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

Friday 16 December 2016

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest – BUCK HANNASSEY

Winter days mean afternoons in the warm with a good movie, and one of my favourites is 'The Big Country'.

Now we all know that Gregory Peck is the star (and what a fine job he does). He plays James McKay, an ex-naval captain who travels to the West to marry his fiancé who lives on the Terrill ranch. Men are tough there and there is some initial doubt as to whether McKay is tough enough. As the film progresses, we learn that he is; he just does things his own way. Even the famous fight scene with Steve Leech (Charlton Heston) takes place in private and ends with the classic line: ‘What did we prove?’ He also shows his mettle by (again secretly) riding ‘Old Thunder’ the ‘unbreakable’ horse.

The scene stealer is Burl Ives. His entrance at the engagement party is movie genius. As patriarch Rufus Hannassey, he leads the family which is in contention with the Terrill’s for grazing rights in ‘The Big Muddy’.

But my meal is for his son, Buck. Poor Buck; he is forced to be tough but cannot, as hard as he tries, win his father’s respect. He loves ‘Julie the Schoolie’ (Jean Simmons) and at one point, in a vain attempt to woo her, he invites himself into her house and eats her stew.

Buck Hannassey is played by Chuck Connors. His performance is right up there with the others although his name is less well-known today. In his time, though, he was a successful baseball and basketball player and had a long-running stint on American series, ‘The Rifleman’.

In 'The Big Country', Buck Hannassey is a mixed-up man. He craves acceptance from his father and many of his mistakes are made attempting to win the slightest of praise. At the end he is rejected by the man he so wants to please and by the woman he (probably genuinely) loves but whom he has abducted in another desperate scheme.

So, I think he might like this lovely stew with dumplings. It could warm his heart and show him that he doesn’t need to try so hard. This one is made with vegetarian sausages but you probably wouldn’t even notice. The chilli adds a little kick which a hard-living man would enjoy.

Oh, and by the way, the Big Country has them best theme of any film ever. We could play it while we eat. 


Serves 2-3

6 vegetarian sausages, defrosted if bought frozen
2 medium red onions, sliced
1 medium red pepper, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
420g can mixed beans (pulses)
420g can red kidney beans, drained and washed
400g can chopped tomatoes
1tbsp tomato puree (or 2tbsp tomato ketchup) mixed with 3tbsp of hot water
2tsp dried mixed herbs
1tbsp sugar
1tbsp olive oil
2 bay leaves

Chop each sausage into four.
Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the sausage until brown. Remove and set aside.
Fry the onion and pepper for a few minutes until almost soft.
Then add the garlic and continue to cook until all just brown.
Put the sausages back in the pan.
Add the beans to the pan with the tomatoes and tomato puree.
Sprinkle in the mixed herbs, bay leaves and sugar and stir well.
Transfer all to a crock pot and place in the oven at a low heat until the sauce has thickened. (I leave it for at least an hour.)
Remove bay leaves before serving.

This dish is even better if prepared in advance and re-heated when needed.

It is even better again if you add these dumplings. You can cook them separately and stir them in.


200g SR flour
100g veg suet
2tsp mixed herbs
Salt and black pepper
5 – 8 tbsp cold water

Combine ingredients in a large bowl.
Add enough of the water to bring them together in a soft dough.

Shape into small balls.
Add to hot stock so that they float on the surface.

Cook for about 20 minutes (add to stew about 20 mins before serving).

Saturday 3 December 2016

A Meal for Vegetarian Pirates and Smugglers

This is my Dad's photo of Mousehole in Cornwall.  

We spent a glorious November week in a cottage on the quay here.
And, if you spend a week by the sea, it makes sense to have a Smuggler/ Pirate meal. This was a kind of 'free for all' with all dishes on the table at the same time. It took a lot of preparation but I had some willing helpers. Some of these recipes were my own but I also trawled the internet for ideas.

The Menu
Pirate Cheeses                 Treasure Map Pizza
    Pastry Treasure Chests     Fruit Trees
        Salmagundi                    Shark Infested Beans

I started by making the filling for the Treasure Chests. This is because it tastes best when it has had time to sit for a while. It can be heated up at the end and placed inside the pastry chests which are cooked in the final 20 minutes before serving.

Then I, with my helpers, started on the prep for the other dishes. The Pirate Cheeses can be made and left until needed, as can the Salmagundi. Don't make the Fruit Trees too soon as you don't want the fruit to discolour.

Pirate Cheeses
My Dad was given responsibility for assembling these. I found the idea on the web. The original used black food colouring but I thought that black olives would be better. Cutting and assembling was a bit fiddly but the end result was worth it.

babybel cheeses
black olives
Cut through the red covering on each of the cheeses. Make sure you don't cut the cheese itself. Remove half. Then, using a sharp knife, cut an eye, eyepatch and mouth for each pirate from the skin of an olive.

This is, apparently, a traditional meal served to pirates. Recipes vary and there are even some hot versions available. Most writers agree, though that it was a shredded mix of meat and salad. This vegetarian twist on the dish uses what we call 'make believe ham'.

4 Quorn meat free smoked ham slices
1/4 cucumber, de-seeded
2 carrots, peeled
4 lettuce leaves
4 slices cheddar 
1 small onion
Cut and slice all ingredients into strips, apart from the onion, which can be in thin rings.
Mix all together. No dressing needed.

Shark Infested Beans
A bit of fun to accompany the meal.

2 large tins baked beans
3 tortilla chips.
Heat beans just before service and place in a large bowl. (You can make sure that it is in the pan in advance to avoid a rush at the end.)
Arrange tortilla chips to look like sharks.

Fruit Trees
This is another idea I pinched - this time from a children's party post - but we made it using the fruit we had in the fruit bowl and added a bit of cress.

1 banana
1 orange
1 green apple
Slice the banana in half lengthways, then chop into slices.
Cut apple into segments, leaving the skin on.
Peel the orange and cut into segments.
Arrange on plate to make the palm trees and sprinkle cress on the bottom.

Treasure Map Pizza
You can have fun making whatever you want to be on the map.

We even made ships from red and yellow peppers and cocktail sticks
We also covered the serving board with pieces of blue and grey paper, cut from magazine pictures to make the sea surround.

Ingredients/ Method
1 pack cook your own pizza dough (you can, of course, make your own but I used a quick cheat). Make this up according to packet instructions but make into an island shape. Spread with tomato sauce and sprinkle with grated cheese.
➤Cook in oven, then add toppings.
Toppings must be ready in advance:
1 red and 1 yellow pepper for the ships (see above)
1 carrot cut into palings for the palisade
6-8 pasta twirls (fusilli), cook until soft but firm. Use as tree trunks, along with flat-leaf parsley for the leaves
pieces of cut olive skin for the path
spring onion leaf for 'X marks the spot'
crumbled tortilla crisps for sand/ rocks

Pastry Treasure Chests
You can put whatever filling you fancy into the pastry chests. I used a creamy quorn and leek mix which is my Mum's favourite. This serves 4 people.

1 300g pack Quorn chicken-style pieces
2tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
300ml vegetable stock
200ml double cream
3tbsp butter
2tbsp flour
75ml milk
2 large leeks, washed and chopped
1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry

1 egg yolk
Heat oil and 1tbsp butter in a pan and add the onions and leeks.
Cook gently until soft and golden, add the Quorn pieces and then pour over the vegetable stock. Stir well.
In a separate pan heat the remaining butter. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Then add 60ml milk, stirring well to avoid any lumps. Add the cream and continue to cook until the roux is smooth. Then add it to the leek and Quorn mixture.
Bring to the boil to reduce by half and then allow to cool slightly. Season as required.

Keep until needed.
➤About 20 minutes before serving, gently reheat the filling.
Heat oven to 200C/ Gas 6
Cut sheet into four neat rectangles, removing any uneven pieces.
Score a line with a knife, all the way around each rectangle, about 1cm in from the edge. You should be cutting about halfway through the pastry. Place each on a baking tray. Make a lattice pattern on the top of each. Mix egg yolk with a little water and brush over the top. 
Cook pastry for about 15-20 minutes until it rises and you can remove the central panel.
Place hot filling inside and replace the 'lid'.
(This should be the last item before serving)

And then, after all the food was eaten, we tried to play a 'Cornish Smuggler' game. It made cooking six dishes seem easy.