Just seeing things

I have this recurring dream or nightmare or hallucination — whatever I should call it.

I think it happens right when I’m about to fall asleep: I “wake up” and see an enormous spider, a black tarantula-looking thing, walking on the bed next to my pillow. At the time, still half-asleep/awake, I’m actually aware that this happens to me a lot and I know it’s never been anything, but I think this time the thing just looks so real (and huge, and moving!) that I have to turn on the light — which I in reality do because I’m not sleeping properly yet — and make sure.

Unsurprisingly, there’s never been anything. Not even a big crinkle in the bedsheets.

I think it’s strange that this happens to me so often, because I’m not particularly afraid of spiders. I don’t like them but I don’t have a phobia either.

There’s also the dream of a mouth full of loose teeth (I hear it’s quite common). Ugh, I really hate that one. Luckily I haven’t seen it in a while. Maybe chewing gum helps…

Italian meatball soup

This weekend I cooked some Italian meatball soup — a recipe I found in “the Essential Soup Cookbook” (an Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook I bought from Australia, where else).

First you should make the meatballs because they need to sit for 30 minutes in the fridge. I realised this after I’d got everything ready and was already starting to make the soup. I blame the layout of the recipe… (the meatball recipe was at the end of the whole soup recipe)

You get 500 grams (a little over a pound) of minced beef. I used 10% minced beef which turned out to be a little too lean. (Or, maybe I cooked it for too long because the pasta water was so slow to boil.) You mix it with 2 teaspoons of fresh oregano. I used dried; I don’t want to buy a whole oregano plant for just 2 teaspoons! Next time I’m going to season the meat better because it was a bit too bland. I’ll add salt at least and probably some pepper. The recipe said to make meatballs the size of a level tablespoon. I used our tablespoon size which is 15ml (resulted in 31 meatballs) but afterwards I read the Australian one is 20ml so maybe I made them too small. Need to correct that one the next time, too. You put the meatballs on a tray, cover, and put in the fridge for half an hour.

While you wait, you should get the soup ready. Chop 2 brown onions (300g/0.7lb) and 2kg (4.4lb) tomatoes. I cut the tomatoes in 8 pieces and it turned out to be a good size (not too big, which I was a little afraid of). The recipe called for 3 garlic cloves quartered but the garlic I had was so small I couldn’t imagine it quartered so I cut it in half — and used about 5 cloves. Four red Thai chillies (whatever they are), seeded and chopped finely, was also on the ingredients list but I left them out because I don’t have any experience with chillies and didn’t know what kind we had at the store. I used some sort of chilli spice mix instead.

To make the soup, you heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan and cook the onion and garlic until onion softens. Then you add the tomato pieces, 3 cups of vegetable stock (I made it with cubes), chilli (although I didn’t add the spice mix just yet), and 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes (uncovered, stirring occasionally). The soup got frothy and the tomato a bit mushy.

Then you blend it. I used a stick mixer (love it) and decided to skip the step where you push the soup through a sieve or a food mill. Too messy and I don’t need my soup to be “velvety smooth.” The mixer made it smooth enough (what an amazing gadget it is!).

At this point I threw some of the chilli mix in and also some sugar since tomatoes are supposed to love sugar. I kept tasting the soup and it kept being quite bland so I added more chilli until I could taste it, and the sugar did make the tomatoes a little tastier (they weren’t as ripe as I would’ve liked). Have I ever mentioned I’m bad at seasoning? Well, I am.

Next you put the pan back on the stove, bring the soup to a boil, and add the meatballs. Let it simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes. I know meatballs can be cooked in water but still it looked a bit like magic when they actually turned brown and cooked through in the bubbling soup.

While the meatballs are cooking, you boil the pasta. I should’ve put the pasta to boil before the meatballs because it took ages for the water to start boiling — and it was a 9-minute pasta. In any case, you cook 250g (0.6lb) of some sort of short pasta (fusilli was mentioned in the recipe with farfalle and penne as alternatives; I used cute curly tube pasta. Wikipedia lets me know it was “cellentani”). I put salt in the water even though it wasn’t mentioned in the recipe.

When the meatballs are cooked, you stir in the cooked pasta (drain it first) and some basil. Again, the recipe called for fresh stuff: 8 basil leaves shredded. My basil plant was looking sad on the countertop and I hadn’t bought more so I used dried stuff again. My cupboards are full of dried herbs and spices so I might as well use them…

Once it’s all nicely mixed, the soup’s ready to eat!

Italian meatball soup


In my opinion the soup definitely needs more seasoning than what was listed in the recipe. Or maybe the vegetable stock they used is so flavourful that it’s enough — my stock from cubes surely wasn’t. Also, the meatballs need more spice than just the oregano (again, maybe the fresh stuff would make a difference) and as I mentioned, next time I’m going to try some less lean meat (17% instead of 10%). Nevertheless, it’s was a nice soup (pasta and meatballs, how novel!) and I’ll be eating it again. Not just because I have 4 litres of it in the freezer.



  • 500g minced beef
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano (I used dried)

The meatballs could probably use some salt and pepper unless the fresh oregano is the magic ingredient that makes all the difference…


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium brown onions (300g), chopped coarsely
  • 3 cloves garlic (or more, in my case), quartered
  • 2 kg tomatoes, chopped coarsely
  • 3 cups (750 ml) vegetable stock
  • 4 red Thai chillies, seeded, chopped finely (I used a chilli spice mix)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, shredded finely (I used dried)

I would season it more, though, unless the stock is crazy good and strong. (Using the right chilli and fresh basil could help, too. I don’t know.)

  • 250g short pasta (fusilli, penne, farfalle…)

Basil is sad

What broke the camel’s back?

Meego. That’s what.

Or actually the promise of Meego — on the N900.

Ever since the N900 came out last year I’ve lusted after it. But there were rumours about Meego phones so I thought “no no, I have to wait and see.” The rumours haven’t stopped, and there also haven’t been any Meego phones yet, but recently I’ve been seriously wanting a new phone; I’ve even been looking at HTC devices for something to play with while waiting for the next big Nokia. The My N900

My N900

The theme is Pleego variant of the Black Plastic Theme from maemo.org. I’m still experimenting; haven’t found my favourite theme yet.

Ugly duckling from the kitchen

Tuesday, October 26th 2010 @ 10:37 pm | Cooking | Add your comment

What will become of this mess, I wonder.

Tomato soup goo

Tomato soup goo

A yummy spice cake!

This was my 2nd time making this. The first time I made the error of using a silicone cake pan. The batter is so heavy (or there’s so much of it) that the pan lopsided — and I also had to bake it for 1.5 times longer! (I hate the silicone pan…) This time I’d bought brand new pans (two small ones because I thought they were cute) so I’m hoping the result is better.

I made the Pioneer Woman variation of the cake where she decided to mix in a cup of raisins. I love raisins!

Here’s what you need:

First you mix the soup and soda in a bowl, at which point it’ll become quite foamy (be sure to use a big enough bowl). Set it aside.
Next, cream the butter and sugar in a separate bowl. I used my favourite kitchen gadget, a poor man’s Kitchenaid. (Sorry, I forgot to take an action photo so here it’s all alone without the bowl and paddle which I washed already!)

Electric mixer

My deliciously red mixer

Next you mix in the tomato goo (with the sugar and butter, into the mixer bowl). And then the flour and spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves). If you want, add a cup of raisins. I used whatever nice-looking raisins I found at the store. They didn’t have any golden ones, just plain black sultanas.

Put the batter in a greased pan (I used two 1.2 litre pans, which turned out to be a bit too small because the batter spilled over from the centre), even out the surface, and cook in 350°F (around 175°C) for 45–55 minutes.

Tomato soup cake

The finished cake; still ugly (because of the cook) but I assure you it tastes great!

It stuck to the pan a bit (always does! I can never cook a cake properly.) so I have to be more patient with the other one…

I didn’t make any icing (don’t really care for icing) but if you’re feeling like it, check out the Tasty Kitchen or Pioneer Woman recipe.