Up all night

I've never been able to sleep during the day. I envy those who are able to take revitalising afternoon powernaps; these days I can barely sleep in past 8am. It's usually okay as there's always something to do (I include browsing food blogs and reading Dinosaur Comics in that), but as I attempt to reverse my sleep-wake cycle in anticipation of six weeks of night shifts it's inconvenient.

The nights themselves have been an interesting exercise in keeping myself occupied. Last night's entertainment included half a season of 30 Rock, trimming the fat from my music collection, and an early-morning visit to the supermarket. You would think that being alone in a supermarket at 3:30am would be peaceful, but take away the hum of shoppers and clutter of trolleys and the muzak becomes deafening. At one point I began to stare down one of the untouched, perfectly-stocked aisles and thought about the vast capitalist machine that has turned the simple joy of eating into a system where the drive to grow profits pushes quality right off the shelves, then I caught myself falling asleep standing up and realised I had no idea what day it was. I proceeded to the self-checkout with my items.

It'll be hard to cook and eat well while I'm on nights. I'm not even sure how meals work — if you wake up at 6pm do you eat cereal at dinner time? I'd like to think that I could be the guy who doesn't just scoff a box of barbecue shapes at 2am between respiratory arrests, but I'm not. What I've decided to do to keep the posts flowing is to gradually clear out the iPhoto archives. There are a number of meals that I have photographed without remembering to write down the recipe, so I'll post them here and leave it up to you as to whether you want me to make them again and post a recipe in a couple of weeks' time.

Basil gnocchi

The first is this basil & potato gnocchi. I usually serve gnocchi with a simple tomato and basil sauce, and wondered if it would be possible to get the basil flavour into the gnocchi themselves. Well it turns out that with enough basil it is possible. I blended one bunch of basil and chopped it through potato gnocchi made the usual way. I served them with Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce. You do know about Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce don't you?

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce


  • 2 cups of best-quality canned tomatoes
  • 1 onion, peeled & halved
  • 5 tbsp (75 g) butter
  • Salt to taste

1. Combine everything in a saucepan and simmer gently for 45 minutes.
2. Remove and discard the onion halves. Crush the tomatoes with the back of a fork (or blend quickly with a stick blender), adjust seasoning, and serve.

I've made some changes

The particularly eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that things look a little different — what do you think?

I've test-driven it on a few different browsers and so far so good, but if you notice any peculiarities please let me know and I'll look into it. This seems like the best time to mention that I've tidied up the categories as well. Previously just about every entry was in the "Cooking" or "Recipes" category, which rendered them both essentially useless. Things are now sorted a lot more sensibly, so have a poke around.

The dog ate my blog posts

It's been over a month since I last posted, a lifetime in the world of blogging. This is bad. I regret how the site has stagnated and absolutely do not want it to become yet another ghost town of a blog.

There are several reasons why things have slowed down (where not moving is just a particularly severe form of moving slowly), and these can be broadly grouped into (a) reasons relating to time pressures; and (b) reasons relating to creativity. One could argue that there exists a third group — (c) reasons relating to my new Xbox — but come on, it's so much fun!

(a) Reasons relating to time pressures

Or, Who knew that being a doctor was hard work? My days are long. They start early, finish late, and seem to multiply until I find myself pleasantly surprised that although I might work Sundays I can get home by 1pm. It's not always that bad, but it's unpredictable. While I used to plan my meals a week in advance based on how I can eat fresh and minimise waste, now I'm lucky to make it to the markets once in 3 weeks. When I get home I'm past caring about the right lighting for that perfect shot, I just want cook my meal, and eat it.

I still cook, of course. Three weeks ago I made an intimate dinner for a couple of friends who are moving overseas: Spice-rubbed rack of goat, pilau rice, mint & coriander dipping sauce, and aloo gobi. It rocked. I served it hot to my smiling friends, and proceeded to stuff my face in their company while we talked and drank wine. I had three hours that night and chose to spend them enjoying my food rather than colour-balancing it or trying to write the perfect blurb.

This doesn't mean that food bloggers don't enjoy their food. What it means is that this particular food blogger loves his food but when pressed, refuses to sacrifice that for pretty pictures and rambly text.

(b) Reasons relating to creativity

Since I'm decrying rambly text I'll keep this part brief: I'm in a rut. Time pressures have limited my access to fresh ingredients and reigned in my inclination to experiment, so I find myself cooking the same type of food day in, day out. When I can knock out a quick carbonara or chana masala with kitchen staples, why risk making something new that could flop and spoil the dinner I'm so desperate for? It's a weak excuse, but when I've spent all afternoon looking forward to a good meal I tend to play it safe.


Let's get some things straight. I want to keep posting. I like showing off my recipes, I like having them all in one place — I even check the recipes myself if I haven't made something in a while — and maintaining the site encourages me to be more involved and active in visiting other blogs, which is a good thing.

With all of the above in mind, I am making two resolutions. Resolution the first: I will continue to post, even if that means the pictures might not be as pretty, or the blurbs as coherent. Resolution two: I will subscribe to a quality cooking magazine/buy some quality books (recommendations very welcome!) and cook 2 new recipes a week. It's back to school — unfamiliar ingredients and combinations, fastidiously following recipes.

I believe in you, Tim!

The return of the second pancake

A few things happen when you stop posting on your blog. First, TypePad starts to display a "10 Tips for finding new blog topics" banner above your empty new post form that doesn't fail to patronise. Not long after that the spammers notice a long-deserted place to squat, and undo their bindles of incomprehensible comments littered with links to cheap Mexican Viagra. Finally, sadly, understandably, your readers depart for fresher pastures. To those of you who are still reading — because you subscribe to the RSS feed, no doubt — thank you, and sorry.

You see, while I have been busy with work, there are two factors to blame for my radio silence. The first is boring and sounds like an excuse: my laptop is broken so I don't have access to my photos or the photo editing software I use to touch up my Hungry Man frozen meals into passable foodie fare. However far more importantly is that I've spent the last couple of weeks both preparing for and subsequently partaking in 2 and a half wonderful weeks in Japan.

The trip was amazing, interesting, and delicious — thanks for asking — and there will be plenty of time to write about it all. But for now, I rest. Flying nine hours through the sleepless night to start work that day is a surefire way to render restful vacation a distant memory, but the weekend approaches and the markets are open late. And I have new knives.

And I could really go for a home-cooked meal.

TypePad hacks: Display multiple random entries

Please excuse me while I geek out for a moment. I've added a feature to the individual entry pages of this site that displays links to 5 random posts from the archives. It requires a bit of a workaround for TypePad, a work around that I spent a while searching for. This won't apply to the majority of you, but I'm posting it here to save the next person a bit of time.

The hows and whys are after the jump.

Explaining the recent lack of posts

Now that I've finally regained access to the internet (albeit currently without the ability to upload photos), I want to sincerely apologise for the slowing of posts to the site. I'm doing a 4-week placement in Whyalla, which has unexpectedly left me unable to update.

However that doesn't mean that all content will cease for the rest of my time here. I've brought my camera, and am gradually sussing out the best places to buy fresh produce around here. Someone at work has offered to bring me some Thai and Indian herbs from her garden. If I'm lucky I may even catch a fish. This trip might not be so bad after all.

The eponymous post


The other day I came across an 'instant pancake mix' at the supermarket. The instructions said to add eggs, milk, and melted butter. Come on, that's like 75% of the way to homemade! I can't in fairness criticize anyone too strongly for choosing the 'instant' option since many people don't have the time to take photos of their food let alone cook it, but who is so busy that the hassle of mixing together flour, baking powder, and sugar is worth trading for an overpriced box of self-raising flour with, inexplicably, added preservatives?

The fact is, if you have time to measure milk and eggs, heat a pan, and cook the things then you have time to make them from scratch. You could conceivably make these on a weekday morning, but why bother? Leave cereal and toast to the 7 am starts and save making pancakes for the weekend, when you can enjoy the luxury of being able to jump back into bed to eat your cooked breakfast. You don't need to get fancy with whisked egg whites or ricotta cheese to make great pancakes (by all means try them for a change), and I've settled on a recipe that is easy, consistent, and delicious.


Ingredients (makes 14 pancakes):

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups of milk
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 60g melted butter

1. Whisk together the eggs and the milk. Add the caster sugar.
2. Sift in the plain flour and baking powder, then stir with a whisk to combine. Stir in the melted butter and let the mixture sit for at least 15 minutes before cooking the pancakes.
3. To cook, heat a non-stick pan1 to medium-hot and add about 1 tsp of butter. Pour 1/4 of a cup of batter into the pan2 per pancake and cook until bubbles appear on the upper surface (about 2-3 minutes). Flip and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.3

(1) You don't have to use non-stick but it makes things so much easier. Plus if you care about these sorts of things, you'll use less cooking oil/butter
(2) For round pancakes, pour the batter quickly and into the center of the pan, letting it pool into a circle naturally.
(3) It's important to wait until the pan is hot enough before you start cooking to avoid 'the second pancake' (hey, that's the name of this site!) syndrome. The heavier the pan, the longer it will need to be preheated (but the better it'll retain heat). Medium hot works on my stove with by pan, but yours may differ. If they're getting too dark on the bottom before the top bubbles, turn it down. If they're pale and slow to cook, turn it up.


Just a quick correction regarding the recent entry for garlic naan. The recipe as I wrote it originally called for 2 3/4 cups of flour. That should have been 1 3/4 cups. The weight I wrote — 230 g — was correct. It's an embarrassing mistake given that entry is by far my most visited, but if you were planning on making them (and do, they're delicious) make sure to use the corrected measurements.

On that note, when baking it's always good practice to go by weight rather than volume measurements. As with most matters of baking, Susan has the full story. Was my erroneous volume measurement an innocent typo or an act of militant pro-weighing insurgency? You decide.

I'm starting a food blog

First there was xfinity.net. With its dynamic, futuristic, and sensical name it lasted 3 years and saw me through years 8 to 11 of high school. After that came tweedtrousers, which was short-lived but no less critical to my personal development and lack of romance in year 12. Then as uni began I flirted with livejournal before discovering she was emotionally unstable and just a bit too emo for me. In the following year I gave the whole blogging caper one more shot before moving on, having realised that voicing my every inane thought to was what close friends and strangers on the bus were for.

But here we are, another blog. Forget the tedious personal minutiae. I hope to fill these pages with food and drink, and I hope that it will make you hungry.