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Accidental Genius: Vegan Okonomiyaki Recipe

There’s nothing quite like flinging together a meal (be quiet I will blog about writing again soon and you will wish to God I hadn’t) and having it turn out far, far better than you expected, especially when typically your attempts to fling together a meal end in swearing and pans full of hot fat flinging themselves off the gas hob with the express intention of murdering you.

The crux of this, very simple and delicious main piece is that besan/gram flour (chickpea flour) is possibly the most wonderful thing the world has ever produced, and turns into a thick, extremely adhesive paste the minute it touches something moist. It starts pretty much the same as the besan/courgette two-ingredient pancake, but is rather more tasty.

Vegan okonomiyaki, rice paper steamed veg and mushroom balls, steamed kale and soy-fried turnip crisps, and a matcha mochi daifuku from the Japan Centre

You will need:

5 tsbp sieved besan/gram flour
50g of finely grated courgette/zucchini
100g Tesco Vegetable Base Mix (or just… look at the ingredients in that and blender your own)
1 tsp of whatever spice mix most appeals to you. I tend to make my own and then leave them in unlabelled jars because common sense, what is that, so I can’t really tell you what I just used, only that it was delicious
1/2 tsp baking powder
cooking spray/a tiny amount of oil
1 non-stick saucepan or wok or whatever as long as it’s non-stick, has deep sides and a lid.
Something for mixing in
A thing to make your pan hot (hot plate, hob, paraffin stove).

What you do:

  1. Mix everything (except the oil) together in a bowl with the spatula until you have a thick paste.
  2. Make your pan hot.
  3. Put the paste in the bottom of the pan and spread it out until it is flat.
  4. Put the lid back on the pan and turn down the heat and leave it for a while.
  5. When the thing is firm, flip it over with the spatula and turn the heat up a little to cook the other side for a while.
  6. Lob this thing on a plate and adorn however you want. Congrat, you have a vegan okonomiyaki. My guess is that if you’re more of a fan of Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, it’s possible to chuck in the mandatory layer of yakisoba.

BONUS: waist-watchers and calorie-counters will be pleased to hear that this whole reasonably large centrepiece clocks in at a whopping 145 calories.

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Thermos Jar Cooking Part 2

So after I crashed in following a long silence (I’ve been busy doing fuck all! It’s very important) to explain that you can boil an egg in a Thermos Jar, an important discovery for someone who eats as many eggs as I do (did you know you can also wok-steam eggs in the top of a stir-fry or soup? Did you know you can bake eggs in the oven and cook them in a microwave and that I would probably have some weird protein deficiency if I didn’t remember to eat eggs occasionally because I keep forgetting there are food groups which aren’t “vegetable”?), vegan friend and Two-Fisted Librarian Matthew informed me that “couscous is another easy thing you can make”.

Now personally I consider it a crisis situation if I have to eat couscous. It’s not in my top fifty “things I want to eat”. It’s improved by sauces and so on and generally not being presented plain and with herbs on it while so dry that you can feel it forming angry clay in your stomach, which is how I consumed it as a young ‘un, but the association is strong and I’d Prefer Not To. One of the great things about being an adult is that unless there are no other options you can Prefer Not To and not eat something. You don’t have to invent a food intolerance or fake your own death or have an important moral reason not to, you can genuinely just say “nah, not into it”. Amazing!

But I do like other grain-type-things. I mean, I basically live on rice these days.

Previous experiments with microwave-your-own-rice contraptions, which ended in defeat and a very large microwave rice cooker, and then later in just caving in and buying a proper rice cooker in which you can make ALMOST ANYTHING IMAGINABLE (I am still not over this, you can make CAKE and OMELETTE and SOUP, I bet you could bake a fucking potato in one), have taught me that I am still thirsting/hungering for a way to make a small portion of rice without inconveniencing myself.

Which is where Matthew’s comment about the Thermos Jar comes in: the minimum amount of rice you can cook in my blindingly wonderful mini rice cooker is given as “80” on the measuring cup. I assume this means 80ml. It is hard to tell. It is merely “80”. One is advised not to use a smaller amount.

Now I’ve just done an unscientific experiment with the trusty Thermos Jar What I Got From A Charity Shop For A Quid (it rattles) in which I was also boiling an egg, and lobbed in a tablespoon of sushi rice To See What Would Happen, because one of the other things about being a grown-up is that I can decide to do things like that. Sometimes this results in horrifying experiences and sometimes it results in delicious ones. This time, pouring boiling water into a Thermos Jar, sealing it, and then fucking off to watch David Attenborough talking about plants for a longer time than intended resulted in something else, i.e. cooked rice.

I plan to try again and work out which proportion of uncooked rice to hot water is necessary to get just rice and no leftover liquid after expansion and whether stirring dashi in as well gets a good, even distribution, but I have reasonable hopes that you can, in fact, cook rice in a Thermos.

[If this turns out to be the case I’m seeing a certain application for those who want to have a hot lunch at work and don’t have a microwave, or those who, as mentioned before, cannot really afford to have something running on electricity for the time it takes to make a hot meal].

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Persistence: Only Available At 5am When I Have No Choice

Sometimes the flow of work at my workplace doesn’t keep pace with how quickly I process it and by “sometimes” I mean “often”. Unfortunately by 5am I’ve also lost the ability to form sentences and can’t productively use the time to work on book projects, and I can’t look at hardcore pornography because I’m at work.

Recently I decided that I’d try copying a painting by one of my (current) favourite painters, Newlyn School artist and Notorious Heterosexual Henry Scott Tuke, whose primary fodder of sun-kissed naked boys viewed from behind is mysteriously not banned by my workplace, on the grounds that if it’s rendered in paint it’s not pornography.

Now there’s a good reason my tag for attempts at freehand lineart on my less official blog is “derek can’t draw”, and it’s also fairly self-evident. I hear that practice makes perfect, but I also hear my dear chum Jamie McKelvie’s complaints about sciatica brought on by endless drawing and think that art is entirely Too Dangerous for a fragile flower like me, and stick to lifting heavy things in the bathroom instead.

Being for all intents and purposes nailed to my bastard desk for at least another hour with nothing else to do I thought I’d take my life and back muscles into my own hands and give it a try anyway:

brush pen

My brush pen had run out. Under normal circumstances I would take this as a Sign From God that it is not to be, but alas God is going to have to signal a bit harder (say, for instance, by letting me go home) under conditions like these–


Merciful fucking Christ, have I always been this bad at art?



I made an attempt to block it out with a wee figure in the corner but as you can see this did not help in the slightest.

getting worse

Trying to go for something more stylised and less naturalistic is not helping. It’s getting worse. It’s getting worse the more I do it.

Look at that leg what is happening to his leg?

am i on acid

The point at which sleep deprivation and hallucinogenic drugs become a very similar experience: the arms are improving (for a given value of improving) but the legs are making me concerned that I’ve experienced neurological damage and just haven’t noticed yet (Will Graham, I am coming for your crown). Do I have encephalitis or am I just incredibly stupid?

Don’t answer that.


Experimenting with an edict from friend Kev about letting “mistakes” become part of your style, as well as with a slightly better block-out. Not worried about club foot, jug ears, crab hand, or banana fingers, but that leg. It’s broken. There’s a gravitational issue going on – his arm’s supposed to be resting on his knee and there’s this smashed noodle happening there instead.


Frustration takes hold. None of these poses are right. There’s a distinct, leggy problem occurring and re-occurring, like someone has lost his grip on anatomy and probably shouldn’t be trying to draw at 5am after about 260mg of caffeine anyway.


This calls for drastic measures. Fling open a new tab. Find some anatomy guides. This one was of the musculature of the leg (and leg bones), in case this is not clear from the gargoyle scratchings I committed to paper.

Commentary written on my drawing is fairly standard practice: earlier in the night I tried to redesign a character and every sketch was accompanied by criticism from the drawings themselves and protests that they wanted to be left in peace.


The thigh bone’s connect to the shin bones and the shin bones are connected to the heel bone and the heel bone rests on the ground, Derek, because you’re not a horse.

see through

Making the body see-through to get an idea of where all the limbs sit helps, as does temporarily changing to a different pen.

I mean look, his elbow’s bulbous but at least his leg’s not broken any more.


Combining with the character redesign. The leg is still fucked but eh. How much more can I do?


After all, until I can get the hang of the line of gravity in a figure anatomy is going to be a dead duck anyway.

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How To Make A One Portion Rice Cooker

I am sharing the benefit of my wisdom because I have spent HOURS OF MY LIFE searching for a single-serving microwave rice cooker and have come to the horrifying conclusion that they don’t exist. Naturally I wanted to know why this was, and spent quite a while obsessively designing ever-more elaborate possibilities while honing my Dragon’s Den pitch for when I inevitably produced a whole “system” of individual rice blah de blah blah.

Anyway it turns out that you have to have some kind of CAD skills or indeed skills at all for the route I was contemplating, but after several experiments with a Sistema soup mug and several hockey pucks of burnt rice in the bin I’ve got this nailed.

But first: why the heck is there no rice-to-water ratio calculator online? I don’t mean those flimsy recipe things where they tell you it’s “about two cups of water to one of rice”, we dwell in the Metric Zone in this house and precision matters. Also cups are inconsistent and confusing and a weird way to measure solids. And one cup of dried rice makes far more rice than one person wants to eat.

For example.

2:1 my ass. Our sample size is 35g of dried rice (because that works out at 100 calories). Two of that is 70, which in the language of water is 70ml.

Put that in the microwave for 9 minutes and you too could have a startlingly compact hockey puck of rice.

Maybe the ratio is 3:1.

In this instance, 105ml of water, which is also insufficient.

Read my lips

At this point more research reveals that the steaming process after microwaving is very important, but we’re still ending up with some chewy hard rice.

At last! A correct quantity.

200ml water to 35g dried rice (at 7 1/2 minutes)

The next gruelling step is to figure out how to take away some of the elements of measuring from this, because it’s not always feasible to have a measuring jug. Obviously I’m going to draw a line on my rice cooker – I’d have a ridge in the plastic but aforementioned lack of CAD skills, 3-D printers, and confidence – at the point the water is meant to come to.

For some mad reason I decided to calculate this, instead of either a) pouring in the correct amount of water, seeing how high it came, and marking it or b) looking up the capacity of my container and dividing it up until I got to the appropriate quantity.

What I have mainly learned from this is that I am no good at geometry.

I spent a while trying to work out the relationship between the rice and water, but I think it might be logarithmic. Certainly while 35g/200ml makes sense as around 5.71428 (that is, rice is 5.71428 times less than water), once you increase the amounts linearly it stops working.


the line for the water, about 4cm up/down

the line for the water, about 4cm up/down

This is a Muji 400ml microwave tub with a wee vent on the top for steam. I figure there’s a larger margin for steam than in a 250ml version of the same thing, but not so much additional space (as with the 625ml Sistema mug I did the first experiments in) that the rice looks sad and forlorn at the bottom. Basically, you can pop in your rice (and in this case, dried seaweed and soy) and also eat it out of the thing afterward.

the end result


35g basmati rice
200ml water
800 watt microwave
7.5 minutes at full power, 5 minutes standing without being disturbed (so the steam continues to cook it).

And just to appease my sad, sad desire for the whole supermarket/vending machine system of sachets and flavour things that will never be (they could have been branded so nicely!):

Rice vinegar, soy sauce, lea & perrins, oxo cube, mini fork from muji, plastic jar of rice with measuring line for 35g. The spice and dried veg pots don't fit in the tub, but the contents would easily fit in the rice tube.

Rice vinegar, soy sauce, lea & perrins, oxo cube, mini fork from muji, plastic jar of rice with measuring line for 35g. The spice and dried veg pots don’t fit in the tub, but the contents would easily fit in the rice tube.


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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.


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


  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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How Being An Outlines Nazi Has Made Me A Better Writer

As with every “how X has made me a better writer” piece, this isn’t guaranteed to make anyone else a better writer, and some of the time by “better” what I actually mean is “more able to vomit out 4000 words in two hours and spend the rest of the day dicking about on the internet and failing to clean the kitchen”.

So really the title should be “How Being Outlines Hitler Made It Easier For Me To Write Books Quickly” but frankly the connotations of that are a little more damning.


National Novel Writing Month’s “be competitive with yourself” approach has worked for me in terms of output, but it can take a long time if I have to think about what I’m doing and where I’m going with a story on the fly. That’s fine if you have nothing else on, but for several of the years I’ve been doing this idiotic fiction dash I’ve also had a day job, and time has been slender.

2006 – the “I have no idea where this is heading”

The first year that I did a full NaNo (as opposed to a half-NaNo, which I did the year before like the cowardly custard I was) I forgot I was going to do it, and sat down on the afternoon of the first of November and went “shit, write something”. It wasn’t until four days of meandering and collecting references to characters from my meander that I decided it would need a plot, and lifted one from Shakespeare, and continued to meander with slightly more direction.

This was the beginning of the end for what had previously been a popular approach for me, the “start out and see where you go”. Going in totally blind and finding your own way is still popular with a lot of people and often produces great works of exploratory fiction (especially after it’s been edited), but for me it began to lose its shine when I stalled at the end of November and still hadn’t finished my story. It took me a further six years to finish it.

2007-2008 – the “tracking PoVs because there are so many”

Over the course of two years, while I had a day job that required eight solid hours of typing at high speeds, I wrote two halves of a novel that came out at over 300,000 words. Looking back I have no idea how this happened because even organised, motivated me could not puke up 150k+ while doing eight hour days now: I have some clear memories, too, of weekend days spent locked in my bedroom more-or-less beating my face against the keyboard, trying to extract 4,000 words from the confines of my empty head.

For this, I had to keep track of an ungodly number of PoV chapters and the passage of the McGuffin through them or around them – a plot one of the readers described in her feedback as “like a contra-dance”. So I made a diagram showing the movement of the narrative, and the movement of the characters around it, which was immensely useful, and after a while started making notes for what was happening in future chapters.

2009 – the “I didn’t make a proper plan and thus didn’t finish”

This year was a hideous disaster festival for a lot of reasons, and one of them was that while I wrote 80k, I didn’t finish the book, and still haven’t.

2010 – the “day plan cometh”

Trying to force-birth a first draft of a book while doing something that, at last, required some of my brain (A BTEC HNC in Music Production for reasons that seemed like a good idea at the time) was also, not coincidentally, the time in which day plans first came into use. Mostly not detailed at this point, but the whole plot had been worked out in advance, and a spreadsheet full of “this happens next” was brought into being. As a consequence of this I ploughed through the appropriate plot points at a speed which would otherwise have been impossible, and didn’t fail my silly vocational qualification.

2011 – the “several spreadsheets”

This was the year where I picked up my planning by the scruff of its neck, hurled it into an armchair, and threw a library at it. It was also the year I began using a chronological spreadsheet, to work out what each of the characters was doing and when, regardless of whether they were on opposite sides of the world. I made sure I knew what was happening on each day, and where the characters were going to be, and how this affected each of them, even if I didn’t always make a solid or rigid outline for the days.

And lo, the novel passed largely without incident.

2012 – the “last-minute re-outlining/pacing failure”

I’d intended to write something else, realised I didn’t have my plot ready or my research ready, and went into panic mode. The panic produced a rough outline, and the rough day-by-day guide produced a manuscript. In the later editing it was determined that, despite my best intentions, the outline hadn’t given a strong enough shape to the overall novel in terms of pacing and act distribution, and that the end of Act Three came rather out of nowhere, and so I was obliged to pull an extra two chapters out of my arse. This is not a good place for chapters to live, and was the impetus to start putting in Act divisions in future outlines (or at least, in some of them).

2013 – the “we’re going to need a bigger boat”.

I did a lot of research for this book. Or at the time I thought I did a lot of research for it, but then I spent most of this year reading increasingly disturbing books about viruses for my current effort and I want to slap the me of last year for being a coward. But it was a grand leap forward in outlines, where I divided up my outline into three acts, and then into what I was writing for each year of the story, and then which days I was writing each section on, and how many words that needed to be…

… and then I dumped every single bit of dialogue, vague scene exploration, character note, or snapshot I’d made about the story in the seven years between first coming up with the idea and actually writing it, into the outline, at the appropriate juncture.

This gave me an outline which was if I recall, more than 20,000 words long, which seemed a lot but in retrospect cannot hold a candle to the planning document for this year.

As a consequence of this I swanned through 146k words without really raising my pulse, which sounds wonderful until you realise I had to edit out about 20,000 words of that.

2014 – the “double-distilled for clarity”

And now, this year. Oh, this year.

This year my outline document was 52,000 words because I put so much research gunk in it.

That is, if you are not up to speed, longer than the actual required length of a NaNoWriMo winning manuscript, but that is neither necessary nor the point. The point is that, having repeatedly extended and rewritten and fiddled with and extended and rewritten my outline, and then gone through and made a note of all the characters, locations, and research points needed for each day’s writing (which I may not have been, er, religiously sticking to), I’ve made getting down to the business of writing even easier this year.

Double Distillation

With an outline already in place, each day I read through the original outline entry for that day, square it with what’s been happening in the story up to that point, and draw up a series of points – headlines, if you like – to summarise each of the separate major scenes covering that day’s segment. Occasionally these involve a bit of dialogue as it comes to me, or just a note on what the outcome is going to be and who is there: sometimes the whole collection expands out to about 500 words.

This, I’m finding, helps put me in the right mindset to continue with the story and, once I’ve started writing, to know exactly where I’m going and not need to take any breaks to think about what’s happening next – everything’s already been thought of in advance.

And that is how I use ridiculously detailed outlines to turn “writing a book” into a game of “filling in cells” which takes significantly less of my time each day than it used to.

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Muffin Fail

I’ve never made muffins before. I can identify two major problems with what I’ve ended up with:

  1. Too much flour, so they’re not really what you’d call “light and fluffy”.
  2. Not enough of one of the flavours I was intending to use.


  • 1 egg (medium)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 125ml milk (semi-skimmed or whole)
  • 5ml vegetable oil
  • 200g plain flour
  • 5tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

What I actually put in, for some reason related to my painfully terrible understanding of mental arithmetic:

  • 275g plain flour
  • 25g of custard powder
  • some rhubarb

What that should have been:

  • 100g plain flour
  • 100g custard powder
  • some rhubarb
The beginning, featuring a 99p store silicon baking thing.

The beginning, featuring a 99p store silicon baking thing.

Part of the problem I think was not being able to reduce the recipe down sufficiently. What I have there made about 17 bloody muffins, which is a lot more muffins than I need. I am growing increasingly annoyed by the assumption of every recipe site ever that the only person mad enough to cook their own food is someone with a household of, apparently, 10 people.

I'd love to be able to take twee, romantic shots of baking but the reality is kind of messier.

I’d love to be able to take twee, romantic shots of baking but the reality is kind of messier.

Well, with any luck my coworkers won’t object to some slightly bland muffins with rhubarb in them.

I lied, I can definitely do twee.

I lied, I can definitely do twee.

At least they’re not very big. I suppose I could just lob them out of the window at the people in the beer garden behind my house. Maybe I could coat one in rubber and bounce it off the head of that one woman who sounds exactly like Graham Chapman pretending to be an old lady. Anything’s possible.

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Recipe: Drunk Jerk Cake

“Why the hell is it called that?”

Well, listen. I don’t think it qualifies as bread because there’s no yeast in it, and it’s actually made from the base of that brownie recipe that does everything, so it’s a cake. And it’s got cider in it, so I decided to be whimsical. And it’s got jerk in it, so jerk. And “Drunk Jerk Cake” sounded better than “leftovers and booze bread” to me.

This is … probably not to be undertaken drunk, but is a good way of using up crap you have around.


135g wholemeal flour (Can use plain, probably should use plain, I just used wholemeal because I’m fucked if I’m ever going to use it for anything else and it was taking up space)
12.5g jerk seasoning/smoked paprika (about half and half)
a bit of dried rosemary
62.5g butter
1 egg
50ml cider (which gives you the rest of the can to drink) – note to Americans, this means “hard” cider.
25g peanut butter
50g tomatoes (I used a mixture of sundried and fresh because that’s what I had), you could instead do 25/25 of sundried and olives, or whatever, really.


  1. Preheat oven to 180C
  2. Rub butter into flour/spice mixture. Do this with your hands. Rub it in and keep rubbing it in until it has a texture like breadcrumbs. NB: This is gross and you will get stuff under your fingernails and then when you wash your hands you will look like you have a skin disease.
  3. Mix in the egg using a huge wooden spoon/spatula. It’s easiest if you stick the bowl under your arm like you’re in a nursery rhyme. Great workout, bloody exhausting. Helps if you sing something inane while you’re doing it.
  4. 4. Now mix in the peanut butter. Thought your arm hurt before? We’re not even started.
  5. Mix in the cider. Enjoy getting splashes all over you. Enjoy the gross noises it makes.
  6. Mix in your tomatoes, olives, whatever you’re using for variety. Keep mixing. Admire your biceps.
  7. Scrape the tough stuff into your 3 ramekins or whatever you’re cooking it in. Try to flatten it out a bit.
  8. Put ramekins on a tray and put them in the oven for 45 minutes.

Do not be alarmed by the foam of cider bubbling at the top, by 45 minutes it should definitely be done. If it sounds like a weird thing to eat, do not panic. No one has to know you ate this.

Photo not by J. Reilly this time, which explains the poor quality.

Photo not by J. Reilly this time, which explains the poor quality.

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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)


  • 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).


  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: Possibly A Kind Of Soup Thing.

I don’t really follow recipes very much, and just have a mental catalogue of “this is how to make acceptable food happen out of one pot” ideas which usually ends up in elaborate and expensive gumbo (did you know that adding rice to the mix to soak up the sauce means that when the leftovers go cold you can make them into burritos? It is possibly a crime against humanity but it’s very tasty) or variations on pasta sauce. This time it was soup.

I’m warning you now, this contained a MAGIC INGREDIENT.

Serves three, has the exciting name “sinus-clearing soup”.

Ingredients (non-magic)

  • 360g braising beef steak, diced
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 150g button mushrooms, larger ones chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 170g butternut squash, diced
  • 1 gel beef stock pot
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • about three handfuls of jerk seasoning
  • 600ml water

Ingredients (magic)

  • Leftover noodle broth (approx 250ml) containing:
  1. Another gel beef stock pot, dissolved
  2. 2 tsp of a mix of spices I did myself some time ago which contains garam massala, cinnamon, paprika, ground chilli, celery salt, tumeric, and a bit of cocoa. In what proportions I cannot tell you.
  3. A sachet of noodle flavouring (chicken) which most likely involves chicken stock, monosodium glutimate, dehyrdrated carrot chunks, salt, unidentified green bits.


  1. Melt the ghee in massive pot.
  2. Vigorously rub literal handfuls of jerk seasoning into the diced beef, sling the beef in the pot.
  3. Add the onion, then garlic.
  4. Beef should be pretty brown now. Celery and mushroom goes in the pot. Personally I like to chop/dice things as I’m going along because it provides a natural pause to allow things to cook more but I hear other people like precision.
  5. When that’s looking fairly cooked sling in the squash.
  6. Carrot, potato, and the magic.
  7. Add the stock gel.
  8. Add the water.
  9. Bring to the boil, angrily hitting the pan when the laws of physics dictate that the bastard thing isn’t coming to the boil fast enough. At this point eating raw peas out of the pod and swearing at the cooker are both entirely acceptable ways to try to bend universal laws to the will of your growling stomach.
  10. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

What you should end up with is a beef broth with a serious sheen of fat floating on the top. DO NOT SKIM THE FAT, YOU GIANT FOOL. 1 serving amounts to about 450 calories and that is a decent-sized meal. Taste it: it should taste of FIRE and MEAT. If it doesn’t make your nose run you have probably been stingy with the jerk seasoning and you deserve to go to hell. If it doesn’t taste of SERIOUS MEAT you only put one stock pot in and should be stationed under a demon cow herd in hell. Or just an ordinary cow herd, I’ve lived by a dairy farm and frankly normal Frisians are enough.


Why not substitute pretend!meat protein for the braising steak and vegetable stock for the beef stock pots? The outcome should still be okay because of glorious ghee.

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