Tag Archives: olive 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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Sweet and Spicy Peppers with Bulgur Wheat

So, I’ve been incredibly lax about posting recently (where by recently I mean ‘for the last six months or more’). I’m going to try and fix that, but to be honest I’m going to fail. Still, here’s a post.

Part of the reason for the lack of post is I haven’t been cooking very well recently. Lack of energy. Tonight I really felt the need for a good meal, but I wanted something simple owing to aforementioned lack of energy. Here’s what I came up with.

What I used

Olive oil (unspecified quantity – enough to cover the bottom of the pan)
3 sweet peppers (2 yellow, 1 red)
1 red onion
3 cloves of garlic
6 smallish tomatoes
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp powdered red chilli
1 cup durum wheat
1.5 cups water

What I did

Err. Not much really. :-)

First, the durum. This is trivial. Put 1 cup durum wheat and 1.5 cups water in a rice cooker. Press the ‘on’ button. Leave to cook.

I thinly sliced the onion and sweet peppers and fried them with the olive oil, garlic, sugar and salt. I started the onions a few minutes before the peppers. I coarsely chopped the tomatoes and, once the peppers were looking reasonably cooked, added them and the chilli to the mixture. I left this to cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato reduced to a thick sauce and the peppers tasted cooked.


Nice, simple, effective. I’m a big fan of durum wheat at the moment – it’s like cous cous, only much harder to go wrong with. It’s nice for dishes that I would normally have with rice.

The peppers were very good. I think they needed frying for longer before adding the tomatoes (peppers don’t cook very well in liquid), but other than that I can’t think anything I would have done differently. Maybe slightly more chilli and less salt.

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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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Badass garlic lentils

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve probably got an impression of a variety of exotic spices and subtle flavours. You no doubt see me as some sort of culinary master, spending hours slaving away in the kitchen to find the perfect recipe. Most likely you’ve even thought “Wow, that David is godlike in his mastery! I must bear his children!”

Alas, I am here to tell you that this simply isn’t true. Behold my deep, dark secret: Some times I simply can’t be bothered. I don’t have the energy, the ingredients, or the time to put something fancy together, so it’s time to just throw everything in a pot and see what happens. Occasionally, this works.

A frequent theme of this sort of cooking is lentils. It is very easy to produce something edible with lentils – you take a bunch of lentils, you stick ’em in a pot of water, you add stuff for flavouring. Cook until, well, cooked.

The following is an example of this. I won’t even pretend I was measuring things…

What I used:

Garlic, lots (say about 5 cloves)
Coarse sea salt
Green lentils. I guess about 300g, but I’m only going on packet size here.
Stock cube
Very lazy chillies (these appear to be chopped semi-dried chillies preserved in white wine vinegar. They appear to be about two months past their use by date, so I’m doing my best to use them up)
Olive oil
Bay leaves, handful (4? 5?)
About a third of a bottle of sainsbury’s tomato passata

What I did:

Pretty much what it says on the packet. Take lentils, stick them in water. Add a stock cube.

At this point I now hunt around the kitchen for other things to add. You don’t think I planned this do you?

So, first thing I do is add garlic. I roasted this before hand (that’s what the olive oil was for) and crush it slightly before adding it in. Whenever I roast garlic I add a fair bit of coarse sea salt to it as well to draw out the juices.

Now, to give it some flavour I added the bay leaves and thyme.

One of my standard tricks for improving the flavour of stocks is to add marmite to them. If you are unlucky enough to not be British (or Australian, which is practically british but with a better tan) then you might not be familiar with marmite, so let me explain this concept.

The classic ad for marmite which I always remember is you see a man walking along with a sandwich. He passes a homeless person and, feeling sorry for him, gives him half of the sandwich. The homeless person in question takes one bite of the sandwich, spits it out and starts yelling at the man.

Yes. This is an advertisement for the product. Their slogan is “You either love it or you hate it.”

Allow me to clarify further. Marmite is an evil foul smelling black goop with the consistency of tar and the salt content of the dead sea. For reasons of cultural insanity the british choose to spread it on bread and willingly consume it.

It’s actually quite nice.

Basically it’s a yeast extract – originally from the leftovers from making beer. It’s extremely salty and has a nice rich flavour to it when sufficiently diluted (or spread realllly thinly over warm toast and margarine). Consequently when added to a stock it really adds a lot of flavour to it.

I add a dollop of it. A few moments later I happen to notice the vegetable stock packet I’ve used, which proudly declares that it is guaranteed to be yeast free. That’s nice. I add another dollop of marmite for good measure.

Finally, rummaging through the fridge I found the aforementioned lazy chillies. Checked the sell by date, confirmed that they were not now radioactive and decided that the lentils could use a bit of a kick to them. I added them to the stock and left it to cook for a bit longer.

About 10 minutes later I came back to the lentils, tasted them and decided they needed a bit more of a kick, so I added another dollop. At this point the lentils were getting cookedish, so I added the tomato (random bit of trivia: Tomato slows down the cooking process for lentils, so you shouldn’t add it too soon. Of course, so does salt. At this point I suspect the marmite and roasted garlic had contributed enough salt to preserve a rhino). I left it to cook for another 10-20 minutes more and then served.

It was still very liquidy, so it was more of a lentil soup than anything. I took a sip.

Then I coughed and spluttered for a bit and drunk a lot of water to recover.

A bit of a kick? Try a mule’s worth. These lentils kicked my ass. I bravely made a few more attempts at eating them, but simply couldn’t do it.

So, I adopted the standard aga owner’s approach to dealing with culinary disasters. Bung it in the simmering oven and forget about it.

I came back to it the next morning. The water had entirely evaporated off, leaving a slightly moist thing that was nothing so much as bits of brown in brown goo. Still, I shouldn’t judge. Some of my best fr… err. what I mean is that I have a very nice pumpkin and brown lentil stew recipe which resembles nothing so much as raw sewage. You can’t always tell if something is going to be awful by looking at it. So, I plucked up my courage and steeled myself for a bite.


Hey. That’s actually pretty good.

For some reason the extra cooking really mellowed the spiciness. I think this is because the spice was all in the broth and the lentils weren’t getting much of the flavour, but as it cooked the flavour soaked into the lentils. Still, this was by no means a subtle dish – the overriding flavour was garlic, with a strong complementary chilli flavour. Oh yes, and salt. Don’t get me wrong, there were other flavours, but when you’re reduced to considering marmite to be a nuance you know that this here recipe is not for food snobs.

I’ve actually made this again since, and simplified certain steps. Rather than roasting the garlic I just fried it (takes less time and saves washing up), cutting out the salt. I also cut out the thyme and bay leaves because, frankly, you couldn’t taste a thing, and cooked it on a much higher heat than the simmering oven so it didn’t take all night to cook.

So, all in all a nice and simple addition to the recipe book. Takes a while to cook, but it takes a while of being ignored to cook. Definitely one for future nights when I can’t be bothered.

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Persian Rice and Lentils

The cookbook I approximated this from was “Persian cooking for a healthy kitchen” by Najmieh Batmanglij (whose name I freely admit I couldn’t pronounce if my life depended on it).

I’m afraid I’ve been rather bad with this one. I actually cooked it almost a week ago and never got around to putting it up. Thus my memory might be a bit shaky on the details.

What I used:

3 cups basmati rice
1 1/2 cups brown lentils
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped dates
Two medium red onions
Lots of olive oil
1 tsp cardamon seeds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
Half a stock cube
1tbsp Brown sugar
Juice of one lemmon

What I did:

I started off by cooking the rice in the usual fashion.

Well… almost the usual fashion. The usual fashion doesn’t involve starting to set up the rice cooker and suddenly thinking “Hmm. That tingles. Actually, you know, that’s rather painful, ’cause I’ve JUST PLUGGED MY HAND INTO THE MAINS.” This was followed by several minutes of cursing, resetting the circuit breaker and throwing away the broken rice cooker.

So, cooking it on the stove top instead. Still, business as usual – I didn’t have a rice cooker . Repeatedly washed and soaked it in cold water, drained it and then brought cooked on a high heat with 5 cups of water until it was nearly dry. Then I drained off what water was left and set it aside.

While I was doing this I covered the lentils in water, added the half stock cube and cooked these until they were soft. Then I drained them and kept the cooking water.

I dry fried the cumin and cardamon, then crushed them in a mortar and pestle (which is more work than one might expect). Then I fried the onion with some salt, the sugar and plenty of olive oil. I added the crushed spices and the cinnamon. Once the onions were softening I added the raisins and dates. I continued frying them until the onions were properly cooked, then added the lentils and about 2/3 of the remaining rice and fried for a few minutes longer before taking it off the heat.

The next step of cooking involved baking the mix. I took the remaining rice and mixed it with some of the oil and cooking water from the lentils and used it to coat the inside of a deep ceramic baking dish. This was meant to form a nice crust around the main dish. I then packed the rice/lentil/everything else mix tightly down on top of it, poured on a bit more of the cooking water and the lemon juce then drizzled the top with oil.

I then baked it for about 45 minutes in a medium-hot oven. I served this with roast butternut squash and a salad.


This was basically a good recipe. There were some problems though. First of all, the attempt to make the crusty outside failed completely. It’s possible that if I’d cooked it on a higher temperature it would work, but really I’m not sure it’s needed. Also the recipe could have used a bit more cumin and more salt. Finally, I thought the rice dominated too much over the lentils. I’d probably take out about half a cup of rice and add in another half cup of lentils. This is probably because it’s originally meant to be served with meat rather than as a main dish in its own right.

The recipe called for candied orange peel, but we didn’t have any to hand when I made this. If I make it again I’ll definitely include it.

Overall though, definitely something to make again. The sweet flavour offset the lentils nicely, and it was a nice slightly exotic dish for not too much work, electrocution aside.

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