Exam time. With a smidgen of Strawberry.

These last few weeks have been frantic with exams for the kids.  Both had 2 dance and 2 music instrument exams. And the eldest’s second year exams started today.  I have been a firm believer in getting the kids to take exams/tests whenever they can as I feel that you cannot learn to conquer exam nerves young enough.  To introduce them to a little exam pressure, when the exams are not really significant in the grand scheme of things, I think, can only be helpful.   I – gulp – admit to actually enjoy taking exams to a certain extent.  I am chronically organised to the point of a OCD so study plans, note taking etc etc always appealed to me.  As I type I know I am itching to take notes on SOMETHING! So in the interest of being incredibly boring, I will share tips that I used, and still would use, if I need to focus and just get on with it!

1. Get enough Sleep.  Studying through the night not only upsets your sleep pattern and therefore your much needed brain downtime, but also causes anxiety with increased levels of pituitary gland activity- this increases the stress levels of the body, therefore not only is your mind stressed your body will be stressed also.

2. Fuel your body correctly. Best advice- lots of different coloured veg and fruit.  Iron through veg or good quality meat. Lack of sleep suppresses appetite, so even if you are not able to sleep. Please force yourself to eat.

3. Take fish oils.

4. Make habits.  i.e. WHATEVER I have to do I will go to bed at x o’clock.  I will always put my pens away (in a pencil case) so when I do need to study, they are there and I don’t have to spend hours looking for them.

5. Give yourself a break.  It’s only for a week or two so let the non essential commitments wait.

6. Exercise. Something other than your brain.  Even a walk to the clothes line and back.

7. Remember that those nearest and dearest to you are probably also worried about YOUR exams.


And now for the Strawberry bit.  I had a few friends over to test out some recipes the other day, and I couldn’t decide which strawberry recipe to do.  So I made 3, well 3 strawberry recipes and a new buttermilk sorbet recipe.

The buttermilk sorbet was a revelation of simplicity.  I just gently heated 200 ml of buttermilk with 1 tablespoon caster sugar, and 1 tablespoon golden syrup. Then put it to churn. Yum.

The panna cotta was just heated cream to just boiling with some basil leaves.  Oncve nearly boling I left this mix to steep for 10 minutes, removed the basil, re brought to just boiling, then added chopped white chocolate stirring until smooth, then into glasses, and refrigerated once cool enough.  I heated 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon caster sugar and 2 tablespoons of water until boiling, then until syrupy.  Once this was cool I added chopped strawberries, then left to mascerate.  To finish this portion of the dish I added a teaspoon of the balsamic strawberries on top of the set panna cotta, and finished this with a melon ball scoop of buttermilk sorbet.

Strawberry and cinnamon Torte

175g ground almonds

175g butter softened

175g golden caster sugar

175g self-raising flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 large eggs

227g strawberries, hulled and sliced

icing sugar , for dusting

Turn on oven to fan 160oC.  Line the base of a loose-bottomed 23cm cake tin with greaseproof paper and butter the sides.

Mix almonds, butter, sugar, flour, cinnamon, eggs until the ingredients are evenly combined.  This is a very stiff mixture.

Spread half the mixture over the base of the tin in a smooth layer with no gaps – easiest to do this with your fingers. Put ¾ of the sliced strawberries on top.

Add the remaining cake mixture and spread it as best you can.

Bake for 1 hour (it may need an extra 5 minutes), but check after 40 minutes – if it is getting too brown, cover loosely with foil. The torte should be slightly risen and dark golden brown when cooked.

Cool in the tin slightly, then loosen the edges with a knife and remove from the tin. Slide the torte onto a plate and sprinkle with a dusting of icing sugar.




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