Tag Archives: Food

A reminder of how WordPress handles RSS feeds

Those of you who read my blog for the programming content might have been rather surprised to learn how to make parmesan and tomato polenta yesterday. Similarly those of you who have come here from “Playing with your food” are probably thinking “What on earth is a Scala and how do I cook it?”

Well, fear not. Those of you who lie in the set programmers ^ cooks need not view the content you don’t care about. They’re set up in different categories, and wordpress allows you to view just a single category or to subscribe to a feed for a specific category. The category specific pages are linked on the left, and if you add “feed” to the URL for a category you will get an RSS feed that covers only that particular one. For example, the feed for programming is http://www.drmaciver.com/category/programming/feed

If you do subscribe to a particular category, I’d appreciate it if you also subscribe to the “Admin” category. I’ll use it to make announcements that are important to readers in general, including the addition of new categories which you might be interested in.

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New Blog

I’m in the process of aggregating all my old blogs together and moving them here. I realised that there a bunch of things I wanted to do that required my own site, and posts I wanted to write that didn’t really fit into my existing blog categories. Also, I really hated the name of my programming blog but didn’t feel I could change it, so this gives me an excuse to break with that.

So, here we are. I’ll be using wordpress as a general CMS for now. If I’m unhappy with it I might switch, but after some initial teething difficulties on the import it seems pretty acceptable. Certainly better than blogspot’s setup.

Expect the same old ranting about programming from me, an occasional post about food, and hopefully writing on a wider variety of topics.

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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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What don’t you eat? (How to feed anyone)

I was out for dinner with a friend last night and she wouldn’t eat the squid in her seafood dish. Nothing wrong with that – we all have things we don’t like – but it, combined with reading through the latest post on Smitten Kitchen in a vain attempt to stave off the cravings induced by StumbleUpon being down today, made be think about the subject.

Which is not to say it made me think coherently about the subject. It is a saturday morning. So the following is more of a brain dump than a well thought out argument. Also it contains no cooking. If you were hoping for a recipe accompanied my fun filled antics and tomfoolery in the kitchen, you might want to give up and go back to bed now.

I think I’m pretty open minded about food. I’ll eat most things, within the restriction that I only eat a restricted subset of meats. I don’t eat Okra if I can avoid it (it’s the devil’s vegetable), and I don’t drink wine or beer, but that’s about it. I also don’t eat bad food, but that’s a separate issue related to me being a snob rather than food related. :-) On the other hand, I used to not eat dairy either, so I’m reasonably familiar with the difficulties of working on a restricted diet.

I know a lot of other people who are very fussy eaters, either by nature, moral choice or medical neccessity. Amongst my friends and family we have nut allergies, dairy intolerance, gluten intolerance. One of my friends can’t eat sweet peppers. Moral choice is more obvious – I know quite a few vegetarians of varying degrees and lived with a vegan friend for somewhat over a year.

Then there are people who have things which they just don’t like to eat (and things who have people whom they just don’t like to eat, but that’s a separate post). Some of my friends basically don’t eat vegetables, or don’t like specific vegetables. Mushrooms seem to be the fungi which everyone loves to hate. My brother’s girlfriend doesn’t eat anything which is purple.

There’s a tendency to roll one’s eyes and tell them to stop being so fussy. I’m certainly guilty of it (but then I’m judgmental and horrible. Ask anyone).

To some extent this is warranted – I can’t imagine not eating most vegetables, and I find it amazingly difficult to accommodate people don’t. But part of that is just me – I’m sure if I stuck a great big slab of bacon on their plate they’d be happy as a pig in… ok, bad metaphor. But you get the point. I’m sure they’d find it similarly difficult to feed me.

On the other hand, maybe we should think of restrictions as opportunities. In my presentation on vegan cooking I mentioned that there are basically two secrets to good vegan cooking: Variety and proper use of spices. Neither of these are particularly vegan centric – they’re just things which happen to be especially important for vegan cooking. Once you’ve learned them you can port them to any other style of cooking you like, and you’ll be a better cook for it.

I’m sure other genres of cooking are the same. In cutting something out of the mix you will expose limitations to your cooking style which its presence has helped to cover up and, in learning to deal with these limitations, you will become a better cook for it.

So. What don’t you eat?

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Brown rice in an egg and tomato sauce

Glory and behold: There is a post!

I’m sorry about the long long delay. My main excuse at the moment is that I don’t have any internet access at home right now. This is being written during my lunch break at work.

But enough of excuses. On to food.

About a week ago I came home one evening, in that in between zone of botheredness where I do feel like cooking but going shopping for food was simply too much effort.

So. What did I have in the fridge? There was a largeish tub left over of roast vegetables (a mix of onions, garlic, peppers, courgettes, aubergine, tomatoes and mushrooms, roasted with an awful lot of salt and olive oil), so that would serve as a good vegetable side dish. I just needed a main dish to serve it with.

The fridge wasn’t quite bare other than that, but it was certainly scantily clad. After some digging around I settled on the some cold leftover brown rice, 5 medium sized vine tomatoes, a carton of eggs. There might have been one or two other things, but those were all I ended up using in terms of primary ingredients. I also had a fresh basil plant sitting on the window sill and some colmanns mustard, both of which I used for flavouring. Plus of course miscellaneous cupboard ingredients.

Now. What to make with them?

In envisioned some sort of fried rice type thing – scrambled eggs with fried tomatoes and rice. Sounded nice enough. This wasn’t quite how it turned out…

What I used.

Cold cooked brown rice. Probably about the equivalent of 2.5 cups dry volume.
5 medium sized tomatoes.
4 eggs
A small handful of fresh basil
Colmann’s mustard
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Brown sugar
Roast vegetable mix

What I did.

I knew the tomatoes would give off quite a lot of water, so I decided to fry them first to reduce some of that. I diced them up fairly coarsely, heated a fair bit of olive oil in the frying pan and set them to frying with a bit of salt and sugar. After a few minutes I shredded the basil and added it to the tomatoes.

It was obvious pretty quickly that there was a basic flaw in my plan. Diced tomatoes don’t so much fry as turn into sauce. That’s ok. I can work with that…

Before I continue, I should explain briefly the phenomenon that is Colman’s mustard. It looks like a fairly generic yellow mustard, but it is in fact ridiculously spicy. My friend Vern, who recently came over to visit from the wrong side of the pond, first encountered it when we were both visiting my family. He thought at first that it was similar to French’s (a mustard which, as far as I can verify, tastes mostly of yellow), and my brother and I were rather impressed at the size of the helping he took.

He later described it as “Spicy death mustard”.

So, I was going to be verrrry careful with my use of it.

The way I used it might strike you as slightly odd. However, that’s only because it’s a slightly odd way of using it. I cracked the four eggs into a bowl, added about 3tbsp of balsamic vinegar, a tsp of brown sugar and maybe half a tsp of Colman’s mustard and whisked it all up. I’ve done variants on this before, where I’ve added small amounts of vinegar and soy sauce to eggs before using them in chinese style fried rice, and it usually works quite well.

Now there was a slight problem. I wanted to keep the egg distinct from the tomato while it was cooking. Partially because I still thought it was going to become fairly solid, partially because I’m always leery of undercooked egg and mixing it with liquid make it fairly hard to tell if egg is sufficiently cooked.

“Ah ha” thought I. “Am I not an engineer now? Well, I shall think like an engineer!” (ok, so technically I build web applications rather than bridges. But I’m sure the principle is the same. Although granted fewer people are likely to die horrifically if my web applications crash…). The resulting dam of brown rice across the frying pan wasn’t going to win any prizes, but it certainly served the purpose of partitioning the frying pan into the bit where the sauce cooked and the bit where the egg cooked.

It also meant that there wasn’t all that much surface area for the egg to cook on, and there was rather a lot of egg. Also, adding the mustard and that much liquid seemed to do interesting things to the consistency of the egg. It wasn’t cooking very well, so I turned up the heat and stirred continuously.

What I was left with was a somewhat unappetising looking vaguely grey porridge.

Never mind. We soldier on.

I mixed the rice, sauce and egg up together. The unappetising grey colour gave way to a slightly orange sauce coating the rice. Much more appealing, although perhaps a little gloopy.

I tried a bit. Nice, but perhaps a little unexciting. I decided that it would work better with the roast vegetables mixed in rather than on the side, so I added those. Perhaps two or three cups of roast vegetables? I’m not really sure.

It was definitely an improvement. It tasted really quite nice now. I was just a little disappointed with the spicy death mustard – you could hardly taste it really. So I decided to add a fair bit more, and mixed in about half a tbsp more and fried it for a little longer.

I took another bite.

You know what’s coming, don’t you?

In fact, you probably know what’s coming so well that there’s really no need for me to regail you with stories of my prancing around the kitchen screaming in horror at the blazing fire that had been lit upon my tastebuds.


Just as well really, because it wasn’t that spicy. The mustard added just the right undertone of bite to it without making it actually hot.


Definitely a recipe worth remembering. I’ve actually made it again since first cooking it.

Having tinkered with the quantities, the only major change I’ve made to it is I’ve reduced the amount of vinegar slightly. I’ve tried it without the roast vegetables, and really they are a neccesary part of the recipe – it just isn’t interesting enough without something like that in it.

If you don’t have the vegetables preroast then you could probably replace them with just frying peppers, mushrooms and onions and adding them to the recipe (or cooking the sauce with them after they’ve fried for a bit).

I don’t think this recipe is actually original to me – I have vague recollections of my mother cooking something similar. I wouldn’t swear to it though, and I certainly don’t know what it’s called.

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