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Sat, 16 May 2009

Roast Chicken

My brother visited last weekend, which was nice. For those who don't know Michael, he's like a younger, more stylish version of myself. He's started a blog, and it is instantly younger and more stylish than mine. It would be even better if he replaced the Wordpress example text. :)

On Sunday I cooked roast chicken, which was a first. Not just chicken though - M&S chicken, with M&S vegetables and M&S roast potatoes. Bought with an M&S staff discount.

Posted: 16 May 2009 00:00 | Tags: , , ,

Sun, 03 May 2009

Baked Potato

I got distracted from cookery by a minor health issue in April, so didn't meet my original target. Still, I managed four recipes, which is better than none; and I've managed to improve my omelette technique to the point where it is actually semicircular rather than sausage-shaped when it rolls onto the plate. So let's reschedule for ten by the end of May.

It's odd, I don't feel too worried by this melanoma; for one thing, the chances of dying seem relatively small, now that it's been found. I have suffered from depression for one reason or another over the last ten years, and got over that; cancer just pales into insignificance. It's prompted some thinking about who I am, and where I'm going, but I was prone to that sort of thing already.

Meanwhile, I've joined the local gym. This seems to be a difficult process; you need to see a customer advisor, and they don't seem to work there in the evenings. When I left my name in the book, I didn't get a phone call. So several months later, I just went down there on a Saturday afternoon, which was much more productive. I haven't mentioned to them yet that I'm expecting a huge amount of tissue to be taken from my left arm in the next couple of weeks... we'll see how that affects my "fitness journey".

I think I need to eat less chocolate.

Anyway, having done my 30 minutes cardiovascular exercise this afternoon, I returned home for a meal. And so to the real point of this blog entry: microwaving baked potato makes it really underwhelming. I should have thrown it in the oven before I went out.

On the plus side, the total cooking/preparation time was 15 minutes; I served it with tuna and sweetcorn as filling, and a pile of lettuce, tomato, yellow pepper and olives on the side, with a vinaigrette. I think I met my five fruit and veg portions in one sitting.

I've been watching Professor Regan's... on BBC iPlayer, which is awesome; my favourite bit must have been the placebo "diet pill" in the first episode, which led to amazing weight loss when combined with a healthy diet and exercise! As I write this, there are 11 days left to watch the whole series. Interesting factlet this week: encouraging children to eat breakfast of any kind (even sugar-laden Frosties) is good for their long-term health. And there's apparently no proven link between sugar and obesity; I guess fat is the real problem. (So long as you avoid tooth decay.)

Posted: 03 May 2009 00:00 | Tags: , , ,

Mon, 06 Apr 2009

Mushroom Risotto

I was lazy with cooking over the weekend - on Friday I had leftover lasagne for lunch, so just cheese and crackers in the evening. On Saturday I was down in Hastings all day, so didn't cook. On Sunday evening I had frozen pizza (ew), but used the 18 minutes while it cooked to boil an egg, chop some lettuce, and prepare a basic vinaigrette. (1tsp Dijon mustard, 1tbsp white wine vinegar, 3tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper, mix.)

This evening - mushroom risotto.


  • Mushrooms, 150g (yes, I bought some scales.)
  • 1 onion, chopped.
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
  • Olive oil.
  • Risotto rice, 200g per person, supposedly.
  • A glass of dry white wine
  • Vegetable stock (I only used ~500ml, but to serve 4 would need 1l or slightly more.


After chopping up the onions, mushrooms and garlic, fry them in olive oil in a large enough pan. (The garlic can go in last for 30s because it's prone to burning and so on.) Add the white wine and the rice. Keep stirring.

Once all the liquid has been absorbed, add one ladleful of the hot vegetable stock. Repeat that last sentence for about 20-30 minutes, until the rice is cooked.


It worked! But there was too much for me to eat at one sitting, even though I was using minimum quantities of rice and stock. Could have been served with grated Parmesan cheese.

Posted: 06 Apr 2009 00:00 | Tags: , , ,

Thu, 02 Apr 2009


This evening I made lasagne, loosely following a recipe from Gordon Ramsay. I'm not going to type it out, partly because I didn't follow it to the letter; I still don't have fancy stuff like oregano or bay leaves.

My cheese sauce needs work, but the end result was edible, surprisingly. There's half of it left for lunch tomorrow. Some bits of the lasagne sheets seemed like they were still hard, which was probably the result of not quite being covered in sauce or something. I need to invest in a set of scales before I can work with actual quantities.

I had a minor disaster while washing up, involving broken glass and a medium-sized olive oil slick... which is actually the second time I've knocked a glass bottle off that shelf. I think a reorganization of my cupboards is in order.

Posted: 02 Apr 2009 00:00 | Tags: , , , ,

Wed, 01 Apr 2009

Three egg omelette

I haven't taken much time on cooking for the past couple of nights. Last night I just used a sweet-and-sour sauce from a jar, and had chicken with quick-cook rice. I don't think that counts as cooking - more like a ready meal by stealth. As a concession, I bought whole chicken breast fillets and diced them myself. It seems to help if you use a sharp knife.

This evening I cooked an omelette (with three eggs - there's a standing joke in the family concerning my brother once having cooked a one-egg omelette) and frozen veg, so I must have been done in under five minutes. I'll write something if I find a variation that's more eggciting...

Also this evening, I looked at Debian's status in relation to the Linux Standard Base. No one seems to certify Debian stable releases, and no one is running nightly LSB tests on Debian. I wonder if I can get that changed.

Posted: 01 Apr 2009 00:00 | Tags: , , , , ,

Mon, 30 Mar 2009

Pasta with Tomato Sauce

So, I decided to start off gently. The advantage of this recipe is that... I already knew how to make it. Awesome.


  • Olive oil
  • Half an onion, chopped
  • One clove of garlic, chopped
  • One tin of chopped tomatoes
  • A small amount of dried thyme or whatever; basil seems more traditional, but does Sainsbury's Local have that? Buggered if I could find it.
  • Pasta


Easy peasy. Heat some oil in a saucepan, add the onions and stir until they're more or less transparent (supposedly, although I'm sure I just make them turn brown). And add the garlic shortly afterwards.

When you get bored of watching onion cook, add the chopped tomatoes and herbs. Thus begins phase 2, involving bubbling rather than sizzling.

After about ten minutes of that, boil water in a second pan. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Once it is al dente, the pasta sauce will be about ready as well. Drain the pasta and stir into the pasta sauce. Serve.


And lo, it was good. I think the browning of the onion was due to too high a heat in the initial stages; it's better taken slow.

The total cost of the sauce was somewhere less than £1; this compares favourably with ready-made sauce. In fact, this was a ridiculously economical meal.

At the same time as doing this, I set up a new housemate with wireless internet access, and got a beer and £5 in return. Bizarre, but he insisted. Then I had to fix his DNS settings, which someone at his previous accomodation at hardcoded to something weird... and wrong. This was the first time I'd ever had to tackle Windows XP's network settings in Hungarian.

Posted: 30 Mar 2009 00:00 | Tags: , , ,

Fri, 27 Mar 2009

SWOTting up

No man is an island; objectives cannot be set in isolation from the reality of our situation. One standard technique for analysing where we are is the SWOT analysis: considering Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Strengths and Weaknesses deal with aspects internal to your organization; Opportunities and Threats are concerned with environmental factors over which you have no direct control. Once these are identified, you can act to mitigate the negative points.

One particular threat is that I'm visiting various people each weekend for the foreseeable future - tonight I'm with my brother at Badger Farm near Winchester, so the results of my SWOT analysis will wait until tomorrow. :)

Posted: 27 Mar 2009 00:00 | Tags: , , ,

Thu, 26 Mar 2009

Cooking for Project Managers

Spurred on by the accusation that my expertise is limited to computer-related topics, I have resolved to learn to cook. This in fact will solve more than one problem: what to do with my copious free time given that I am organized, and give me more confidence that I am not wasting my money on ready meals each week.

Obviously I am looking to transfer skills from existing domains of knowledge to this endeavour. (From open source development to... open sauce development?) My first insight from my project management experience is that this project really needs some SMART goals to work towards. Hmm... okay, first objective:

By 30th April 2009, I want to have documented a repertoire of at least 10 simple main course recipes, where I have cooked each dish at least once.

Tomorrow: SWOT analysis.

Posted: 26 Mar 2009 00:00 | Tags: , , ,


Tim Retout tim@retout.co.uk
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