January 28, 2020 07:47 +0000  |  Food 0

We've been developing a decent chili recipe over the years, initially derived from this one, but as it's been so heavily modified from the original, consulting it when making dinner no longer makes sense. So, in an effort to simplify cooking it for ourselves, and perhaps so that others may enjoy it, I'm sharing it here.


  • 500g ground beef
  • 2 zucchini, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 6 carrots, as the zucchini
  • 2 onions, diced into cubes no larger than 1cm虏
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled and chopped into tiny slices
  • a splash of olive oil
  • 2 heaped tsp mild chili powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds (you can never have too much cumin)
  • 2 beef stock cubes
  • 500ml passata (if you like your chili a little runny, 750ml might be better)
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1 can red kidney beans, rinsed & drained (or some pre-boiled raw ones)
  • salt & pepper
  • long grain rice (we tend to favour brown Basmati), to serve
  • sour cream, to serve

The important thing to note here is that variation is encouraged. They say that while baking is a science, cooking is an art, so feel free to take some artistic license if you want to experiment.


The preparation of this meal is the hardest part. For the actual cooking, you just dump stuff into the pot in the right order and wait the right amount of time between additions.

Put a reasonably-big pot on the stove. For something like this, you probably want your Big Soup Pot. Put the heat up to medium, and when it's reasonably warm, add that splash of oil.

Once the oil is warm, add the onions, chili powders, paprika, and about half the cumin. Stir until the onion is translucent and the spices are nicely distributed. Now add the garlic and stir a little to make sure it's covered too.

Next up is the cow. Crank the heat up a little and toss it all in. Break it up and stir it regularly until it's properly brown. This part is important: before you move onto the next step, make sure the meat is cooked all the way through, otherwise it won't have the right texture in the final product.

Now add the zucchini and carrots, stirring both around again for the sake of distribution.

Things are looking a little dry at this stage, so here we add some fluids. Make some beef stock from those 2 stock cubes (in my case it was 600ml of water, but do whatever the stock box says). Mix the stock into your primordial chili along with your passata, the marjoram, and the rest of cumin. This is also a good time to add some salt & pepper to taste.

Drop the heat back down to medium and add the beans. Stir everything around, cover it, and let it simmer for about 20-30min, stirring occasionally. Toward the end of this time, take the lid off so some of the excess water has a chance to evaporate. You'll know it's ready when it has the consistency you want.

Serve over a bed of rice, topped with a dollop of sour cream.

April 26, 2019 19:21 +0100  |  Family Food Grandma Lidia 2

I've written about my grandmother's soup before, here and here, but those are both attempts to capture a special Romanian soup called "chorba". That soup is quite complicated and can be a hassle to throw together when all you want is something warm & nutritious to help fight off a coming cold so I wanted to share her typical chicken soup for my dear friend Noreen who's in need of such a thing right now.



  • 1 whole chicken Generally for this sort of thing, bigger is better, but as it forms the base of your soup, you want a proper oily one too. I tend to opt for a free-range one over a larger battery-cage type one as these tend to be a little less... I don't know, sterilised.
  • Some carrots I usually opt for a minimum of 3, but will happily add as many as 8. Honestly, there's no downside to adding more veggies as it only makes your soup tastier and healthier.
  • Some parsnips See the above rules for carrots
  • 1 bunch of celery: Again, volume is good here, so don't be stingy as this stuff is pretty cheap and adds a lot of flavour.
  • 1 large white onion
  • Lots of salt: Don't be stingy.
  • Pepper
  • A fist full of fresh parsley: You really can't overdo this, but generally I take a pack from Tesco and dump the whole thing in.


  • Garlic (chopped up and tossed in with the veggies)
  • Olive oil (in case your chicken doesn't have enough oil in it already)


Over the years, I've adapted my grandmother's recipe to suit Christina's and my tastes. Where the two methods have diverged, I've noted them below, but honestly, you can mix and match and the results will still be yummy.

1. Stock

It's pretty simple: get a big pot and put your chicken in it. Then, fill that pot with enough water that it totally covers the chicken by about 3cm (~1" for the American savages that haven't yet figured out metric 馃槣). Put that pot on the stove and crank it up to medium heat.

A note about the heat at this stage: this step has two purposes: cooking the chicken (salmonella is a bitch) and creating your stock. If you crank the heat to maximum, you'll cook the chicken alright, but you won't have enough time to leach the goodness out of the skin and bones. If you're in a hurry, you can crank it up to 75% at most, but a tastier soup comes from a slow, even hours-long boil at a low heat.

Add some salt while it's cooking. How much? Lots. Take what you think a soup should have in it and triple it. I have one of those boxes of idodised salt in the cupboard and I open the mouth wide to pour about 5 turns of salt into the pot myself.

Cover it, and let it slowly come to a boil. Depending on how impatient you are, this can be about 30 minutes or 3 hours. If you've got the time, I highly recommend the patient route. Besides, you have other things to do while you wait.

Note that while it's cooking, some white fluffy goo might float to the surface (it varies by chicken). Just scoop it off with a slotted spoon every once in a while.

2. Vegetables

Now that the stock is doing its thing, lets get to the other tasty bits. But first, a note about divergence.

My grandmother's recipe calls for all of the ingredients above, but notably, she doesn't put the onion & celery in the soup. They're added for flavour, but removed before serving. Christina likes these bits though, so we chop them up with the rest of the veggies and leave everything in.

Given the above, if you're going Grandma's route, you'll wanna chop the onion in half and chop the celery stalks into halves as well. She also tends to cut the other veggies unusually large... that's your call I guess.

If you're going with my adaptation, then you'll want to cut all of the veggies down into bite-sized chunks (and the onion even smaller: diced). Dump them all into a big bowl or two and wait for the chicken to finish.

3. Chicken Out, Veggies In

You've just spent a bunch of time sucking the tastiness out of your chicken and into that salt water. You can tell we're ready because there should be little bubbles of oil floating on the surface of your water and the chicken skin should be showing signs of peeling back from the flesh.

A note about oil bubbles: This is the sign of some good broth: a good oily chicken tends to produce lots of yummy bubbles, so if you feel like your broth doesn't look sufficiently bubbly, even after an hour of cooking, feel free to add a tablespoon of olive oil at this stage.

Remove the whole chicken from the pot and put it aside. As it'll have a lot of water in it, I don't recommend just plopping into a cutting board, but rather I tend to favour putting it in a casserole dish to cool down. Be very careful as (a) the chicken is very hot, and (b) it's likely hiding pockets of boiling water. Use big long metal tongs or something. Be creative, but safe.

Once it's out and cooling down in the open air, take all of those veggies you chopped up and toss them in the water. Regardless of whether you opted for the veggies-all-in option or the flavour-only-subset, everything goes in right now.

Put the lid back on, reduce the heat, and let it simmer on low. The timing after this point isn't all that important. So long as your veggies simmer for at least 20 minutes, you'll be fine. If they simmer for an additional 4 hours, that's cool too.

Chicken Back In

Once your chicken has cooled down, you'll want to cut the meat off and into bite-sized pieces. Go through the whole bird and take as much as you can, making sure that you don't accidentally include any bones or inedibles. Put all of your edible bits right back into the soup.


That's basically it. We've combined the two age-old food groups: salt and fat, with some vegetables & domesticated bird meat. It's yummy, but it can still be a little better.

Chop up your parsley as finely as you can and dump it all into the pot. Then, grind some black pepper into the pot for taste. I usually do about 12 turns of my grinder and then add more to individual bowls, but I love me some pepper.


I always forget this part, but it's critical: the noodles are cooked separately. Pick a noodle type (we tend to favour fusilli, but my grandmother prefers angel hair pasta.) toss it into a pot of boiling salted water and cook whatever you want for this sitting.

Put a handful of cooked pasta into each bowl and then ladle your soup from the big pot into each bowl. Do not put the noodles in the soup pot unless you intend to eat all of it today (unlikely, you cooked a whole bird). Generally you cook the noodles you need for each sitting

That's it! Enjoy your foodz, and let me know how it goes! If you like it, I'll let my grandmother know you appreciate it :-)

December 06, 2014 13:30 +0000  |  Family Food Grandma Lidia 2

This is my second attempt at documenting my Grandmother's so-called "sour-soup" or "chorba" as is apparently the appropriate word for it. I've been trying to replicate it for years, but recently, she and I sat down and worked everything out (while i video recorded everything) and I've finally managed to reproduce this amazing dish. I present it now for you in the hopes that it will brighten your day too:

Note: my grandmother isn't big on measuring, so I'm afraid I don't have much to offer in the standardised quantities department. Instead, I'll be listing the ingredients in the very same way she provided them to me: in practical use cases.


  • Some meat.
    • Turkey is good for this, but you can get away with chicken or even beef (big chunks, not ground). Ask yourself how much you want in your soup, and that's how much you'll need.
  • 4 Parsnips
  • 4 Carrots
  • 1 Bunch of celery
  • 1 White onion
  • 1 Red pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • A handful or two of some kind of pasta or rice.
    • I typically go for orzo or white rice, but you can also use angel hair pasta.
  • A handful of Lovage
  • A handful of parsley
  • Some sour cream
  • Salt
  • Pepper (fresh ground black pepper, none of that powdered stuff)
  • A big spoonful of vinegar (for the garnish step, below)


This is a two-part system, and it's probably best if you do things one at a time. Pros like my grandmother who have been doing this for 50 years can do things in parallel, but if this is your first or second time trying this out, pace yourself and do one pot at a time.


In this two-part system we have vegetables we're going to eat, and vegetables we're using for flavour only, so we're going to break up our veggies into two groups:

A Warning

Throughout this whole process, it's important to note that the pot should always be covered, or you'll lose too much water and you'll end up with a more stew-like soup than you probably want.

Group 1: Flavour Only

In this group you have:

  • 2 Parsnips
  • 2 Carrots
  • 2 or 3 stalks of celery
  • 1 White onion

You chop these into big pieces, no less than 7cm long. For the onion, you just cut it in half. Leave these bits on the cutter board 'cause you'll need them soon.

Group 2: For Eating

In this group you have:

  • 2 Parsnips
  • 2 Carrots
  • 2 stalks of celery (if you're into eating celery in your soup)
  • 陆 Red pepper
    • I usually just throw out the other half, but you can use the whole thing if you really like red peppers.

These are all chopped into bit-sized chunks. Put the chopped bits into a great big bowl for now.

Cook That Meat

You need to quickly cook the meat to seal in the good stuff, and you also want to clean the ugly bits out of your soup before you actually start making broth so...

  • Put your big chunks of meat into a proper soup pot. You probably want something capable of about 6L or more of water. Don't worry about the size of the meat pieces yet, we'll make them mouth-friendly later.
  • Fill up said pot with water until the water just covers the meat.
  • Add some salt and pepper.
    • Don't be stingy with the salt. If you skimp out on salt early, you'll have very exciting-looking water masquerading as soup.
  • Cover the pot and crank the heat up to 10, stirring occasionally so the meat doesn't cook all on one side. When the water boils, drop the heat down to 5. If any gunk floats to the surface (this is excess fat and other undesirable bits) scoop it off with a strainer or slotted spoon.

Completing the Stock

  • Now that you've got the beginnings of your stock, add your "flavour only" vegetables. Let them hang out in the water there with the meat for a bit. Drop the heat down to 3 or 4 and let things slow-boil.

Vegetables for Eating

Now with the stock pot simmering on the side, we're going to work on the veggies we intend to eat.

  • Dump all of your for-eating veggies into a deep pan or pot. Make sure that there's room to stir stuff around because you're going to be doing a lot of that.
  • Add some olive oil. How much? Enough to saut茅 the veggies. Typically I start out with a little bit and add until I feel that all of the veggies are getting enough love.
  • Run the heat up to 5 or 6 and stir frequently to make sure that all of your veggies get cooked properly.

Bite-Sized Meat

Going back to your stock pot, it should have been simmering there for a good 10-20 minutes. It's time to remove everything that doesn't belong.

  • Open the pot and remove all of the vegetables. You might want to keep them around to eat separately, but they don't belong in your soup anymore.
  • Now remove the meat and place it on a cutting board.
  • Put the lid back on if you haven't already.
  • Chop up that meat (careful, it's hot) into edible bits. Go ahead and sample some if you like, but my experience has been that the meat by itself at this point isn't very tasty. All the good stuff is back in the soup. At this stage, the meat is mostly for texture.
  • Dump your chopped meat back into the stock pot
  • Dump all of your newly saut茅ed vegetables (along with any remaining olive oil) into the stock pot

You're almost done.


At this point, you've got a pretty functional soup, but it needs something starchy, like pasta or rice, so let's do that.

If you're going the route of orzo or rice, I highly recommend that you rinse it first to get off all the excess starch. Otherwise you risk clouding your soup. It won't taste bad, but it'll be less pretty.

If you're going the noodle route, you'll want to break it into tiny pieces so it's easier to eat.

Either way, dump your chosen carb into your soup, cover it, and let it boil at a low temperature until the pasta/rice is ready.


At this point, the soup is edible, but not yet exciting. You need to add all of the lovage and parsley at this stage:

  • Finely chop or rip the lovage and parsley into the soup
  • Stir it a bit and let it settle for another 5-10 minutes on a very low heat.
  • Stir in the vinegar as well


Finally we're ready to eat. Portion out the soup into bowls, and just before you serve, stir in a spoonful of sour cream. I can't tell you how much better this makes things.

That's it! The portions listed above should serve about 4 bowls, but I usually double things so we have enough soup for a few days.

July 07, 2013 21:51 +0100  |  Communism Economy Food Language Travel Urban Design 1

The Centre for Science and Culture
The Centre for Science and Culture
Warsaw's Old City
Warsaw's Old City
Krak贸w's St. Mary's Cathedral
Krak贸w's St. Mary's Cathedral
Krak贸w's Old Market
Krak贸w's Old Market
Shoes belonging to the victims of Auschwitz
Shoes belonging to the victims of Auschwitz

I went on two rather big trips over the past few months, and with the exception of my recounting of Auschwitz, I haven't written about either yet. I'll start with Poland, and if I have time tonight or tomorrow, I'll try to fit Greece in here too.

For 2013, DjangoCon was held in Warsaw, Poland, and for the first time in my life, I was working for company willing to fund the trip. I bookended the conference with a few vacation days, and squeaked out a little over a week of time to explore the most Eastern place in Europe I've been able to see so far.

Urban Landscape

To say Warsaw is beautiful would be a little too generous, but it's not nearly as ugly as I had expected. World War II saw nearly 85% of the city demolished, and then the Soviets took over, littering the landscape with those 60s/70s era square, concrete monstrosities. Like most things communist, the architecture is efficient, and ugly as hell. Despite this though, Warsaw has managed to renew itself in this post-communist era. Big people-friendly parks with fountains dot the landscape, surrounding the historical landmarks around the city. There's an epic building at the centre of everything called "The Centre for Science and Culture" -- a gift from the Soviets to the people of Warsaw. It's an interesting to comprehend the communist view of society: what was exalted, what was suppressed.

The suburbs of Warsaw are pretty depressing. The Soviet architecture is unrelenting, and unlike the core, there hasn't been a lot of money invested here. Wide roads with no sidewalks frame collections of square concrete towers entrenched in overgrown and unmanicured grass. Sidewalks, where they exist are cracked and unmaintained, and graffiti is everywhere. Still, while I don't paint a very pretty picture, the area I was in felt quite safe: playgrounds and families with children, people walking their dogs or just sitting enjoying the sound of kids playing. While it's immediately apparent that there isn't much money here, the people seem content, even happy.


Polish is a rough language. I know I've bitched about Greek here, but let me tell you Polish is no picnic either. I managed to learn how to pronounce key words like "please", "thank you", "yes" and "no", but outside of that, I found it really difficult even to get the sound of the words to process in my brain. Thankfully, I had my phone doing a lot of the heavy lifting, using Google Translate like a boss everywhere I go. I even had it talk for me in a few tight situations. For the most part the older generation speaks no English at all, while the younger crowd, like people their age all over the world, is working hard at learning. Hollywood movies are subtitled and not dubbed as they are in Germany, which apparently helps out a lot. Still, if you're a unilingual anglophone like myself, having a semi-universal translator in your pocket is a really good idea if you're visiting here.


When the war ended and the Soviets occupied Poland, they offered to rebuild Warsaw's Old City but did so with a catch: they would rebuild the entire town, but not the Royal Castle. Not stupid, the Varsovians took the Soviets up on their offer, but rebuilt the castle after they were driven from Poland decades later. This Soviet policy of dismantling the monarchy in the hearts of minds of the Poles extended well beyond this offer, occupied Warsaw saw the Soviets deface national monuments everywhere, burning the crowns off of the Polish coat of Arms everywhere they could find it. Much like the castle, the crowns were re-attached after the Soviets left.

The monarchy wasn't the only thing the Soviets wanted to destroy and religion was high on their list, but even they weren't crazy enough to try to outlaw the church in Poland. Catholicism was, and still is, very strong in Poland, bolstered considerably by the actions of John Paul II, a Pole himself who is credited (at least in part) with the defeat of communism. There are still churches all over Warsaw and Krak贸w, and many of them display his likeness on the outside in paintings and sculpture.

One last note on the culture: from what I could tell, "socialism" here is an even dirtier word than it is in the US. The cab driver who took me home one night kept asking me questions about Canada (his English was pretty good) and toward the end he said something to the effect of "it must be nice to have such strong capitalism there". I tried to explain that many of us aspire to a more socialist state, but he seemed to think I was pulling his leg or something. It would seem that Poland's experience with communism has tainted the whole concept for a few generations.


Poland is one of the poorer European nations, still recovering from decades of occupation and neglect. The currency there is called the z艂oty (pronounced zlottee) and you can buy one for about $0.33CAD or 鈧0.23. In real world terms, this means that a Twix chocolate bar will run you about $0.40CAD or 鈧0.30. So long as you stay out of the tourist-targetted places (read: Hard Rock Caf茅), you can easily get by on about 鈧10/day.

My hostel was in the suburbs, one of those aforementioned concrete monstrosities that had been gutted and heavily renovated on the inside. My private room had a big comfortable bed, free wifi, a private bathroom and it was super-clean. I stayed there for 10days for about 1200z艂 or 鈧278. This was so affordable that I just abandoned my hostel for one night and left for Krak贸w by high speed train (60z艂) where I splurged on a 4star hotel for 232z艂 so I could visit Auschwitz. Honestly, if you're looking for a low-cost holiday in a country where the food is decent, and the history fascinating, Poland is the place.


Apparently, Poland is the land of pierogis, so I sampled a bunch while I was in Warsaw. Honestly, I don't see the appeal, but they weren't terrible. I'd like to experiment with making them on my own sometime though. They're pretty simple, and might be more to my liking with some bacon and feta...

They also have this ridiculous ice cream (not my photo) there that, while saturated in sugar is really fun to eat. The soups all have a flavour similar to other Eastern European styles, and the diet in general is very "meat and potatoes" friendly. Generally, my stomach had a good time in Poland.


Poland is pretty awesome. It's the birthplace of both Marie Curie and Copernicus, the seat of Auschwitz and and archive of 20th century cold war history. If you've got t the opportunity, I recommend a visit.

Photos from the trip can be found in my image gallery

April 07, 2011 21:01 +0100  |  Amsterdam Food Oxyor/Marketsims 1

I'm seriously considering stealing the CSS from a nice-looking WordPress theme and crowbarring it into this site. I just hate how unreadable it is.

So here's an update for those if you not following my Twitter feed:

I've found an apartment

It's in Bussum, the tiny town that plays host to my job. The people there are definitely more reserved than Amsterdamers, but they're still friendly, even when they think I'm American. The primary reasons for my selecting this location include the 10minute walk to work and the 鈧800/mo price tag, which is incredibly low for the size and quality of place.

I'm making friends

I've managed to meet a few friendly people at some meetups around town, either through CouchSurfing or via an event on One of the people I met accompanied me to Zandfoort, a beach town on the edge of the North Sea, and then brought me to a party where I had the opportunity to meet a number of really cool people including some Romanian Expats who were impressed by my (very limited) knowledge of their language.

The job is Big

It's funny, during the interview, I really wasn't sure why they were hiring a full-time guy for something that really felt like a contract gig. As far as I knew, they just wanted a community site, with an e-commerce component sure, but it didn't seem that big. Well now that I've been treated to The Big Vision from the Head Cheese, I know better. This is going to be a very big, very challenging project -- made even more difficult by the fact that I'm the only web developer on the project. There's a few Java people, but no one working on the community project but me. I'm learning a lot about Django though, which is cool... now if only I can figure a way to integrate Android development and mapping, that would be pretty sweet.

The Food is Amazing

And lastly, I'd just like to take a moment to talk about how fabulous the food is here. Have I done that yet? OMG FOOD. For the most part, the primary cuisine here is in some sort of sandwich. Meat + cheese + bread = awesome. But how is this awesome? We do have those things in Canada after all. Oh no my friends, no we do not. The bread here, even the white bread from the grocery store for 鈧0.50 is flavourful. And the cheese! OMG cheese. Simple, plain, and super-tasty. Even the slips of meat you buy wrapped in plastic taste great. Croissants, puff pastries, doughnuts... you guys, it's as if my whole life in Canada I was walking around with chalk on my tongue. Yes, it's that good.


When I got home today, there was a letter from IND on the table. They have my BSN (finally). I have to go get it though, which is kind of lame, but I really can't complain. Soon, I will be a Real Person in the Netherlands!

November 04, 2010 03:05 +0000  |  Family Food Grandma Lidia 5

So now that I'm unemployed, I suppose I have time to catch up on stuff here. There are a lot of posts I've been meaning to save here, and there's no time like the present to post them all. I'll start with the recipe for my grandmother's chicken soup.

My grandmother (on my mother's side) is the Chef-as-Matriarch of the family. Since I was a kid, she's had the family over for these massive European-style feasts. 4-7 courses, turkey, pork roast, cabbage rolls, roasted vegetables, soup, green salad, egg salad, pie, cake, and sometimes cr猫me caramel if it was my grandfather's birthday.

All of these are amazing, but what she's known for, practically worshipped for in this family is her soup. Below is the recipe for her sour soup. For the most part, the mechanics are the same. You can swap out the stewed tomatoes for any kind of meat you like. The key is the first line, those vegetables make up the base that's used in all good soup. This incarnation is my favourite though. The sour cream step make everything fabulous:

  • carrot, parsnip, celery, onion (one of each, she calls this "miroquois")
  • Saut茅 in pot with oil until the onions are translucent
  • Add ½ a can of stewed tomatoes
  • Add 2 tomato cans worth of water
  • Add salt and pepper
  • Simmer until veggies are done (about 15minutes)
  • Take 1 big tbsp of sour cream and combine with a small amount of broth and mix until smooth and return to pot.
  • Add parsley for taste
  • Add some noodles

Now that's the recipe, but I've yet to actually make it work. I suppose now I have some more time to experiment.

September 22, 2008 18:47 +0100  |  Food Recipes 0

Long forgotten by most of the planet, Green Goddess is probably the best salad dressing ever made. I used to have the recipe in my computer somewhere, but I've done too many hardware upgrades -- I appear to have lost my only copy.

Thankfully, Melanie helped me dig it up online last night. I've posted it below for posterity and for my own records. Please feel free to try this at home:

  • 1 c. Real Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 c. parsley sprigs
  • 2 green onions, cut up
  • 2 tbsp. tarragon vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 c. plain yogurt
  • Place first 9 ingredients in blender container; cover. Blend until smooth.
  • Fold in yogurt. Cover; chill. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Note that the yogurt ingredient above can be substituted with sour cream if you're so inclined.