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

Monday 20 June 2016

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest - GENE HACKMAN

Gene Hackman is a fine actor, of that there is no doubt. I loved him in Mississippi Burning and few could forget his performances in The Conversation or as Popeye Doyle in The French Connection.

Personally, my two favourite characters as portrayed by him are Buck Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde and the old blind man who befriends the monster in Young Frankenstein. It is from the latter that I take the inspiration for the meal I would serve him.

Young Frankenstein is a classic Mel Brooks comedy. Gene Wilder is a fantastic Frankenstein and Marty Feldman and Madeleine Kahn more than match him in their supporting roles. Brooks takes the traditional Frankenstein story, adds a healthy dollop of homage to the black and white film versions he loves and creates a fine movie in its own right.
In the scene I am thinking of, the Monster (Peter Boyle) is seeking companionship. The old man’s blindness means that he is not repulsed by the Monster’s physical deformity. Knowing that his guest is cold and hungry he offers to share his soup but his visual impairment means that he pours it, not into a the bowl, but into the Monster’s lap, one of cinema’s great comedic moments.
Gene, here, hopefully, is a soup you will want to eat yourself…

Serves 2

3 medium potatoes
1 large leek
750ml veg stock
3tbsp double cream
salt and black pepper
25g butter

Slice leeks into thin rounds. Place in large sauce pan with butter and sweat for about five minutes, stirring gently.

Peel potatoes and chop into cubes. Add to the pan and stir for a couple more minutes.

Add stock.  Bring to the boil and simmer or about 30 minutes until potatoes and leeks are soft.

Allow to cool slightly and then pour into a blender.

Blend well and return to the pan.

Reheat. Add cream and stir well to mix. Season to taste.

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest - HUGH LAURIE

I have always loved Hugh Laurie: his double act with Stephen Fry, Jeeves and Wooster, Peter’s Friends and Blackadder. I bought his blues CDs and embraced his Americanisation in the Stuart Little films. He showed his true acting potential in The Night Manager.

He played Gregory House MD from 2004-2012.
Gregory House is a difficult character and he seems to exist on a diet of fast food if he is not eating at the hospital canteen. When Dr Wilson comes to stay he experiences the delights of stuffed peppers, so this one’s for him…


Serves 1 as a snack or 2 as a side (can be multiplied to serve more)

1 large red pepper
50g/2oz rice
1tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 large tomato, chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
1tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
½tsp caster sugar
salt and black pepper
50g cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 200°C/ Gas 6/ 400°F
Cook rice in pan of water until soft.
Halve the pepper, de-seed and place them in a lightly-oiled roasting tray. (You can leave the stalk on for effect but I don't.)
Fry the onion and garlic in the oil.
Add the tomato pieces, red wine vinegar, caster sugar, oregano and tomato puree.
Stir in the cooked rice and season.
Divide the rice mixture between the peppers. 
Cover with foil and place in the oven for 20 mins.
Remove foil and check that pepper is almost soft – this is your chance to put it in for a bit longer if necessary. Sprinkle with the cheese.
Return to the oven for 8 minutes until the cheese has started to brown.

Serve as a snack or a side.


This delicious soup is very easy to make and perfect for cold days. I often roast extra sweet potatoes with a roast dinner and then have them ready for when I serve this for a lovely lunch the next day. (Bake some focaccia to go with it to make it extra special.)


Serves 2 easily

2 medium sweet potatoes or 1 large
2 small potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
Olive oil
Mixed herbs
300ml/ ½pint/ 10floz vegetable stock

Peel sweet potato and chop into chunks. Place in baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast until soft (about 40 minutes).
Heat oil in a saucepan and gently fry onion for a few minutes.
Add stock, sweet potato, mixed herbs and potatoes. Bring to the boil and then simmer until potatoes are soft.

Blend in batches until smooth.Then return to pan and reheat.

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest - DODO McINTOSH

This actually happened by accident this morning. I was making the cheese straws and salsa for a quick lunch. As I was cutting the strips for the cheese straws, I thought that it would be easy to make use of the ‘trimmings’ in this way (rather than rolling them all out again). I thought they could be ‘cheesy bits’ and that instantly made me think of Dodo, Hilda’s friend in Rumpole of the Bailey.
 Dodo is famous for her cheesy bits and Hilda hopes to serve them at Chambers parties (always misguidedly expecting Rumpole to be made Head of Chambers).
Perhaps Dodo would like to come to dinner and we could swap recipes.

Left over pieces of puff pastry
Grated cheese

Make pastry into a ball and press out roughly. 
Grate some cheese over the top.
Ball up the pastry again and knead the cheese through.
Roll out flat on a lightly floured surface.
Cut into strips and roll each one up to make a small spiral. Squash the top and place on a baking tray.
Cook in oven at Gas 7/ 225C/450F for about 7 – 10 minutes.


Cheese Straws

1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry (defrosted if frozen)
1 handful grated cheese (e.g. cheddar)

Spread out the pastry and sprinkle the cheese over the top
Make the pastry into a ball and knead the cheese through.
Roll back out on a lightly-floured surface.
Cut into strips.
Twist each strip and place on a baking tray, flattening the ends to stop them unravelling.
Cook at Gas 7/ 220C/ 425F FOR 10 – 12 minutes.

Salsa Dip
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
½ red pepper chopped
1tsp chopped chilli flakes
1tbsp red wine vinegar
Black pepper
2tbsb mixed fresh herbs

Put all ingredients in a blender and whizz until chopped but still chunky.



Serves 2

100g penne
1 ball mozzarella
1 large tomato
Large handful basil
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2tsp mixed herbs – any fresh selection, chopped finely
Salt and pepper

Cook penne for about 15mins until al dente. Drain and rinse.
When completely cool, place in bowl.
Cut tomato into sections and scrape out pips. Mix with pasta.
Tear mozzarella into pieces and add to bowl.
Make dressing by adding herbs, salt and pepper to olive oil and red wine vinegar. Mix well and pour over salad.
Scatter basil leaves over the top.


Thank you to my friend, Carolyn, for this one. I got the idea when she served up something similar.

Serves 2

2 baking potatoes
100g/ 4oz cheese, grated
2tbsp/ 30ml milk
25g/ 1oz butter
salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Wash the potatoes and prick all over with a fork.

Wrap in kitchen roll and microwave for 10 - 12 minutes if you do both at the same time, or 5 - 7 minutes each if you do them individually. (Alternatively cook them slowly in the oven.)

Allow to cool slightly. Then cut in half and scoop out the insides, leaving the skins intact.

Turn the skins over and brush them with olive oil. Then place on a tray under the grill while you prepare the filling. This will make them slightly crispy.

Mash the potato insides with the milk, butter, salt and pepper and half the cheese.  

Spoon the mixture back into the potato skins.

Cover with the rest of the cheese.

If the mixture is still warm, you can cook under the grill for about 6-8 minutes until the cheese bubbles. 
Or, if you have prepared in advance and allowed to cool, cook in a medium/ hot oven for about 15 minutes.

Serve as an accompaniment to another meal, or - for a quick snack -  with something tasty like vegetable chilli, or baked beans.