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

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Vegetarian Delirium - CAULIFLOWER CHEESE

This is a real veggie staple. It can be a quick snack or a side.
Here is a fool-proof method for a delicious dish.

1 cauliflower cut into florets
500ml milk
4tbsp flour
50g butter
150g cheddar, grated

Boil water and add the cauliflower florets. 

Cook for about 10m and then test to make sure cooked but not too soft.
Drain and place in bowl.
Heat butter in a saucepan and add flour. Mix together and cook for 1minute.
Add splash of milk and mix again. Keep adding milk and stirring until sauce thickens.
Add most of cheese.
Pour cheese sauce over cauliflower.
Cook at Gas 7 for about 20m.
Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top. Then place under the grill.
When the cheese bubbles, it is ready to serve.

Nothing else to do but get a big spoon and dive in!

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest - RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY

Rumpole is a man who speaks his mind; in the books and screenplays by John Mortimer he makes a living by speaking his mind, but this is also the reason why he only makes a meagre living in the law, and is never promoted to Head of Chambers or made a QC. 

His battles in court are legendary but pale in comparison with the way he spars at home with Hilda (“She Who Must Be Obeyed”).
Rumpole is known for his plain tastes – in ‘Rumpole a la Carte’ he demands ‘steak and kidney pud’ in a posh restaurant – so I think that good old Toad in the Hole might appeal to him.

This is a veggie version, but it’s hard to tell.  Serve with mashed potatoes and caramelised red onions (and a glass of 'Chateau Fleet Street', of course!)


Serves 2 – 3

6 Quorn sausages
100g plain flour
2 medium eggs
280ml skimmed milk
2tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 200C/ Gas 6
Grill or fry sausages until brown but not cooked through.
Sift flour into a bowl and add eggs and milk. Whisk to a smooth batter and season well.
Place dish in oven with olive oil and heat until hot.
Place sausages in dish and pour in the batter.

Cook for 30-35 minutes.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

And now for a romantic interlude...

Valentine’s Day Lunch
Dave remembered seeing Rick Stein cook this pizza on television (and it only appearing to take five minutes) so he offered to make me it for me for a Valentine’s Day lunch with his own fair hands. (It actually took over an hour and a half!)

Making the dough and failing to appreciate the importance of sieving the flour.
“It’s a palaver this cooking thing.”

Kneading the dough
I must admit I was wondering how this would turn out.
(NB we also had to sterilise the work surface first after removing the cat who had climbed up to try to get her tub of treats down from the shelf.)

Making the sauce

Dave: “Do you think Morrison’s sell finely chopped onions?”

Me: “I’m sure they do but probably at double the price.”

Dave: “I’ll keep chopping."

With the dough in a warm place to (hopefully) rise and the sauce simmering  nicely, the chef takes a break.

I have to say that the dough didn’t rise to twice its original size, as it should have, but he persevered.
A bit more kneading, then another rest.

Then, the fun part. 

Preparing the pizza

I did advise that maybe, with the bases a bit smaller than we were expecting, it would be a good idea to refrain from using the entire topping. Apparently, however, if you have gone to the trouble of making it, every little bit must be used.

After about 20 minutes in the oven the pizzas were finally ready.

And yes, he did admit that he had overloaded the topping.

A few final touches...

and they were ready to serve.

They were very tasty, although Dave’s final verdict was that the basil plant cost more than an entire pizza from Aldi!

This is the original recipe:

Makes two
2tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
227g can chopped tomatoes
1tsp red wine vinegar
1tsp caster sugar
Pinch of dried oregano, plus extra for sprinkling
2 x 125g mozzarella balls, sliced
Fresh basil leaves to serve

For the dough
225g strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1½tsp salt
1tsp sugar
2tsp dried yeast
2tsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
150ml tepid water

First make the dough
Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl; add the sugar and yeast.
Make a well in the centre and pour in the oil and a little of the water.
Lightly oil your hands and use them to gradually incorporate the flour into the liquid, adding more water until it comes together. (You may not need all the water.)

Dust the work surface with flour
Tip out the dough, scraping out any that sticks.
Knead for 5 – 10 minutes until smooth and soft.
Put in a lightly oiled bowl and leave in a warm place for about an hour until it doubles in size.

Meanwhile, make the topping.
Heat the oil in a deep frying pan and gently fry the onion for about 5 minutes over a low heat. Add the garlic and fry for a few minutes more until onions are soft.
Add the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar and oregano and season.
Simmer for 15-20 minutes until thick. Then set aside.

Knock back the risen dough and knead briefly.
Divide into two portions, roll each into a ball, place on a lightly floured work surface and cover with a damp cloth. Rest for 10-20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to its maximum setting and place two baking sheets inside.
Stretch and shape each dough ball with your hands and a rolling pin until you have 2 x 20-25cm diameter pizza bases.
Spread each with the tomato sauce. The top with the mozzarella, sprinkle with oregano and season.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until the bases are crisp.

Garnish with basil leaves and serve.

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 fiancĂ© 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.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest – MRS TIGGYWINKLE

On Tuesday it was my pleasure to prepare a meal for the members of the DAFT group. DAFT stands for Devoted to Animals Fundraising Team and they have raised almost £20,000 to date, which has been donated to a wide range of animal charities. The proceeds from my meal this week will go to help those who protect and treat our little hedgehog friends.

This Carrot and Coriander Soup was one of the choices for the starter. So here it is for Mrs Tiggywinkle and all those who contributed the money to make the evening a success.


40g/ 1½oz butter
170g/ 6oz leeks, trimmed and sliced
450g/ 1lb carrots, sliced
2tsp ground coriander
1 tsp plain flour
1.1l/ 2pts vegetable stock
150ml/ ¼pt single cream
salt and ground black pepper
handfull of coriander leaves

Melt the butter in a large pan.

Add the leeks and carrots, stir well and then cover. Cook for about 7 minutes.
Stir in the flour and coriander and cook for another minute.
Add the stock and bring to the boil.
Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or util the vegetables are soft.
Whiz in a food processor or blender (in batches if necessary) until smooth. Return to pan.
Taste and season, then re-warm (but don’t boil).
Stir in the cream.
Either serve right away or set aside until later (if so, reheat when ready).

Ladle into bowls and top with torn fresh coriander leaves.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Fantasy Veggie Dinner Guest – MISS JEAN BRODIE

Muriel Spark’s 1961 novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie introduced my favourite teacher (although I first read it twenty years later). When, in the late ‘80s, I trained to follow in her footsteps, she was not ‘in vogue’ and she has not been since. But, on each occasion that I re-read the book or watch Maggie Smith bring her to life in the 1969 film, I feel – more and more – that she had the right idea: a teacher should inspire a group of pupils to want to learn, to want to succeed and, therefore, the subject taught is irrelevant. We cannot even begin to cover everything in the time we have allocated to us in the classroom so it is best if we share a passion for learning, whatever the subject.  A good teacher can show her charges that they can follow their own interests. But then, just as now, the establishment has the final say.

We call this ‘School Pie’ as it originated as a meal which a lovely teacher friend of mine borrowed from her school cook, even though it has been tweaked a bit since.


I have given metric measures but – if you have both on your scales – the imperial is much simpler.
115g/ 4oz carrot, peeled and chopped into large chunks
115g/ 4oz onion (about 1 large onion), peeled and chopped
115g/ 4oz cheddar cheese, in 3-4 chunks
170g/ 6oz stuffing – make this according to packet instructions
4 slices of bread, toasted and ripped into smaller pieces
Splash of olive oil
2 eggs + yolk of another
200ml/ 7floz milk
2 sheets ready rolled puff pastry (You can make your own or use a block but this is the easiest method)

I use a food processor.  Have a large bowl ready to mix ingredients.
Put onion into food processor and chop until small. Heat the oil in a pan and add the chopped onion. On a low heat, fry until soft. Then put in the bowl.
Put carrot into food processor and chop until small. Add to bowl.
Repeat with the cheese.
Put bread into food processor and blitz to make breadcrumbs. Add to bowl.
Add stuffing, mix well and season with salt and pepper.
Pour over the milk and crack 2 eggs into the bowl.
Mix very well so that you have a very stodgy mess – this is exactly what it should look like.

Spread out a sheet of pastry and place half of the mixture inside one half of the pastry.
Fold over the other half of pastry so that the filling is in the centre. Then crimp all the way around. Score the top.
Repeat with the second sheet of pastry.  Freeze one.
Put the other on a baking tray.
Mix the egg yolk with a little water and coat the pastry with it.

Cook at Gas 6/ 400˚F/ 200˚C for 35-40m.