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

Tuesday, 30 May 2017


Thursday, 18 May 2017

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest - WALTER MATTHAU

Walter Matthau gave superb performances in The Fortune Cookie, JFK and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. My favourite, however, is The Odd Couple where his portrayal of Oscar is perfectly complemented by Jack Lemmon's Felix.

Here, at a card party he is serving refreshments:-
Oscar: Who wants food? I got brown sandwiches and green sandwiches. Which one do you want?
Murray: What’s the green?
Oscar: It’s either very new cheese or very old meat.
Murray: I’ll take the brown.

I would make him this veggie version of a classic, so that he could enjoy a really tasty sandwich.


Serves 1 (but can easily be multiplied to serve more)

3 rashers vegetarian bacon
3 slices bread
3 tbsp mayonnaise
4 large crisp lettuce leaves
2 Quorn turkey-style slices
1 tomato, sliced thinly
salt and black paper

If bread is very soft it will be better toasted. If so, do this first.
Spread one side of each slice with mayonnaise.
Arrange two lettuce leaves on one slice of bread and season.
Place two turkey-style slices on top of the lettuce. 
Top with another slice of bread, mayonnaise side up.
Arrange remaining lettuce leaves on top and add tomato slices.
Fry 'bacon' rashers.
Cut ‘bacon’ rashers to fit and place on top of tomato.
Cover with final slices of bread, mayonnaise side down.

Cut in half and pierce with long toothpicks to keep it all together.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest – ALAN PARTRIDGE

There is no one better than Alan Partridge to join me for this.
 At the famous lunch with Tony Hayers at the start of I'm Alan Partridge, when he pitches his ideas for a new TV show, including “Monkey Tennis”, Alan orders a pasta meal and, not knowing the name of farfalle, asks for ‘action man bow ties’. Later, he steals the cheese from the restaurant before running out.
This meal uses farfalle and cheese in his honour. 


250g dried farfalle
180g ‘Philadelphia’ or similar soft cheese
100g grated cheddar
1 onion, chopped
150g mushrooms, finely sliced
Salt and black pepper
4 slices vegetarian bacon-style rashers, defrosted if frozen
1tbsp olive oil
40g butter
100ml milk

Serves 2 as a main meal or up to 4 as a snack

Heat salted water in a saucepan and cook pasta according to packet instructions.
Heat oil and butter in a large pan.
Fry onions gently until soft, then add mushrooms and fry until soft and just beginning to brown.
In a separate pan, fry the ‘bacon’ until crisp. Cut into postage stamp size pieces. 
Then mix in with mushroom mixture.
Spoon all the soft cheese into pan and add a little milk to soften.
Mix in the cheese and season.
Drain the pasta. Add it to the cheese sauce, stirring it through until completely covered.
Serve in small bowls as a snack or on a larger plate as a main meal.

Monday, 8 May 2017


Serves 4 as a light snack (1 each)

4 cobs (bread rolls)
140g/ 5oz soft cheese (or thereabouts – this equates to 8 ‘triangles’)
butter or butter spread
¼ large cucumber
salt and pepper

Slice each cob in half and spread lightly with butter (or substitute). This is an important step – do not neglect this as it enables the cheese to be the filling.
Share the soft cheese between each.
Slice the cucumber as thinly as you can and place on each half. Season with salt and pepper.
Re-assemble each cob and cut into two.


I am calling these ‘dear’ in memory of my grandmother, Doris Brock, because she would always say that anything small and appealing was ‘dear’. She was, however, quite a formidable character. She was known to give unsought advice to people in department stores; one example being, “Don’t buy that, you’ll look like a leprechaun,” to a woman looking at a green dress. She also responded to my Mum’s new hairstyle with the (now oft-quoted) phrase: “Are you getting ready for Halloween?” But let’s not forget that she was also a young woman during World War II, raising a baby daughter while her husband was on active service. I remember staying with her for a whole week each summer and loving the time we spent together. This year she would have been 100.


About 4 large potatoes
3tbsp olive oil (or any other oil of choice) 
2tsp salt

Serves 2 (or more if a smaller portion)

Peel potatoes and chop into small pieces.
Put in a bowl of cold water and leave for at least half an hour.
Heat oven to 220˚C/ Gas 7 and put oil into a large baking tray. Preheat oil for about 5 minutes.
Drain potatoes and place in tray.
Roast for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle salt over and then turn.
Roast for a further 20 minutes.
If brown and crispy, serve right away. (Roast for an extra 10 minutes if needed). 

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest - STUART LITTLE

Well, you cook for a couple of Disney Dogs and, before you know it, an animated mouse is knocking at the door demanding dinner. In this case, however, Zelda was happy to oblige.

Stuart began life in a 1954 children's novel by EB White. Incidentally, I would love have a bit of a chinwag with Elwyn Brooks White. I would ask him how he could make such a fuss of saving Wilbur in Charlotte's Web, but place it in the context of a novel where pig farming and its consequences are seen as acceptable. Don't get me wrong; I am glad that Wilbur was saved, but what about all the others on the farm? I am not a militant vegetarian: I don't campaign against meat eating and I cook my veggie dishes to tempt carnivores, not to judge them, but I don't see how Elwyn can have it both ways.

That aside, let's get back to Stuart who is a loveable little character who found further fame again at the end of the 1990s with a series of films, loosely based (but actually improving on) his adventures in print.
We know that mice love cheese, so I think that Stuart would be quite happy with this.


250g/ 8oz fusilli
2 leeks, chopped
1 small onion, chopped finely
100g/ 3½oz cheddar cheese, grated
25ml /1floz milk
25g/ 1oz butter
25g/ 1oz plain flour
100ml/ 3½floz vegetable stock
100ml/ 3½floz double cream (replace with milk for a lighter meal)
100g/ 3½oz breadcrumbs
1tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 200C/ Gas 6
Cook pasta according to packet instructions.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pan and fry onion and leek until soft.
Add vegetable stock.
In a separate pan, heat butter and add flour to make a roux. 
Gradually add milk (and cream if using). Add to leeks.
Add 50g cheese and mix well until melted.
Drain pasta and add to leeks, stirring well.
Place in oven-proof dish and spread breadcrumbs and rest of cheese over the top.
Cook in oven for about 25 minutes.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest – NOEL COWARD

Noel Coward – what a genius! I love Private Lives. I have a CD version and play it whenever I need a boost.
Coward was a playwright, actor, director, author, composer, singer, cabaret performer, etc., etc. His wit was renowned and, although now often parodied, was unique at the time.
Here is his wonderful rendition of Mad Dogs and Englishmen:
And here is (the also wonderful) Neil Hannon’s version of I Went to a Marvellous Party:

In 1935 Coward wrote a short play called Red Peppers which was part of a ten-play cycle known as Tonight at 8:30. He performed in it himself, alongside Gertrude Lawrence. I think that if he came to dinner he might appreciate me cooking something with red peppers as a main ingredient. It would appease his legendary ego.

When choosing my dish, I did wonder at first whether it might be too familiar and not flamboyant enough, but then I thought that Coward was always one to take the obvious and elevate it, so I would serve this – but with champagne!

Actually, with this tart you can’t fail to impress, however ordinary it is.
This is one of the easiest veggie mains you will ever find. Something similar crops up in many cookery books, but this is my even simpler version.
One of the problems that I have found in the past is that the filling makes the pastry soggy. This method should take care of that.


1 sheet pre-rolled puff pastry
1 red pepper
1 red onion
2tbsp olive oil
2tbsp tomato ketchup
1 ball mozzarella
1tsp dried mixed herbs

Serves 4


Deseed the red pepper and chop into chunks.
Peel the red onion and cut into wedges.
Place both in an oven proof dish. Coat with the olive oil. 
Roast at 200˚C/ Gas 6 for about 15-20 minutes until soft. Keep oven on at same heat.

Meanwhile unroll the puff pastry, retaining the paper. Allow to rest for a few minutes. Then, cut into quarters, doing the same with the baking paper the pastry was wrapped in. 

Score along two sides of each rectangle and fold the strips over to the opposite corner. 
Then repeat with the other sides. This sounds complicated but it isn’t, and don't try to make it look too 'neat'. 

Place each on a paper rectangle and put all four on a baking rack, on top of a baking tray. Heat in same oven as peppers for 5 minutes then remove and allow to cool for a few minutes.
Coat the base of each tart with ketchup and sprinkle with the mixed herbs.
Rinse the mozzarella and allow to dry.
When the peppers and onions are cooked, drain and dry on kitchen paper. 

Then, scatter over the tarts making sure you have an even distribution.
Tear the mozzarella into chunks and place it around the onion and pepper.
Heat in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the pastry edges and mozzarella are lightly browned.
Carefully remove from the paper and serve immediately.