Tag Archives: oil

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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Mushroom and Chickpea Balti

In my weekly trip to the local second hand bookstall I recently picked up a new cookbook, entitled Balti: The complete cookbook, by Lynette Baxter. To be honest, I’m not very impressed with it, but at two pounds if I get one recipe from it that I cook on a regular basis then I’ll be satisfied with my purchase.

The following is approximately from it. The ingredients list bears a passing resemblance to a recipe of the same name in the book (I forget how much resemlance it actually bears – I didn’t do much more than scan the recipe). I’m pretty sure the actual cooking method doesn’t. It needs some work, but given that it will probably prove to be a nice easy recipe to cook when I don’t feel like putting much effort into it.

What I used:

1 Red Onion
3 cloves garlic
5 smallish tomatoes
2 cans of chickpeas
250g closed cap mushrooms.
1 fresh birds eye chilli
1/2 cup water
Sunflower oil
Brown sugar
1tsp Fenugreek seeds
2tsp Cumin seeds
1tsp Cardamon seeds
2tsp whole black peppercorns
1cm of cinnamom stick

What I did:

I began pretty much as usual. Toasted the spices, ground them up in a mortar and pestle and then put them aside. I then chopped up the onion and garlic quite finely and fried it with a bit of salt and sugar in the oil. After about 5-10 minutes I added the spice to the mix and continued frying.

While that was frying I cleaned the mushrooms and chopped them up fairly coarsely. After the onions had been frying with the spices for a few minutes I added them and continued frying until the mushrooms were fairly well cooked, stirring it pretty thoroughly so that the mushrooms were properly coated with the spice and onion mix.

Meanwhile I chopped the tomatoes and, once the mushrooms were cooked, added them to the mix. I turned up the heat and let it fry for a few more minutes then added half a cup of water and simmered until the tomatoes had reduced to a sauce. I drained the chickpeas, added them to the mix and stirred thoroughly, letting it cook for another five minutes or so. The end result was enough sauce to coat the chickpeas, but not enough that they were swimming in it.

So, pretty much what you’d expect given the ingredients list. I think it’s not what was suggested in the cookbook, but clearly my way is better. :-)


This was pretty good, but the spice mix was a bit odd. It didn’t quite work. I think it needed to lose the cinnamon and possibly include some mustard seeds, coriander and more cumin.

I served it simply over brown rice. It could probably use some sort of simple vegetable side dish to go with it.

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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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Cooking lessons 3

This is going to get hopelessly out of order very quickly, as there are now two lessons I’ve missed out on actually posting. Never mind.

Yesterday I took Michael spice shopping. I was actually a bit unimpressed with where we went, so if anyone can tell me some good places to go spice shopping in London I’ll be really grateful. We bought ground cumin, ground red chilli, garam masala and (gasp) curry powder. I went for all powders because they’re a bit easier to work with to start with. Also because the selection of whole spices was crap. We can get on to the subtleties of spice usage once we’ve covered the basics, and once I’ve found a decent place to go shopping for them.

Here’s one of the first Indian recipes I ever learned to cook, about four years back when I was first trying out this ‘vegetarian’ thing and Tariq came into our kitchen and found my attempts at making a curry. They were umm… not very impressive. Ask nicely and I’ll tell you about it some time. Here is a very simplified and tinkered with version of the recipe he showed me.


  • One small bowl of lentils (about a serving size in order to make two to three servings). Preferably green, brown, puy, etc. Black or red won’t really work here.
  • One medium-large onion.
  • Sunflower oil.
  • One large spoon of ground cumin.
  • One spoon of garam masala.
  • A quarter of a spoon of curry powder.
  • Water.
  • Salt to taste.


Mix the dried spices and salt. Dry fry them on a medium heat for about a minute, stirring constantly, and then transfer to a bowl.

Add enough oil to the bottom of the pan to just cover it. Dice the onion and fry it on medium heat until soft, and then add the spices. Fry for a few minutes more.

Now add the lentils and fry for about a minute. Cover with boiling water (say two to three times as much water as you had lentils) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover the pot, and leave it.

It will probably take about half an hour to cook. Be more worried about undercooking it than overcooking, but check on it every now and then to see if it’s getting dry and needs more water. The end result can either be dryish or soupy as you prefer. If it’s going to be soupy you might want to consider adding more salt and/or (horrors) half a stock cube. When the lentils are soft to eat it is ready.

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Cooking lessons 2

Right, here’s the first real cooking lesson. There would have been one before this in which I discussed how to make the garlic lentils in a slightly more sane manner, but stuff got in the way. So I didn’t.

At the moment Michael is still spice free, causing me to need to be vaguely creative to work with the limited flavourings and ingredients available. Here’s what I came up with as a suggested dinner for tonight. It’s basically a mixture of things which are easy to make.

Pan fried potatoes

These have, for all intents and purposes, no nutritional value. However they taste great and are cheap and easy to make, so why complain?

First of all, you’ll need boiled potatoes for this. Cold is better, because hot potatoes are a nuisance to cut and don’t retain their shape as well, but either is fine. So, first we need to boil some potatoes. I recommend making excess potato and storing the rest in those sandwich bags I told you to get, as these are always useful to have to hand and if you have precooked potato in the fridge then this becomes even easier to make.

This is a complicated procedure akin to rocket science. You take a large quantity of unpeeled potatoes, given them a rinse and put them in a pot. You cover it with water. Put the heat on high until the water boils and then reduce the heat to medium and leave it to cook. Check them after about 20 minutes, and remove when cooked. They need to be soft when you stick a knife into them (check several as this will vary with potato size and they’re better slightly overcooked than undercooked).

Once the potatoes are cooked, let them cool for a bit (it may help to leave them to sit in a pot of cold water for a few minutes), then cut them up into roughly cm cubes (you don’t need to be too careful when doing this).

Now get a frying pan and add enough oil to cover the bottom in a thin layer. You may want to add a small amount of butter as well. Let it get hot and then add the potato cubes and sprinkle a fair bit of salt over the potatoes.

This will need to fry for quite a while until the cubes get crispy. Stir it every minute or so, but not constantly – prolonged contact with the frying pan is needed to crip the potatoes.

Spicy tomato sauce

Ingredients: One medium sized onion, garlic puree, lazy chillies, tomato passata, oil, salt

What to do:

Dice the onion fairly finely. Fry on medium heat with a little bit of oil and a pinch of salt.

After about five minutes, add a small spoon of lazy chillies and garlic puree (slightly more garlic than chillies if anything) to the onions and continue stirring until the onions are soft. Then add about half a bottle of passata, mix it up thoroughly and reduce the heat. Leave it on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens.

Serve with the pan fried potatoes (you probably don’t want to put the sauce directly on them, as it will soak in and they’ll lose their crispiness. Serve on the side and mix as you eat).

Next post: Salads.

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