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

Monday, 29 October 2018

A Meal for Halloween - DINNER WITH THE VAMPIRE

When Zelda says the vampire, she means The Vampire, the one and only Count Dracula. Here are some ideas for a fun Halloween meal.
There is no better guest for this evening than 'The Count' himself, 
whether as Vlad,

or as portrayed by

Bela Lugosi, or Christopher Lee.

He may not eat much solid food, but he can enjoy the event.


1tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1tbsp dried oregano
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp fresh chopped basil
1 400g tin of plum tomatoes
2 slices bread
2tbsp Marmite
50g cheddar cheese grated very finely

Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onion over a medium heat until it just softens. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more. Then add the oregano and basil.
Tip in the plum tomatoes with their juice. Refill the can with water and add that to the pan, too.
Bring to the boil, and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Then blend and season, and return to the pan.

To make the croutons:
Toast the bread on both sides and then cut out the bat shapes.
(I used a bat-shaped cutter. Place it on the toast and press down hard, then turn the toast over and use a rolling pin to roll over the back. It will give a lovely clean shape.)
Spread each one with Marmite and then top with cheese.  (Don't worry if it looks messy - it will be fine when finished.)
Place on a baking tray.
Grill for a few minutes until the cheese is melted.

Spoon the soup into bowls and top with the croutons.

Main: ‘CHICKEN’ PAPRIKA/ QUORN PAPRIKA  (my version of the dish eaten by Jonathan Harker on his first night in Transylvania)

4 Quorn fillets, defrosted if frozen
2tbsp olive oil
Knob butter
1 onion, chopped
2tbsp paprika
1tbsp flour
300ml veg stock
2 red peppers, deseeded and chopped into strips
4 large juicy tomatoes, chopped
3tbsp parsley, chopped
250ml sour cream

Heat oil and butter. Add onions and peppers and cook until just starting to colour.
Turn down the heat and add the paprika and flour. Stir well to coat the peppers.
Add the stock and the Quorn fillets.
Bring to the boil.
Add half the parsley and the tomatoes.
Simmer gently for about an hour. (Add another 100ml water if needed halfway through the cooking time.)
When ready to serve, stir in the sour cream and the remaining parsley.

Can be accompanied with rice, couscous or (as here) with Dear Little Roasties


For the Carpathian Cupcakes:
(makes 12 little cakes - serve 2 per person)

125g butter, softened
125g caster sugar
125g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
2 medium free-range eggs
2 tbsp milk
6-8 drops red food colouring 
4tbsp strawberry jam

Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases or (as I did) place 12 silicone cases on 2 trays.
Beat the butter until soft.
Add the sugar, salt, flour, eggs and milk. Stir all together until smooth. 
Add the food colouring a few drops at a time and stir in - you want it to be a nice vibrant red.
Divide the mixture between the cases. They don't need to be even.
Place both trays in the oven and bake at 190°C/ Gas 5 for 15 minutes. Then swap the trays over and cook for about 5 minutes more.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Green Slime Topping:

140g/ 5oz butter, softened
280g/ 10oz icing sugar
2tbsp milk
2-3 drops green food colouring 

Beat the butter until soft and free of lumps.
Add half of the icing sugar and beat again until smooth.
Add the remaining icing sugar and 1tbsp of  the milk and beat until smooth.
The add the food colouring and stir until the whole lot is green throughout.

When the cupcakes are cool, add the second tbsp of milk. This will make it more 'gooey'. Place the buttercream in a piping bag (or a freezer bag and cut a small hole in the bottom corner).
Pipe on top of the cupcakes so that it splodges and runs over the sides. 
Allow to set for at least an hour

For the Red Currant Compote:

125g red currants 
3tbsp sugar
3tbsp water
1tbsp icing sugar

Place red currants in a pan with the sugar and water. Bring to the boil and then simmer until the fruit is soft and sticky.
When cool, force through a sieve with a wooden spoon, discarding all the pips etc. which remain in the sieve.
Mix with 1tbsp icing sugar to make a smooth sauce.

When ready to serve, cut each cupcake in half and place on the plate.
Drizzle the compote over the top.

Monday, 22 October 2018


400g pack tofu, rinsed, dried and cut into cubes.
4tbsp soy sauce
3tbsp olive oil
300g fresh egg noodles
2 tbsp sesame seeds
½ can coconut milk
2tbsp brown sugar
4tbsp peanut butter
1 onion, finely chopped

Heat 2tbsp of the oil and fry the onion and tofu until golden.
Add the brown sugar, soy sauce, coconut milk and peanut butter and stir all together well.
Heat the remaining tbsp of oil in a wok and cook the noodles on a high heat, moving it around all the time. Then add the tofu and sauce and combine.
Serve in a bowl with the sesame seeds sprinkled over the top.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest – RIVER PHOENIX

River Phoenix died an unbelievable 25 years ago this month. 

Apparently, people always know what they were doing when they heard that Kennedy had been assassinated, or when Elvis had breathed his last. 

Well, I still remember one Sunday morning in the Autumn of 1993. I was reading a book about the Habsburg Empire, with the radio on softly in the background. I missed the headlines but sat bolt upright when the death of River Phoenix was announced.

River had an unconventional upbringing. This may or may not have contributed to his success or demise, but what is certain is that, from his appearance in Stand By Me, it was clear that his was an exceptional talent.
Continuing on from this, he played the young Indiana Jones and was Oscar nominated for his performance in Running On Empty. In 1990 he broke away from his clean cut image, portraying a narcoleptic rent boy in the arty/ edgy My Own Private Idaho, which many consider to have been his finest moment.
Then, things began to go awry in his personal life, although his film career took off as never before. 

In a 1988 Washington Post interview, River answered a series of questions:
Favourite food?  "Tofu."
Favourite drink?  "Fresh water."
Favourite colour?  "Blue."

Favourite smell?  "Skin."

When he died, we were all shocked to learn that such responses were, although still his ideal, far from his reality.
His notorious death, on the last night of October, outside Johnny Depp's club, The Viper Room, sent my generation into shock. It seems that there were just too many contradictory pressures on him.

But, just for River, this is Zelda's favourite tofu-based dish:


3tbsp vegetable oil
4tbsp green curry paste
2tbsp soft brown dark sugar
1 400g pack tofu, drained, washed, dried and cubed
1 onion, peeled and chopped finely
1 yellow pepper, de-seeded and chopped
1 lime
400ml/ 1 large can of coconut milk
1tbsp light soy sauce
handful coriander, chopped

Heat 2tbsp oil in a large pan or wok and fry the onion, pepper and cubes of tofu until slightly brown.
Then remove from the pan and set aside.
In the same pan, heat the final tablespoon of oil. Add the green curry paste and sugar and cook over a high heat for a minute.
Reduce the heat and stir in the tofu, peppers and onions until coated in the paste. Add the zest of the lime.
Pour in the coconut milk along with the soy sauce. Bring to a boil.
Turn down and simmer for about 30 minutes until it thickens.
Then stir in the juice of the lime.
Serve with the coriander sprinkled over the top.

Lovely accompanied by Thai Baked Rice 


1tbsp olive oil
knob of butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
4tsp cumin seeds
1tsp ground coriander
6 - 8 dried kaffir lime leaves
500g basmati rice
1100ml vegetable stock

Heat oil and butter on the hob in an ovenproof pot which has a lid.
Soften the onion until it just begins to colour. 

Then add the cumin seeds and coriander and cook for a minute more.

Stir in the rice then pour in the stock and the lime leaves.
Season and bring to the boil before placing the lid on top.

Cook at 190C/ Gas 5 for about 15 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed.

Remove from the oven and fluff up with a fork.
Lovely served with Thai Green Tofu Curry 

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest - D H LAWRENCE

David Herbert Lawrence, one of England's greatest novelists, was born just a few miles from Zelda's present location, in Eastwood.

She loves to visit the little terraced house of his birth which is now a museum. 

Here she is outside it with her friend, Julia.

Eastwood  is (unnecessarily) dominated by businesses which capitalise on Lawrence's reputation such as The Lady Chatterley pub where Dave enjoyed a pint.

Sons and Lovers has always been Zelda's favourite of all his novels; she loved it even before she could walk up Castle Boulevard in Nottingham or see the remains of the mining headstocks at Brinsley.

Zelda would like to prepare him a meal, taking as her inspiration - and hopefully improving - one mentioned in Sons and Lovers
Miriam was moving about preparing dinner. Paul watched everything that happened. His face was pale and thin, but his eyes were quick and bright with life as ever. He watched the strange, almost rhapsodic way in which the girl moved about, carrying a great stew-jar to the oven, or looking in the saucepan. The atmosphere was different from that of his own home, where everything seemed so ordinary.
"I'm ready for mine," said the young man, taking up the newspaper and reading. Presently the rest of the family trooped in. Dinner was served. The meal went rather brutally. The over-gentleness and apologetic tone of the mother brought out all the brutality of manners in the sons. Edgar tasted the potatoes, moved his mouth quickly like a rabbit, looked indignantly at his mother, and said,
"These potatoes are burnt, mother."
Here is a recipe for a lovely stew, taught, step by step, to Zelda by her Mum, Sandra.  Just make sure you don't burn the potatoes! 


Ingredients  (Vary quantities to suit the number of people to be served. This makes enough for 4 to 6)
For the stew:
2 large carrots 
1/2 large swede
5 medium potatoes
2 leeks 
salt and pepper 
about 1pt stock made with 6 vegetable Oxo cubes
For the dumplings:
250g self raising flour
125g vegetable suet
2tsp salt

First prepare the vegetables:
Peel and chop the carrots and swede.
Wash and slice the leeks.
Place all in a large saucepan.
Make up the stock and pour over the vegetables. You may need to add more water to keep them all covered, now or at any time during the cooking process. Season, bring to the boil and then simmer over a low heat.
Peel and half the potatoes, placing in a bowl of water until later.
Simmer for at least half an hour (and up to an hour if possible). Stir every now and again to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. 
To prepare the dumplings:
Mix the flour, salt and suet together and then add enough water to bring it all together.
Shape into balls (You should have about 12)
Add the dumplings to the stew. 
Simmer for about 45 minutes. (The dumplings will also thicken the stew.)

25 minutes later, add the potatoes.

Simmer for 20 minutes. The stew will now be ready to serve. If you want, you can turn it off at this point and re-heat it later.