Addendum re Lentil Soup and Umami

Posted in cheese, condiments, lentils, soup, vegan, vegetarian with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2014 by oskila

Yesterday I hurried to get my first post in months done and forgot to include lots of things in the text. Rather than editing the post I decided to do a new one with some explanation and deeper analysis. Before writing the post on lentil soup I had planned to give suggestions about what else to add and elaborate on veggie umami stuff a bit more.

Lentils, even beluga lentils, aren’t that rich in umami stuff themselves, and may need a helping hand. Stock usually gets the task done, but people are often wary of MSG these days (mostly without reason, since it doesn’t cause migraine, ADD or cancer at all, at least not when used sensibly. Read up on ‘Chinese Food Syndrome’ for more fun facts).

My soup didn’t contain lots of tomato, but it’s high in glutamic acid, another umami agent. Especially sizzled tomato paste or ‘sun dried’ tomatoes are handy tools in this aspect. Even a dollop of ketchup in the right place can enhance many a bland dish.

Onions are another useful umami vegetable as long as you let them cook properly to give off maximum flavor. In the soup I used fried onions because it’s a rather odd thing to do, but also because they’re more thoroughly fried than one would ever bother to do at home and packed with flavor, both from natural umami compounds and from maillard reactions associated with frying. The batter also acts as thickening – it’s funny how things work out sometimes.

Mushrooms are also a classic umami ingredient, but the combination with lentils in soup felt a bit out of place.

Ssamjang, Korean chili paste with garlic and soy beans, has been a trusty companion in the kitchen for several years. The umami content is largely due to fermentation, one of the common methods for getting more umami.

Enough about umami. The other thing I forgot to write at the end of the last post was the suggestion of adding a splash of wine, either red or white, to deepen the flavors in general. Those of a less vegan persuasion can add for example grated cheese, a splash of cream or fish sauce, especially if you’ve made a large batch and are having it for lunch for the fifth day in a row…

I’ve had the images for the next post ready for publication since just after Christmas, but other things got in the way. Hopefully that post will be up soon.

Meat Lover’s Vegan Lentil Soup

Posted in indian, lentils, soup, stew, Uncategorized, vegetarian with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2014 by oskila

Turns out this parenting thing takes quite a lot of time, which means the blog has been on backburner to say the least. A strike of genius (if I might humbly say so) just yesterday prompted at least an attempt to squeeze a bit of blogging in. Since we have to eat anyway it’s mostly a question of scaling back on photo editing to shorten the amount of time spent on a blog post considerably. Now to business.

I’m far from vegan myself, but unlike a lot of people I meet I don’t obnoxiously defend meat eating as some kind of human right or whine about unappealing veggie food. Although vegetarian/vegan food made by nonvegetarians or the uninspired or untalented can be on the bland side some times. My solution to this is to add more umami. And not in a way that attempts to substitute meat for something almost similar to meat or downright ghastly (hello tofurkey). To celebrate the occasion and compensate for the lack of images I’m going to give a proper list of ingredients.

Lentil soup (serves 2-4)

1 tsp cumin, coriander, Sichuan pepper, mustard seeds (1 spoon in total. Add more if you like)
1 tsp turmeric
1 bayleaf
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tbsp ssamjang or other kind of chili paste
2 cups beluga lentils
6 cups vegetable stock
1 cup crisp fried onion (yes, the store bought crunchy stuff you put on hot dogs)
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup finely grated beetroot
minced garlic to taste
ginger to taste
salt, pepper and vinegar for final adjustments

Toast cumin, coriander, Sichuan pepper and mustard seeds in a dry pan and grind. Sizzle along with turmeric, ssamjang and tomato paste in some oil. Add carrots, beetroot, bay leaf, ginger and garlic and cook for a few minutes. Then add stock, lentils and onions and simmer for about 40 minutes while watching closely since lentils have a reputation of sticking to pots. Add more water if  necessary, especially since the soup gets quite thick and curryish after a while (which is also nice of course). Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and vinegar (or lemon juice) and serve with flatbread or similar.



Posted in cheese, condiments, italian, mediterranean, pasta, peas, vegetarian with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2014 by oskila



Funny punny title, yes. What it means is that today’s food is pesto made with peas instead of basil. And it’s real easy too.

2 parts green peas (fresh or defrosted)
1 part oil
1 part whatever kind of nuts or seeds you like
1 part grated parmesan cheese or similar.

Mix all the stuff and blend it to desired texture. Adjust thickness with oil and cheese or more peas. I use a hand blender and get it ready in almost no time at all. The pesto in the picture has more cheese and peas instead of nuts since the pine nuts were way too expensive and my wife dislike sunflower seeds and is allergic to most proper nuts. It works beautifully with for example pasta anyway.

Jammed Onions

Posted in condiments, leftovers, peppers, preserve, sauce, side dish with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2014 by oskila

It’s finally time for a proper post about food again! This time it’s about a cold sauce that goes well with pâté rustique and similar dishes. The need for such a sauce arose when we got some pâté (and other awesome food) left over from my brother’s 30th birthday party, which me and mrs NerdCuisine missed on account of being busy fussing over NerdCuisine jr. (also known as Olivia) in a maternity ward.

Now, the pâtés I’ve eaten have usually been accompanied by Cumberland sauce, which consists mainly of red wine, black currant jelly and orange rind. I possessed neither and had to improvise something of a similar sweetness and acidity. Also, there’s an unprecedented amount of pictures, just because. These things happen.

This was the first batch of ingredients I decided on – red onion, tomatoes, raspberry syrup, lime, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and red bell pepper. Since this is a highly improvised affair, more stuff will be added along the way.

A bit of chopping later, the vegetables are sizzling in a pot, along with some unannounced red currants I realized were in the freezer. A small pinch of salt gets the sweating going.

With the liquids added, a slow simmer for as long as one can stand waiting is in order.

Another late addition; a squeeze of pomegranate juice (and probably quite a few seeds)

Adding some lime zest. The whole thing has started to thicken somewhat and it’s also probably time to add what else in the way of spices one would like to have.

Acidity was a tad high, so a bit of palm sugar was  added to balance it out (and make the ingredient list complicated)

And now it’s time to squeeze the whole thing through a sieve. Mainly because we’re still attempting to mimic some aspects of real cumberland, which means a smooth texture without any bits.

That taken care of, we put the pot to a simmer again, with some gelling sugar and very thinly sliced red onions added in. I used raw onions, but I’d hazard that onions with a bit of sear on them would render the result sweeter and less sharp.

Simmer just long enough for the gelling agent to kick in. A couple of juniper berries also found their way in, and since I overdid it slightly with the sugar, I compensated with a couple of splashes raspberry-flavored balsamico. As the title suggests, the end result is something ranging from rather sweet and sour sauce to comparatively tart jam.

And so – cold, red, sweet sauce accompanying pâté, like nature intended. Long time readers might wonder what the deal is with me and making sweet condiments out of onions around NYE, but it’s pure coincidence actually.

It’s great to be back in business! Next time I think we’ll look into a bit of Swedish and Finnish Christmas food, only some 50 weeks in advance. Take care until then!

2013 in review

Posted in not food with tags , , , on January 2, 2014 by oskila

Hello and a happy new year to you all. Several new posts with actual food in them are in pipeline this very moment. Entertain yourselves with this in the meantime

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,400 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 57 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


Posted in not food with tags on November 29, 2013 by oskila

So sorry for being silent for this long. I’m afraid we’re quite busy nesting over here right now, and I’m given to understand that spare time might also be limited after NerdCuisine jr has been born. Will try to get something up before or around Christmas.

Miraculously Noodle-Free Quick Dish (and 2-year anniversary)

Posted in beans, chicken, potato, scallion, vegetarian with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2013 by oskila

I’ve noticed that I most often go for the noodles when in a hurry these days. That is especially bad considering the fact that I often preach about the evils of instant noodles. (Not only are they made ‘instant’ by deep frying, they’re deep fried in palm oil, one of the least environment-friendly food products of today)

We’ll be having potatoes instead.

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Sliced potatoes go in the microwave oven for five or so minutes, just in order to soften them a bit. Much quicker than frying raw potatoes and uses less fat.

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Frying potatoes after nuking

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Added chopped scallion, some sort of ‘chicken’ ‘kebab’ and frozen green beans (fun fact: their french name, haricots verts, sounds a lot like the Swedish words for ‘Mister Envelope’. I’d say lots of Swedish children grow up believing that’s what they’re actually called.)

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Done! While those chicken kebabs aren’t all that appetizing to begin with, I think they can be spiced up to be more palatable. Also, isn’t it good in a way that they actually make use those small bits of chicken left on the carcasses after taking away the nicer parts? Thirdly, since they’re a prefab product that’s slightly odd, why not make it a vegetarian dish by using Quorn or similar instead?

Checking the archives, this post marks the 2nd anniversary of the wordpress incarnation of the Nerd Cuisine blog. (It was actually yesterday, but don’t tell anyone). I started the celebrations early by taking away the (in my opinion) least compelling header image and replaced it with a new nicer one. Thanks to all my followers and occasional passers-by. I couldn’t fathom two years ago that I’d still be at it by now. Let’s hope the next year gets just as good. Now I’ve better take care of that bucket of lobster shells on thhe balcony…

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