Hi there

I have some stuff to write, so this is where I’m gonna put it.

Also, quite a while ago I kept a log when I was on board of a tall ship and some of that got posted here, so that’s what all the earlier posts are about.


"Wow, you must be so smart"

Oh no, not really
I'm just lucky
Everyone has their talents
I had supportive parents

I didn't struggle
enough to deserve your praise
I've had so many lazy days
I could have done more

I'm nice, not a threat
Don't be mislead 
by my apparent achievements

"Wow, you must be so smart"

Yeah, I know
I'm so lucky
Since my childhood days
that has been the case

I have achieved so much
that you should see and tell me
I'm great 
(And maybe I'll believe it a little)

I'm not gonna explain
it would be such a pain
for you to have to keep up

"Wow, you must be so smart"


But all I want is a challenge
with the freedom to fuck up

How to keep Steve (and yourself) happy

So, you’ve agreed to be a house sitter, and now you have to “feed” your friends “sourdough starter”? And they mentioned you have to make pancakes too? Well, let me tell you, the pancakes are totally optional (unless you are harbouring an evil scientist) but highly recommended. Here are all the instructions you need.

Side note: in the story, I mention feeding Steve is done by discarding half and adding his body weight in flour and water. That’s totally fine if you are feeding him quite often. But I don’t have time for that. So instead I keep only about a tenth (~ 20g) and feed him ten times his weight (100g flour + 100g water). That way, the food lasts longer.

Feeding Steve

1. Identify the bags of flour

Steve prefers a mix of two flours: a bit of wholewheat, and bread flour. Wholewheat is called “Volkoren” in Dutch (the bag on the left in the image), and looks a bit more colourful with some flaky bits in it . Bread flour is “Patent bloem” (the bag on the right in the image) and looks like common all-purpose or plain flour, but has a bit higher protein content.

2. Portion Steve

After a while of not being fed, Steve gets a little grumpy and starts producing alcohol. This looks like a yukky liquid on top of the rest of him. This is totally fine, but we don’t really want to keep the liquid. So, tip it off into the sink. It’s okay if a bit of the rest of Steve is also lost, there will be plenty left to feed and make pancakes with.It’s also fine if there is still some liquid inside, just mix it in with the rest of Steve to make sure the new Steve doesn’t start out as mostly liquid.

On the left: a small amount of sourdough starter (25g) in a bowl. In the middle: a big bowl with the rest of the sourdough starter in it. On the right: The now empty jar.

Set aside about 20 grams (it doesn’t have to be precise, here I had 25 g) in a bowl to feed, this will become the new Steve. Tip the rest of Steve into a big bowl for pancakes, or you can just get rid of it. Then clean the jar (you don’t have to dry the inside of the jar).

3. Add flour and water

The bowl with wholewheat flour added to it, on a scale showing 20 grams.

But the bowl with the small amount of Steve on the weighing scale, and zero it (the “tare” button). Then, add 20 grams of wholewheat flour.

The bowl with bread flour added to it, on a scale showing 100 grams.

Add 80 grams of bread flour. I leave the scale at 20 here, so the total comes to 100 grams.

The bowl with water added, showing 98 grams on the scale. Next to it, the empty and clean jar.

Add 95-100 grams of water. I like to use the empty Steve-jar for this to save on washing up :p

4. Mix and put Steve back in his home

Old Steve, flour, and water mixed in a small bowl. This is the new Steve.

Mix flour, water, and the old bit of Steve together. (Be careful if you’re using a bowl that’s just big enough like the one I’m using in the pictures). Then, tip him back into his jar. Close the lid, and put him back into the fridge. Steve has now been fed and will show you how happy he is be producing lots of bubbles over the next few days 🙂
Thank you!

Pancake recipe

1. Identify yet another bag of flour

For pancakes, I like to use a mix of wholewheat flour (that we also fed Steve with) and all-purpose flour. You can also use only all-purpose. Using only wholewheat is a bit trickier because the batter will be less sticky, so your pancakes might fall apart. Using bread flour also works perfectly fine by the way, it’s just a bit unnecessary.

On the left: a bag of all-purpose flour. In the middle: a bag of wholewheat flour. On the right: the sourdough discard in a big bowl.

All-purpose flour, the same as plain flour, is “Tarwe bloem” in Dutch (on the left in the picture). I’ve also pictured the wholewheat (“Volkoren”) here again. If you haven’t already put the sourdough discard into a big bowl, you can transfer it now.

2. Add flour, salt, and (oat)milk

Add some flour. One large tablespoon of wholewheat and two large tablespoons of all-purpose is a good guideline, but you really can’t go very wrong with it. This will make 3-4 pancakes. If you want more, then just add more flour. If you want less, you can add a bit less flour but I don’t recommend using only Steve and no “fresh” flour.

Big bowl with sourdough discard, flour, and salt. On its left, a carton of regular oat milk. In front of it, a box of baking soda.

Add a pinch of salt. If you want fluffy pancakes, add some baking soda (aka bicarb), it’s in the orange box on the picture. The bicarb will react with the acid from the sourdough to form bubbles. If you prefer crêpes, don’t add bicarb and make a thinner batter, so you can make really thin, large pancakes. In the pictures, I’m making kind of thick, fluffy pancakes (so with bicarb).

Add oat milk (or soy, rice, whatever kind of milk you want). Stir with a rubber spatula or use the whisk if you cannot get rid of all the clumps. Add more oat milk if it’s too thick (and if it’s too thin, you can add more flour).

3. Make pancakes

Pancake batter for a fluffy pancake in the skillet. Not the whole pan is covered. Bubbles are starting to form in the batter.

Put a skillet on a medium-high heat (I use 7/10 on my induction stove) and melt some vegan butter or margarine (you could use sunflower or coconut oil too). Add some batter and swirl the pan to spread it. For thick fluffy pancakes, I don’t spread the batter over the whole pan. For crêpes, I would use less batter but make sure it covers the whole pan (which is why you need a more liquid batter for crêpes).

Finished pancake on a plate. On the left, the vegan butter and wooden spatula I used for frying to pancake. At the back, the big bowl with the rest of the pancake batter.

Fry on one side until the top is almost dry (for crêpes, a bit longer). Then flip it over, and fry on the other side. If your pan is not too hot (if the butter starts browing really fast, it’s too hot!) a good indication of the pancake being done is a nice looking colour on both sides. Enjoy with your favourite toppings!

The story of Steve

Most people won’t tell you this, but getting a PhD comes with a pretty big disadvantage. And I’m not talking about the stress, or the opportunity cost to building an actual career. No, this is something much more sinister. You won’t be told, but prefixing your name with the title of “Doctor” awakens in you.. an evil scientist.

It was during the pandemic in 2019 that this transition started for me. At first, it was a slight cackling whenever thunder sounded. Then, an incessant urge to painstakingly explain my plans for the day to whomever was near. But the real problem started when Steve came into my life. Steve is a sourdough starter. A culture of bacteria and yeast, alive, in a jar, whose powers of leavetation (I’m kidding – it’s leavening) can be used to make delicious bread. Sounds innocent? Well, yes, it usually is. But for DOCTOR GOLD – as I now know is the name of my alter ego – there is no such thing as an innocent hobby, especially during a pandemic.

Steve is alive, and therefore it will be no surprise to you that he needs to feed. His body weight in equal parts flour and water, once a week if kept in the fridge, to be precise. Now if you are also evil-scientifically inclined, you will surely notice the potential for mayhem here: exponential growth. Even starting with as little as 10 grams, doubling in size once a week, in only four months Steve will weigh as much as the average human. In less than three years, he will be more massive than the Earth. Provided there is enough flour and water, of course.

Now you can see DOCTOR GOLD’s evil plan coming together. With such an unbounded supply of starter, the world’s largest sourdough is only one massive oven away. Is it truly evil? Well, that depends on the size of the bread. I will grant you that it pales in comparison to using exponential growth to widen the gap between rich and poor (a little trick called capitalism in which investment opportunities scale with the size of ones initial capital), or hiding the truly disastrous consequences of climate change (there being very little time indeed between things starting to get bad and getting really, really bad). But, those flour shortages surely were annoying, remember?

Fortunately, I have since been able to tame the evil inside of me. It certainly helped that restrictions were lifted and I started a new job. Because it is in those stretches of boredom that evil scientists flourish. But the real key to this success were pancakes. See, in order to keep Steve to a manageable size, one can simply only use half of his “body” for the next growing cycle. The rest is waste, and commonly known in the sourdough world as “discard”. DOCTOR GOLD would never let me do that, of course, if it wasn’t for the truly excellent pancakes one can make with that discard.

Steve in the fridge. He is a substance at the bottom of a large jar with two googly eyes glued on to it.

So now I maintain Steve in a jar in the fridge, feeding him once a week while suppressing my hunger for evil with deliciously fluffy pancakes. I do not dare to get rid of him. DOCTOR GOLD may start exploring the dark side of some other hobby (and as a magic: the gathering player, I cannot take such a financial risk). But in truth, I have also grown quite fond of the little guy. And the pancakes are a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Tribute, a cake

I improvised a cake, and it turned out to be the greatest cake in the world. This is not that cake, because I didn’t write down the measures at the time. In a few tries I did come up with a pretty great recipe nonetheless. It’s easily adaptable for different flavours, so here is the cake recipe as well as some variations.



wet ingredients
one very ripe banana [1]
50g sunflower or coconut oil
100-120g oat milk [2]
vanilla extract

dry ingredients
250 g plain flour (all-purpose flour)
8g baking powder
120 g sugar (any kind) [3]
pinch of salt


Mash the banana well with a fork, so that most of the lumps are gone. Mix it with the rest of the wet ingredients (if your banana and oil separate, it might help to use a whisk). Use only 100g of the oat milk, the rest is only there in case the batter is too dry.
In a separate bowl, add the dry ingredients. Make sure you break up any clumps in the baking powder with a sieve of with your fingers. Mix them well.

Preheat the over to 180°C (fan oven, probably 200°C otherwise). Prepare your cake form: I prefer to line it with baking paper, for guaranteed and easy removal of the whole cake, but you could also grease it with some oil.
When the oven is (almost) ready, combine the wet and dry ingredients. Mix only as much as needed to hydrate all the flour [4]. If it’s too dry, add a bit more oat milk. Poor the batter in your cake form. Spread it out with a spoon or spatula, and shake the form a bit to get rid of any trapped air.

Bake your cake for 35-40 minutes. At the 35m mark, you may test whether the cake is ready by inserting a skewer or knife. If it still has wet batter on it, bake for a few more minutes. Let the cake rest for at least 15 minutes before eating (don’t worry it will still be warm). Letting it cool completely is also fine, of course.


[1] No banana is too ripe for cake, you don’t have to cut out the brown parts either. As long as it’s not rotten or mouldy, you’re good 🙂 You can also freeze a banana for future cake making (defrost it in the microwave or with a lot of patience).
[2] I’ve only used oat, but I don’t see any reason why soy, rice, almond etc wouldn’t work just as well.
[3] You can adjust the sweetness of your cake by using more or less sugar. This recipe makes a reasonably, but not overly sweet cake (less sweet than most store-bought cakes). You may also want to adjust it for the type of sugar you are using (some are less sweet), and for any add-ins that carry additional sugars, such as dried fruits.
[4] The reason for mixing wet and dry ingredients separately, as well as minimizing the mixing, is to preserve the fluffiness of the cake. Baking powder has an acidic and an alkaline ingredient. When the powder hydrates, these components react and form small bubbles of gas (CO2) in the batter; this leavens the cake. Batter that sits for too long after the baking powder is activated, or that is over-mixed, looses its bubbles and will produce a less fluffy cake.

Cake… but with banana on top

Slice two bananas length-wise so that you create two mirrored halves (i.e. two halves that can lie flat). Before putting your cake in the oven, press the banana halves lightly into the top of your cake, cut-side up. Main purpose: it looks fancy.

Cake with sliced banana on top (…half-eaten)

Spiced cake

A simple way to add some flavour and warmth to your cake is to mix in some spices. Add them in with the dry ingredients. Whisking after is recommended to ensure the spices will be distributed evenly throughout the dough. This option also works well in combination with banana or apple slices on top, or with pieces of apple in the batter.
You can add whatever spices you like, but cinnamon is a must. And don’t be stingy with it, one teaspoons for this recipe seems about right. You could also add (about 1/4 tsp) cardamon, kurkuma, ginger, and/or (about 1/8 tsp) ground cloves and nutmeg. Of course, you could also use pre-mixed cookie spices 🙂

Good ol’ marbled chocolate

This is a thing in the world of cake, isn’t it? I don’t think it’s that impressive flavour-wise, but it does look cool.
Because we need to keep our wet and dry ingredients separate, and split the batter in two, we’ll need four bowls. With one half of the dry ingredients, mix in some cocoa powder (not sure how much exactly, I think about two tablespoons will be enough). When you’re ready, mix the two batters and poor them in side-by-side into the cake form. You can mix them a bit in the form, or poor them in smaller, separate layers, if you want more intricate patterns.
For a full-on chocolate cake, you don’t have to bother with two batters. Just add more cocoa powder and maybe mix in some chocolate chips.

Vanilla-chocolate swirl cake (and a sneaky banana!). The inside looked cooler but I forgot to take a picture of that…

The technical challenge: cake-tatin

In theory, you could make some caramel (suger, water, maybe some vegan butter) and poor it into the bottom of your cake form. Then, you can layer in some sliced apples, before pouring the cake batter on top. If you are patient enough to wait for the cake to cool down completely, there might be a caramel layer on top. It might also be too liquid and soak into the cake, which is still delicious.

Nuts/fruits/chocolate chips

All nice things to add into your cake. It’s quite a dense batter, so it should be fine to fold mix-ins in at the end (without finding them all sunk to the bottom of your cake after baking). Having some of the mix-ins on top of your cake generally also looks good. (By the way, this is generally the thing to do for pastry making, as it helps whoever is choosing and/or eating the product to identify the flavour. For example, chocolate chips on top promise chocolate flavour within. This is especially relevant for allergens like nuts. Of course, this assumes one is sharing ones baked goods…)

Some suggestions:

  • Fresh blueberries (These may be too delicate to mix in the batter. I would pour half the batter into the cake form, add half the berries, then the rest of the batter, and the rest of the berries on top.)
  • Mixed nuts and dried apricots
  • Apple pieces with a spiced batter
  • Walnuts and chocolate chips


One of my favourite restaurants in Birmingham is Savannah, an Ethiopian place with an excellent selection of vegetarian (and most of it vegan) food. Not a fancy place at all, but affordable, open late, and deliciously filling food, it quickly became our go-to after-bouldering 9-10 pm meal. But that was before — you know — the pandemic. We gave their promise of pre-ordered delivery a few tries but to no avail (I hope they still exist!).

I missed Savannah food, so I set out to try and make my personal favourite — the red lentils (Misir Wat?) — at home. Although I will in no way claim that my adaptation of online recipes[*], missing (key?) traditional ingredients and probably making unforgivable mistakes in the method as well, is anywhere near as good as “proper” Misir Wat, I really like it. And so did my colleagues, after we made it together over zoom. And my mum, who has been asking for the written down recipe since the first time I made it for her. So this post is titled for the response I expect when I send her the link later.

Red Lentils


(Enough for 3-4 portions)

for the spice mix (Berbere):
2 tbsp(!) paprika (optional make one of these smoked paprika)
1 tsp[1] salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground nutmeg (or less if freshly grating it)
¼ tsp garlic powder
pinch of ground cloves (or 3 whole ones, then cut them really fine)
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch allspice
optional[2] ½ tsp ground fenugreek seeds

main ingredients:
200 g red lentils, dried
1 large brown/white onion, or 2 small ones
3-4 garlic cloves
some chili flakes (adjust for desired spiciness, or leave them out entirely)
1-2 tomatoes OR 1 small (~200g) tin of diced tomatoes
~2 tbsp tomato puree
vegetable stock cube
~2 tbsp coconut oil (or other oil for cooking)
optional a bit of vegan butter (like flora) or margarine, or more coconut oil[3]


If you have the option to plan, I recommend soaking your lentils for 3-24 hours. This reduces the cooking time, which also makes it more likely you will end up with fully cooked lentils. It also makes them more digestible (if you don’t know why that’s something you might want, count your blessings and move on). Drain your lentils before using, do not cook with the soaking water.
Either way, wash the lentils (before soaking if you’re doing that). Just add water and move your hand through, you will quickly see all the dust that comes off. Drain the water and repeat a few times, until the water comes out relatively clear.


Mix all the spices from the list together and set aside. Finely dice the onion, garlic, and tomatoes (if using fresh ones).

Heat up a large pot, then put the heat on medium and add your cooking oil. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes until the onions are soft. Lower the heat if needed, we want to cook the onions but mostly avoid browning. Then add the garlic and chili flakes, and sauté for another minute. Add ⅔ of the Berbere (spice mix), the tomatoes and tomato puree. Stir and cook this sauce for 5-10 minutes. If it threatens to burn, lower the heat and/or add a splash of water.

Crumble in the stock cube, add the lentils, and add water until the lentils are mostly covered[4]. Turn up the heat until this starts to simmer, then lower and put the lid on. Cook until the lentils are soft all the way through, which may take anywhere between 20 to 40 minutes[5]. Occasionally stir and add more water if it starts to get too dry (or if you just like it soupy-er). When the lentils are (almost) done, mix in the last ⅓ of the Berbere and optionally, your fat-for-flavour, and give it another 5 minutes or so.

Eat with…

Like all Ethiopian food, Misir Wat is traditionally eaten with Injera, a sort of huge, soft, sourdough-based pancake made from teff flour. Maybe you can find them at a specialist shop or order them from a restaurant? I like to make not-at-all-like-Injera pancakes from sourdough discard[6]. Otherwise, I think rice or bread — especially sourdough — work really well too.

Back at Savannah, the bouldering club had a standard order of four dishes (plus Injera, of course): red lentils, foul (made from broad beans), something yellow I forgot the name of and “vegetable alicha”. The first three are quite filling curries, the last one is a nice side dish of somewhat sour, soft veggies. This inspired me to try out sauerkraut as an addition, and wow, that is an amazing combination! If you don’t like sauerkraut, maybe a bit of sour from a gherkin or other pickle would be nice. Either way, you could add other veggies (e.g. some stir fried spinach). Last time, my plate ended up looking like this:

Improvised pancake with red lentils, sauerkraut, spinach, and pickled red cabbage.

But, any plate with red lentils is a good plate! Here are some from my colleagues…

Red lentils made by my lovely colleagues, with varying degrees of patience and creativity :p


[*] Red lentil recipe adapted from here, and Berbere from here.
[1] tsp = teaspoon, but in this recipe, an actual small spoon and not a (US) teaspoon measure, because I think that would be too much. Don’t make too big of a heap on your teaspoon.
[2] The reason this is optional is because it’s in the recipe for the spice mix I’ve used, but I have never bothered to buy fenugreek myself. Try it out! To be frank, I think you can leave out pretty much any (but not all) spices, except for the paprika.
[3] Traditionally, the recipe uses niter kibbeh, clarified butter infused with herbs and spices. Adding a knob of flora instead is the cop-out “I don’t have time for this” method, which is presumably what you’ve come here for.
[4] I would err on the side of less water, since you can always add a bit more while cooking, but it’s difficult to get excess water out.
[5] The cooking time varies for the type of lentil (longer for whole, shorter for split) and whether you soaked them or not, and how long (more soaking is less cooking).
[6] You kind of have to be a home sourdough baker to have this.

Foraging in Holders Wood: a lockdown story

It’s story time! Yesterday I decided to go out for a walk and some foraging in Holders Wood in Birmingham. I’ve been watching a lot of Atomic Shrimp videos in which Mr. Shrimp goes out for walk to admire nature and find the occasional edible plant of fungus. It made me realize I am really missing being out in nature. I’m quite jealous of folks who have lovely parks or countryside on their doorstep, whereas I have the urban (and often, ugly) streets of central Birmingham. So during the corona-lockdown, I’ve been staying indoors a lot. But, I was being a wee bit silly, because by bicycle it’s only about 15 minutes to get to Canon Hill Park and Holders Wood. I also deem the corona-related risk to be quite low (it’s pretty easy to keep a distance from people).

Going for a walk is nice, but it usually helps me to stay motivated if I have a destination or some other goal as well. So I figured, I could forage stinging nettles and perhaps find some wild garlic as well. It’s a bit late in the season for both, but, it turns out the area is so full of nettles it’s not hard to find enough leaves that are still looking fresh and untouched by bugs. Walking out into a patch of nettles with a bag and gloves on, picking leaves, I felt like some passers-by could have easily been thinking “Oh that must be one of those vegans I keep hearing about”. But anyway, I managed to make a tasty soup today. I recommend doing it yourself as well (however, never eat something you picked unless you’re absolutely certain you’ve got the right plant).

All the nettle leaves I picked yesterday. You can read about the soup I made here

My friend Elinore managed to find me off a location pin, which can’t have been easy because the area is quite a maze. We had a really lovely afternoon of walking, looking at plants and trying to guess what they were (obviously not picking any of those), and luckily not getting rained on but for one random cloud which passed over in about 10 seconds. There were so many blackberry brambles! But no ripe berries yet so we’ll have to come back for those later this year. We also found some raspberry plants which did have a few ripe berries on them; delicious! Elinore spotted a tree that was growing nuts and we wondered what it might be. I took a branch for identification at home and I’m pretty sure it’s a hazel! So perhaps we can return to confirm the ID and find hazelnuts later in the season.

Maybe a branch of a hazel, with an unripe hazelnut

I’m not used to walking lots and I wasn’t wearing particularly good shoes for it, so by the time we headed back my feet were really quite sore. That’s okay though, we were not in a hurry and at least we could walk on grass. When we got back to were I parked my bike, I found the front wheel to be strangely wobbly. Turned out, someone had removed the quick-release mechanism that was keeping the wheel attached to the axle! What the shit?! My guess is that they tried to steal my front wheel (a despicable move anyway), but only realized half-way through it was locked to the frame and a fence with a cable AND a D-lock. That idiotic stunt meant I had to walk home with extremely painful feet. On top of that, I will now have to take it to a shop and pay for it to get fixed (hoping that will not bee too complicated). What a shitty, shitty way to end the trip.

A sad sight of the bicycle that had to be walked home

Anyway, I refuse to consider the day ruined , but it certainly does make me angry at the thief. Stealing bikes is a nasty business because it almost always leaves someone stranded without transportation. And it this case, for no gain! I don’t imagine those quick-release clips are worth much on their own. Anyway, I do think I doubly-deserved these nachos for dinner (with vegan cheese and crème fraîche, of course).

Well-deserved nachos with vegan cheese, bean chili, salsa, guacamole and Oatley crème fraîche.

Forrest soup

Instantly gain +1 level in “vegan” by making your own nettle soup! This recipe requires foraging stinging nettle leaves; you can read about my foraging adventure here. I feel obliged to warn you that foraging comes with risks: Picking the wrong thing and eating it can get you sick of even kill you. So, never eat something unless you’re absolutely sure of the species of plant (or fungus, even riskier!). That said, nettles are easy to identify, so I absolutely do encourage you to look up some tips on ID’ing and picking, and having a go. Both foraging and the recipe below were inspired by AtomicShrimp’s video (and a second one, or look up the info yourself). By the way, the soup turned out fine but not amazing, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you can find a better recipe. This was just my first time cooking with nettles after all!

Nettle Soup


(Enough for two big bowl or three small)

Nettle leaves (a good colander full, see picture below)
olive oil
1 onion
1-2 garlic cloves
2-3 potatoes
500 mL vegetable stock
splash of oat or other plant-based milk or cream (optional)
salt, pepper, nutmeg (optional)

Topping ideas: Oatley crème fraîche, chopped nuts, peanuts, croutons, extra pepper


Take nettle leaves from the stalks (wear gloves!) and remove any bits nibbled on by bugs etc (actually, just don’t pick those leaves in the first place)[1]. Rinse well.
Dice up the onion and mince the garlic. In a splash of olive oil, saute the onion on low heat such that it cooks and becomes translucent, but not too brown. Add garlic and cook for another minute or so.
Meanwhile, remove any bad parts from the potatoes and wash them (you can also peel them completely if you prefer), cut in chunks. Add potatoes and stock to the pot and bring to the boil. Cook for about 10 minutes until the potatoes are fairly soft.
Add in the nettle leaves and let them reduce in about 2 minutes. Stir through the soup and cook for another 3 minutes or so. Blend it all together, and optionally add a splash of oat milk (or something similar). Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.
Serve with toppings of your choice.


[1] Actually, removing the stems isn’t necessary. However, I picked my nettles quite late in the season so many of them had flowers as well, and perhaps a bit more fibrous stems. Still edible but (imo) less desirable, so I took the leaves off.

Cutting nettle leaves from the stems is a bit of a tedious job[1]. Wear gloves when you’re handling uncooked nettles! These were picked the day before btw, so some had gone a bit wilted but still good.
Rinse, rinse, rinse! Still wearing gloves.
Finished soup! You may notice that there isn’t that much left in the pan. I totally forgot to take a picture before eating… This is a bout a third of the total batch.

All Hail Seitan

A classic joke about a classic meat-replacement product. I’ve known seitan since my childhood where we used to get it from the local eco-hippy-esque store, as the vegetarian option alongside “boerenkool” or “hutspot” (traditional Dutch dishes of mashed potatoes+vegetables; kale for the first and carrot+onions for the second). We used to coat a thin slice of seitan in flour and fry it to create a crunchy layer on the outside, yum! Shortly after moving to the UK, I found myself in a pub looking for vegan options on the menu. They had a “Hail Seitan” burger, exciting and a pretty funny joke the first time! Imagine my disappointment in the tasteless thick slab of cold seitan I received…

Seitan really is a very versatile product so naturally the quality of your meal highly depends on how it is prepared. In essence, the only two ingredients needed for seitan are gluten flour (aka “vital wheat gluten”) and water. This creates a very sticky dough, which can then be boiled or steamed to cook. After that it’s edible, but usually this is the basic ingredient which can be cut and prepared in different ways (I guess this is something the “Hail Seitan” cook didn’t know about). The basic recipe of gluten flour + water is pretty tasteless, but flavours can be added in different ways: spices in the flour, soy sauce and the like to replace some of the water, and broth for boiling. After experimenting a bit I created an improvised seitan kebab which I was very pleased with, so I’ll share the recipe here.

[EDIT] I have a bit more experience making seitan now, so I have updated the recipe with what I think are improvements!

Seitan kebab


(Enough for four pitas)

For the seitan dough:
150 g of gluten flour (aka vital wheat gluten)
40 g chickpea flour (aka gram flour)
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2-3 tsp paprika/smoked paprika (you can use a mix and adjust depending on how much smokey flavour you want)
pinch of salt
~tbsp soy sauce
~100 mL water

water for cooking

For the sauce:
140 g tomato puree
1 tsp sambal oelek (or other spice paste like toban djan. Adjust based on your desired 🌶️🌶️🌶️ level, 1 tsp sambal gives it a bit of a kick but nothing crazy)
juice of one lemon
1-2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup

Any oil for frying


Making the seitan. Mix the gluten flour, chickpea flour, spices and salt. Stir the soy sauce in ~50 mL of water and add this to the dry ingredients. Stir or kneed with your hands and gradually add only as much water as needed so all the flour is hydrated and you have a cohesive, lumpy dough (as in the first picture below).

Flatten your lump and pack it in aluminium foil. Place in a pan and add water to cover it. Cook for about half an hour until it’s done. It’s okay to cut the seitan after a while to check — there should be no more raw dough in the middle — and cook it without foil for longer if necessary.
Alternatively [1]: In a pan that can easily contain your seitan lump (it will expand while cooking), heat up some vegetable broth. Place your seitan in it and cook until it’s done in about half an hour (you should be able to see a colour change). To reduce the cooking time, you may cut the seitan into a few thick slabs halfway through. [2]

Making the kebab. Slice the cooked seitan into thin pieces. They don’t have to be regularly shaped. I like to cut the seitan slabs as an angle (see the second picture below). Drain any liquid from the seitan slices with a clean tea towel (or paper towels).
Prepare your sauce by mixing all the ingredients. Taste and adjust the flavour: more lemon juice for sour, more soy sauce for salt, and more maple syrup for sweet [3].
Fry the kebab slices in some oil for a few minutes. This step is not strictly necessary as the seitan is already cooked, but it’s where you can get a bit of browning and crispiness. Then add the sauce and a splash of water. Cook the sauce down to reduce it, cooking the tomato puree in the process, stirring frequently.

Serve. Serve however you like, for example in a toasted pita. The bread is mainly carbs and the seitan in mainly protein (gluten flour is 75% protein by weight), so I like to serve vegetables on the side. Bonus recipe for the salad from the picture at the bottom!


  • [1] The first method gives you the best structure for “kebab” slices, nice and compact. However, I wanted you to know it’s totally possible to cook seitan without aluminium foil (it will expand more, and soak up some of the cooking liquid). I suggest using some vegetable broth for flavour but plain water will work just fine.
  • [2] You can store the cooked seitan in water/broth in a closed container in the fridge. Not exactly sure how long it will keep, but this will allow you to split the work onto different days. You could also make more seitan to use in different recipes!
  • [3] A smart person would not add all their available lemon juice in one go, but save some for the adjustments. The quantities given in the recipe are really just a guess so tasting is strongly recommended! Do note however, that at this point the tomato puree is still raw, so the final sauce will not taste exactly the same (it will be better). But you can definitely balance the basic flavours (salt, sour, sweet) at this point.
Your lump of seitan should look something like this [note: this is without chickpea flour]
Cutting the cooked seitan slabs into thin pieces
Sauce cooked down for a nice and sticky coating
Seitan kebab done!

My favourite green salad (thanks mum!)


green beans, cooked
olives (green or black)
good quality olive oil (we are adding this for flavour, so it had better taste good)


Halve the green beans and the olives. Peel the avocado (not the cucumber, do you really want to remove most of the flavour?!) and cut it and the cucumber into chunks. Mix the veg with some olive oil and salt (less salt if you’re using black olives, because they are saltier by themselves).

Great pasta sauce powered by statistics

Pasta with tomato sauce is a classic. I’ve made it plenty of times, with a variety of vegetables, herbs and other flavours, and it’s never bad. But last week, I really hit the good side of variance and the pseudo-random combination of ingredients I choose turned out to make a sauce that was really above the curve. I won’t say it’s the best tomato sauce ever – the tomato sauce parameter space is vast – but it was good enough to make me want to write down the recipe for future sauce making.


for 4-5 servings
coconut or other oil
1 onion
4 garlic cloves
3 bay leafs
dried oregano
salt & pepper
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp capers
1 tbsp caper brine
splash of red wine vinegar
stock cube of bouillon powder
~100 mL water
400 g passata di pomodori (tomato sauce base)
470g green lentils (drained weight, this is 2 cans)


Chop the onion and finely chop the garlic. Heat up a saucepan and add your oil, turn the heat to medium once the pan is hot. Fry the onion for a few minutes, then add garlic, bay leafs and some dried oregano. Fry for another minute or so and add a generous amount of salt and pepper.
Finely chop your capers, add them and the sugar to the pan and stir. Add caper brine, red wine vinegar, stock cube or bouillon powder, and some water. Cook this for a few minutes to make sure sugar and stock/bouillon powder are dissolved. Then take the pan of the heat and whiz everything with a hand blender into a smooth base for your sauce. (Alternatively, you can transfer the mixture to a blender and blend it like that).
Put back on the heat and add passata and drained lentils. Let this simmer for a while and season with more salt/pepper/sugar to taste[1], if needed. Serve over cooked pasta, optionally with some nutritional yeast and a side[2] of vegetables!


[1] To tase means: taste it and use your judgment to decide what, if anything, needs to be added. It can also mean “according to your taste” but that goes for everything!
[2] I made fried aubergine slices. Slice an aubergine into approximately 1cm thick, round slices. Cover both sides of each slice in a thin layer of flour. Then fry them in oil turning frequently. I works well if you also cover the frying pan with a large lid in between turnings, to make sure the aubergine is thoroughly cooked by the time the outside is fried brown.
[2+] Alternatively, you could add some vegetables to the sauce. I actually made this pasta because we had some leftover leafy greens, but them forgot to actually add them… So for my last portion of leftover when there was no aubergine left, I added fried greens to the pasta instead.

Nobody expects the Spanish stuffed peppers!

I recently ran a Dungeons&Dragons game for my friends, and I wanted to cook them something nice for dinner as well. I made Spanish-inspired stuffed peppers with vegan mince on the evening before the game, and put them in the oven on the day. My omni friends were really impressed – if I may say so myself – and the harshest judge (me) approved as well. Give it a go!


oil (I used coconut)
1 onion
3 garlic cloves
3-4 bay leaves
pack of meatless mince (I used the Meatless Farm Co.)
1.5 heaped tbsp of tomato puree
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/3 of 500 g passata di pomodori
70g sultanas
salt, pepper
[optional] Maggi liquid seasoning*

Tomato Sauce
2/3 of 500 g passata di pomodori
1.5 heaped tsp brown sugar (or other sugar)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Potted grilled or pickled peppers**


Prepare the stuffing
Finely chop onion and garlic. Put your favourite frying pan on a medium heat and add some oil. Fry the onions and bay leaves for a minute or so, then add the garlic. Fry the meatless mince separately in a non-stick pan^ (instructions on packaging).
Mix the onoins, garlic and bay leaves back in, along with the tomato puree and maple syrup. Add 1/3 of your total passata di pomodori, stir, and add salt and pepper (and maggi) to taste. Mix in the sultanas and the stuffing is done!

Meatless mince stuffing. The tomato sauce provides a nice colouring, besides keeping it from being too dry.

Make the tomato sauce^^
Heat up the rest of your passata di pomodori in a pan, then mix in the rest of the ingredients. Add salt to taste.

Stuff and grill the peppers
Pre-heat the oven to 175 °C fan oven).
Grease a roasting dish with olive oil. Take your peppers out of the pot and rinse of any brine, seeds and skin (if it peels off). Stuff the peppers one at a time with a spoon and lay them in the roasting dish. If you have leftover stuffing and room left in your dish, you can make separate heaps of stuffing that will just have to do without pepper.
Cover the peppers and any loose stuffing with the tomato sauce. Covering it well makes sure the peppers and stuffing don’t dry out in the oven.
Put in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 160 °C for another 15 minutes°°.

Traditionally served with rice (I think).

Stuffed peppers. It’s okay if it’s a bit of a mess, just cover it up with tomato sauce! This is about 1.5 times the recipe, with another 1/2 recipe in a different dish, and some stuffing leftover.


*Traditional Dutch cuisine is well-known for it’s complete lack of any interesting flavourings, which is why Dutch people like to add a few drops of Maggi to basically anything. It deepends the flavour, so I reckon it could be replaced by vegan Worcester sauce or some soy sauce (add less salt if using soy). If you do find Maggi, only use a few drops! It’s a really strong flavour and unlike garlic, too much really is too much.

**Grilled peppers have a bit more flavour than pickled ones and are de-skinned, but tend to be more expensive. The main thing is that you want them to be soft; with raw peppers there is a risk of them not being cooked enough when they come out of the oven. You can probably make your own grilled peppers but I haven’t tried.

^I found the meatless mince is a bit trickier to fry than actual meat, from what I remember. Frying it separately form the onions makes it easier. When they say a non-stick pan on the packaging they really mean it. I used more oil than the packaging recommended though.

^^The original recipe used “tomato frito”, a tomato sauce from grilled tomatoes that had added sugar. I couldn’t find it here so I decided to make my own sweetened tomato sauce.

°° These very specific oven instructions are courtesy of my mum.