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

Monday 21 January 2019


Another recipe, inspired by Zelda's new Jamie Oliver cookbook, with some adaptations. Also see Red Cabbage and Orange Salad.

2tbsp olive oil
100g rustic, large breadcrumbs
2tsp chilli flakes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
15g fresh herbs, roughly chopped
8 sundried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped
160g dried spaghetti

Start off by cooking the spaghetti in boiling salted water.

Heat the olive oil in a separate large pan and fry the breadcrumbs and 1tsp of the chilli flakes until the breadcrumbs are golden. 
Then remove them from the pan.
Place the tomatoes in their oil and the garlic in the same pan and fry gently until the garlic is golden. 
Add the herbs.
Drain the spaghetti, reserving some of the cooking water.
Add the spaghetti and a little of the starchy water to the pan and combine.
Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle the breadcrumbs and the remaining chilli flakes over the top.

Friday 11 January 2019

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest - MARLON BRANDO

Marlon Brando has been in some of my favourite films, including: On The Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Godfather and One-Eyed Jacks.
We all know that Brando loved pasta.
Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando by Stefan Kanfer, contains an account of a time when the man himself dined with JFK:

As Marlon attacked the pasta, Kennedy challenged him: 'Marlon, have you gained weight? Looks like you've put on a few.'
'Nary an ounce.'
'Kennedy grinned. "Then the CIA sent up some wrong information.'
Marlon bet the president that JFK weighed more than he did. A bathroom scale was brought into the room. Brando checked in at 187 pounds. Kennedy was eleven pounds lighter.
'Get some food into this man,' Marlon told the other guests. 'You can't lead the country at a hundred seventy-six.'

So, for Marlon, here is a very tasty pasta dish which would certainly help anyone to put on a few pounds.


serves 4

12 tubes dried cannelloni
5 slices ‘ham’
150g spinach
150g ricotta
½ red pepper, chopped finely
1 small red onion, chopped finely
1tbsp olive oil
1garlic clove, crushed
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 sundried tomatoes
1tbsp mixed herbs
salt and pepper
50g hard Italian cheese (vegetarian)
fresh basil leaves

Wash and drain the spinach. 
Place in a saucepan and stir until wilted.
Put in a bowl and add the ricotta.
Cut the vegetarian ham slices and add to the ricotta mixture. Season well.
Heat the oil and fry the onion and pepper. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more. 
Then add the chopped tomatoes and the mixed herbs. Season to taste.
Slice the sundried tomatoes finely and add to the sauce.
Place a ladleful of sauce into a dish.
Either use a spoon, or (as I did) place ricotta mixture in a bag and cut the corner. Fill each tube.
When all are filled, place in the dish.
Pour over the rest of the tomato sauce.
Grate the hard cheese over the top.
Cook at Gas 5/ 190°C/ 375°F for 25-30 minutes until the pasta is soft and the sauce is bubbling.

Serve with basil leaves.

Thursday 10 January 2019

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest - DR SEUSS

Zelda would like to thank Theodor Seuss Geisel for making reading accessible to so many, and invite him to dinner.
In the 1950s and 1960s he wrote books which have engaged young readers ever since. 

What will we have? 

Well, it just had to be GREEN EGGS AND HAM!

If you look at the book illustration, you will note that both the ham and eggs look particularly unappealing – no wonder they are not wanted to be eaten in a box, with a fox, in a house or with a mouse.

It seems that I'm not at all original here: many people, including Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson, have had a go at this. The logistics, however, prove problematic. Some have used food colouring, kale or pesto. Some have kept the eggs fried (as in the book illustration) and some have made them into pancakes or frittatas.

At the end of the day, it needs to be tasty and look tempting, so I think it is best to leave the ham (or veggie alternative) the colour it should be and focus on making the eggs green. But how? Someone on the internet even tried injecting green food colouring into the yolks, but it didn't work.
So, I thought that spinach was the way forward. When mixed with the eggs it makes a nutritious and tasty meal. 

This serves 1, but can easily be multiplied

50g spinach
1tsp olive oil
25g butter + some to spread on bread
1tbsp milk
salt and black pepper
2 eggs
3 slices vegetarian ham
1 slice fresh crusty bread

Wash the spinach and drain. 
Place in a pan and heat. Stir until the spinach has wilted. 
Put this in a food processor with the oil and blitz.
Place in a bowl and crack in the eggs and season. Whisk all together and season.
Toast the bread on both sides. Lightly butter.
Then cover with the slices of 'ham'.
Heat the butter and then add the milk. 
Add the egg/ spinach mixture. Stir to scramble.
Place on top of the toast and ham. 

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guests - TOM WAITS and EDWARD HOPPER

Tom Waits released ‘Nighthawks at the Diner' in 1975. 
The title was inspired by the 1942 Edward Hopper painting, Nighthawks, which depicted a late-night diner in Greenwich Village.
Instead of the male server in the Hopper painting, Waits gives us a tired and over made-up waitress who will deliver the food with a word or two of affection for her regular diners and the newcomers alike. All seem connected by their shared situation, just as the space between the four figures in the Hopper picture is insignificant.

How good it would be to unite them at Zelda's and use the menu items from the album track Eggs and Sausage. You won't need them all - it will make far too much to eat; just choose what you like best. 

Nighthawks at the diner
Of Emma's 49er, there's a rendezvous
Of strangers around the coffee urn tonight;
All the gypsy hacks, the insomniacs.
Now the paper's been read,
Now the waitress said:
‘Eggs and sausage and a side of toast,
Coffee and a roll, hash browns over easy,
Chilli in a bowl with burgers and fries.
What kind of pie?’

Recipes for some items on the menu can be found elsewhere...
For Chilli in a Bowl, see Zelda's version of Johnny Cash's Chilli.

And, if you want (Vegetarian) Burgers and Fries, try this, made for Jules Winnfield.
So Zelda has concentrated on making vegetarian versions of the other items on the menu. Multiply or divide amounts as needed.


1tbsp oil
2 vegetarian sausages, defrosted if frozen
2 free range eggs
1 slice bread

Heat 1tbsp oil in a large pan (or on a griddle).
Cook the sausages until brown on one side.
Add the eggs and fry to your preference. 
Serve with the toast (surely no instruction needed!)

I have been reliably informed that these are the type served in American diners. I adapted the recipe from one in this lovely book:

Start by making the dough:

250g strong white flour
1tsp dried yeast
pinch of salt
15g brown sugar
1tsp caster sugar
2 drops vanilla extract
100ml lukewarm milk
25g butter, melted
1 egg, whisked

Mix the flour, yeast, salt, sugars and vanilla in a bowl.
Add the butter, egg and milk. Stir all together and then knead on a floured surface. Place back in the bowl. 
Cover and leave for about 1½ hours until doubled in size.
When the dough has risen, prepare the filling:

50g butter, melted
30g sugar
2tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg

Mix the sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon.
On a floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle.
Brush the surface with the melted butter.
Sprinkle over the sugar mixture.
Staring from the long side, roll up the dough.
Then cut slices, about 2½cm thick.
Place on their sides on a baking tray. Cover with cling film and leave for 30 minutes.
Brush with a little milk and then cook at Gas 5/ 375F°/ 190°C for about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the topping:

70g icing sugar
70g cream cheese
15ml milk

Combine all ingredients to make a smooth, liquid frosting.
When the rolls are cooked, spoon the frosting over the top and allow to run.
Serve warm (with coffee).

(Over easy is a term more commonly used to determine how people like their eggs. It instructs the cook to them turn over, so I am guessing that Tom likes his hash browns cooked on both sides. But don't we all?)

Makes about 18

300g potatoes
salt and black pepper
1 pinch paprika
oil or butter for cooking (I used sunflower oil)

Peel the potatoes and then grate into a bowl. Cover with cold water and stir. 
When the water becomes cloudy, drain and replace with clean. Drain the potatoes and then remove as much excess liquid as you can. Place in a clean tea towel and squeeze. Place over an empty bowl for 20 minutes, then squeeze again. 
Season with salt, pepper and paprika.
Heat oil in a large pan (in the absence of a large stove or griddle as you would find in a diner).
Place lumps of potato in the pan and press down with a slice.
Cook for 3-4 minutes to allow the bottoms to brown, then flip. Continue to cook on other side and flip again if needed. 
(N.B. This was all new to me. When first I tried this meal, I made the mistake of making what are labelled as 'hash browns' on a British menu; adding onion, flour and egg to the potato. I was, therefore, glad that my American friend, Greg of Recipes for Rebels, put me right, but sceptical that the potato would work on its own without a binding agent. I now know that the secret is just to take time and not rush them. Eventually, the separate strands of potato sort of 'make friends' and join together.)

And finally, "What kind of pie?"
From searching 'Diner Pie' online, it seems that an American-style Apple Pie will fit the bill nicely.


500g dessert pastry
3 cooking apples.
2tbsp lemon juice
150g sugar + an additional tbsp
2tbsp plain flour + extra for rolling
2tbsp cornflour
1tsp nutmeg
1tsp cinnamon
60ml apple juice
1 egg

Divide the pastry. 
Retain 1/3 and roll out the other 2/3 on a lightly floured surface.
Lightly butter a pie dish and then line with the pastry. It doesn’t have to be neat, but make sure it overlaps the sides. 
Then chill while you prepare the filling.
Peel, core and slice the apples. Place in a bowl and add the lemon juice.
In another bowl, mix the sugar, flours and spices. 
Add to the apple and stir until all the pieces are coated. 
Boil the apple juice and pour this over, mixing all together.
Divide the rest of the pastry into sections. Roll each one out into rough rectangles so that you can cut strips. Make them of equal width rather than of equal size.
Take the pastry dish out of the fridge and fill with the apple mixture.
Place pastry strips over the top. 
Trim the ends and crimp the edges with a fork.
Whisk the egg with 1tbsp of water and brush over the top of all the pastry. Sprinkle over the remaining sugar.
Cook in oven at 190°C/ 375°F/ Gas 5 for about 50 minutes.
Allow to cool.
Then cut into slices.

So, if you find yourself alone, on a late night out, come to Zelda's Diner.