Sunday, August 24, 2008

Social Food

I like food as much as the next guy, but more often than not, I find myself throwing my ingredients into a saucepan with only my hunger to drive me. Sometimes I won't have even decided what the final meal will be until half way through cooking it, as they all start of the same, relying only on the herbs/spices and the staple they are served with to define them. Cooking for one just isn't very inspiring!

So when I get the chance to cook for friends or family, I always jump at the chance! Having real people appreciate your food is a lot like giving presents at Christmas - you get that same warm and fuzzy feeling of satisfaction, any time of the year.

Yesterday it was sunny enough to coax me outside, and I ended up walking along the canal for about an hour, ending up in the neighbouring town. The local fruit and veg market was on, and I couldn't resist - I ended up buying kilos of tomatoes, avocadoes, courgettes, mushrooms, strawberries, cherries and a couple of interesting breads that I've never tried before - chive ciabatta and a rustic looking round loaf of sourdough.


One of my oldest friends was back here for the weekend (known him since I was 3!), so I invited him and his girlfriend over for dinner. There was only one thing I knew to do with a kilo of tomatoes, so pasta it was. To go with it, I roasted some mushrooms, an onion, courgette, and marinated tofu in the oven, and also toasted some of my ciabatta bread. It was a feast, (ie I was stuffed!).

A close second place to cooking for other people, is being fed by other people. This is a much rarer event, as most non-vegans are usually fairly convinced that without their favourite ingrediants, food is impossible to make. I'd probably be the same if I had to cater for someone on an even more resrictive diet: "How can I cook anything without heat?! Here have some lettuce" I would say to a raw vegan...!

Anyway, the other day, one of the veggie guys at work took the vegan challenge and had a couple of people round for dinner. He did very well! Potato and leek soup for a starter, vegan burger, with roasted potatoes and parsnips, brocoli, cauliflower and spinach, and a kind of nut roast. It reminded me of a typical Christmas meal in my parents house! And as if that wasn't enough, there was also dessert:

Oat Cookies
Some oat cookies I made earlier in the morning for everyone, loosely based on VCon's Chewy Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies, which went down well, and also:

Grape Risotto Dessert
Which we also made earlier that day, from my friend's German cookbook. I couldn't read any of the recipe, or even the name of it, so she had to translate it for me as we cooked it. It was a kind of sweet lemony rice pudding, with grapes and pine nuts. I was sceptical at first, as it sounded very bizarre, but I was pleasently surprised! The lemon counteracted the sweetness of the risotto rice quite well, and any recipe that involves a bottle of wine in the making can't be that bad!

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Programming doesn't sound particularly creative does it? But working in the games industry sometimes surprises me with opportunities to release my creative side. In a way, games programming is a lot like cooking - creating something fun from pretty much nothing. The satisfaction I get from getting my friends to play my latest game, or eat my food is all I need to make it totally worth it!

Somewhere inside me is an artist trapped, and trying to escape, inspired by such creative blogs as Hannah's, and random friends who like to make their own clothes. A while back, fuelled by this inspiration, I invested in some new tools to help turn a ball of wool into whatever my imagination demanded, and started to learn the basics. Several weeks later, this is what I ended up with:

Crochet Cat

Crochet Cat

Crochet Cat

Any budding crochetters can find the recipe here: Melon Ball the Kitty. He's the only thing I've made so far, and made a nice present for the same person who encouraged me to try out crochet in the first place.

Making such personalised presents for people is also really satisfying, so I didn't stop there - for my sister's birthday, I managed to make these funky pillows:


I'm looking forward to my next crafty adventure!