dish was really simple, but really tasty… although there are a lot of different flavours, they seem to work well together. I really enjoyed the lemon zing in the avocadoes… I made that last night with my parents after we celebrated me passing my transfer! Friday 13th now has a new meaning to me! And the creamy sauce with the lamb is really nice, too; makes a change from gravy! Not only is it really simple but you really don’t need much cream to add a whole new dimension to the dish. The cream mixed with the lamb juices makes such a nice and delicate sauce that goes so well with sprouts, mushrooms, peas, and leeks.

I also couldn’t choose how many photos to take; they all look quite similar, but I just like the colours so much. The photos look a bit too busy for my liking, but what’re you gonna do? ^_^

Saturday’s WODs:
Advanced:
Max reps of (4 rounds):
BW bench press
Strict pull ups
Strict HSPUs
2 x BW deadlifts

Then 20 minutes to achieve:
1RM of 2 x full snatch into 1 x full hang snatch
max. reps muscle ups

The session was so busy this morning and hectic! Boo!

Intermediate:
In pairs, 20 minute AMRAP: each do alternating rounds of Cindy while the other does burpees! (Cindy = 5 pull ups, 10 press ups, 15 squats)

Me and Emily = 236 burpees and 14 rounds of Cindy, rx’d. 🙂

They were both fun but I need to push myself more! Whenever things start to get uncomfortable, I always pull back, and if I continue sometimes I get teary and upset. Why? What is wrong with me?!

Pan-Fried Lamb Chops with Mushrooms, Peas and Sprouts in a Creamy Sauce and Avocado and Pea Salsa
Avocado salsa/salad adapted from: Home Cooking Adventure
Serves 1-2

Ingredients
For the avocado salsa:
• 1 x avocado
• 1 x cup spring onion, chopped
• ¼ cup raw peas
• 2 x garlic cloves, minced
• 3 tbsp lemon juice

For the lamb and cream sauce:
• 2-4 x lamb chops
• 2 x cloves of garlic, minced
• 1 x small onion, diced
• ~200 g button mushrooms, halved
• ~½ cup of peas
• 2 tbsp dried rosemary
• splash of double cream
• sprinkling of pine nuts

Preparation

For the avocado salsa:
Mash the avocado in a bowl, and fold and mix in the rest of the ingredients.

For the lamb and cream sauce:
Pop the lamb chops in a large non-stick fryign pan on low until you your them start to sizzle and the juices start to run out. Then turn the heat up to medium and add the onions, garlic, mushrooms and rosemary. Continue to dry until the garlic is fragrant, the onion is translucent, and the mushrooms have soaked up the lamb juices. If the lamb is cooked to your liking before the rest of the dish is ready, take the lamb off the plate or push it to the side of the pan. Add the peas about 1 minute before you turn off the heat.

When ready to serve, turn off the heat, put the lamb on the plates and add a splash of double cream to the pan, and mixing in with the juices, mushrooms, onions, etc. Serve over the lamb chops, sprinkle some pine nuts and enjoy with the avocado salsa. 🙂

Enjoyed solo: 11.09.2013

Black Forest (Dark Chocolate and Cherry) Individual Pavlovas

Well, I’ve just got back from Crossfit after tackling Barbara, and I’m so glad I went! I really didn’t feel like it, but you do get into after a while and just have fun! The will to continue comes. As the saying goes; don’t wait for the inspiration to come, act as though you are inspired and inspiration will soon come! I wrote a blog post about will and workouts here, and it applies to so many things in life. Will can also be cultivated through changing one’s perspective; I’ve been doing that a lot recently, and really feeling the effects in my mood and the amount of joy that entered my daily life as a result has been tremendous! But that’s for a whole other blog post! 🙂

I’m in a particularly good mood and have a lot to ramble on about, but not much time as it’s getting late and I need sleep and energy to study and train hard tomorrow! Mum wants me to post this pavlova/meringue recipe so she can make it for when nanny knocking visits next weekend, so I’m posting it 🙂

Recently, I’ve been getting back into cooking (specifically baking and trying things I would like to photograph, other than the usual stuff I eat on a daily basis like vegetables and salads – but I’ve wanted to photograph more exquisite things recently!) and photography! Since I’m at this point of revision, when I do have free time I don’t want to study Spanish/French/Japanese/German (as inspired by my recent trip to Switzerland and an upcoming trip to Frankfurt!), because I just don’t want to be writing any more things down or reading intently. I’d just rather have some fun and get creative! It’s also something I do where I can guarantee that my ego won’t pop in, as I just find it so joyous and fun to do. I also like that when I’m feeling upset, it cheers me up because I can focus on the task at hand, knowing I’ll enjoy it. If I’m feeling happy, it has the same effect. If it’s rainy, I can focus on cooking/baking/creating something delicious for people I love, and even if the weather’s nice and I’m alone or my brother’s doing his own thing in the background, I can do this quite happily and entertain myself. It’s my little thing and I love it 🙂 But again, this is all for another post!

As my mum’s a big fan of white chocolate, I gave her white chocolate and my brother, dad and I had dark chocolate. We all had a combination of blueberries and cherries, and drizzle cherry juice (from the cherries when pitted) over the meringue before serving and it was beautiful. Of course, for photography purposes I just stuck with cherries, dark chocolate and no juice, but you can see the one I ate in the most bottom right photo (it does look a little more juvenile; like the sort of thing you’d find at a kid’s party! I think the different colours make it look like sprinkles!).

I made the meringues the afternoon before, and kept them in an air tight container in the fridge. They kept their crispness for up to 3 days. They were all gone by then, do I don’t know if they would have remained crisp for any longer! So I suppose you can prepare thee meringues a couple of days in advance if you like. However, definitely don’t stack/layer them with the cream until you’re going to serve them! Not only will the cream not be stable, the meringue will go soggy. I made one at 9.45am so I could take photos last Saturday, and didn’t eat it until 4.30pm and it was a little soggy. It was still delicious, but the crunch wasn’t there; it was almost like a meringue cake, but I suppose that’s not the effect desired by most pavlova-enthusiasts.

I also made the cream at the same time as well, and it started to melt in my living room (which was rather warm) while I was taking photos. It stayed together in the fridge until 4.30pm (in a stainless steel bowl), when I served it, although it didn’t seem to have quite such a beautiful texture as when it was freshly whipped, so I personally recommend whipping the cream just before serving, too. It will only take about 5 minutes though! There are recipes online to stabilise the cream, which I think involves either a) adding sugar and gelatin and other things, or b) adding a LOT of sugar so that it turns into a sort of frosting, which I think takes the delicate creaminess away from pavlova.

The original recipe that I found online said that glossy meringues would form if you fold in 2 tsp of cornflour and 1 tsp of white wine vinegar into the stiffened egg whites. I completely forgot to do that but oh well! They were still delicious! I will have to remember next time!

Monday’s WOD @ CFP:
“Barbara”
20 pull ups
30 press ups
40 sit ups
50 squats
3:00 mins rest in between rounds

Time after…
… round 1 = 4.04
… round 2 = 12.26 (inc. 3 mins rest)
… round 3 = 21.12 (inc. 3 mins rest)
… round 4 = 30.06 (inc. 3 mins rest)
… round 5 = 39.09 (inc. 3 mins rest)
rx’d baby 🙂 (press ups were definitely the slowest! Followed by squats and my sore hips after stretching and being aware of my awful form!)

Black Forest (Dark Chocolate and Cherry) Individual Pavlovas
Adapted from: Donal Skehan
Makes 18 meringues (9 individual pavlovas)

Ingredients
For the meringues:
• 250g icing sugar
• 4 x egg whites

For construction:
• 500ml whipped double cream
• ~250g pitted cherries and blueberries
• ~100g dark and white chocolate
• Juice from the pitted cherries

Preparation
For the meringues:
Preheat the oven to 150°C and line baking trays (I used three!) with non-stick baking paper. Put the egg whites and sugar in a bowl, and whisk until stiff and glossy white peaks form. Use the upside-down-over-the-head test if necessary.

Spoon 18 tablespoons of the mixture onto the baking sheets, and flatten the tops. They should keep whatever shape you give them; this is a way to tell that the peaks are stiff enough. Make sure they’re not too close together but they don’t have to be too far apart, either!

Bake for 45 minutes (I used a fan-assisted oven). Then turn off the oven, leave the door ajar, and allow to cool completely.

To construct:
Whip the double cream until stiff, and construct the pavalovas by starting off with a meringue base, spreading on cream, adding cherries, a sprinkling of chocolate, and repeat with another meringue base, etc.

Serve immediately with cherry juices and enjoy! 🙂

Constructed for my beautiful family: 03.08.2013

Soufflé au Fromage (Cheese Soufflé)

This soufflé recipe is certainly for the “keen cook;” it’s not too difficult, it just requires a lot of prep and organisation, not to mention the large number of ingredients called for! These turned out really well, and surprised me as to how nice they actually were (when in fact I majorly UNDERCOOKED the first batch)!

As a result, the flavours were really pungent and awful because I hadn’t cooked it properly. Tim took one mouthful, put it down, and said he didn’t like it. When I first read the recipe, I was a little dubious as it had so many different varieties of cheese in it, I was really intrigued to see what the flavour would be like. But the BBC Good Food website had two reviews giving it 5 stars, and one giving it 4 stars, so I thought that it must be pretty good if these people cooked it well (although I must admit, I usually go for recipes with a lot more reviews).

I have to say that as a result of my unknown under-cooking of the soufflés, they still looked quite cute and neat, but they didn’t live up to my expectations and had completely quashed my dream idea of cheese soufflé. 🙁 The original recipe called for baking these for 15-20 minutes. I baked these in a preheated oven for 15 minutes, yet the insides were extremely gooey. So gooey in fact, mum and I couldn’t finish ours (it was like eating raw cake batter; ok for a couple of spoonfuls, but then after that you feel sick of eating raw mixture). Dad got back mega-late from tennis, so I baked his supper for an extra 10 minutes (so 25 minutes overall), and he said that the whole thing had pretty much set. He ate it all, and said it was nice, but did comment on the strength of flavour and the unusual taste it had (an acquired taste, I’d like to think!).

But it turned out that they had to be baked for 10 minutes at a slightly higher temperature, before baking them for a further 15-20 minutes!

The remaining two I stored in the fridge. Yesterday, I took one out, let the temperature rise to room temp., and baked it again, this time actually following the recipe! And you know what…it turned out beautifully! The taste was still strong but the flavours were a lot more subtle, and the texture of the soufflé was completely different! It wasn’t a massive mess of gunge and goo like it was last time. It had all cooked well, and the brie in the middle was soft and stringy. It was delicious! And the soufflé rose a lot more than I expected it to, and deflated very slowly, which gave it quiet an appealing and slightly crunchy bit on top!

Also, this was the first time I had the courage and daring to open and use the first of the spices from the spice set that I won! And I used a single star anise (which you can see in one of the pictures below)! I’m looking forward to taking my pristine spices to the new flat. 😀


Souffle au Fromage
Adapted from: BBC Good Food
Serves 6 (using 6 x 2″ deep, 4″ diameter ramekins)

Ingredients
For the beurre manié:
• 50g unsalted butter, softened
• 50g floured, sieved

For the soufflé mixture:
• 500ml milk
• 1 x small onion, finely diced
• 1 x star anise
• 3 tbsp ground cloves
• 1 x bay leaf
• 6 x egg yolks
• 100g mature cheddar, grated
• 100g Gruyère, grated
• 55g parmesan, grated
• 1 tsp English mustard
• 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
• salt and pepper, to taste

For preparing the ramekins:
• ~25g butter, softened
• coarsely ground black pepper
• 30g parmesan, grated

For assembling and finishing:
• lemon juice
• 6 x egg yolks
• 100g brie, cut into chunks

Preparation
For the beurre manié:
Melt the butter and mix it with the flour until a paste is formed (known as beurre manié). This can be made in bulk, rolled into a sausage and chilled or frozen. Then you can cut chunks to use for other soufflés.

Chill it in the fridge for about 30 minutes until firm.

For the souffé mixture:
Heat the milk to boiling point in a large pan, then add the onion, star ansie, cloves and bay leaf. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Strain the milk into a large bowl, pressing down on the onion and spices to extract as much juice and flavour as possible.

Pour the strained mixture back into the pan and put on a low heat. Gradually whisk in the beurre manié, adding in small pieces until a thick sauce is achieved.

Season with a little salt and pepper, then leave to cool for 1-2 minutes before whisking in the egg yolks, grated Gruyère, grated cheddar and grated parmigiana. Then add the mustard and Worcestershire sauce.

Leave the mixture to cool. This can be made 2 days ahead.

For preparing the ramekins:
Brush the insides of the ramekins with butter, ensuring the inside is completely covered with butter using even upward brush strokes (from the bottom of the ramekin to the top). This will help the mixture to rise. You can chill to set the butter, then repeat again. Then coat the insides of the ramekins with the remaining grated parmesan and coarsely ground black pepper.

Assembling and finishing:
Heat the oven to 190◦C (it is essential to heat the oven before baking). Coat the inside of the bowl of your mixer with lemon juice (this helps to clean the bowl of grease entirely, as the slightest amount prevents egg whites from firming).

Whisk the egg whites in the bowl to form stiff (but not dry) peaks, then whisk a third of them into the cheese mixture, to loosen the base. Carefully fold the remaining egg whites into the cheese mixture until well mixed, but still light and airy. Adding the egg whites in two stages prevents the mixture from splitting.

Spoon half of the mixture into the ramekins, and dot with chunks of brie. Top with the remaining mixture. Bake for 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 170◦C, and make for 15-20 minutes. The soufflé should be evenly risen and slightly wobbly.

Serve immediately, before it deflates! The centre should be soft, but thicken slightly when served.

Bon appétit!!

Baked 07.06.2011

Roulade de Chocolat avec le Café | Chocolate Swiss Roll with Coffee (Tia Maria)

I’m ashamed to say that I made this twice: the first time it failed. But I’m so glad that I persevered, because this was B-E-A-utiful! Even dad asked for a large portion, and then went back for seconds…which is very unusual of him…

My first attempt involved halving the recipe, because I really didn’t want to have too much dessert. But because I didn’t have a small enough square pan, the roll was too thin to peel off of the baking sheet, and therefore cracked and broke with ease. I thought this would happen, but like an idiot I did it anyway. So the second time I made it I stuck to the original quantity. I think this recipe doubled would make a thicker and more stable roll, as mine completely fell apart. I used a pyrex baking dish lined with a baking paper that was about 7.5″ x 10″. Mum and dad commented that it looked really sloppyy, but I assured them it tasted great!

This recipe originally called for amaretto, but I replaced it with Tia Maria to give a sweet (not not too sweet) coffee taste to the cream. And today was Tim’s last AS level exam: Government and Politics. He thinks he did quite well, so I’m pleased for him. 🙂 At least now he can go back to school before summer knowing that his exams are behind him… and now he’s excited for driving lessons! God help us all!

Roulade de Chocolat avec Tia Maria
Adapted from: BBC Good Food
Serves 6-8

Ingredients
For the sponge:
• butter, for greasing
• 100g caster sugar
• 5 x eggs
• 25g self-raising flour
• ½ tsp baking powder
• 40g cocoa powder
• 1 tbsp vanilla essence

For the coffee cream:
• 250g mascarpone
• 100g plain choccolate
• 100g icing sugar
• 2 tbsp Tia Maria
• icing sugar, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, etc. to decorate

Preparation
Heat the oven to 180◦C. Line a tin (mine was about 7.5″ x 10″) with butter and dust with a little caster sugar.

Beat the eggs and sugar together in a mixer until pale, light and fluffy. Carefully transfer the mixture into a large bowl and sieve in the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. Add the vanilla essence, and fold together ensuring that it’s mixed well but still light and airy.

Spread the mixture across the tin and bake for 10 minutes, so that it’s firm to touch. The flip it out, peel off the baking paper and roll up lengthways whilst warm. Leave to cool.

For the cream filling, break the chocolate into pieces and melt in the microwave. The beat (by hand) in with the mascarpone. Sieve in the icing sugar and add the tia maria, and mix well. Pop into the fridge for about half an hour to firm up.

When the roll is cool, carefully open it, and spread the cream across it and re-roll. If it cracks a bit, that’s ok; it just adds to the beauty. Dust with cocoa powder and/or icing sugar. I reserved some cream to use as glue for whole, fresh cherries.

Bon appétit!!

Constructed 07.06.2011