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

Tuesday 13 June 2017

ANY OLD PORT IN A STORM - A Meal for Donald Pleasence

When Jenny at Silver Screen Suppers asked for test cooks for her Columbo Cookbook, Zelda was happy to volunteer and picked some vegetarian recipes which had been suggested by some of the guest stars in the numerous episodes.
Then she saw Donald Pleasence’s No-name Curry which was actually fish-based, but easily lends itself to a vegetarian makeover, as it is the sauce itself which is the important part of the dish, and fancied making a veggie version of it.  The original recipe can be found here

The Context
As the psychiatrist in Halloween, the prisoner of war who becomes almost blind in The Great Escape and Bond villain Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (among many other roles), Donald Pleasence certainly made his screen presence known.

In the 1973 Columbo episode Any Old Port in a Storm, he plays a vintner who will kill to protect his interests.

The Recipe and my Variations
Just like Johnny Cash’s Chilli, this was not originally a vegetarian recipe but with a few tweaks it can easily become one.

I have used the usual names for the herbs and spices so that sourcing is easier. I would have had no difficulty finding these in the local supermarket (although most were already in my ‘storecupboard’).

I find it easy to measure in teaspoons and tablespoons but have also included the metric equivalent.

I am used to cooking out the spices a bit more at the start of a recipe, so I have slightly changed the order of cooking and added an extra stage. Because I was using tofu instead of salmon drained from a tin, I needed to make sure that this was cooked so I did that at the start of the cooking, too.

The recipe states that it goes from the hob to the oven to the grill so be prepared to move it about a bit and keep those oven gloves handy.

In the UK we are more likely to label ground garlic as garlic powder. Donald was extremely vague about the amount to be used. I tried it with 2tsp and was happy with the result (after all we only want it to enhance the other flavours, rather than taste on its own). In the same way, what is listed as shredded coconut is usually known as desiccated coconut in the UK. (I like this – it sounds so dramatic!)

I think that Don (as I think I can now call him) spent more time reading scripts than refining his recipe, so he did not specify the type of cream (either for UK or US cooks). I have gone with double cream which I think the Americans call whipping cream. 

Many vegetarian substitutes are available, but I felt that this would benefit from an alternative, rather than a substitute, so I used tofu. It is sold in all major supermarkets, is easy to prepare and cook and is so versatile. It is also an ingredient in many Thai curries and Donald’s is very similar to one of these, particularly with its inclusion of coconut.

Finally, Mr Pleasence made no mention of temperature at any stage of the cooking process. If it were up to him it might just be a cold mush. I have gone with what seemed suitable and added it in below.


Serves 2


1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground turmeric
 ½ teaspoon chilli powder
1 tbsp/ 15g butter
½ tsp ginger
2 tsp ground garlic
½ pint/ 10 floz milk
2 tbsp double cream
I pack (usually 396g) tofu
2 tbsp desiccated coconut


Rinse the tofu and dry with kitchen roll or a clean tea towel. Cut into cubes.
Melt the butter in a pan, over a medium heat on the stove.
Add coriander, turmeric, chilli powder, ginger and garlic. Stir well until the spices are cooked.
Then add the tofu and stir until coated with the spice mixture.
Add the milk and cream, stirring until yellow. 
Transfer to a casserole dish with a lid.
Cook in oven at Gas 7/ 220°C/ 425°F for another 15 minutes.
Just before serving, remove lid, sprinkle shredded coconut over and grill until lightly brown. 

Serve in bowls with rice. 
Donald said it served 4. I agree with Jenny that 2 is more like it.

The Verdict
For Dave it was far too mild. In fact, his words were (and I quote): “If it was the only port in a storm, I might consider heading for it.” But we do need to remember that this is the opinion of a man who likes his curry so hot that it makes him sweat (and, on occasions, cry).
I enjoy more subtle flavours (and get ridiculed for being ‘Korma Girl’ when we go to an Indian restaurant with friends). I can't honestly say, though, that I really enjoyed this. For one thing, there was too much liquid. 
It is, though, a quick and easy recipe, which you could whip up when you fancy something tasty and simple, and you would have most of the ingredients in the cupboard.
I might make this again with coconut milk and some lime, rather than the double cream and milk combination to make it more reminiscent of a lovely Thai-style curry.

The Experience
As has become the routine, we had this as a TV meal. All you need is a tray and a DVD player to enjoy eating the food while watching the episode. 

Monday 12 June 2017

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest - FRANK SINATRA

Frank Sinatra was one of the most iconic and influential singers of the 20th Century.

His renditions of My Way, In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning and Chicago are legendary, but this is my favourite:
With his Italian roots and American influences, I think he might be partial to a bit of lasagne.
Lasagne is a dodgy thing to make. Everyone has their own idea of what it should be like. This one is, however, particularly tasty, as well as being meat-free.

Serves 4

1 350g pack quorn mince
1 500g box passata
I tin chopped tomatoes
2 tsp dried mixed herbs or 2 tbsp fresh
40g butter
40g plain flour
500ml milk
salt and black pepper
100g cheese, grated
1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 lasagne sheets (see note below)

If you buy fresh lasagne sheets make sure that you have enough of the correct size to fit the dish you are using. You need three layers, so you may need to cut and join smaller sheets, although this will not affect the end result.

Make the Bolognese Sauce
Fry onion in oil for a couple of minutes. Then add garlic and fry for a couple of minutes more until golden.

Pour in the chopped tomatoes and then add the quorn mince. Pour the passata over the top and stir well until the quorn has absorbed the moisture.

Season and add the mixed herbs.

Make the Cheese Sauce
In a separate pan, melt the butter and then add the flour. 

Stir until it makes a thick paste and cook out for a couple of minutes

Add the milk, a little at a time. Stir continuously until sauce becomes creamy and silky.

Mix in 70g of the cheese and season well.

Assemble the Lasagne:
Put one of the lasagne sheets into a pan of boiling water. 
Put one third of the Bolognese mix in the bottom of a large dish. Pour about a fifth of the cheese sauce over it.
Then carefully remove the lasagne sheet, refresh in cold water and pat dry.
Place on top of the first layer.
Repeat three times.
Pour the remainder of the cheese sauce over the top and spread out well to completely cover the pasta.
Put on a baking tray and top with the rest of the grated cheese.
Cover loosely with foil (you don't want it to stick to the topping).
While it is cooking, you may wish to prepare a salad for accompaniment.
When ready, heat in the oven for 20 minutes at Gas 8/ 220C, then remove the foil.
Cook for a further 15 minutes or so until the cheese is bubbling and slightly browned.

This was my plate with my slice of lasagne and my choice of salad:
After I had arranged his portion for the photograph, Dave added an extra spoonful, thereby ruining the artistic effect but proving that he was looking forward to the meal!

Sunday 11 June 2017

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest - JOHN WAYNE

Although rough, ready and certainly extreme, I am offering him his place at the Veggie Dinner Table for being in my all-time-favourite Western (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon) and, more than anything, for this spectacular quote:
“Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway.”

Wayne, born Marion Morrison as everyone knows, was often known simply as 'The Duke'. 
His career took off with his portrayal of The Ringo Kid in Stagecoach (1939) and 83 of his movies were cowboy films.

Therefore, in keeping with the good and honest tradition he embraces and personifies, I will be serving my Vegetarian Cowboy Pie.


6 medium potatoes (about 800g), peeled and cut into two-bite-size pieces
6 vegetarian sausages (defrosted if frozen) 
1 red onion, half chopped and half sliced. 
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 and a half large tin beans baked beans (or 3 small)
2tsp chilli powder
salt and black pepper
75g/ 3oz cheese, grated
1 tbsp olive oil
25g/ 1oz butter
25ml/ 1fl oz milk

Heat the oil in a pan and add fry the sausage until browned. Remove from heat and chop into slices (about 3 per sausage).
Use the same oil to gently fry the onion until soft and then add the garlic. Add the chilli powder and stir well until everything is coated.
Mix in the beans and replace the sausages. Heat until the whole mixture is almost boiling. Adjust chilli heat if you want to and season to taste. Then turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a pan of hot water and boil for about 10-12
minutes until soft. 

Then drain and allow to steam for a few minutes. 

Return to the pan. Add the butter and milk and season well. Mash. A normal 'masher' is fine. It doesn't have to be silky smooth but you don't want any lumps.

Place sausage mixture in a large bowl.
Spread the mashed potato over the top and use a fork to score. Place on a baking tray (to make it easier later to remove from the oven and to catch any drips).

If you wish, you can now cover this and keep until ready to cook. 

Grate the cheese for later.

When you are ready, heat the oven to 
Gas 7/ 200C. Bake for about 20 mins.

Sprinkle cheese over the top of the potato, return to the oven and cook for a further 10 to 15 minutes until cheese bubbles.

Saturday 10 June 2017

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest - LAWRENCE HARVEY

Laurence Harvey (or Zhi Mosheh Skikne – who would have guessed he was really Lithuaninan?) was best known for Room at the TopThe Manchurian Candidate and The Alamo.Watching him in the latter, I was inspired to consider him for a place at my table. 
As William B Travis, he led the small force which kept Santa Anna’s army at bay for just long enough.
With facts few and far between, the myth of how Travers, Crockett and Bowie gave their lives for Texas is a great story.

Tex-Mex food is always a favourite and would be an appropriate choice of menu, even if only to stir up a lively conversation.


350g quorn mince
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 red pepper, de-seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, de-seeded and chopped
2tsp chilli powder
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin kidney beans
2tbsp tomato ketchup
6 soft tortillas
100g grated cheese
2 tbsp olive oil
coarsely ground black pepper and salt to season


Heat oil in a large pan and fry onion and pepper gently until softened. 

Then add the jalapeno and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes more. 

Sprinkle in the chilli powder and make sure that all the ingredients are coated.

Add the tomatoes, then add the quorn (straight from frozen is fine). Fill the tomato tin half full of water and pour over the top of the quorn. 
Rinse the kidney beans and add them. Season and stir well. 

Bring to boil, then reduce. Simmer for about 20 minutes so that sauce thickens.

Put filling in centre of each tortilla. 

Fold over like a parcel and place side by side in dish.
You may need to squish them down a bit to make them fit.

Mix 2tbsp ketchup with 100ml hot water. Pour this over the top of the folded tortillas.
Sprinkle with grated cheese and chopped herbs.

Cover with foil. You can now leave this for as long as you like. 

When you are ready, place in the oven at Gas 7/ 220C for about 20 mins.

While it is cooking, you may like to make a mixed leaf salad.
Remove foil and place back in oven for about 10 - 15 mins or until the cheese bubbles. 

Top should be slightly crispy.

Lovely served with salad.