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How To Get Your Five A Day When You Really Don’t Like Veg Much

Evolution is such a bitch. Just because fat and salt were in scarce supply for the first Forever of our development of a species, we’ve evolved the tendency to just crave them like hell and fill up on them whenever they’re available; and now, when we’ve been Not Starving in the UK for a whole two generations! I mean, two, come on! Somehow we haven’t evolved immediately into people who crave exactly what our bodies require at all times in order to meet a set of fairly arbitrarily-designated dietary parameters. Why is that?

We didn’t even need to develop a craving for vegetation because that was what was always going to be around, and also the majority of it is calorifically void, so during that Forever of Starving that we had we’ve for some mysterious reason gravitated towards high-calorie, low-effort foods because That Kept Us Alive or some boring shit like that, and fell back on vegetables because, well, we had to. And they were there. And they didn’t run away or bite you or require milling or milking or anything. Fuckin’ vegetables.

No wonder so many people hate them. I mean, Default Food isn’t exciting, they’re not contributing to your endorphins the same way fat and salt do, by servicing a literal millennia-deep survival-oriented addiction, and they’re not servicing that silly calorie-led need for sweet stuff and starches, unless you’ve eaten nothing but paper for months. Around then carrots start tasting like chocolate. So, under those circumstances, does your own arm.

Not to mention a lot of people have basically vegetable PTSD. Thanks to the Depression, WWII, and austerity in quick succession, not to mention being the first industrialised nation on earth, the UK has effectively gone Food Stupid for several generations, with old skills and preferences being replaced by “it’s a fucking pie I have to get back to work now” and “we don’t have any vegetables right now would you like some tinned green dye” and “I have boiled this until it is soft because we have no teeth”.

I mean, there’s a reason we’re consistently mocked for having terrible food. We’ve had well over a hundred years in which to lose our ability to food like sane human beings, and after the involuntary dieting of Depression, WWII, Austerity, as a country we kind of turned into one national eating disorder. People who have been starving for a long time go weird. If you’re finding it hard to force yourself into poking steamed kale into your face like some kind of virtuous rabbit while the media informs you simultaneously that you’re a disgusting personal failure for not enjoying this more and also that what you’re eating is boring and what you really want is more chocolate, but you can’t have chocolate, so you should buy chocolate but then either throw it away or eat it and feel bad and then buy all this other stuff to feel better, muahaha, capitalism…

… take heart in knowing that a) you’re part of a culture that is mentally bloody ill and hell-bent on punishing itself, and b) there is nothing whatsoever the matter with not liking food that is presented to you in a boring way with a huge fanfare about how good for you it is.

Also, you’re a grown adult. Saying “Mmm, yummy yummy kale” is not actually going to work as well as the marketing department thinks. That sort of psychology tends to go best with children.

But you know you need to eat some of the bloody stuff because the Government and NHS said so, and that’s really the case: your body evolved to eat a shittonne of vegetables and so it doesn’t work well when it’s eating no vegetables and a lot of refined flour. That’s not because vegetables are “inherently better”, it’s not because chocolate is “sinful”; food is not good or bad. Food is food. Our bodies just happen to have evolved a certain way, over periods of time, because of what was available to us. Putting stuff into the human machine that it is designed to take makes it work better than putting stuff in that it isn’t used to, much as servicing your car regularly and using the right sort of petrol gets better results than using bioethanol and ignoring it for 364 days of the year, even if the latter is “better”.

Oh and before I continue any further: evolution is a work in progress. There is no “end goal” beyond effective self-replication, and it doesn’t stop happening. So the Paleo people who consistently make themselves miserable eating no bread and enormous lumps of meat which they mysteriously don’t allow to partially decay before eating despite that being Very Authentic are deluding themselves: we’ve been making bread as a species for a damn long time. There are some things we’re better adapted to than others – and Steven Johnson has a very interesting theory about the evolution of alcohol tolerance in urbanised places where boiling water (for tea etc) was not the norm – because we’ve been doing them for longer, but it is worth noting that ultimately if we can digest it then it is food and there is no reason to cut anything out of your diet completely unless it is actively making you ill.

Also if you think something is actively making you ill see the bloody doctor, don’t buy an allergy-testing kit from Holland and Barrett and decide you’re never eating raspberries again because the little thingy said so.

Tips, Tricks, Recipes, Fooling Your Brain

So after all that, I have a handful of ways to convince your brain that you’re not eating the Horrible Vegetables after all, which should hopefully taste alright, and which doesn’t involve any scolding about you being “sinful” or “indulgent“, no infantalising language, and no woo.

Soups & Smoothies

soup

So the thing about vegetables is that a lot of the time people hate them because of the texture. The texture is weird. You’ll have seen a lot of advice about this but really do bear in mind that just by thwipping things about a bit in a blender you can make a soup (or smoothie) that removes all the gross texture of fruit or veg and leaves nothing but taste. If you’re a bit iffy about eating soup, remember that soup is, effectively, just a sauce and you can use it as the base of a stew. No one pays that much attention to it after you’ve cooked chicken thighs in it for several hours.

Smoothies, too, might be a bit off-putting and health-ish, but not if you try reducing them down over a heat with some sugar and then pour them on ice-cream, because then they’re not “smoothies”, they’re sauce.

Pancakes & Cakes

pancakes

Soup gets boring quickly, and sometimes people hate vegetables because of the ass-like taste. This is the only recipe I will include here and it’s pretty simple and adaptable. The great thing about this is that two of them amount to one of your 5 a day, and they don’t taste remotely like vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 40g of grated or blendered courgette (can be replaced with any other sort of grated or blendered anything).
  • 2 x tbsp of flour. Can use chickpea flour for a nice specific taste or just regular flour.
  • Water if you need it
  • Bitta salt, some spices, y’know

Method

  1. Mix all that together until you have a thick gloopy paste.
  2. Fry it on both sides in a hot pan until it is cooked through
  3. Congratulations you have a pancake which is full of vegetables and almost certainly does not taste of it.

You can also make vegetable-based cakes like carrot cake, which usually tastes of Health Food, but which when you make it yourself can be rendered fantastic by adding cocoa powder and more sugar. Pro tip: adding cocoa powder to anything improves it enormously, and you can do it to anything you want. There is no rule that says you can’t make chocolate banana cake, or chocolate courgette cake, or chocolate flippin’ coleslaw if you want. You’re a grown-up!

Further note: you can also mix grated and blendered stuff into omelettes or traditional pancake mix, tomato paste into omelettes, etc, and bam! Another helping of your 5-a-day is done.

Burgers and other meat tricks

burger

Meat, unlike vegetables, which we have established taste of ASS, tastes awesome. Happily, that particular AWESOME taste can be used to mask the ASS taste and help smuggle some vegetable helpfulness into your diet.

Firstly, if you can deal with the texture but not the taste of some veggies, there’s the simple expedient of frying or roasting your veg in the same pan or tray you’re doing your meat in. Lamb, as most people know, is good for this, because it’s so fatty. Yes, you’re eating cabbage, but as far as your tastebuds are concerned it’s just an extra helping of lamb, smothered in lamb fat. Your 80g portion of peas, boiled, can still be rolled through the cooling pan for a bit before you serve them, giving you some happy little lamby tidbits – and thanks to the surface-area-to-mass ratio, you have hardly any veg taste and a whole lot of meat taste to enjoy.

If you really cannot stomach vegetable textures, no big. This is where the trusty food mixer comes in again. Grab your veg portion, run it through the mixer until it’s a paste, then mix it 50/50 with burger mince and whatever you’re using to bind it. This gives you a) no veggie taste and b) twice the amount of burger for the same amount of meat! MAGICAL.

Yeah, I know, making your own burgers from scratch is a massive pain in the arse but you only have to do one big batch and fling the rest in the freezer and then you can can have frozen burgers the way God and Nature intended.

Food Colouring

food dye

Part of your hatred of vegetables also comes from your brain associating “green” with “oh god no not more boiled sadness”. There are two solutions: some vegetables are naturally Not Green, like carrots, pumpkin, most squashes, parsnips, tomatoes-which-everyone-will-remind-you-are-a-fruit, and aubergines which you almost certainly do not like because look at them, they’re fucking weird. The other is food colourant.

If your brain is an angry, sulky toddler about Not Eating Green, you can use food colouring to adulterate whatever paste, gloop, or soup you’re making that’s likely to be vibrantly that colour, and drag it around to either something a little more neutrally Foodlike (brown is often a good one because your brain will decide it is meat), or if you’re feeling daring splatter in some blue and eat something virulently turquoise.

Butter, Salt, Honey, Oil, The Roasting Dish Solution

roasted

Perhaps you don’t want to have to pulverise everything you eat. That’s fine. It makes you feel like a fucking grandma. Perhaps you’re even trying to edge your way around to actually liking vegetables either for reasons of virtuosity or just because it annoys you to be blocked off from so much potential food matter, or you’d like to be able to show off in restaurants, or whatever. Your reasons are your own. I’m just here to tell you that one way to do this is roasting.

So you know how roast potatoes are basically the pinnacle of potato (barring chips) and everyone agrees they are superior, and you’d shank a toddler for a roastie over a boiled potato? Same applies to every other vegetable. Even sprouts! You know brussel sprouts? It turns out they’re not so disgusting when they’ve not been boiled yellow and turned into mush by sitting in a pan for forty years, leeching all their nutrients into the water.

So chop up your veg, arrange it in a roasting tray, Google “how to roast [vegetable name]”, and follow the instructions. The oil and butter are for roasting it in, and the honey, or salt, or herb mix, or spice mix, are for making it taste nicer and for distracting you from the fact you’re eating vegetables. Honey-roast carrots are a good place to start.

And if you’re not ready for roasting, and want to really ease yourself into vegetables slowly: frying is a thing. Anything that can have chips made out of it – carrots, parsnips, swede, turnip – is good for a go, and if you look up “tempura vegetables” you’ll see a wealth of possibilities. There’s also stir-frying, which invariably makes things taste of whatever you’re frying them in. I suggest putting a little stock powder in your oil to make your greens taste of chicken.

Ketchup, Baked Beans: Hidden veg, possibly crouching fruit

I might be lying a tiny bit about the crouching fruit.

crouching fruit

(Did I choose to draw a banana specifically because I could make it look like a dude with a ridiculous penis? Come on. Of course I fucking did).

Did you know that a serving of baked beans in tomato sauce counts towards 1 of your 5 a day? Neither did I! Apparently that is a real thing. The same goes for other things tinned in tomato sauce, like spaghetti, or ravioli. Tomatoes are a magical thing! But you can’t just eat five and call it a day, unfortunately – they only count as one. Variety is necessary.

Ketchup is, as you know, made from tomatoes. You can add it to other vegetables to make them taste less of vegetables. It’s not actually very high in calories, either. Everyone’s heard of someone who only escaped scurvy as a student because they put ketchup on their relentlessly-consumed plain pasta…

Ice Lollies & Jellies

lollies

That’s right. You don’t have to dive into Actual Whole Pieces of Fruit for desserts. You don’t have to cautiously throw in expensive peaches or turn into your Nan with a tin of pineapple chunks. You can pudding yourself up with this stuff. Homemade jellies with gelatin or (somewhat easier to my mind, if harder to find, and bonus: if you are a vegetarian who is worried that living solely on cheese is going to kill you, it’s vegetarian) agar agar, and fruit juice. As long as the actual fruit juice is made from actual fruit, you can bang in some sugar to sweeten it while you’re boiling the water, and then you have low effort puddings for days, and days, just sitting in the fridge, being jelly.

A bit more agar agar in the mix and you can make FRUIT GUMMY SWEETS. That’s sweets. That have a value on your 5 A Day front. Seriously!

Ice lollies: I think most people are aware of this already. Everyone’s parents probably did the thing. Mine didn’t, because we didn’t have a freezer that would fit lolly moulds, because The Eighties, but happily in these enlightened times you can now buy silicone molds that make Calipso-style lollies, so even if your freezer compartment barely fits an ice tray you can still have a fruit lolly. And because you’re a fucking grown-up, you’re not limited to “Mum says I can have apple juice or orange juice”, you can go mental. You can mix juices. You can put in actual pieces of fruit. You can buy wanky smoothies and freeze them in molds. You are the boss of freezing fruit.

Fruit Leather

Bears

Yeah I know it sounds fucking weird but it’s very sweet and you just chew it up while you’re doing other stuff, like sweets, and pow, job done, vitamins etc achieved, Government appeased, body slightly less likely to fall into pieces. It’s not quite “taking a vitamin pill”, in terms of easiness, but is definitely higher on the “making your body not die” scale because it’s actually made from fruit and the process of alleged extraction isn’t quite so insane.


 

Disclaimer: I actually quite like vegetables (most of them, at least) and eat quite a large amount. But I’m not about to sit here and start moralising at people about how they eat. Far more important that you eat. If anyone tries to make you feel bad about eating food when there are still people in this world who’re starving themselves to death, fucking eat them.

EDIT: Of course, I wrote one blog post about this and it turns out someone much cleverer than me has an entire blog about smuggling vegetables into your diet…

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Bao Soho

On Tuesday I took a break from behaving like a sensible adult and went on a brief binge around Soho and Chinatown, which ended not so much in disaster as in Primark on Tottenham Court Road, buying slippers, but that is another story.

What’s more important is that Bao in Soho was, for all that we had to queue outside in the street forlornly and then huddle around a tiny table, entirely worth the privation.

Here is a photo story:

There were three of us and this is what we had:

Pig blood cake
Trotter nuggets
Guinea fowl Chi Shiang Rice
Aged Beef Rump Cap, Aged White Soy Sauce
Classic (Bao)
Confit pork (Bao)
Fried chicken (Bao)
House pickles

And just out of sight:

Sweet potato fries.

Fried chicken Bao.

Confit pork Bao

Trotter nuggets.

Aged Beef Rump.

Sweet potato fries with pickled plum ketchup.

guinea fowl

Guinea fowl Chi Shiang rice, photo by ossifier.

pigs blood

Pig blood cake, photo by ossifier.

classic bao

Classic Bao, photo by ossifier.

The portion sizes are tiny, the prices less so, but this does allow for multiple visits and sharing is encouraged. The tiny sizes also help to let you try absolutely everything without turning into an enormous balloon of food, and if you want a massive steamed pork bun, Chinatown is less than a mile away and will sell you sodding enormous ones full of dubious ground meat purporting to be pork for £1.70: in Bao you get one tiny one filled with definitely-gloriously-wonderfully-tasty pork which you savour for as long as you can.

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It’s Like Following Me On Instagram

In the absence of acceptable content (work getting fairly horrendous because of the upcoming election, also the election itself: fairly horrendous), why not look at some calming photos of the food I’ve made lately?

Stuffed potato skin, roast carrots, spinach, pineapple lolly, cup of tea.

Mini pancakes (one teaspoon of batter each).

Vegetable stir-fry and tea.

Stuffed pepper, stuffed potato skin, tea. I didn’t actually make anything except the tea.

Melon and pineapple, strawberries, and macarons from Ladurée (lily of the valley, rose, and pistachio flavours, thanks to the generosity of a recent houseguest).

Rice and omelette.

Tinned ravioli, vegetable stir fry, tea, and some Hidden Raw Carrots.

Vegetable stir fry (are we noticing a theme?) including potatoes, soy sauce, and a 2 x quail egg omelette.

Rice, pickled lettuce, salmon furikake, miso soup with fried bean curd and tofu, blackberry and blueberry tea.

Mixed veg, fake!rice, asparagus stir fry with a quail egg.

The process of making onigiri using cling film and old Lush hair goo pots.

Tea, rice cake, and a fried egg.

Quail egg breakfast baskets made with garam massala and a garlic dough base.

Roasted carrots, shallots, garlic, and beetroot with mini jacket potatoes, a rice-flour oven pancake flavoured with almond essence, tea.

Fake!noodle vegetable stir fry with smoked tofu.

Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki and cranberry and raspberry tea.

Chocolate jelly cubes, made with cocoa, milk, agar agar, and sugar.

Sake, soy sauce, mixed steamed veg, rice with salmon furikake, cod steamed in cabbage.

And some stuff I’ve done

Elk burger and a massive stack of chips covered in mayo, from Fika on Brick Lane.

A cocktail from Fika which had a stupid name involving elves and came in a fucking sweetie jar because when you go hipster, you really go hipster.

The Resident Australian forced me to go and say hello to a peacock in Holland Park. I’ve yet to reconcile myself to long trousers.

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Packetsu Part 2: The Linkening

Wait, more on Packetsu?

Yes, more on Packetsu. Trawling through invention listings at frightening o’clock in the morning has gifted me with a number of discoveries, which either make the business of packetsu more feasible, or fit into the general theme.

This printer recycles plastic bottles. Perfect for cheap packaging. You could even print your own Packetsu containers at home with downloaded blueprints.

Edible cupcake wrappers. Edible wrapping is a definite factor in Packetsu. It reduces waste and means you’re getting more food for your money!

Plastic which biodegrades in two weeks. Again, perfect for comparatively guilt-free Packetsu packaging.

Edible anti-bacterial film. Absolutely 100% perfect for food wrapping in Packetsu, especially for meat or fresh veg components. Could be a real game-changer in terms of fresher elements in Packetsu, and you can eat it so no waste!

And staying on the theme of edible packaging – edible water bottle!

But how will you eat your packetsu concoctions? Why, with edible spoons, of course!

And then I Blue Petered it:

The stock pot (left) has since been replaced with an Oxo cube as they dissolve more quickly, although in general powder would be best.

The stock pot (left) has since been replaced with an Oxo cube as they dissolve more quickly, although in general powder would be best.

Another packetsu experiment: fish stock cube, vegetable stock cube, dried smoked squid, dried seaweed, soy sauce (in a fish-shaped bottle because there's a theme).

Another packetsu experiment: fish stock cube, vegetable stock cube, dried smoked squid, dried seaweed, soy sauce (in a fish-shaped bottle because there’s a theme).

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Experimental Cooking Jive

A couple of days ago, I adapted an online recipe for “Sprite Zero Cake”, and pushed one of the resulting very springy, slightly bready, slightly sticky but perfectly acceptable cakes onto Delightful Boyfriend. The man in question inserted one into his face hole and declared it “all right”, because boarding school has destroyed his taste forever and what it hasn’t broken his staggering addiction to hot sauce has pretty much finished off.

Then I told him what was in it (no butter), and what I planned to replace next time to reduce the calories further (sugar replaced with sukrin), to which he made a face and said “It sounds pretty joyless to me.”

I believe I said something curt about him enjoying it before he knew what it was, but really the fun in these things is at least as much from the challenge as from the food itself.

On that note, welcome to further adventures in Teaching Myself To Cook. I’ve included some experiments, which I probably could just have looked up online, but as I prefer to find things out for myself by doing them, that didn’t happen. If you’re more reading-oriented these might be useful, I don’t know.

Raspberry & Vanilla Sugar “tea”.

I bought some raspberry powder on a whim a while back and it has made a sterling flavour addition to yogurt, fromage frais, and occasionally cream cheese ever since; I bought vanilla sugar on an even bigger whim and it makes terrific icing.

Night shift requires no further tea after about 4am in order to be able to sleep, and while I have decaf tea sometimes I want something hot that doesn’t even pretend to be tea. I hate herbal teas because they invariably taste of cardboard (pro-tip: stop bulking up your tea bags with hibiscus seeds, you asshats), rather than what they smell of.

Chiming with the Packetsu philosophy, I dumped 1/4 of a teaspoon of vanilla sugar and 1/2 a teaspoon of raspberry powder into a sachet and while the end result contained a certain amount of flavoursome sludge at the bottom, it was delicious and hot and tasted of raspberries and the sludge yielded another half cup.

Flour?

I acquired a sack of gram flour because I’d heard it contained fewer calories than wheat flour (which it does, marginally) and nowhere seems to sell it in smaller quantities than “sack”, so after a lengthy period of suspicion and indolence I have begun experimenting with how gram flour (made from chickpeas) holds up against wheat flour.

The major discovery was that gram flour takes up water much more effectively so you don’t need as much, or you end up with a very sticky dough. The obvious is that gram flour isn’t as elastic as wheat flour and it doesn’t rise as much, but makes a surprisingly good flat biscuit.

gram/wheat flour mix base with cumin, spinach powder, garlic, and black pepper.

gram/wheat flour mix base with cumin, spinach powder, garlic, and black pepper.

That by the way is a quail egg, to give you an idea of scale. This was a 2/3rds gram to 1/3rd wheat base, and the end result – cooked for about 15 minutes – was a firm, snappy biscuit rendered a little softer where the tomato paste was.

The results of further experiments with flour:

I had a hypothesis and I colour-coded my baking with food colouring. REAL SCIENCE.

(PINK)

Oven pancake (1 tsp gram flour, 1 quegg, 1 tsp milk, baking powder,
to scale up to a hen egg/suitable quantity of egg substitute use 1
tbsp instead of tsp) would make good topping for something but not
good base, a bit rubbery.

(BLUE)

plain gram flour base (1 tbsp gram flour, baking powder) does not
need much water – less than 1/2 a tsp – and needs to be spread
smoothly like a paste not a dough onto the baking tray/muffin hole.

(YELLOW)

gram/wheat (2 tsp gram, 1 tsp wheat) needs more water (1.5 tsp) and
rises more, is rougher on top than the plain gram flour, with less
water might make a serviceable dough.

All need salt.

I made a second attempt at pizza base dough:

you can make perfectly serviceable dough balls with gram flour
instead of wheat flour – a little denser but not perceptibly. (i
coloured the wheat flour with spinach powder this time to differentiate from the gram).
needs a different water ratio – 1 tbsp of gram flour takes 0.75 tsp of
water as opposed to 0.5 of a tbsp with 1 tbsp of wheat flour – but
you get a nice dough from that which makes 2 x mini dough balls
(then just scale up i guess) and also if you squash it flat and fry
it briefly in a reasonable amount of oil for a very short time on
each side: chapati.

The exchange there is from emails to Scientist Friend On Hiatus, who is also vegan and gluten-intolerant, and therefore likely to be interested in ways of making food that don’t egg or wheat.

Yesterday I made Traffic Light Mini Naan, coloured with spinach powder, tumeric (and garlic), and paprika. I remembered the salt. They were fantastic.

Baking Fail

Having succeeded in the Accidental Biscuit Pizza Base (which was pretty nice and a good way of eating pizza), I decided to have a go at some Deliberate Biscuits using a similar recipe. Wheat flour, gingerbread spices, and Stevia to replace sugar.

Let me say this: don’t do the thing with the Stevia. Use a sugar substitute intended for baking. What I got were rock-hard and all the spices had granulated into dark spots. I mean, they tasted okay, but they were very much not biscuits.

Parting Shots

Spending a lot of time on slow nights at work reading recipes which are of an increasingly paleo/gym lunatic variety, trying to find a balance between “author is mad and just listing health benefits no food can actually bestow” and “food is actually four million calories and being described as healthy because an apple looked at it once”, I wandered across some recipes for treats and the like which didn’t have the restraining factor of “I am trying not to consume more energy in a day than the ISS uses in a year”. Most of them, which might previously have appealed to me, now look thoroughly gross. Or, as described to a friend:

after changing my eating habits a lot of the things that I
previously considered delicious now taste greasy and disgusting (i
can’t actually say this on most social media for fear of being
yelled at for… changing my tastes? being entirely non-judgemental
about what everyone else is eating? i don’t know, but man people
will yell if you express a preference that is out of line with
theirs)

Which means that whenever someone talks about what a chore it is to replace, for example, Reese’s with raspberries, I just find myself a tiny bit alienated… and a tiny bit worried that if I mention preferring raspberries I’m about to get shouted at for being “smug”. I know there are people who will bang on and on about the benefits of eating nothing but raw food (I grew up with a borderline orthorexic); but the immediate response of “liar” or “smug cunt” to “actually I like X” is one of those modern tribalist things I really don’t understand.

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Concept Design or Philosophy? Packetsu!

Another instalment in what’s turning into Design Week, this is going to be broken up into three sections because it kept expanding and expanding. Whether that’s a sign of a great idea or merely an obsessive mind is up to you.

First things first:

What’s with that name?

It’s a stupid name, I agree. Mainly it stuck because I came up with it in an Itsu, where everything was something-su, and the Resident Australian started referring to my bag full of packets of things as Packetsu, and habit is habit. A better name will, I am sure, occur to someone else.

Yes, but what is it?

Bearing in mind that I have a powerful fascination with the following things:

  • exact measurement of food/calories
  • tidy, exact packaging
  • choice

and that the majority of retailed food items do not manage to allow any of these three things, it occurred to me in the process of making my rice cooker that many instant noodle and rice and so on products could be hugely improved upon by selling the plain item on its own and then selling separate flavour and embellishment (dried beef, dehydrated vegetables) packets cheaply and individually, to allow people to both pick their own flavours on a whim and also mix and match. Choice, you see.

It then occurred that this didn’t really need to be limited to flavour: different sizes for different diets. Multibag buys.

Sounds a bit packaging wasteful.

Except now of course there are endless options for low-impact packaging which makes that concern rather less of an issue. You can make compost with those extra layers, or eat them, or reuse them. The individual packets work well for vending machine culture – endless variations and one slot to dispense them. Preparation pots sold separately, but cheaply. Just add hot water.

Where do you see this going besides the supermarket aisle and the vending machine?

Well they’re terribly convenient in those aspects. Why not corner shops? Why not move on from the savoury rice and noodles and stir-in pasta salads to fresh, vacuum-sealed produce in individual serving sizes (80g bag of peas, vaccuum sealed. Pull the strip to perforate, pop in the microwave. Three veg bags, one potato bag, some fish fillet: a proper meal in the microwave at work with whatever sauces and seasonings and combinations you want instead of the three flavours previously made up by the supermarket cold food section). Why not introduce wallet-sized sachets for emergency spicing-up of snacks at eminently reasonable prices?

Remember that this revolution is already expanded from “just noodles or rice”: The Food Doctor sell couscous pots. Various diet companies have put out bean-chilli pots of the “add hot water” variety, and Itsu do famously delicious massive pots as well as their little crystal noodle ones.

Move on from the savoury to the sweet, even. Muller Corners, hot chocolate sachets, astronaut ice cream, popping candy paper sachets, porridge pots (with dried milk, so all you need to add is water) – the rudiments exist already, and only need to be rejigged to really sell the “mix and match”, “individual”, and “durable” aspects across them all. Porridge can be altered with the substitution of powdered soya milk or similar for the vegan option. The “add your own toppings” deal is already the staple of deli counters and ice-cream bars and the philosophy can be expanded easily into take-away or assemble-yourself.

So the idea is: tiny packets?

Ah, but also a choice between a) specialised containers or b) one all-purpose container: “fill the multi-purpose to the GREEN line with water” etc.

Of course there’s also the possibility for themed containers/cups (Hello Kitty? Rilakkuma? Movie tie-ins?), children’s lines… folding silicone ones for camping…

Tiny packets and containers?

You make it sound so unfulfilling! There are so many options! It’s so convenient! You could go batshit and have raspberry powder and soy sauce and coconut and beef on your tapioca and no one could judge you for it.

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Recipe: Cauliflower Fritters

Before I start:

  • I was debating whether to do the disingenuous Buzzfeed recipes thing and call them pancakes even though they are quite clearly not.
  • These have like two ingredients, and are therefore perfect.
  • Also completely gluten-free, due to aforementioned only two ingredients.
  • Someone has almost certainly done this before, but “I should try X” is one of those thoughts that plagues me when I’m trying to sleep.

Are you ready for a recipe which is hysterically simple in its construction and is therefore perfect for breakfast? A recipe which will shut up the irritating Paleo types, please vegetarians, and soothe the gluten-free? A recipe which is acceptable to even people doing that moronic 5:2 diet who are on their 2 day?

Also it tastes pretty nice, which is clearly far more important.

Ingredients

This is the minimum amount and provides ratios, you can of course increase it and make more.

  • 200g cauliflower (roughly 1/4 of a medium cauliflower)
  • 1 egg

That’s it, that’s your lot. Optional extras:

  • Dried seaweed – I put this in the ones you’re about to see photos of.
  • Spices mixes/herbs – I used a paprika/garlic powder/garlic chips/onion salt mix in mine but that’s because I use it in absolutely everything
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • You could probably add Bonito flakes or really anything small and flavoursome

Method

  1. Cut the cauliflower up as small as you can, this will make life easier later.
  2. Boil the cauliflower until it is soft
  3. Mash the cauliflower until it is mush. Put in the spices/seaweed/whatever you’re adding.
  4. Mix the egg into this until it’s sort of smooth.
  5. Glob some of the mix into a frying pan/wok/hot plate on a low heat. Don’t spread it too thin or it won’t stay in one piece.
  6. When it seems like the bottom’s probably cohered reasonably well, turn it over and press it down.

The above mixture, depending on what size you make them, makes about three to four fritters, which is a perfectly adequate breakfast. I splashed some oyster sauce on mine because that’s how I roll but really I’m sure it works with just about anything salty.

mix pan serve

Additional information:

If you’re counting calories, this comes to 128-130 calories for the whole mixture outlined above.

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Pie Tins:

Since I stopped writing all the things I’ve been mainly cooking all the things: I can’t really return to sewing all the things while I’m still losing weight (outside of taking things in repeatedly until they can’t be taken in any more and I have to sadly abandon them); I could start embroidering things but I was frustrated with the lopsidedness and I am tired of stabbing myself in the fingers and have elected to burn them instead (oven gloves: someone explain their function to my boyfriend so we can actually have a set).

This culminated recently in the purchase of a pie tin.

In which I made a pie:

top of pieside of piecut pie

Now the pie in question could have done with more gravy (a steak and kidney pie adapted at the last minute from a pork pie recipe isn’t going to be the same), and probably a little less pastry, but it has merit: this is, after all, my first ever pie. In the history of me putting things in ovens and not letting them char to cinders: first ever pie. Future plans involve switching out the lard for butter and making a vegetarian pie with cheese and roast vegetables, as I go mad with power. I can MAKE MY OWN PIES. I can make curry pie.

But before the vegetarian pie, or experiments with mince pie the size of a bowling ball, or any of my other inside ambitions, it occurred to me that this tin is also the right size for making cake.

I’d originally intended to make an ugly garish rainbow cake, inspired by my friend Hana’s rather more beautiful cake, but when I went looking for recipes I found one for cinnamon and apple. If there is anything that is tediously predictable about me (apart from everything, and my etsy favourites), it’s that I can be immediately won over by the inclusion of warm spices. Sweet food, savoury food, drinks, ice-cream, perfumes – if it can be adulterated with cinnamon, ground allspice, cloves, garam masala, turmeric, paprika etc, I want it to be. I bought a load of “make your own teabags” so I can gingerbread my tea over the winter; paprika and garlic powder go in all the cooking oil as it sizzles.

As I was blindingly angry and had nothing better to do, I decided to make the cinnamon and apple cake.

So I embarked on cake-making. Two things about that:

  1. Trying to mix a cake without a food mixer (we have one, I just don’t know how it works and last time I tried to use it I got soup on the ceiling) is hard work. I’m a little wiser now as to why so many older cartoons have the cook character with seriously beefy arms.
  2. Violently attacking cake mix until it is properly mixed is a surprisingly good way of making yourself not be blindingly angry any more.

cake

The greaseproof paper is, of course, for keeping it from sticking to the sides of the pie tin forevermore, as the cake has a good deal less ambient lard than the pie. “Cinnamon and apple” in this instance became “cinnamon and apple with some glacé cherries”, because I had some left over. And because I am a grown-up, which means I can put whatever the hell I want in my cakes, and no one can stop me.


In addition to going mad with baking power (as opposed to going mad with baking powder, which is unseemly and is what my kitchen looks like anyway), I’ve acquired a tiny Christmas tree:

CRIHTSMSA!

I don’t normally do Christmas particularly but this tree is tiny. That is a stuffed goldfinch in the background, a birthday present from the Resident Australian: his name is Clive.

I also acquired a job, which is a nice way to finish the year.

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Recipe: Christmas Comes Early

Before I introduce this variant on the BBC Good Food Best Brownie Ever Recipe (more details on the post where I made them into apple and cinnamon bars), I have to admit that I fucked them up slightly: oven temperature was too high, which meant the brownies cooked too fast on the outside and split on the top. On the other hand, given my trepidation concerning them cooking properly at all, I don’t think it went too badly.

Christmas Brownies

Wait, why the fuck am I making Christmas anything, it’s the middle of August?

  1. This never stops the bloody shops, as soon as the Back To School sales stop there will be Christmas shit in shops.
  2. I want to make sure I’ve got it right when the time comes to thrust these babies at alarmed friends who have had years and years of my voluble insistence that I will kill them with my cooking.

So, once again:

Christmas Brownies

I imagine when they don't crack you can also decorate them, if that's your bag.

I imagine when they don’t crack you can also decorate them, if that’s your bag.

(Serves 3, don’t be a greedy fucker)

Ingredients

  • 35g plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 12.5g ground allspice (it’s more than you think)
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 62.5g salted butter
  • 75g cranberry jelly (this hides in the condiments aisle for some reason even though it is clearly jam)
  • 25g mixed dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, candied peel, etc)
  • 25g chopped glacé cherries (if you don’t like glacé cherries either double up the dried mixed fruits, substitute something similar, or have a long hard think about what’s wrong with your life and your choices, you weirdo).

Method

  1. Heat your oven to 180C. Not 185C as I apparently inadvertently did, which would be stupid.
  2. Throw sugar, butter, and cranberry jelly into a pan and melt them together while stirring.
  3. You should end up with goo. Turn off the heat and stir in the egg. Break the egg first otherwise this really will not work.
  4. Sieve the flour and ground allspice into the mixture and then stir it in persistently until the mixture is basically smooth and thick; this takes a bit more effort than with the apple bars for some reason.
  5. Wang in your dried fruit and cherries, stir them until they’re evenly distributed in the mix. Potentially hold some back and chuck ’em on top later so they don’t all sink to the bottom like mine did? I dunno.
  6. Scrape your goo into 3 x ramekins or 2 x (ovenproof) mugs or a small tray, whatever you fancy, really. Put them on another tray, and put that tray in the oven for 30 minutes.
  7. Remove your Christmas whatsits, wait for them to stop being painfully hot, serve with custard or ice cream or brandy butter or whatever it is that counts as Christmas Accompaniment in your house.

Added bonus: these are nowhere near as calorific as the chocolate version so if you’re being bullied into Watching Your Waist by whoever, you can mark them down as 313 and not, like, 500.

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Recipe: Baking so simple even I can do it.

I would not go so far as to suggest that my cooking is legendarily bad; so far I’ve not killed anyone with my gumbo despite their fervent wishes and the other day I made soup. I did misspell “recipe” three different ways in the header, mind you, and I’ve never been able to master the arcane art of bakery until now, because anything that involves letting the thing I am cooking get out of my sight ends in crispy blackened disaster.

The “until now” part was generously provided by the BBC. The original recipe of best-ever chocolate brownies with raspberries (here) has been experimented with on this blog before, by the Resident Australian. This produced Far Too Many Brownies, which thanks to the inclusion of Paul A Young cocoa powder (I will happily shill for this company, everything they sell is amazing) and the unwise addition of salted caramel butter as a kind of icing, were entirely too rich for people to eat more than one. Tactical error: I hate food waste like leaky ceilings and whichever dick it is who likes to drive down my road playing Turkish pop music at deafening volumes out of their car window after 10pm.

Happily it turns out that maths.

I mean, it turns out you can reduce a recipe size with maths. I halved the recipe and halved it again (no more than that because I’m not in the game of trying to figure out how to halve an egg), and now instead of making two trays of brownies it makes 3 ramekins of brownies, effectively enough for three people. Which is exactly how many people there are in my house, and thanks to previous  consumption we have the required number of glass, oven-proof ramekins of exactly the right size. My advice is obviously to buy and consume some Gü rather than specifically buying ramekins, or just use an ordinary coffee mug and accept that you’re going to have two larger brownies instead. Kind of romantic!

Anyway, the quartered, romantic division of the recipe I linked to is as follows:

50g dark chocolate
25g milk chocolate
62.5g salted butter
100g soft light brown sugar
1 large egg
35g plain flour
12.5g cocoa powder
50g raspberries

And then follow the same instructions as in the link.

Last night I decided to put a spin on this and made one batch of these:

I don’t normally put food on the windowsill, it’s just the only place that has any light at the moment.

For this I made three incredibly simple changes: switched out the amount of cocoa powder (12.5g) for ground cinnamon (everyone was convinced this was going to be too much but instead: bang on the correct amount); switched out the combined 75g of chocolate types for 75g of jelly-like apple sauce from a jar; and instead of 50g of raspberries I had 50g of chopped apple, which is just over a quarter of an apple and meant there was still a large amount of apple left to eat – I’d suggest that means if you’re making the full amount you still only need one apple.

Moderately concerned while I was making it that somehow the apple sauce in place of chocolate would prevent the brownie from becoming adequately cohered, but it worked out pretty much perfectly and smelled fantastic while it was cooking.

In case you’re too lazy to follow the link, the instructions are:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
  2. Melt sugar, butter, and chocolate or apple sauce (depending which version you want) in a pan together.
  3. Turn off the heat and stir in your egg.
  4. Sieve in the flour and cocoa/cinnamon (depending), and stir them in until the mixture is like smooth goo. This should take less than a minute.
  5. Wang in your fruit, be it broken up raspberries or chopped apple bits or whatever really. Stir that shit in.
  6. Put the goo in the ramekins/tray/coffee cup/whatever you’re baking it in, stick that in the oven.
  7. 30 minutes later remove your excellent brownies and wait for them to cool enough that you can insert them into your face hole.

And this is why it’s so incredibly simple that even I can make it in my insultingly tiny kitchen at 9.30 at night while not entirely paying attention and still have enough brownies for my whole household to eat in bed. Next stop: gonna try and make a Christmas variation.

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