Robot Has No Heart

Xavier Shay blogs here

A robot that does not have a heart

Eggplant Stacks

I attended a murder mystery party last weekend, tasked with supplying an entree. Wanting to impress, I tried to work some eggplant magic.

Baked Eggplant with Goat’s Cheese and Cream

There were going to be logistical headaches, since I was going to have to make most of it in Geelong a day before, take it on the train, and then finish preparation on location. At home, I sliced the eggplant and fried it (took 4 lots through the pan), then stored layered on paper towel in a large tupperware container, which went into the fridge overnight.

Once I got to the party the next day, I got the oven warming up while I prepared the cheese and tomato sauces. I used Persian fetta instead of goat’s cheese and neglected to add any Thyme. I felt these were acceptable compromises. I probably should have made these sauces the day before also and brought them up on ice, since you want to spend as little time as possible preparing when there is a murder afoot.

It would also be prudent to cut more slices than you strictly need – I had catered for 8 and 10 showed up, so many of our stacks were only two high.

Perhaps because the eggplant hadn’t come straight out of the frying pan, I needed to leave it in the oven for an extra 5-10 minutes, and even then there were small portions that were not quite cooked. It could have used longer, but having not made the dish (or indeed, anything similar) before I was afraid of burning it.

I was impressed with the outcome, but only half the plates were returned completely empty, so it may not be as tasty as I think. I’ll be trying it again though that’s for sure.


Team effort with my Dad for Sunday night dinner.


Makes 2 large pizzas


  • 2 cup water
  • 3+ cup plain flour (wholemeal if you’re a hippy and don’t have to appease your family)
  • 14g (2 sachet) yeast
  • 2 Capsicum (1 red, 1 green)
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 3-4 Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Baby spinach and/or rocket
  • Mozarella cheese
  • Tomato paste
  • Basil


  1. Combine all dough ingredients in a large bowl and mix together. Add flour until dough is a … doughy consistency. Cover and leave to rise for a few hours
  2. Dust tabletop liberally with flour and knead/roll out two thin pizza bases (they will rise when cooked)
  3. Combine tomato paste and basil, then spread over the pizza bases right to the edges
  4. Chop up all choppable toppings and throw evenly over the pizza. Also put the spinach and cheese on.
  5. Put in a preheated oven (~180C) for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is well browned.

Of course, as with any pizza there are many options here. This gives quite a doughy base – which I like – so to make a thinner, crustier base put the base by itself into the oven for a minute or so until it starts to rise. We did this for the second pizza and my folks preferred it. Nothing on this pizza really needs cooking, so I normally eat it a little bit undercooked – each to his own, I say.

I actually thought the dough recipe was 1:1 flour:water, but that just gave me a soup, so I just kept adding flour. Probably ended up with about 4 cups total.

I normally put olives on my pizza, but we forgot to buy any. Ricotta cheese also works well. My sister had a cheese pizza, which I thought rather boring but still tasty.

And I finally remembered to take a picture!


Food Choices

UPDATE: As of easter 2008 I am vegan again. I need to write an updated version of this post since I don’t agree with much of it anymore. I’m leaving it here for history’s sake – it’s enlightening to see my progression in thought, I think.

I am a vegetarian. Inevitably, people ask me “why?”. I think it would be more productive for them to ask themselves why they are not, but that is by the by. For me the interesting question is “why am I not vegan?”, which I will get to after I briefly cover the first.

There were two distinct ideas that led to my change of diet (I was an omnivore until mid way through last year). The first was a realisation that living the “examined” life (as Socrates put it) actually led to a dramatic increase in my quality of life, and in a similar vein that I was responsible for everything in my life (Satre’s idea of freedom). This will be the subject of future writings, but it culminated in me trying to rid my life of “contradictions”, of which my food choices presented many.

For vegetarianism, the deciding scenario was first introduced to me by Peter Singer in a public lecture he delivered at Melbourne Uni. It appeals to me because it avoids the need to take a non-mainstream stance on animal rights, but rather draws logical conclusions from common attitudes towards animals. Activities that harm animals for entertainment – bull/cock/dog fighting, for instance – are frowned upon by our culture, evidenced by the fact that they are banned by law. However, the more widespread harm of animals for non-essential food – in the form of battery farming – is condoned. This is a contradiction that I could not allow to stand, and so vowed to avoid battery farmed produce. Theoretically it is possible to continue an omnivorous diet within this constraint, but in practice finding (and affording!) organic meat is non-trivial, so I chose to abstain from meat all together. In addition, on non-ethical grounds I wanted to try the purported health benefits of vegetarianism, and also wanted to expand my cooking repertoire, which was depressingly confined to omnivorous cuisine.

After getting comfortable with vegetarianism, I decided to try veganism. The only ethical justification for this was that livestock are an order of magnitude more expensive (in near all measures of the term) than grain and vegetable sources, and as such are a burden that our growing society simply cannot sustain. Contrary to many vegans, I do not believe that animals deserve the same rights as humans, drawing the (admittedly grey) line at self-reflection and higher order thought. To illustrate, the jury is still out on chimpanzees, but farmyard animals have not demonstrated to my satisfaction that they possess the necessary reasoning, desires or aspirations to be apportioned rights akin to our own.

To allow my body and habits to adjust I mandated a one month trial period. I discovered a number of new ways to cut animal products out of my diet, for example my sandwiches do not benefit for cheese or margarine, and soy milk is a much better alternative over cereal – adjustments I still hold to today. However my social life suffered. Not having any vegan friends, and knowing only one or two vegetarians, I found it difficult to eat out anywhere (since vegan meals are generally lacking if it is not the restaurant’s main trade), and while people will usually be all too happy to cook a vegetarian meal for you, they generally blanch at the prospect of not using cheese. Not to mention that it eliminates virtually all desserts(!), and many types of beer(!!). In addition, I felt my alertness waning, and could not find ways to affordably maintain an athlete’s diet (most notably protein sources – one can only eat so much peanut butter, and it is quite high in fat).

My quality of life diminished, both socially and in health, and I could not justify this by the one ethical tenet by which I had made my decision. I feel I can contribute more to activist and economical causes to offset such a choice if the rest of life is in order, so after a month of a vegan diet I returned to eggs and dairy (and choice beer).

After more than 6 months of vegetarianism, I look and feel healthier than I have ever been. (For balance, I have also been exercising regularly, but do not feel constrained by the lack of meat in my diet). I will potentially try veganism again in the future – I feel support from my social group would help in this regard (which I can’t see happening any time soon!) – and have no desire whatsoever to return to being an omnivore. I no longer crave steak, and the only time I feel my diet is restricted is in certain restaurants that do not pay enough attention to their menu.

To end with a quick rant, the “Real Men Eat Meat” mantra I so often encounter is, if you’ll excuse the term, bullshit, and used as a facade by those too lazy to take control of their lives. I can accept you eating meat, just show me you have actually made an informed choice rather than blindly digesting the empty catchphrases employed by your ignorant peers.

Pantry Raiders #1

I am finally back in the family home for an evening, and the family decides to holiday up to Melbourne, leaving me here on my ownsome. Not keen to shop, I venture forth into the larder…

Fake Maharagwe

Serves 2 hungry people


  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Parsley
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Tumeric, Chilli, whatever other curry spices you have in your rack


  1. Chop onion and garlic, fry in pan with oil and seasonings
  2. Add chickpeas, fry for a short time only
  3. Add milk, tomatoes, parsley
  4. Serve over rice

This dish looks exactly like Maharagwe. Almost tastes like it, but my substitutes really are poor. Coriander over parsley and coconut milk instead make for a much tastier and lighter meal (although I also got stuck with abborio rice, which is too gluggy). Also makes it vegan, which is a plus. I’m unsure of the red onion – Mum is sold on them and won’t use brown onions for anything – but it just feels wrong frying onions of the wrong color. They’re only adding bulk not taste to this recipe, so I guess it doesn’t matter. Tomatoes are the most important ingredient, as without them it is a little bland.

I actually did remember that I needed to take a photo of this one, but I couldn’t find a camera anywhere. The family must have taken it to Melbourne with them. Next meal gets pictures, honest.

Summertime Tagliarini

My folks recently had a garage sale, which saw Mum trying to offload her vast collection of food magazines. The ones she is always telling me to buy and that I never do. My thriftiness paid off – parental love compelled her to waive the $2 asking price for the 5th birthday collector’s edition of “Delicious” magazine. There is a lot of good stuff in here – a whole section on cooking with chocolate practically guarantees that – so expect to see a few more recipes from within show up here.

Featured is an extract from one of Jamie Oliver’s new books, containing a recipe for what he calls “Summertime Tagliarini”. As Kathryn observes , it’s pretty much just pasta with pesto and pinenuts. I’ve been eating this all week, a result of buying the ingredients as listed to serve 4. The plan was to make 2 serves, but the first one turned out slightly too big, so I split the last batch into two and just added a bit more pasta. Which means I used the same quantity of pasta and halved the sauce, which was ill advised because it turned out a little bland, but I’m a hungry man who needs his pasta. Next time I’ll do 3 serves – but with a recipe that calls for 2 lemons there may be some non-trivial math involved.

My palette isn’t quite refined enough to identify the qualities the small amount of pecorino cheese brings to this dish – I plan to try it without to find out. Got parmesan from the deli rather than the pre-packaged shaved stuff I normally buy – once again not sure how to describe the difference. I guess this is the first time I’ve cooked with cheese since I came off being vegan, so that has probably got something to do with it.

Stupid Noob Tip: Don’t squeeze the lemons directly into your mix, since you’ll then have to get all the pips out, which takes way too long because they are particularly slippery and hard to distinguish from the pinenuts. And you’ll know if you miss one when you are eating it. Rather, squeeze them into a glass then pour through a fork to catch the pips. Or you know, use a proper juicer.

I could not find tagliarini at the supermarket (but have since located it! Next time…), so I just used normal spaghetti, which worked fine. I served in our One Good Bowl. Unfortunately we don’t have any Good plates as I ended up with a large quantity of dressing falling at the bottom after I had eaten all the pasta. I am moving home soon, which means I get to use all her good stuff (which incidentally includes a camera so I can take photos).

I really like the way Jamie writes his recipes. Almost conversational, with a focus on tasting throughout and how to adjust. This is particularly handy since I don’t really know how to relate individual ingredients with the end product.

Serve with a nice white – I picked up a 2006 Jacob’s Creek Riesling for $8 which was surprisingly good. This dish is very tasty. I consider this the current crown of my pasta dishes (which total 3 – the other 2 are homebrew concoctions), and it’s also the only non-tomato based one. I will probably make it the next time someone is over for dinner.

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