Thursday, 8 May 2008

Portugeuse Chorizo and Pepper Soup

I've been neglecting this blog (though not my cooking). I made this dish in late April, but have only got around to posting now.

So, having just come from Spain, I felt like doing something that involved Chorizo sausage. Of course, being contrary, I made a dish from the other side of the Iberian Peninsula.

I first had this soup in a Portuguese restaurant in Melville, and was quite taken by it. This was my second time actually making it.

I put the recipe together from a few that I found online. In short, the soup consists of red peppers, tomatoes and chorico, with a bit of stock and some onions to add flavour. Oh, and paprika. It has to have paprika. Here's how I did it:


100g Chorizo, sliced thickly
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 medium red peppers, coarsely chopped
1 chicken stock cube, dissolved in around 2 cups water
1 cup red wine
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp paprika


  1. Fry the chorizo with the paprika on low heat for a few minutes.

  2. Put the chorizo aside, and fry the onion in a little oil until soft. Add the garlic towards the end.

  3. Process the peppers and tomatoes in a blender until relatively smooth. (You want to leave the texture slightly coarse.

  4. Add the tomato, pepper, stock, chorizo and wine to the pot with the onions and garlic.

  5. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. (This can be shorter or longer - the peppers cook fairly quickly, and everything else is cooked already.)

  6. Serve, preferably with crusty Porteugese bread rolls.


  1. I really can't remember how much water I put in. Two cups (500ml) sounds about right, but if it's too much, boil it off by simmering uncovered. If it's too little, have a kettle of boiled water on hand to top up.

  2. Other recipes talk about keeping the chorizo out until the end. In these, you put the tomatoes and peppers in finely chopped, but remove half soup to puree at the end, before adding the chorizo. My method worked pretty well, though, and allows you to put the chorizo in for the whole time. (The chorizo adds a lot of flavour.)

Monday, 21 April 2008

Sierpinski (fractal) biscuits

A little while ago BoingBoing, a "directory of wonderful things" which I read quite often, featured an article on how to make fractal cookies. The original article with instructions is at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. Well, I couldn't resist, and of course for a challenge opted to make Sierpinski triangle biscuits, where they made a (square cross-section) Sierpinski carpet.

Well, I say square, but of course since these are fractals, they actually have Hausdorff dimensions of log 8/log 3 ≈
1.8928 and log(3)/log(2) ≈ 1.585 for the carpet and "triangle" respectively, and no area. I take no responsibility if, as a result, the cookies are tasteless or those eating them are sucked into fractional dimensional space...

The recipe:

For this recipe you will need two different coloured biscuit doughs. The Mad Scientists used chocolate and plain vanilla, but I chose to add red colouring and orange essence to the vanilla. The original recipe is derived from an Instructable on making pixel cookies, with modifications for the chocolate. I have provided recipes for both doughs, with measurements in metric, and instructions that don't require a Kenwood. (I really don't think many people outside the United States have the vaguest clue how much butter a "stick" is.)

Vanilla mix

(or whatever flavour you choose)

2.5 cups flour,
3/4 cups caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
225g butter
2tsp vanilla extract
2tbs cream cheese, softened
(about 2tsp of another essence and/or food colouring if you choose)

Chocolate mix

2 1/4 cups flour,
1/4 cup of cocoa powder
3/4 cups caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs melted chocolate
210g butter
2tsp vanilla extract
2tbs cream cheese, softened
(about 2tsp of another essence and/or food colouring if you choose)

Making the dough

  1. Mix the dry ingredients, sifting the flour if necessary.
  2. Rub in the butter.
  3. Mix in the cream cheese and vanilla (and chocolate, if applicable) - this will require some kneading to get the dough right.

Making the fractals

The mad scientist article has quite good instructions. If you have difficulty imagining how to do the triangle, here's an example of them doing it with Fimo clay.


  • Don't let the chocolate get too hot. It's a very small amount, so using a double boiler is ideal (though if you're lazy like me you'll use a microwave). Like me, you may also burn the chocolate...
  • The chocolate dough is more crumbly than the vanilla (possibly in part because I burned it, but possibly because cocoa just doesn't have the same properties as flour). Anyway, be more careful with it. You're likely to have more success with fractals that use the chocolate as the "main" (big inner triangle) colour.
  • Use a very sharp knife to cut the biscuits. I used my hand-forged usuba bocho.
  • If you don't know how to rub butter, BBC Food has instructions.
  • I made half quantities of each of the doughs, but make the whole lot if you have some time (and want to end up with a lot of biscuits) on your hands.

Japanese food resources

Now that I am settling down in London somewhat, I shall be accumulating Japanese cooking resources. In particular, I'm quite keen to get back into making bento boxes for lunch again, preferably in proper, lacquer-style bento boxes. In general, though, I need to be buying various bits such as Dashi (no moto) - I see you can even get vegetarian versions, decent shoyu, mirin, cooking sake, miso, various seaweeds including nori sheets, wakame and kelp, Japanese rice, and a host of other bits and pieces.

So, a bit of a trawl through "t3h Int3rn3ts" brought up Japan Centre, an excellent, centrally located Japanese food specialist, which I absolutely have to visit this week, as well as, a food blog/personal site dedicated to bento, with loads of handy tips and ideas.

So, expect some Japanese articles in the next few weeks...

(Oh, and did I mention that my housemate has a plethora of authentic ceramic Japanese serving dishes, which he picked up at a major ceramics market in Japan on his recent world trip?)


And so I begin my life of blogging, something I have been resisting for quite some time now.

One reason for this has been that I see no great need to express private details of my life - I mean, what value does that provide to the world? My time could more usefully be spent working on Wikipedia. If I am to blog, I want to create some content or synthesis of information which is actually useful to people, otherwise I see little point.

But what to blog about? Over the last few years, I have developed a steadily stronger passion for cooking and baking, which I think is partly attributable to my mother. Friends have experienced two of my insane 9-course cooking missions, both of which (miraculously) went well. My approach to cooking often involves extensive research of the dish I want to prepare, of the culture, alternate ways of preparing it, how it should be served and eaten, and so on. As part of this research, I have often found personal cooking blogs to be extremely useful - accounts of how a recipe turned out, what worked and what didn't, and a few hints about pitfalls are often worth far more than any basic recipe. Well, I cook fairly often and I have a digital camera. I have something to blog about.

As the title suggests, however, this is more than just a cooking blog, for I am a shameless informavore. I am addicted to knowing things, and voluntarily blast my brain full of information on any topic which takes my fancy on a frequent and regular basis. As I perhaps implied last paragraph, this also applies to my cooking. So, I thought to myself, why not create a blog in which I document not only the process of cooking, but the background information that I acquire during the course of my research as well?

And so my first blog was born. I do hope that it provides you with entertainment or utility (inclusive or).