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

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest - JONATHAN HARKER

Just in time for Halloween...

When Jonathan Harker arrives in Transylvania, he is taken in by Count Dracula’s hospitality, before realising that he is a prisoner in the castle. 

Perhaps, if he had eaten some of this garlicky pie, he might have fared better.

Serves 2 – 3

For the pastry
60g/ 2oz plain flour
60g/ 2oz wholemeal self-raising flour
75g/ 2½oz butter, in small pieces
1 free range egg

For the filling
450g/16oz potatoes, peeled and chopped for the pan
2 onions, chopped roughly
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1tbsp olive oil
25g/ 1oz butter
100g/ 3½oz cheese, grated
125ml/ 4½floz double cream
1tbsp fresh mixed herbs

First make the pastry.
Put flours and butter into food mixer and whizz until it resembles fine breadcrumbs (or mix between fingers if you prefer).
Add egg and whizz again.
Tip out and form into a ball. 
Cover with cling film and chill for about 10 minutes.
Grease and line a loaf tin.
Take pastry from fridge and roll out.
Place inside the tin. Prick the base, cover and replace in fridge for another 10 minutes or so.
Preheat oven to Gas 5/ 190°C/ 375°F
Line with baking parchment and fill with baking beans. 
Place in the oven for 10 minutes. Then, remove the beans and the parchment and cook for about 10 minutes more until slightly brown.
Leave until ready to cook the finished pie.

Meanwhile, make the filling.
Boil the potatoes until just tender, then drain and cool slightly. 
While the potatoes are boiling, heat oil and butter in a pan and add onions.
Fry onions on a very low heat for about 15 mins, then add garlic and cook for a couple more.
Cut the potatoes into small chunks and add them to the pan. Stir and add about ¾ of the cheese and mix in the herbs. Season.
Allow to sit and soak up the flavours.

Later (I try to leave it at least a few hours), assemble the pie.
Tip the potato mix into the pastry case.
Drizzle the cream into the gaps. 
Top with the remaining grated cheese.
Cook in oven at Gas 6 for 45 minutes.
Allow to cool slightly and then cut into portions.

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest - JOHN COOPER CLARKE

I should now say Dr John Cooper Clarke, I suppose, because of his honorary doctorate, awarded in 2013. His work is now also found on English curricula.

His poem Pies provided Zelda with the inspiration for the meal we would have if he came to dinner.

Firstly, the poem:


N.B. I couldn’t find this poem on line at all so I hope it’s ok that I’ve transposed it from a live performance, as it’s not for profit , and especially as we paid to see him at the Rescue Rooms in Nottingham, when he was late and lots of people had gone home. We almost did, too but Dave, of course, needed to go to the toilet first and when he came out he bumped into The Man Himself and, unable to contain his excitement, shouted “It’s Johnny”, causing all the others who had migrated to the bar (or the toilets) to come back into the audience.

A homely girl named Anne
Just couldn’t get a man
Her mother told her
“Darlin’ don’t you cry.
You’ll knock ‘em down like skittles
With some farinaceous vitals
You’ll always get a guy with a pie.”

Butter, sugar, flour,
Keeps ‘em in your power
When physical attractions run awry;
Start rolling out the dough
And he’ll never let you go
Yes you’ll always get a guy with a pie.

When rules of engagement don’t apply,
And your best meals fail to catch his eye,
Bring on the custard
And he’ll be keen as mustard
Yes, you’ll always get a guy with a pie.

When a man finds a mate
He can gain a little weight
Yes, I’ve been there and I can testify;
I used to be a rake, then she began to bake
Yes, you’ll always get a guy with a pie

Guys ain’t complex
They soon get sick of sex
Yet still they all got needs to gratify
Savoury or sweet
A bloke’s got to eat
And you’ll always get a guy with a pie.

What else you gonna do
With that left-over stew
And those cuts of meat you can’t identify?
Ingredients of this sort
Just taste better under shortcrust
You’ll always get a guy with a…
I spy with my little eye
Something beginning with…oh aye
You’ll always get a guy with a pie.

And now, the recipe for a very simple pie….
1 sheet ready-made puff pastry, defrosted if frozen
160g pack marinated tofu
142g tin button mushrooms, drained and rinsed
1 onions, peeled and chopped 
2tbsp mixed herbs
300ml/ ½ pt vegetable stock
2tbspBisto gravy granules
1tbsp olive oil
4 slabs plain chocolate

Note : you can use veggie burgers which look like beef burgers, chopped into pieces. I find that the marinated tofu has a better size and texture. The gravy gives it the meaty taste and the tofu sucks it up.
Tinned mushrooms might also seem a surprising addition but - trust me - they work.

Heat oil in a pan and gently fry the onion until it begins to soften.
Add the tofu and cook until both are golden.
Pour in 100ml of stock and stir until it begins to be absorbed. 
Add 1tbsp of Bisto granules to thicken. Repeat with rest of stock, adding granules each time until you have a lovely thick gravy.
Add mushrooms and mixed herbs and chocolate. Simmer for about ten minutes, then allow to cool.
Place in a pie dish.
Cover with the pastry; slashing with a knife, making a hole in the middle and crimping the edges.
Coat with a little milk. Cook at about 220C/ 425F/ Gas 7-8 for about half an hour until the pastry is risen and golden.

Thursday 9 October 2014

HALLOWEEN COOKALONG - A Meal for Vincent Price

Something a little different here at Dinner with Zelda Manners, as here I revisit a post from last year, originally on my previous cookery blog.

This time the recipes are not my own. In fact, they were created by the wonderful Vincent Price. But I could still fantasise that he was coming round to enjoy them, cooked by my own fair hand...
October 31st was a very special evening, as I took part in the Vincent Price Halloween Cookalong.

The event was organised by the very talented Jenny at Silverscreen Suppers and The Vincentennial Cookblog.  It involved some of us with cooking/ film obsessions reproducing a selection of Vincent Price’s dishes and watching House on Haunted Hill. Fellow Cookalongers will be listed at the end of the post - all well worth checking out.
As well as the universal Pumpkin Pie, I was allocated Champignons Grillés Marie Victoire (with its rather more pedestrian title of Broiled Mushrooms Mary Victoria in brackets).

Vincent Price, as well as being a hugely successful actor, noted especially for his ability to play the extremely suave but slightly unhinged, was also an enthusiastic and accomplished cook. He even had a TV series called Cooking Price-Wise which is well worth a view if you can track it down. The accompanying book contains dishes from around the globe. With his wife Mary he also wrote A Treasury of Great Recipes.

On Thursday, I had to be well prepared in advance as I had tickets to watch a lecture on Richard III and then a performance of the play during the afternoon. So, after immersing myself in the seductiveness of evil, I returned home to put the final touches to my meal.
My given recipe, Champignons Grillés Marie Victoire, was very tasty. I thought it might make a suitable starter but another time I would definitely serve it as a side-dish (as Vincent actually intended). It was easy to cook, although I couldn’t, as specified, keep the pan 6 inches from the heat so I curtailed the cooking time slightly. 

The mushrooms were still hot, soft and tasty. The shallots and butter gave an extra dimension but, as a starter, we (sorry to say) missed the garlic. I would serve this again as an accompaniment to another dish; Vincent suggests barbecued steak but I will find a suitable vegetarian alternative. 

And so, onto the Pumpkin Pie. As with so many of these old recipes, a certain amount of flexibility is required to turn the recipe on the page into the food on the plate. I think I made a ‘rookie error’ in that, caught up in the heat of the moment, I purchased a big old pumpkin so that D could carve it into a spooky face. Some of these pumpkins are grown more for their size than their flavour (waist rather than taste). Vincent actually suggested buying canned mashed pumpkin but that was not an option in Nottinghamshire. I diligently cooked and mashed the flesh which D had scraped out before sculpting his masterpiece. 

Incidentally, in the spirit of ‘waste not want not’ I also roasted the seeds and made soup for the next day. I’ll be making dresses from curtains next. 

The pie took longer to cook than Vincent envisaged and (probably because of my inferior pumpkin) tasted less ‘pumpkiny’ than I was expecting. However, it was still delicious and we indulged in huge slices.

I have copied the recipes below, along with any of my adjustments in brackets.
This was a fabulous project to be involved with and it led to a thoroughly enjoyable evening and a fantastic meal.

And then there was House on Haunted Hill to finish it all off. So, presumably Frederick Loren will now be looking for a new wife. Well, if applications are open…

Check out the blogs...

Sally at My Custard Pie
Erica at Retro Recipe
Catherine at Battenburgbelle
Brian at Caker Cooking
Angela at Glamorous Glutton

(If I have missed you out, please let me know and I will be pleased to add you too.)

And the recipes...

Serves 6

18 large (how large is large?) brown mushrooms (I used chestnut) lightly scrubbed (I brushed them clean)
5tbsp butter
1tsp finely chopped shallots (I used 2 shallots)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper

Remove mushroom stems.

Heat 2tbsp butter in a large skillet (pan).

Place mushrooms, tops down, in the butter.

Blend 3 tbsp softened butter with the shallots and the salt and pepper. Fill the mushroom caps with the mixture.

Broil (grill) 6 inches from the heat for about 5 mins (My griller was only 3 inches from the gas so I cut the time to 4 mins).

Turn off broiler (griller) and allow mushrooms to sizzle for 5 minutes more.

Baste mushrooms with any juice in pan. Serve without spilling contents of caps.

Makes about 8 servings

1 X 9 inch unbaked pie shell
350g / 1.5 cups mashed or canned cooked pumpkin
3 eggs well-beaten (I used free-range)
350ml/ 1.5 cups heavy cream (double cream)
145g/ 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1tsp mace
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Make the pie shell with a high scalloped edge, refrigerate several hours. (I used pre-made sweet pastry and rolled it to the thickness of a £1 coin)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F / 220 degrees C .( I used Gas 7)

In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin with eggs, then the cream, sugar, salt, and spices.  

Blend well, then pour into the chilled pie shell.  

Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F / 175 degrees C (I used Gas 4) before serving (I needed to keep it in the oven at this temperature for about 45minutes before the filling set).

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest - LAURIE LEE

Laurie Lee, the well-loved author and poet, is best remembered for his autobiographical work Cider With Rosie.

Never to be forgotten, that first long secret drink of golden fire, juice of those valleys and of that time, wine of wild orchards, of russet summer, of plump red apples, and Rosie's burning cheeks. Never to be forgotten, or ever tasted again...

Here, then is a vegetable pie which incorporates those flavours.

It serves 2 - 4, depending upon the size of portion.


175ml/6floz stock
280ml/½pint sweet cider
1tsp brown sugar
2 carrots, chopped
2 large parsnips, chopped
2 heads broccoli, cut into florets
¼cauliflower, cut into florets
1tbsp wholewheat flour
2tbsp chopped parsley
1 medium onion
salt and pepper
250g/9oz puff pastry

Heat oven to 200˚C/400˚F Gas Mark 6
Slice the onions and fry until golden.
Mix the stock with the cider and sugar and put into a large pan with the carrots and parsnips.
Cook until just tender, remove the vegetables and put to one side.
Add the broccoli and cauliflower. Cook until tender. Remove and reserve with the other vegetables.
Mix the flour with a little water, add to the cider and cook until thickened, stirring all the time.
Cook for 2-3 minutes, remove from the heat and add the parsley.
Place vegetables in a greased dish and season well.
Put the pastry on top of the dish and slash with a sharp knife.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest - ATTICUS FINCH

Social commentary can be a tricky business. But if you can filter your views through the eyes of a child, you can create a way of witnessing, assimilating and portraying the most horrific of events and create a literary classic at the same time.

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout Finch reveals the trial and conviction of Tom Robinson almost as an afterthought, a way to show the brilliance of her father. Her energies are firmly focused on the Radley House and whether Boo is friend or foe.

I often find it difficult to like the film if I have loved the book, but Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch pushes all such prejudices aside.
I could have decided on all sorts of meals here, cooked by Calpurnia, drenched in maple syrup, but instead, here is a good old corn recipe…


Makes 6 large wedges

200g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
2tsp salt
1tsp black pepper
2 free range eggs
280ml milk
200g cooked sweetcorn
oil for frying

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.
Beat the eggs with the milk and stir this into the dry ingredients to make a smooth batter.
Add the sweetcorn and mix everything together well.
Heat a little oil in a pan and pour in mixture. Keep the heat low as you need to cook it through without burning.
You should begin to see small air bubbles come to the surface.
The next step is to turn the mixture over in order to be able to cook both sides. This is the hardest part as you need to time it just right. The trick is to wait for the point where it begins to shrink away from the sides of the pan.
When both sides are golden, tip onto board and cut into wedges.

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest - WINSTON SMITH

Winston Smith can hardly be thought of as a hero but in 1984 he struggles to find and retain his originality in a world of bureaucracy.
Chocolate is rationed and the amount allocated keeps diminishing, despite the Party’s reassurance.
I think he would love to indulge in these.

Makes about 12

50g butter
50g granulated sugar
40g light brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 free range egg
125g plain flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
200g plain chocolate drops
100g white chocolate

NB Don't worry about the ratio of chocolate to biscuit mix - it is correct! 

Heat oven to 180C/ Gas4.
Cream the butter with the sugars and the vanilla extract.
Add the egg, flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt and mix well.
Break the white chocolate into chunks and add to the mixture with the chocolate drops.
Make sure everything is well-mixed.
Put spoonfuls of the mixture, spaced well apart on greased baking trays.
Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly brown and still soft in the centre.
Leave to cool slightly for a couple of minutes. Then, place on wire rack to cool fully.
Also see what Zelda would cook for George Orwell.


Serves 4

450g/ 1lb gooseberries.
75g/ 3oz caster sugar
500g/ 1lb 2oz freshly made custard
150ml/ 5floz/ ¼ pint double cream

Top and tail the gooseberries. Then heat gently in a saucepan with the sugar. When they are soft, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Put the gooseberries in a blender and whizz until you get a lovely mush. Push through a sieve to remove the pips.
Add the custard and stir well.
Whip the cream and then combine with the gooseberry mixture to make a marbled effect.

Pour into dishes and chill.

Wednesday 22 January 2014


1 pack pre-made gnocchi
1 mozzarella ball
1 large tin chopped tomatoes
1 red pepper
175g spinach
1 red onion, chopped
salt and black pepper
1tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 200C/ Gas 6
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Add the gnocchi. It is cooked when it floats to the surface.
Meanwhile, heat the oil and fry the onion and red pepper.
Add the chopped tomatoes.
Blanch the spinach and drain off any excess water.
Mix all the above ingredients together and place in an oven-proof dish.
Tear pieces from the mozzarella ball and place on top of the dish.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Cook in oven for about 20 minutes until mozzarella is melted