Tag Archives: sunflower oil


I was bored.

I don’t just mean the sort of boredom that arises from not being very interested in what you are doing, I mean the sort of soul crushing mind numbing boredom that rises up from the deep, saps you of all your energy and causes you to reach the point where anything you might do to prevent the boredom just seems like too much work.

As you can imagine, this sort of boredom is a problem. I get it a lot, and being currently unemployed (which will change soon, hurrah! I just need to decide which offer to accept.) while all my friends are gainfully employed in jobs or PhDs, I’m particularly prone to it at the moment. There are plenty of things I could be doing, but if I get into a slump then they all seem like too much effort.

This time however, a solution arose. Lunchtime.

My stomach grumbled. “David”, it said “I hunger. You should feed me.”

“I don’t know. That sounds like a lot of work.

“Yeah, it is. But if you don’t feed me then I’ll be forced to escape from your body and go on a rampage. Millions will die to sate my hunger, and it will be all your fault.”

“Hmm. Well, that would be bad, yes. But I’m still not sure…”

My brain chimed in. “Yes. You should cook something. I’m bored out of your mind here. Cook something new and write it up for ‘Playing with your food’. That way you’ll have an hour or two of entertainment, and your three readers will get something to amuse them as well.”

“Alright, alright. You’ve convinced me.”

When your body parts conspire against you there’s really nothing to do but to go along with their wishes.

Unfortunately I was still uninspired. This needed to be remedied if I were to effectively produce a new meal. So, Robin, to the blogmobile!

My method of finding new cooking blogs to peruse was very simple. I wandered over to Food, in the main… and clicked on every link on the right hand side of the page.

Eventually I settled on this. I’ve heard about latkes before and I keep thinking “Hmm, I should try to make those.” but never get around to it. Well, the time for procrastination was over. Latkes it is.

Purely by chance, somewhere in between deciding on this and cooking it I thought I’d check my weight (I haven’t in months) and noted that I’d somehow managed to drop down to about my desired ideal weight with no conscious effort on my part. Right after christmas and new years.

How much oil was in that recipe again?

Anyway, time for some cooking.

What I used

About 7 small to medium potatoes, peeled
Three small white onions
1/2 tbsp of salt
Two eggs
1/2 a cup of flour
1/2 a cup of sunflower oil
1/2 tsp baking soda

What I did

As you will probably have noticed if you’ve followed the above link, there’s not really an awful lot of resemblance between my ingredients and Debbie’s ingredients. They’re the same sort of things, but the quantities are only tangentially related. This is in part due to my usual tendency to adapt, in part because I peel potatoes on autopilot and peeled far more potatoes than I actually needed before I knew it, and mostly because the recipe was all the way upstairs and it would be so much work to go up and check it.

I used the grateresque attachment for the food processor and got a large pile of shredded potato. As directed I put it into a metal colander and squeezed as much of the juice out as I could, but it was still quite damp. It was at this point I decided to employ low cunning to complete the task and sprinkled the salt over it, mixed it up thoroughly and went to do the onions. These I decided that rather than shredding I would do with the normal processor blades, turning them into more of an onion puree.

As an idle observation, if you run the grater attachment to the food processor and just drop a potato on top of it then it bounces about in an amusing manner. I can’t help but imagine the little potato pleading for its life as it avoids the spinning blades.

But maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, I’d decided to mix the Latkes in the kenwood. Why? Because I’m lazy, that’s why. And it’s the same amount of washing up, so why not? I transferred the onion to the kenwood bowl and returned my attention to the potato. The salt had done its work quite admirably and I was able to squeeze a lot more liquid out of it. Having done so I transferred it to the kenwood as well.

I then added the eggs, flour and baking soda and mixed it all up. It produced a batter with a texture fairly similar to my normal pancake mix, which was encouraging.

I then poured the oil into a nonstick pan and heated it. At this point I looked at the pan, slightly disbelieving. Buddha on a pogo stick that’s a lot of oil… I know I have recipes which use almost that much oil, but that’s in a large curry. The sole purpose of this oil is for frying things in. This somehow makes it more alarming.

Anyway, I used a heaped spoonfull of batter for each latke. The pan fit about four of them, and there was enough batter to make eight. I fried them for five minutes on each side until they were a darkish brown.

Towards the point where I wanted to flip the first batch I noticed that the best spatula was currently in a pile of washing up leftover from my brother cooking bacon and egg earlier (the irony amused me briefly). I quickly washed it up and moved to flip the latkes.

Point of reference? Putting a wet spatula into very hot oil isn’t a great idea. Ouch.

Anyway, latkes duly flipped, they cooked for another five minutes and then I transferred them to a plate and put the next batch on.


I was already pretty sure these would be good. They smelled wonderful.

Good lord. They tasted even better. These are really really good.

I’d made far more than I was going to be able to eat, so I rushed upstairs to get the Boy. (‘The Boy’ is my affectionate name for my brother).

“Boy”, says I, “Would you like to try something indescribably delicious?”

The Boy is skeptical. I cook strange and unnatural things, with vegetables and hardly any dead animal to speak of. However upon my description of what a latke is (“It’s basically a pancake made out of shredded potato and onion”) he is convinced to give it a go.

The Boy agrees. They’re really very good. He’s rather full from having had the aforementioned bacon and egg, so he only has one, but I make up for this by having three (and another one halfway through writing this post). The rest will keep to be reheated in the oven later.

So, a definite success. They do generate a lot of washing up, and they do stink up the house, but they taste amazing.

The only thing I would do differently in future is make sure that they really were a quite dark brown. Some of them were slightly undercooked and, while still nice, they were a bit to soft inside and lacked the crispness of the really well cooked ones.

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Pseudo-malaysian rice and lentils

I’ve not been feeling in the mood for experimenting recently, so I haven’t been updating the blog. I feel a bit bad about this, so I thought I’d do something simpler and share one of my ‘standard’ recipes. It won’t be as interesting to read, but its definitely interesting to eat.

This is my version of a malaysian rice dish that someone once cooked for me. He didn’t give me the full recipe, and what he did give me of it is only really approximated in this. I’ve also made my own modifications since.

It’s a nice, relatively easy, rice dish with a great flavour to it. It’s yet another of my flings with mixing sweet, savoury and spicy and I think it does a marvelous job of it. The only reason I would not recommend this recipe to someone is if they don’t like coconut.

The ingredients of this one are a bit vague – I just improvise it with whichever of the fresh spices, etc. I have to hand, so it comes out somewhat different every time.


A couple tbsp of sunflower oil.
2 cups rice
1 cup green lentils
2 or 3 sweet peppers (different colours by preference)
4 or 5 carrots
About a dozen medium sized mushrooms

2 medium red onions
2 red chillies
3 small cloves of garlic
About 5cm of stem ginger
Half of a stick of fresh lemongrass
1 cup dessicated coconut

1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp fresh cumin
1/2 tsp cardamon
2 or 3 cm cinnamon


Cook the rice and lentils until the rice is dry and the lentils are just on the hard side of cooked.

Meanwhile, lightly toast the cumin, cardamon and cinnamon (tearing the cinnamon up into little bits first), crush them and stick them in the food processor. Add the salt, sugar, onions, garlic, chillies, ginger, coconut and lemongrass. Pulse until they are very finely chopped and thoroughly mixed.

Chop the carrots into small cubes (a bit under a cm on a side), the peppers up into mediumish sized squares and slice the mushrooms thinly.

Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan and add the onion, etc. mix to it. Fry it for about 5-10 minutes, then add the carrots and after another 5 minutes the peppers, and then the mushrooms. Fry until the carrots are no longer crunchy but still not fully cooked, then add the rice and lentils. Continue frying until the rice/lentil mix is fully coated and the carrots are cooked (I use the simmering oven to finish the cooking when I have the aga).

This is better served hot of course, but it’s actually quite nice cold. Also, I usually serve this with a salad to complement it.

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Vegetarian Mole

Yeah, I’m experimenting with the chocolate and chilli combination again. This time as a main meal. I’d recommend not telling people what’s in this until after they’ve already finished – my dad liked it, but once he realised the flavour was chocolate he found it a bit odd.

By the way, if you’re wondering why I always use red onions, it’s not because of any flavour preference. Our crop of red onions was good this year while our white onions failed rather dismally.

What I used:
Sunflower oil
2 medium red onions
2 red chillis
Lots of salt
1 tsp garam masala
1/3 cup cocoa
1/4 cup treacle
About 3tbsp brown sugar
2 cans of kidney beans
Boiling water.

What I did:

This is about as embarassingly simple as you’d expect. I chopped up the onions, fried them in sunflower oil with the salt for 5 minutes. I then diced the chillis and removed most of the seeds (I needn’t have bothered. I keep forgetting how unspicy these chillis are) and added these to the mix. I let it cook for another 5 minutes before adding the garam masala and cocoa. (I added a little bit of water as well to keep it moist at this point).

After a few more minutes I added the beans, stirred until the beans were thoroughly coated and then added the treacle and sugar, covered everything with water and transferred it to the oven. I cooked it there for about 30 minutes.


I liked it. I will agree with the assessment that it was a bit odd, but I thought it worked. That being said, it probably won’t go on my list of meals to cook on a regular basis.

It could use being a bit spicier (this is a function of the chillis I used) and to have slightly less water – I didn’t think the sauce was thick enough. I served it with white rice, pan fried squash and a broccoli, chickory and sesame salad.

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Pseudo-African Peanut and carrot stew

This was (very) loosely based off this recipe.

What I used:

Lots of sunflower oil
3 small white onions (close to shallot size)
1 medium-small red onion
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 tbsp of cumin
1/2 tbsp of brown sugar
1/2 tbsp of dried crushed chilli
3 cups of salted peanuts
8 medium-large carrots
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 kallo yeast-free vegetable stock cube

What I did:

I needed to use the food processor for the peanuts anyway, so I decided to be very lazy with this recipe and use it for all my chopping purposes. So I shoved the onions and garlic in the processor, pulsed it for a bit until they were fine and started frying them in oil as per usual. I added the sugar, cumin and chilli here.

I fried them for about 5 to 10 minutes, and while they were frying I pulsed the peanuts and the carrots in the blender (seperately). I then added the peanuts, fried for a bit longer and added the carrots as well. I continued to fry this for another 5-10 minutes, then added the tomatoes, stock and boiling water to cover it.

I simmered this for about 20 minutes before deciding it wasn’t cooking fast enough. I then transferred it to the hot oven on the aga and left it for another 20 minutes. When I took it out almost all the water had evaporated, so I added a little more, stirred it and stuck it in the simmering oven to keep warm and cook slightly more. It was probably in there for 10 minutes before we ate. I served this with whole wheat African chapatis, which are like Indian chapatis except that they’re from Africa. (I’ll include a post on chapatis some time – I’m really struggling to get the damn things right).


I’d say this was a success. It wasn’t perfect, but it had a nice flavour to it. Simple, but slightly unusual. I’d probably use fewer peanuts in future – maybe two instead of three cups. Possibly a touch more chilli as well.

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Fried Pasta

I’m notorious for not wanting to cook pasta; It feels like cheating to me. I suspect this is a hangup from my student days and not wanting to conform to the stereotype. So I’m rather glad to try new pasta recipes which are weird enough for me to consider actually using.

This is loosely based on a recipe by Jamie Oliver from his new Italy book (Rather, the free extracts from it that were being given out in the Guardian). There are two main reasons it’s only loosely based on the original recipe: Firstly, the original makes heavy use of parmesan and I don’t do dairy products. Secondly, I lost the recipe halfway through cooking.

What I used:

A handful of linguini
3 eggs
Lots of olive oil
About 1 tbsp flour
Dried chilli
Dried oregano
Dried thyme
Some sun dried tomatoes which I had previously soaked and stored in a mixture of olive oil, sunflower oil and white wine vinegar.

What I did:

I cooked the linguini just short of the instructions on the packet. While this was happening I chopped up the sun dried tomatoes and then added everything else to a mixer bowl and turned on the mixer (what can I say, I’m lazy). Everything else did include quite a lot of olive oil (I was stupid and forgot that if you add flour to liquid then it goes lumpy, so I used the olive oil and some heavy duty mixing to break up the lumps and smooth it out). Once the pasta was cooked I added that to the mixer as well and mixed it for a bit longer. I then cut it up slightly with a knife (just breaking some of the pieces in half really).

I then heated more olive oil in a pan and added about a handful of the mixture to it and fried it until it was reasonably cooked, turning it over several times as it cooked. The first two didn’t really get enough of the batter, so they ended up a bit crappy. The second two did and were fairly nice.


I’d say this was a qualified success. The batter didn’t properly coat the linguini, which is why the first two didn’t work very well. It could possibly use a bit less liquid and a bit more flour next time. Jamie Oliver suggests only using the yolk from the third egg. That sounded like far too much work to me, so I didn’t bother. In future I probably still won’t bother, but it might be worth trying. Further, it was a bit too oily. This was my own silly fault for using so much olive oil in the batter – it didn’t really need that much liquid, and a bit of water would work to substitute for most of it.

It might be worth breaking the linguini in half before cooking: The length of the noodles made it difficult to get decent sized quantities out of the bowl and into the frying pan. Other things I might try adding to the mix include chopped olives and fried onions. There are few savoury recipes that can’t be made better with onions. If you do eat dairy and want to try this recipe, I’d probably recommend adding up to a handful of parmesan to the batter. I suspect it would improve it a lot.

These problems aside, it was delicious, though it did need salt and pepper added. The chilli gave it a nice bite, while the herbs combined well with the flavours of the tomatoes, egg and pasta. I probably wouldn’t make this as a regular meal, but it’s definitely a nice snack food.

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