Open Source for cookery & fun with reverse engineering recipes!

I’ve been vegan for 13 years, before that I was a lactose intolerant veggie – so I’ve spent a lot of time looking at recipes with a geek problem-solving eye, carefully reverse engineering them to remove the animal products and find ways to repurpose many well known and not so well known culinary delights to make fit for myself and anyone else who’ll eat them.

Something that I’ve come across is the notion of copyright in recipes, which has on occasion put me off pasting recipes. Having looked into this a little, it seems that lists, prescriptions or formulas are not unique enough to be subject to copyright protection, but an accompanying explanation or preparation of significant length or a combination of recipes could be construed as a literary work and basis for copyright in the same way a poem, story or lyric is. But whether or not you could be sued would depend on a subjective decision based on individual specifics by a judge. It also seems that you’d be okay if the 70 year rule regarding the death of the author applies, recreating your own version of an ‘old standard’ or you just write your own ‘how to’ or instructions (disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, so check before you quote/rely on my findings).

Recipe patents are interesting too, but only really worth pursuing if they fulfill certain criteria which include being ‘novel & nonobvious’ – which would seem to be quite a challenge! I read that in the US, 20 years after filing, you have to reveal patents and that’s why certain companies such as Coca Cola are very pleased they never patented their beverage formula. However, for anyone interested I found a nice Open Cola recipe here: At the end of the day, if you must, the only way to keep a recipe sekrit is to keep in under your hat, i.e. not tell anyone and hope that no-one reverse engineers it to perfection!

As I mentioned, I just about always modify recipes to suit my needs – usually with a bit of randomness for fun. I see my ingredients as my bits of source code and I enjoy finding new and interesting ways to compile them to do tasty things for me – some compile better than others πŸ™‚

Anyways, I Twitter, Flickr and generally ramble a lot about my culinary creations and people often remark ‘how can that be vegan?’ – which pleases me and also signifies a well developed food hack, as I do like to demystify the stereotypical image of a vegan diet as something void of yumminess and treats. In fact my arabesque state is living proof that I enjoy my food πŸ˜‰

Through my love of food coupled with my admiration for open source principles I’d like to create an open source recipe database for concoctions using some of the geek principles I mentioned earlier. I’ve been poking around the web and seen quite a few open source recipe databases, for example I might give Krecipes a go, especially as I can’t resist a cute Tux beckoning me – but do see a list at the bottom of this post for some of the others I’ve found. In terms of existing open source recipe sites I’m amused by because it also looks like it could double as a dating site with the boys & girls tabs arranged so you can select by recipe creator image, thus if you’re that way inclined being able to see if they’re um, dishy ;-P

Other ideas around the idea of open source & food that I’ve mused about with cohorts have been various foodie unconferences (inc a cookoff, vegan cupcake day & vegan hacks), how fab it would be to add an open source area to the work recipe database, an online gameshow(!) and bothering Peter from to enquire if he could help me solve some of the practicalities re building tiny arduino cupcake ovens :-0

Some links from my perusing…

Open source recipe/ingredients databases and calorie/ nutrition calculators:

A few articles on recipe copyright:



Some existing recipe sites declaring thier open sourceness:

Amused the idea of cooking engineers – but sadly for geeks it’s a bit b0rked at the time of writing & seems to have a copyright/patent notice, so doesn’t seem to follow open source principles:

None of the above to be confused with: πŸ˜€

And finally…
As you’ve so kindly indulged my witterings, here’s a couple of videos that I’ve made to share with anyone who’s asked me how I make stuff or has any odd ideas about vegans not having yummy food. Take the source code and modify them with your favourite ingredients, but don’t ask me to sample them if they’re not vegan! PS I know that I’m not the next Nigella or Ridley Scott, so I won’t be too offended if you laugh at my crap presenting/filming/editing skillz πŸ˜› Oh yes, I’ll add the ingredients lists soon.

packet of vegan short crust pastry

or if you’re going to make it yourself:
200g / 1.5 cups flour of choice
100g / half cup vegan marg
5 tablespoons water

Rub flour & marg together to make breadcrumb bits then add water and mix into dough.
Roll out on floured board and cut strips to make sides & cut round tin for base or just cut out oversized and mould into tin. I didn’t bake my pastry crust beforehand as the quiche takes 45-55 mins to cook

Heat oven to 190C / 390F

packet of silken tofu
3 tablespoons soya milk
heaped teaspoon of turmeric
3 cloves garlic
handful of spinach
packet of asparagus chopped into bitesized bits
4 or 5 mushrooms
small red onion
1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds
sprinkling of mixed herbs
black pepper
pinch of salt
olive oil
chopped tomato to garnish

Firstly saute the onion, mushroom & asparagus with mixed herbs & mustard seeds.
Whizz spinach and garlic together, put into a largish bowl
Whizz silken tofu, soy milk & turmeric and pour into the bowl of spinach & garlic. Add salt & pepper to taste.
Fold in sauteed veg and then pour mix into pastry
Arrange chopped tomato on top & spray with a little oil. Turn over top of pastry if sides more than half a cm higher than mix – just to neaten!

Bake for 45-55 mins or until knife comes cleanish. Take out of oven and will set a little more if you leave it to stand.



  1. Hi hellocatfood, thanks for this – it’s fabulous πŸ˜€
    Yay for combining cake, arduino, music & cats!


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