Real vegetarian food, served in an imaginary world...

Friday, 21 July 2017

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest - PHILEAS FOGG

Mr Phileas Fogg is a creature of habit (until he takes a bet that he can travel around the world in 80 days). He eats at the Reform Club every day.

Phileas Fogg, having shut the door of his house at half-past eleven, and having put his right foot before his left five hundred and seventy-five times, and his left foot before his right five hundred and seventy-six times, reached the Reform Club, an imposing edifice in Pall Mall, which could not have cost less than three millions. He repaired at once to the dining-room, the nine windows of which open upon a tasteful garden, where the trees were already gilded with an autumn colouring; and took his place at the habitual table, the cover of which had already been laid for him.

His menu never changes - and it always includes rhubarb.

I didn’t realise how much I loved rhubarb until I started cooking it fresh from the garden. For this crumble, I use quite a lot of sweetening – feel free to reduce some of the sugar in the topping. The sprinkled sugar, however, is an important stage in ‘cooking’ the rhubarb before it goes in the oven. I also add some orange pith and spritz for the same reason. It helps to make sure that the rhubarb is lovely and soft (but not soggy) when you serve it.
So, if I could entice Mr Fogg to deviate from his usual routine, I would have him for dinner and serve him this as a pudding.

900g rhubarb
50g caster sugar
3tbsp light brown sugar
1 orange
1tsp cinnamon
225g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
75g butter
175g brown sugar

Preheat oven to 200C/ Gas 6.
Trim rhubarb and strip off any stringy bits.
Cut into 2cm pieces and place in a shallow casserole dish.
Sprinkle over caster sugar, brown sugar, spritz of orange juice, orange zest and cinnamon.
Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl.
Add butter and rub in until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Mix in the sugar.
Spoon crumble on top of rhubarb.
Bake for 25-30 mins.
Allow to cool a little.
Then serve, on its own...
...or with custard.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest – JULES WINNFIELD

Jules Winnfield, played by Samuel L Jackson, may just be the best character ever created by Quentin Tarantino (and that is, undoubtedly, up against some pretty stiff competition). Some others might be more memorable - including his partner Vincent Vega - but this one goes through such an extreme change: initially a hitman, after a "moment of clarity" he decides to "walk the Earth". 

In a classic scene from Pulp Fiction, while on a mission to recover a briefcase for his boss, he tastes a 'Big Kahuna Burger', although admitting that he usually eats vegetarian food. 
I would like to think that if he came to dinner he would also say of mine: "This is a tasty burger."


1 red onion, chopped
½ red pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp chilli powder
1 tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed.
3 tbsp olive oil
handful of mixed fresh herbs (I used coriander and parsley)
50g coarse breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to season
plain flour

Plus, to serve:
burger buns
various salad items of choice
relish/ ketchup etc.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and gently fry the onion and pepper until softened. 
Then add the garlic and cook for a minute more.
Sprinkle over the spices and stir until well coated.
Add the kidney beans and allow all to cook together for a minute or so before removing from the heat.
When cooled, place in a food processor and blend until you have a rough mix. (You can also do this by hand by squashing it all with a wooden spoon.)
Mix in the breadcrumbs and the herbs and season.
With floured hands and surface, mould the mixture into four burger shapes.
Prepare the accompanying salad garnish.
Heat the remaining 2tbsp oil and fry the burgers on both sides until browned.

Then assemble...
...and serve.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Vegetarian Delirium - SUMMER PUDDING

Another gooseberry recipe and a good way to use up the remainders along with more of the summer fruit harvest.

1kg summer fruits (I used a mix of gooseberries, redcurrants, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries).
175g caster sugar
8 slices day-old white bread (medium to thick sliced)

Rinse the fruit and put into a pan (except for strawberries which need no additional cooking). Add the caster sugar and 3tbsp of water.
Bring to the boil, cook for 1 minute, stirring to make sure the sugar dissolves. Then turn off the heat and leave to cook for a further 4-5 minutes. The juice should now be soft but intact.

Allow to cool a little and then pour through a sieve with a bowl underneath to separate the fruit from the juice. Add the strawberries to the fruit.

Line a basin with cling film, overlapping two sheets.
Allow some overhang.

Cut the crusts off the bread and then cut 7 of them in half, slightly diagonally. This will make it easier to fit them in the bowl.

      Take one of these pieces, trim it smaller, dip it in the juice 
and place it in the middle of the bowl.

Then, after dipping each in the juice, arrange the others around the edge to make a casing.
Spoon in the fruit.

Fold the edges over the fruit and use the remaining piece of bread (dipped in the juice, too) to fill the gap in the middle. 
Cut to fit before dipping.

Now, take the edges of the cling film and draw each piece in to seal the pudding inside the bowl.

Place a side plate on top and weigh it down with a can.
Allow this to set for at least six hours and overnight if possible.

When ready to serve, remove weight, plate and open up the cling film. 

Put large plate on top and invert.

Remove cling film.

Cut open.

Place in bowls and serve with the remaining juice...

...and cream if you like.

This is lovely 'comfort food' and is so easy to make. 

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest - BILLY JOEL

If I was asked which music I wanted to take to a desert island my dilemma would not be which artist to choose, but which of Billy Joel's albums to choose.
I love them all, but The Stranger contains some of my favourite songs of all time. 
Scenes From An Italian Restaurant  tells a story of youth turning to age and hope turning to reality, but it all takes place while life is lived and wine is enjoyed.

I would like to think that this pasta dish would evoke the right kind of atmosphere if Billy came to dinner. 

I would make sure I served it with a bottle of white and a bottle of red (or perhaps a bottle of rosé instead).

Feel free to make your own pasta, or buy it fresh or dried (the amount needed will vary).


Serves 4

2tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, finely chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 - 10 flat white mushrooms, brushed and sliced
14oz/ 400g can chopped tomatoes
1tbsp tomato puree
3tbsp chopped fresh parsley
8 vegetarian sausages, defrosted if frozen
½ tsp sugar
Pinch of salt and black pepper
450g fresh tagliatelle or 225g dried


Sauce can be made in advance and heated when needed.

Heat 1tbsp oil in a large pan and fry onion and pepper until soft. Add garlic and cook for further 2-3 minutes.
Stir in chopped tomatoes, mushrooms, tomato puree, sugar, salt, pepper and chopped parsley.

In a separate, smaller pan, heat 1tbsp of oil and fry the vegetarian sausages.

When cooked, chop into chunks and add to the sauce.
Simmer for 15 minutes until thickened.

When ready to eat
Cook pasta until al dente in boiling salted water.
Add pasta to sauce and mix well.
Serve with grated cheese and basil leaves. 
And listen to Billy as you eat...

Wednesday, 12 July 2017


This can be adapted to suit your own particular preference or what is available at the time.
Most of these ingredients came from the garden.

Adjust amounts to suit the number of servings.

For the salad
lollo rosso
1 carrot, grated
12 slices cucumber
2 spring onions, chopped
handful of parsley sprigs

For the dressing
choice of herbs (I used basil, parsley and coriander), chopped finely
juice of ½ lemon
4tbsp olive oil 
salt and pepper to taste

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guests – THE FAMOUS FIVE

The Famous Five were the heroes of a series of children's books by Enid Blyton which originated in the 1940s and have been popular ever since. 
Julian, Dick and Anne, George and Timmy the dog... yes they are all invited. I know they are partial to a bit of home cooking and portable food. This is high in calories but with all that hiking and bike riding they should soon work it off. 

Quiche has become very popular again. This is a fail-safe recipe which I have refined over the years, with a few tips on avoiding soggy pastry.


Serves 4 - 6

200g/8oz plain flour
pinch salt
100g/4oz butter
30ml/2tbsp cold water
4 eggs, beaten plus 1 additional egg yolk
450ml/ ¾pt single cream
100g/4oz cheese
handful of cut chives
2 tomatoes.

Mix the flour and salt, then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. I often make life easy and use a food processor, although using your hands is good, too. 

Add the water gradually until the mixture forms a pastry which comes away from the sides of the bowl.
Make into a ball and cover with film. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, grease and flour a 20cm/ 8inch flan dish

Roll out the pastry and line the dish. Prick the base all over with a fork.
Refrigerate again for 20 minutes. 

Use a sharp knife to trim the sides.
Then line with baking parchment and fill with baking beans.

Cook for about 10 minutes at Gas 7/ 220C/ 425F.
Remove the beans and parchment. 
Mix an egg yolk with a little water and brush over the pastry to seal it. Cook for about 5 minutes more until pastry feels dry. Allow to cool.

Now prepare the filling:

You need about 8 slices from the tomatoes; remove pulpy centre and chop the rest. 
Place on kitchen roll to dry.

Wash the chives and snip them into 2cm pieces.

Grate the cheese.

Whisk the eggs and the cream together.

Make a layer of the chopped tomatoes and sprinkle over the chives and cheese.

Pour the cream mixture over the top.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C/ Gas 6/ 400F for about 10 mins. 

Then add slices of tomato to the top and bake for 10-15 minutes more.

Serve with accompaniments such as salad and potatoes.

Any uneaten slices can be chilled and used for lunch the next day.