Tag Archives: cheese

Potato and butternut squash “pizza”

I originally described this dish as somewhere between a gratin and a deep dish pizza. It turns out this description is the result of my massively misunderstanding what a gratin is.

So instead it’s more like a deep dish pizza would be if you repaced the base with thinly sliced potatoes and butternut squash.

As with so much I make, it’s the result of my being bored and wanting to make something nice but having no inclination to shop (also I’m currently visiting my parents, so shopping is a lot harder than it normally would be) or idea what I want to make.

In this case, the result is really good.

how it works:

The Base

We make the dish in a deep dish pizza tray. The base is made out of thinly sliced potato and butternut squash (I use a food processor for the slicing).

Oil the tray (I used olive oil) and cover the bottom with sliced potatoes. Drizzle them with oil and sprinkle with salt and rosemary. Cover with the butternut squash and drizzle that with oil and sprinkle with salt (I think the rosemary will burn if you put it on top, so I didn’t put any on). Roast on a high heat for 25 minutes.

The sauce

The sauce I made is as follows. Really any tomato sauce would work, but this worked particularly well.

Basically: Puree a small onion, fry it with olive oil and about a tbsp of dark brown sugar. Once it’s caramelised a bit, add a can of chopped tomatoes, a dash of red wine vinegar, some paprica and herbs de provence and let it reduce.

The assembly

Once the base has roasted for 25 minutes, take it out of the oven, cover it in the tomato sauce and then cover that in grated cheese. The cheeses I used were mostly Comté, with a little bit of Manchego. Then put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes, still at the roasting temperature.

Then take it out of the oven and eat it. All of it.

There were three of us having this – myself and my two parents. I expected there to be plenty of leftovers. Instead there was a very cleaned out pizza dish.

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More penne and cheese

My penne and cheese experimentation the other day inspired me to try more on the baked pasta theme. It’s quite different, and significantly more elaborate and… well, in fact bears no resemblance to the other recipe except that it contains penne and cheese (though a different type) and is baked in a glass dish.

What I used

About 300g of dried penne
One medium-large onion
One small aubergine
One yellow bell pepper
One red bell pepper
Three large (somewhat underripe) tomatoes
Ludicrous quantities of grated cheese (enough to cover the roasting dish)
One dried chilli pepper
About 1/2 tbsp coarse salt
Olive oil

The cheeses I used were turkish cheeses which the packages respectively claim them to be Eski Kasar and Kasar Peyniri. Kasar is apparently a kind of sheep milk cheese. They’re both semi-hard cheeses, with Eski Kasar tasting approximately like a milder parmesan and Kasar Peyniri approximating mozzarella. You could probably use those as substitutions.

What I did

There are quite a few steps in this, and it ended up taking a long time – about an hour and a half (though not requiring continuous attention).

I finely chopped the onion and peppers and cubed the aubergine. I roast this with olive oil, salt and the chilli pepper (which I flaked) at about 250C until it was fairly cooked.

Meanwhile I cooked the penne (deliberately undercooking it a fair bit). I coarsely chopped the tomatoes, and once the roast vegetables were cooked I added the pasta and tomatoes, mixed it up thoroughly and put it back in the oven at 200C.

After about 10 minutes I realised that the pasta wasn’t really cooking well enough, so I covered it in foil to keep the moisture in (you’d be surprised at how hard this is to do to a ridiculously hot glass baking tray…) and put it back in for another 15-20 minutes.

Once the tomatoes were looking suitably roast and the pasta was cooked I covered the top in grated cheese and put it back in to the oven until it was cooked (the desired end result was the top looking like a nicely cooked pizza topping). At that point, it was ready to serve.


This made a huge amount of food, and it’s really filling. I think I’m going to get at least another 3 meals out of this, quite possibly 4. Fortunately, it’s very nice. Mmm…

I’d do a few things differently – I’d use a little more chilli. The vegetables were only very mildly spicy (I think my dried chilli peppers are getting old and losing flavour). I’d like to use a bit less olive oil, but my experience is that those vegetables don’t roast as nicely without. I’d probably use a bit less cheese.

In terms of timing, I think I should have put the tomatoes in before the pasta (but after the other vegetables) and let them roast a little bit, and similarly let the pasta cook a little more so that it was slightly hard but edible at the point it went in.

Still, definitely something to make again.

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Food hacks

I don’t make much mention of it on here (see my other blog for somewhere that I do), but in my day job I’m a programmer. Counted amongst the weird and wonderful jargon that profession entails is the word hack.

There’s a particular sort of hack I’m particularly good at. Quick, and usually somewhat dirty, solutions that use what’s available in unexpected ways. Reactions to them can be anything from “Ooh, that’s neat” to “AIEEE! MY EYES!”, but they usually get the job done a lot faster than the alternatives. I don’t use them all the time, but I probably use them a bit more often than I should.

This post is basically an example of me transplanting that technique to my cooking. The results are… unusual.

Without further ado, some recipes.

Recipe 1: Macaroni and Cheese

I just got back from a trip to New York (well, technically Jersey City), to visit my girlfriend, Victoria. We both cooked while I was there, and one of the things she cooked was her macaroni and cheese recipe. It’s essentially the macaroni and cheese analogue of my brownies – do the simplest thing that can possibly work and the results are delicious.

  • Macaroni
  • Milk
  • Cheese (Victoria uses a Longhorn-style cheddar. “Lord knows what you call it on that side of the ocean” — Victoria. I used a mature english cheddar)
  • Something to serve it with. Victoria uses stewed whole tomatoes, I just used a hot sauce.

I don’t really know the proportions for this – I think it’s basically “make enough macaroni to serve the requisite number of people then add milk and cheese until it looks right”. Cooking is equally straightforward – cook the macaroni until it’s slightly underdone, cube the cheese, put the cheese, milk and cooked macaroni in a greased glass dish and bake until it looks cooked (at around 200C I think).

So, yesterday evening I thought “Hmm. What to make for dinner? Oh, why don’t I give Victoria’s macaroni and cheese recipe a go?”

I went to sainsburys to buy the ingredients only to discover, admittedly somewhat unsurprisingly, that they did not have any macaroni. This made me sad:

Oh well, macaroni is just pasta, right?

Hack 1: Penne and Cheese

Exactly the same as the macaroni and cheese, but with penne instead.

Result: Surprisingly nice. The macaroni is a bit better, but the penne is entirely acceptable here. It just has a slightly weird shape for it.

Anyway, I have a really evil recipe that I felt like making tonight:

Coney Island Fries

There seem to be approximately a million different distinct recipes each claiming to be coney island fries. Most of them involve some sort of meat. I call these coney island fries because the pub whose recipe I reverse engineered them from did. They’re evil because they’re really tasty but contain no redeeming nutritional or culinary value. I try to avoid making them too often, but occasionally I succumb.

  • Oven fries
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Guacamole
  • Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce

Recipe: Cook the oven fries as per normal. When they’re nearly done, add large quantities of grated cheddar. Serve with guacamole and way more sweet chilli sauce than can possibly be good for you.

Result: Mmmm.

So, having decided to make it I went to sainsburys for ingredients. Result: No oven fries.

At this point I was feeling like it was sainsburys’s mission to thwart me.

So, I wondered what I could substitute for the fries in order to get something resembling success.

At this point you would be right to have a sinking feeling…

“Ah ha”, I thought, “I have leftover penne and cheese at home, don’t I?”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Hack 2: Coney Island Penne

I hurried home to put my diabolical plan into action.

  • Leftover penne and cheese
  • A handful of frozen corn
  • Guacamole
  • Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce

Recipe: Heat up penne and cheese. Add frozen corn because I’m feeling guilty. Serve with guacamole and sweet chilli sauce.

Results: Well, hmm. Not exactly good per se. Interesting, certainly edible, and not nearly as bad as one might fear, but kinda inferior to its constituent recipes – I wouldn’t say no to eating this again, but I’d take the penne and cheese or the coney island fries over it any day.

Oh well. I did say it was a hack.

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Testing, testing. Is this thing on? (Also, Cheesebread)

Good lord. There’s a blog here. I wonder how that happened? Whose is it? Mine, you say? Wow…

In keeping with my new enterprisey status, I’d like to begin this post with a little Q&A session.

Q: Why has David not been posting humorous cooking anecdotes?
A: Because he’s lame.

Q: What was David doing at 2:30AM?
A: Making cheesebread.

Q: Why on earth was David making cheesebread at such a silly hour?
A: His body has this really funny trick it plays on him. When he’s tired he thinks “Hm. I’m tired. I think I’ll go to bed early”. He does so and most unusually falls right to sleep. He then wakes up a mere three hours later still tired but totally unable to get back to sleep. On this particular occasion, after two hours of trying to sleep he decided to make use of the wonderful distraction that is the internet and upon repeated application of StumbleUpon found his way to an interesting looking recipe. Given that he’d recently been complaining about not doing any proper cooking, had all the ingredients to hand and suddenly possessed a great deal of spare time, a better question would be:

Q: Did David have anything better to do at 2:30AM than make cheesebread?
A: No.

David will now cease this bizarre affectation of referring to himself in the third person.

The recipe I used is pretty much taken from that post verbatim. I may be slapdash with other recipes, but you don’t fuck with bread or the bread mafia will come round to your house and break your kneecaps (also, worse, you’ll get lousy bread). I ended up adding about half a cup more flour, as the dough was looking very gloopy (I’m not sure why).

So, after a careful perusal of the recipe (for those just joining us, that means “I vaguely eyeballed the ingredients and ensured that I had all of them”) I set to work. I got all the ingredients out and put the oven on to preheat.

The astute reader will note that you do not need to put the oven on to preheat at the start of making bread, as it has to rise for over an hour.

The not so astute David took about 10 minutes to realise this before looking sheepish and turning the oven off.

Anyway, other than the mentioned gloopiness I followed the recipe fairly exactly. No comments there. I will add that when doing a quick eyeball of the ingredients you should also do a quick eyeball of the cooking implements, as I realised too late that this was a two tin recipe and I only had one bread tin. I ended up using the excess to make a small round loaf on the base of one of my other baking trays.

I also ended up being impatient and putting the small round loaf in after only half an hour of rising. I shall be prepared when the bread mafia come for me.

This stuff smells amazing while baking. Rather unsurprisingly, a combination of the smell of freshly baking bread and grilled cheese. Equally unsurprising, the impatient version of the loaf was too flat. Still tasted pretty good though, as the rapid vanishing of over half of it demonstrated.

The second one rose a lot more, so I’m expecting it to be a lot better, but I’ll wait ’till the morning to actually open it and find out. I’ll add an update then. For now, I’m going to go make another attempt at that sleep thing.


A little disappointing. The loaf seems to have collapsed overnight. It’s still a lot less dense than the trial version, but doesn’t have the really appealing consistency of the version I linked to. I think I should have let it rise for longer than I did (it was about an hour, but it might have been on the short side of ‘about’. Quite possibly I should have mixed it more vigorously than I did). Also, I think I should have used a sharper cheddar. Still, tastes great, and is light enough. I’m going to enjoy it. :-)

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