Recipes and thoughts about food.

I reworked my flexible Thai curry recipe into something that I can make in less than an hour (recipe here). I also made it friendly to vegetarians, as it works so well with tofu and mushrooms.

The biggest change is to bring the method closer to authentic, removing some of the French techniques I used in previous versions. I also recommend using a good commercial curry paste to save on time, or to make a larger batch of fresh paste and freeze it in ice cube trays. We have a large number of stores catering to Asian cuisines in our area, so I usually prefer to use fresh or preserved curry pastes.

I like to tell people that I'm proactively lazy. I like to cook when I have the energy and not cook when I'm lazy, and have great food either way. I also have limited freezer space, which has led me to prepare condensed versions of foods that can be defrosted and turned into full meals in under 20 minutes. Condensing foods is an old technique that works well for home cooks today.

What makes a good condensed base?

I think of condensing meals in terms of capturing the most difficult or time consuming steps into something that freezes well, while also taking up a minimum of space. The parts that are more easily cooked or don't freeze well are added when preparing the meal for service, so that you preserve texture, flavour, and nutrition of the more delicate components.

A good example of this is beef stew. While it's possible to freeze carrots, peas, and other root vegetables in a stew, they are easy to add at service and keep their texture better when added later. And while it's possible to freeze condensed gravy, it usually changes texture and loosens up a bit after defrosting. So my approach to freezing stew is to capture the base of braising liquid, softened chuck roast, fond, and softened allium (onions, leeks, garlic), as well as the more key spices (rosemary, thyme, bay, and pepper).

My condensed stew takes about ½ of the storage space of the stew itself, and about ¼ the space of the stew and accompanying sides like potatoes and dumplings. A 500ml container can generally be stretched to about 4 meals, if you include sides.

A good stew base can be adapted to a number of meals as well, but there are even more flexible base recipes that give a home cook more options when making weeknight meals.

Generalizing the condensed stew for other cuisines

The concept of reducing sauces is fundamental to some of the French mother sauces. Soup stocks can be reduced by half or more and frozen for future meals. If you reduce a stock enough, you end up with a demi-glace (shiny sauce), which can fortify soups, gravies, stews, and can be used in pan sauces for plating.

Most Indian restaurants (in our area at least) prep a number of bases and base gravies that they turn into specific curry dishes at service. These base gravies freeze well, and can be used to make dozens of different dishes with the addition of proteins and vegetables after defrosting.

The same technique can be used for most cuisines. I make various condensed protein bases that can be used in a large number of dishes:

  • minced beef/mushroom mix (for meat sauces, cottage pie, soups, etc.)
  • “taco” seasoning (simpler minced beef with chilis, great for burritos, tacos, salads, chilli, hot dogs, etc.)
  • veg taco bases (lentils and seasoning)
  • soup bases (like French onion, phở, tonkotsu, chowders, etc.)
  • curry gravies (for various southeast Asian dishes)

Reducing waste and saving time

Condensed cooking can also be used to mop up the fridge, using up ingredients that otherwise may go to waste.

Italian style sauces are a great way to use up left over herbs, proteins, and cheeses which freeze better when combined into thick sauces. And meatballs, fritters, and pasta can be a great way to use up extra eggs, meats, cheeses, grains, bread, and vegetables. I'll make a batch of ravioli every few months to mop up extra mince and eggs, adding older hard cheeses, spinach, and other foods that need to be used.

I've found that freezing meatballs can result in disappointingly dry meatballs, but if you freeze them in sauce they tend not to suffer from freezer burn. I usually freeze meatballs in a classic red sauce (using pantry onions, garlic, and tinned tomatoes), or in their own juices and stock.

Speeding up prep work

Preparing bases and condensed foods can be time consuming. As a proactively lazy human, I've found a number of ways to speed up the process.

Use a pressure cooker

For minced meats and soup stocks a pressure cooker is more than twice as fast as the same recipe using standard methods. I use a 7.5L (8qt) stove top pressure cooker to turn 2kg (~4lbs) of minced meat, mushrooms, and accompanying vegetables into a tender base in 25 minutes (plus heat up time of 10 minutes, and cool down of 15 minutes), rather than 3-4 hours. I'll do two batches on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and get about two months of meals worth of proteins.

Any protein that you can braise is also significantly faster to prepare in a pressure cooker. Cuts that braise well also tend to be cheaper, so roasts like chuck roast, pork shoulder/butt, chicken thighs, ribs, and such are easy to prep in under 45 minutes. Typically, a full pork shoulder will feed 4 people 10-15 meals. And don't forget that beans and lentils are braisable, and work well in a pressure cooker.

Pressure cookers are also great for soups and stocks. Both French onion and mushroom soup bases can be made in under 30 minutes, and most clear stocks can be made in under 45. It's even possible to make longer simmering broths like tonkotsu in around an hour (though you do need to fast-release to emulsify the fats).

Clear stocks work especially well in a pressure cooker, as long as you slow-release the pressure to avoid a full boil. The method is easy too, add stock ingredients (optionally roasted ahead of time), and cover with water. Add a bouquet garni (bag of herbs). I suggest avoiding plants in the brassicaceae family (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.) and tender herbs, as they tend to add bitter notes with long (or high pressure) cooks. Also remember that flavours like garlic and celery are intensified by the process.

I recommend reducing stocks after pressure cooking, pouring the liquid through a colander and fine mesh strainer. I use a spider or slotted spoon to remove most of the larger chunks from a stock, and then pour it over another pot with a colander and fine mesh strainer in it. I do this over the cook top, to prevent myself from accidentally forgetting the pot. There is nothing more disappointing than pouring a stock down the sink, a mistake most cooks have made at least once.

It can take a few hours to reduce a stock by half, so I suggest using the widest pot you have that fits the stock safely. I use a kitchen timer and check the reduction every 30 minutes or so, skimming off any froth that forms. I prefer a gentler simmer, and I run the range hood to minimize condensation in the house.

Batch preparation

It may seem counterintuitive that preparing larger batches takes less effort, but most of the overheads are shared. It doesn't matter if you chop 1 onion or 10, you will dirty the same number of dishes. Cooking down those onions only takes incrementally longer and uses a similar amount of energy. Any waste from the process needs to be discarded either way, and both need to be packaged up for freezing.

Working in larger batches also lets you apply better tools and techniques to the process, like using a mandolin to slice onions for French onion soup, a grater for making soffritto base, a blender for smoothing out sauces, or roasting on multiple large sheet.

You will also find that preparing larger batches makes for good practice that would otherwise take a lot longer. Dicing a 5kg (10lb) bag of onions will significantly improve your knife skills, as well as cleaning out your tear ducts. I find a strange satisfaction in dicing up a bag of onions, a few heads of garlic, and a head of celery. I find it even more satisfying to eat the soups and stews in the following weeks.

Food safety and freezing

It can be difficult to properly cool large batches of bases, sauces, and gravies. Most home refrigerators can't handle a large volume of hot food, so I usually use the sink method to quickly cool up to 8L (8.5qt) of base:

  1. Move the pot to an empty sink, placing it over the drain.
  2. Pour cold water around the pot, which should drain slowly. Keep the water on low enough to maintain a constant amount of water. The slow flow of water will help the contents cool.
  3. You can speed up the process by adding ice to the sink, and stirring the contents. It's possible to cool a large pot of stock from 80C to 20C in about 20 minutes. Most refrigerators can complete the process from there.

The goal is to cool foods to 4C (40F) as quickly as possible (under 40 minutes is ideal). Bacteria thrive between 20C (70F) and 50C (125F), and their growth is exponential over time. And while reheating food will kill most bacteria in prepared foods, it will not always destroy the toxins created by those pathogens.

Once a batch of base is cooled enough to handle, I like to use deli containers of various sizes. As these containers come in 250ml, 500ml, and 750ml, it's easy to make predictable portions for future meals. Even better, these containers can be reused (assuming you don't get them too hot, and sanitize them between uses). They're also clear, they stack nicely, and take a label well. The main section of my home freezer is nearly always full of these containers, with future lazy meals waiting to be made.

I strongly recommend labeling the food you freeze. I usually include the name of the food or base, and the month and year it was frozen in. This is helpful for using the oldest foods first, and especially handy if you make meals for differing food preferences and needs. I often have a mix of vegetarian and flexitarian foods in our freezer, and it's important not to mix the two up. Most liquid bases freeze well for 3 months (and up to 6).

Preparing lazy meals

I go through all of this effort to make great (and healthy) food easy to prepare when I'm pressed for time (or feeling especially lazy). Having a choice of bases often prevents us from eating or ordering out, especially when some of those bases can be used to make comforting foods.

Some of my favourite quick meals using condensed bases:

  • Ramen and other soups (using stock or French/onion bases)
  • Pastas (using red sauce/meatballs, or beef/mushroom/onion base with a tin of tomatoes)
  • Cottage and minced pies (using beef/mushroom/onion base, with frozen veg, and mashed potatoes)
  • Tacos or taco salad (using chipotle taco beef, or frozen carnitas)
  • Burritos, which freeze well themselves (using frozen chilli, and chipotle taco beef)
  • Curries, which also freeze well (using frozen curry gravy)

Lazy meals are some of my favourite, and I get a lot of satisfaction from winning the fridge. I grew up in a household that needed to be frugal, which led me to appreciate good, home cooked meals with a desire to reduce wasted food.

I love food. I love the eating of, shopping for, designing menus around, and above all else, preparation of meals, especially for those closest to me. Cookery is a universe of systemizing the making of food, and to me at least it is a lot like software design and development.

In the art of making food there are tactical skills that are important and enjoyable to hone. There are strategic planning and execution skills that take years to master. Cookery even has a holistic way of thinking about how food and food production works that feels a lot like ontology and architecture. The universe of cookery has the equivalent of principles and ideals, and a wide variety of ways to approach it that draws from a rich lineage of implicit chemistry, human history, and social structure. In short, many things about food fascinates me.

WarpedVisions has always been a personal blog following my weird and sometimes interesting makery. I avoided talking about my non-tech projects for many years, somehow thinking that it wouldn't reflect well professionally. It was a wrong-headed way of thinking, as feeding the muse (literally in this case) is a great way to think about how things relate, how they work well, which starts to look like an abstract version of how we noodle around with design. In this case, it's the design of edible things.

This is a hacky fridge-magnet recipe to use up some old herbs and sour cream. We had it this week tossed with a chunky combination of sliced cabbage, cherry tomatoes, and diced broccoli, carrots, and celery.

  • 2 tablespoons Hellmann’s mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons (to taste) cider vinegar (Braggs is good)
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons finely diced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1-2 teaspoons MSG (Accent in this case)
  • Salt/pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a small bowl and stir or whisk together. Season to taste, but should balance sweet/acid/salt in a pleasing way. Best if rested for a few hours.


Today’s dinner was inspired by a social media photo from my morning feed. Today I'm working with ingredients I have on hand, which includes lemongrass, pork sirloin tip, and a boatload of veg.

Pork and mushrooms

  • 500-750g of pork sirloin, thinly sliced and halved (3-4mm x 2cm x 2cm or so)
  • 2-3 cups of mushrooms, sliced (shiitakes in this case)
  • 3-4 stalks of lemongrass super finely sliced (on the bias)
  • 1-2 tablespoons cane sugar (or any sugar you have)
  • garlic, shallots finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, mirin, rice wine (wine vinegar, or lime can sub)
  • 1 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon Accent (MSG)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • salt/pepper to taste

Toss pork and mushrooms with ingredients and set aside in the fridge to marinate for up to a few hours.

Note that the same basic recipe works quite well with tofu too, just treat it like the pork (and omit the fish sauce).

Fry the mixture in a non-stick pan on medium, stirring or flipping regularly. You’re looking for a good browning, but try to keep the meat at rare. Set aside and add to the soup to finish cooking through.

Soup base

  • 1-2 cups of onion thinly sliced
  • 1 cup of celery thinly sliced (on the bias as it looks cool)
  • 4 cups of broccoli, in bite size chunks
  • 2-3 cups of mild and medium peppers, thinly sliced (on the bias)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2-3 tbsp curry paste (whatever you have on hand)
  • 500ml partially condensed stock (unsalted and homemade is best, adjust carefully if store bought)
  • 1 pack of noodles, par cooked in boiling water if needed

Start the soup base in a large 5-6L (or quart) saucier on medium heat, with some coconut oil (or the solids from the coconut milk if you bought the good stuff). Add the curry paste and stir, cooking until aromatic.

Add onions and celery and heat until things start sticking. Deglaze with remaining coconut milk, add stock, and scrape any fun bits off the bottom of the pan. Add remaining veg, and simmer until veg is almost soft enough to eat.

Add the noodles and pork mixture, and continue simmering. Season to taste and serve in large bowls.


Today we were craving stir fry so I decided to practice the basic method two ways: lemongrass pork and sweet ginger/garlic pork. We had a sirloin tip pork roast on hand, which is best cooked using a fast method as it’s lean and tender. This method doesn’t include deep frying the pork, so is much lighter than standard take out.

Lemongrass pork

  • 500g pork, silverskin removed, cubed
  • 5-6 stalks of washed lemongrass, very thinly sliced on the bias
  • half a head of garlic crushed and sliced
  • 1 shallot finely sliced
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce, mirin, and rice wine (or rice wine vinegar, or lime juice) salt/pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of green onion, sliced on the bias (in largish chunks)
  • 3-4 cups of veg (onion, celery, peppers, cut on the bias in largish bite size pieces)

Note: this also works well with tofu (press dry, otherwise treat the same).

Cube the pork, salt and pepper, and marinate in the liquid, garlic, shallots, and a small amount of the lemongrass. Toss in baking soda and corn starch and refrigerate for for 30-60 minutes.

Add the remaining lemongrass and some oil to a wide pan on medium-low and cook until browning. Add pork and continue cooking until the pork starts to brown. Add veg, bump up the heat to medium, and flip regularly until veg is browning and pork is cooked through.

Garlic/ginger pork

  • 500g pork, silverskin removed, julienned (5mm x 5mm x 3-4cm)
  • half a head of garlic crushed and sliced
  • 1 shallot finely sliced
  • 1 knob of ginger finely sliced (or grated, as I’m lazy)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoons soy sauce, mirin, and rice wine (or rice wine vinegar, or lime juice)
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tsp of white pepper (a classic flavour with ginger/garlic)
  • 1 cup of green onion, sliced on the bias (in largish chunks)
  • 3-4 cups of veg (onion, celery, peppers, cut on the bias in largish bite size pieces)

Thinly julienne the pork and marinate in the garlic, shallot, ginger, salt/pepper/sugar, and liquids. Set aside in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

Add the pork to a wide pan on medium and fry until the edges start to brown. Add onion and celery, and continue cooking. Add remaining veg and flip regularly.

Deglaze the pan with water and rice wine vinegar. Cook until liquids reduce (and add more liquid if too thick.

These dishes are great over rice. Today we had a brown basmati rice with chicken stock, sunflower seeds, and 5 spice.


Adapted from my traditional and very knead-y pizza dough, which we discovered by accident that one time when we somehow left it in a cupboard for a few days. It turns out we weren't the first ones to figure this out, and it's a fantastic way of making doughs in general. Many recipes use weights for ingredients ... this one does not. It is a super lazy dough that can take as little as 10 minutes if you work at it. It also produces one of the nicest pizza and focaccia doughs I've ever made.


  • 6-7 cups of flour, ideally 00 pizza flour, bread flour, or AP flour (in order of bestness)
  • 3 cups (750ml) of warm tap water
  • 2 tsp (10ml) instant yeast
  • 3 tsp (15ml) salt

Optional ingredients

  • 2 tbsp (30ml) olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sugar (home style pizzas usually have a sweeter crust, and it helps with browning at lower temps)


  1. Add 3 cups of flour, yeast, and salt to 3 cups of warm water in a large bowl. Mix until combined with a whisk or other farm implement.
  2. Add ½ a cup of flour at a time, stirring with a spoon or spatula until combined. Repeat this until a very wet, sticky ball forms.
  3. Grease a large container with 1 tsp olive oil, form a ball with the dough. Hide this in your fridge for 24, 48, or up to 72 hours. Truth is that 2x that can work, with an extra prove stage.
  4. Once fridge proved-slash-fermented, remove from the fridge and let come to room temperature.
  5. On a floured surface, split the dough into 2-6 portions depending on your pans.
  6. Fold each chunk of dough over itself 3-6 times and form into taut balls, adding a small amount of flour if sticky. Let these balls rise until doubled (45 minutes or so).

Once the dough is doubled in size, you can start forming pizzas. There are many methods that work here, including a rolling pin, wine bottle, or hand stretching over your knuckles. All of these methods work, though if you feel like the dough has deflated let it rise until it springs back.


Preheat your oven at 190C (if you like a lot of toppings) or 230C if you are aiming at a thinner crust.

  1. Decorate the dough with sauce, cheese, and toppings in any way you like.
  2. Add corn meal to a pan lined with parchment. Bake until browned. This will be different depending on your oven, toppings, and rack placement.

On how to figure out if you have enough flour in step #2

It's easy to say “until a wet, sticky ball forms”, but what does that mean? Mostly I add flour until I can start folding the dough over on itself, using the spatula to lift it up and over the dough. At this point I start adding flour a few tablespoons at a time, folding over a bit until it's just starting to hold its shape. At the “just holding it's shape”, dough is pretty much at max hydration and would be a pain to work with. This is where you start fermenting it, and we'll add a bit more flour when balling up the dough.

#Food log #Weblog

There are a few ways to make pizza sauce, depending on how lazy you are. Our favourite sauce is cooked down from good tomatoes for a moderate amount of time, and my fastest sauce comes from a tin of crushed tomatoes or sauce (thickened with paste). For pizza sauce, better tomatoes make a difference, as cheaper ones are less sweet and flavourful. This is loosely based on Serious Eat's New York Style pizza sauce, and one I've made for more than 20 years now.

Main ingredients

  • 1 (820ml/28oz) tin of San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1-2 tbsp of tomato paste (to add some punch + thicken things up faster)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 small yellow onion (and/or shallot)
  • 1-2 tsp of dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  • (Bonus) 1-2 tbsp unsalted butter

Alternative ingredients

  • 1 jar (or medium tin) of crushed tomatoes or
  • 1 jar (or tin) of tomato sauce and 1 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, honey, or sugar (depending on how bland your tomatoes are)

I don't add chilis or paprika anymore, leaving these spices for toppings instead. Paprika, especially smoked paprika can make a sauce taste heavy (muddling the fine and sweet notes of the tomatoes).


  1. Dice onions, garlic, and shallot and set aside.
  2. Optional: crush tomatoes by hand or with a pastry cutter (or with a hand blender). Even more optionally, process the tomatoes in a food mill or by forcing through a fine mesh strainer with a spatula.
  3. Sweat the onion, garlic, and herbs in 2-3 tbsp of olive oil until aromatic (but not browned) for something like 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat and add tomatoes and oregano.
  4. Salt and pepper to taste. I always do this 2-3 times (tasting between), so that I don't oversalt.
  5. Simmer at the lowest heat that will just barely bubble for 20-30 minutes. You can go longer, but not much shorter than 20 minutes. Tinned tomatoes mellow out nicely only after some simmering (otherwise can taste a bit “tinny” or harsh).

If you find the sauce tastes a bit bitter:

  • Filter it through a fine mesh strainer (removing seeds),
  • Add some balsamic, honey, or sugar (or some of all 3)
  • Add a bit more salt

#Food log #Weblog

Today I wanted a relish for a dish so I made some:

  • ½ cup of chopped, sweet pickles
  • ½ cup of chopped, pickled peppers (mild – medium)
  • ½ cup frozen corn, diced, and fried (until edges are brown and crispy)
  • ¼ cup diced onions (purple is what I had on hand)
  • ½ cup of mustard
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp freeze dried dill (if it’s out of seasons)
  • Salt, pepper to taste

Combine, adjust seasoning, and rest in the refrigerator for a few hours.