with some friends and family too
A further selection from my forthcoming magnum opus, which is coming along nicely. A few non-famous people (signalled like this ❃] are now getting in on the act, with my blessing and indeed encouragement. Do send me any particularly good vegetable recipes of your own. It’s good to share.
ED BALLS: Broccoli. The former Cabinet Minister has been having a lively time since leaving office. Following his electoral defeat he was appointed chairman of Norwich City FC and in 2020 he became Professor of Political Economy at King’s College London, meanwhile taking part as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing surviving until week 10, and in 2021 competing in the BBC’s Celebrity Best Home Cook which he won with this dish: chargrilled broccoli salad.
• 1 head broccoli, cut into half florets
• 1 bunch asparagus
• olive oil
• 3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
• 1 red chilli, finely sliced (seeds removed if preferred)
• 1 lemon, grated zest, juice of ½, the other ½ finely sliced
• 2 tbsp flaked almonds, toasted
• salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Blanch the broccoli for 1–2 minutes. Add the asparagus to the pan and blanch for a further 2 minutes. Drain and leave to cool slightly.
2. Heat a large griddle pan over a high heat. Drizzle the broccoli and asparagus with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Place the vegetables in the griddle pan and cook for 1–2 minutes on each side, until lightly charred.
3. Mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the garlic, chilli, lemon zest and juice. Pour into the griddle pan and heat for a minute or two, stirring to coat the vegetables. Add the lemon slices and chargrill for 1–2 minutes on each side, until charred.
4. Transfer the chargrilled broccoli, asparagus and lemon slices to a serving plate and scatter with the flaked almonds.
BRIGITTE BARDOT: Tabbouleh salad. Ah, Brigitte! How you fuelled my teenage fantasies and the dreams of many another young lad in the early 1960s. John Lennon was one. He had a big pin-up picture of Brigitte cut from a magazine taped to his bedroom ceiling so that he could … well, you know. After he’d found fame as a Beatle an assignation was arranged for him to get together with her in a London hotel, but faced with his dream-girl in the flesh he was overawed and failed to rise to the occasion. Mlle Bardot was not pleased.
Perhaps she consoled herself with a nice bowl of tabbouleh salad, the traditional Middle Eastern grain dish known throughout the Mediterranean area. The word is Lebanese. I found this recipe, by Sharon Salyer, here. “The story of the dish — and Bardot — was recounted in the Times Sunday magazine by Frederic Van Coppernolle, the grandson of Bardot’s cook and home helper, who went on to become an executive chef.” she writes; “Bardot, he explained, wasn’t easily pleased with the dishes she was served, including this tabbouleh. She was said to like lots of lemon zest. And if you don’t have a zester and have to extract the small lemons shreds using a boxcutter — as he did — it can be a knuckle-skinning experience.”
To save you copying and printing the recipe, here’s a summary:
Ingredients (serves 4 to 6)
• ½ cup tomato juice
• 1½ cups instant couscous
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 1 cup chickpeas
• 1½ cups diced tomatoes
• 1 cup peeled, seeded and diced cucumber
• 1 teaspoon finely-chopped garlic
• 3 tablespoons shallots finely-chopped
• zest of half a lemon
• 3 tablespoons lemon juice
• 2 cups tightly-packed mint leaves, finely chopped
• 2 teaspoons salt
• black pepper to taste
• dash of Tabasco sauce or cayenne pepper
Bring one cup of water and the tomato juice to a simmer in a small saucepan. Put the couscous in a large heatproof bowl and pour the hot liquid over it. Add the oil, stir and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside.
In another bowl, stir the chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumber, garlic, shallots, lemon zest and juice, mint, salt and pepper. Use a fork to mix the vegetables with the couscous and finish with Tabasco or cayenne to taste.
Cover and refrigerate preferably overnight to allow the flavors to blend.
❃ “I don’t trust couscous. It’s fat sand” –Rob Beckett
Brigitte is happily still alive aged 86 at the time of writing, long retired from showbiz and devoting herself to the cause of animal rights. In 1986 she established the Brigitte Bardot Foundation for the Welfare and Protection of Animals, became a vegetarian, and raised three million francs to fund the Foundation by auctioning off jewellery and personal belongings. Her valuable work continues.
John Lennon’s former home In Liverpool where he lived with his Aunt Mimi has been restored as a tourist attraction with a picture of BB once again on the bedroom ceiling.
CHER: Minestrone. The mega-platinum recording artiste is the same age as me (currently 74) and looking a hell of a lot better than I do, possibly as a result of subsisting on healthy dishes like this (I wouldn’t dream of mentioning plastic surgery). I’m very partial to a good minestrone myself, feeling that in this age of trendy designer soups we shouldn’t neglect the tried-and-tested classics, and Cher’s recipe is a really good one.
• 1 medium carrot
• 2 stalks of celery
• 1 small onion
• 410 ml of chicken stock or 14.5 oz can chicken broth
• 350 ml water [1½ cups]
• 1 teaspoon dried parsley
• 1 teaspoon soy sauce
• 1 teaspoon pepper
• ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
• 28 oz can Italian plum tomatoes, drained and chopped, or 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
• 225 ml of a passata type sauce. or 8 oz can low-sodium tomato sauce
• 16 oz can red kidney beans, drained
• ½ cup Ditalini pasta [though I prefer anelli/anelletti for this –RGJ]
• grated parmesan cheese
Place first 11 ingredients in saucepan. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10-15 minutes or until carrots and celery are tender. Add kidney beans and Ditalini pasta, cook for 10-15 minutes more or until pasta is al dente. Serve with a sprinkle (no more than 1 teaspoon) of parmesan cheese on top of the soup.
PRINCESS DIANA: Stuffed peppers.
Darren McGrady spent four years as Diana’s chef at Kensington Palace and 11 years cooking for Queen Elizabeth II. His cookbook Eating Royally is sprinkled with lots of personal tidbits — helping princes Harry and William make their Mummy’s favorite dishes, dancing with Diana at royal balls, and helping the Queen rescue her belongings while Windsor Castle was on fire. According to McGrady, as well as watching her weight carefully Diana never ate red meat or shellfish: “Her favourite dish was bell peppers stuffed with zucchini, mushrooms, rice, garlic topped with Parmesan and mozzarella and finished with a smoked tomato and pepper sauce.”
JOAN DIDION: Artichokes au gratin. I first came across her writing in Tom Wolfe’s groundbreaking 1973 anthology The New Journalism, which led me to her earlier Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968), a key book for me amid the nonsense that was being written about the counterculture of the time, then onto The White Album (1979) and later The Year of Magical Thinking (2005) following the death of her husband. She was profiled in the Netflix documentary The Center Will Not Hold, directed by her nephew Griffin Dunne in 2017.
This recipe for artichokes au gratin is based on Joan’s handwritten note-card (reproduced here). “Beloved as she was for her writing [writes Molly Beauchemin here] Joan was also a fabulous cook, effortlessly seasoned in the way that only a shrewd culture observer can be. We chose to play with her artichokes au gratin recipe because you don’t really see this item on menus anymore. But in the 1970s, it was considered the pinnacle of fine dining, de rigueur at holiday gatherings and chic dinner parties. Because of the heaviness of the cream and cheese, we recommend serving this as a winter dish -– it’s perfect for holiday meals.”
Ingredients (serves 8)
• 2 (9 oz.) packs frozen artichoke hearts*
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• ¼ cup butter
• dash white pepper
• 1 teaspoon onion salt
• ½ teaspoon prepared mustard
• ¾ teaspoon salt
• ⅓ cup flour
• 1½ cup reserved artichoke liquid
• 1½ cups hot milk
• 1 egg slightly beaten
• ½ cup grated Swiss cheese
• 2 tablespoon dry bread crumbs
1. Heat oven to 450 °F.
2. Cook artichokes according to pack directions, adding lemon juice to water.
3. Drain, reserving ½ cup liquid.
4. Place artichokes in a single layer in a 9-inch shallow casserole.
For the sauce
5. Melt butter, add spices and flower, stir until smooth.
6. Gradually add artichoke liquid and milk, and cook, stirring, until thick.
7. Remove from heat, add egg and half of cheese.
9. Pour over artichokes.
10. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, bread crumbs and paprika.
11. Bake for 15 minutes.
* These are globe artichokes, of course.
❃ I won’t be including Jerusalem artichokes in any of these posts because I had a very bad experience with a Jerusalem artichoke when I was young and can’t stand the things. Ugh.
FANNIE FLAGG: Fried green tomatoes.
Ms Flagg is apparently a familiar face in the USA as an actor and comedienne, but here in the UK she’s mainly known as the author of the novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Café which was made into a very successful movie in 1991. I happened to be in New York with my friend Kathy at the time and we caught it there, thinking we’d steal a march on the folks back home by seeing it several weeks before it would be released in Britain, and we enjoyed it — it’s a touching tale of an unlikely female friendship — but I didn’t pay much attention to the titular vegetables at the time, lazily assuming that they were just sliced tomatoes cooked in a frying-pan as usual.
Not so. The dish in question would be more accurately described as tomato fritters, and the tomatoes need to be green because red ones turn the interior of the fritters to mush when they’re cooked. They also need to be as big as you can get them, as slicing up small tomatoes makes for tiny, fiddly fritters that are hardly worth bothering with.
This guy shows step-by=step how the dish is done — and btw the results are absolutely delicious, either as a snack on their own or with a dip, or as a side-dish for non-veggies with bacon and eggs, which is the way I like to eat them myself.
STEPHEN FRY: Tofu (it’s made from soya beans so counts as a vegetable).
I’ve been a fan of Mr Fry since he first appeared on our tv screens in Saturday Live in 1986, and I surely don’t need to summarize his glittering career since then. His Wikipedia entry here does a good job of that. I’d merely add that he’s bidding fair to take over Peter Ustinov‘s mantle as Renaissance Man of Our Times. Like me, Stephen has recently been suffering from prostate cancer — though there the resemblances end.
Not long ago on Twitter Stephen was encouraging people to eat vegan for National Vegetarian Week by wearing an ‘Eat to Beat Climate Change’ t-shirt and showing his followers what meatless recipes he was cooking, including this one for Vegan Tofu Rogan Josh with Chilli Rice.
For the marinade:
• 1 pack Cauldron Organic Tofu
• 1 onion, roughly chopped
• 1 inch of ginger, grated
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 2 red chilli
• 2 tbsp tomato purée
• ½ tbsp ground cumin
• ½ tbsp ground coriander
• ½ tbsp ground turmeric
• 50 ml water
For the curry:
• 2 tbsp oil
• 4 cardamom pods, crushed and ground
• 1 cinnamon stick,
• 2 bay leaves
• ¼ tsp salt
• ¼ tsp black pepper
• 100 ml vegetable stock
• 150 g passata
For the rice:
• 400 g brown basmati rice, cooked
• 20 g coriander
• 1 red chilli
• 1 tbsp lime juice
• ¼ tsp salt
• 2 tbsp vegan yoghurt
• 10 g fresh coriander, chopped
• 1 red chilli, finely sliced
1. Drain the tofu for 20 minutes by placing it in between two chopping boards lined with a clean tea towel or kitchen roll. Put something heavy on top, e.g. food cans, to apply pressure. Once the tofu has been pressed, chop into 2.5cm cubes. Set aside.
2. To make the marinade for the tofu, combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Place the tofu in the marinade and transfer to the fridge for at least two hours before cooking.
3. To make the sauce, place a large saucepan on a high heat and add the oil. Add the tofu with all the remaining marinade and fry for 3-4 minutes.
4. To make the curry, add the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Fry for a further 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and passata and continue to cook on a lower heat for 10 minutes.
5. To make the coriander and chilli rice, place the coriander, red chilli, lime juice and salt into a small chopper or food processor. Blitz until smooth and stir into the cooked rice.
6. To serve, plate the rice with the curry and garnish with a drizzle of vegan yoghurt, chopped coriander and sliced red chilli.
❃ Or you could just order a Rogan Josh as a takeaway from your local Indian restaurant.
GHANDI: Purslane (Kulfa). Purslane is reported to have been one of Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite foods and it was also eaten by Thoreau at Walden Pond, where it grew wild. It is pleasant, cool and moist with a sour flavor, and can be used in salads, pickles, stir-fry dishes and soups as a cooling summer food. Purslane is used in Creole cooking and in the mideastern salad, fattoush. The dried seeds can be ground and added to flour.
There are lots of Indian recipes that employ purslane, but in the spirit of Ghandi I’ve opted for this very simple salad:
• purslane (a large bunch, about 4 cups)
• 1 red onion, peeled and finely diced
• 1 tomato, finely diced
• 1 lemon, juice of
• 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
• ½ teaspoon salt
1. Make the dressing by mixing the lemon juice, olive oil and salt together. Adjust seasonings to personal taste.
2. Thoroughly rinse the purslane and remove the small fleshy leaves in clusters (the stems are easily broken with your finger and thumbnail). Rinse the purslane and pat dry. Add the diced onion and tomato and with your hands mix everything together. (Remove any roots that may still be attached.).
3. Add the dressing and again mix well so that all the leaves are coated, as well as the diced onions and tomatoes.
4. Serve as a light salad with cheese and/or rustic bread.
Anyone curious about the many other dishes involving this plant might like to check out 45 Things To Do With Fresh Purslane here.
JUSTIN HAYWARD: Bubble and squeak. The lead singer with The Moody Blues (‘Nights in White Satin’, ‘Forever Autumn’ and many other classic tracks) contributed this recipe to a celebrity cookbook long ago. It’s a very simple thing to prepare:
• 8 potatoes
• ½ pound brussels sprouts
• ½ pound carrots
1. Boil the vegetables.
2. Mash the potatoes with a little butter and milk.
3. Chop the cooked sprouts and carrots into small chunks.
4. Mix everything together and put the mixture into a large non-stick frying-pan, then pat it into a pancake shape about 1½ inches thick.
5. Heat until it begins to bubble and squeak.
Portions of the mixture can be moulded into little patties and finished off in the oven, or the whole thing can be placed under the grill to brown off the top. Either way, it goes very well with bacon and eggs (for non-veggies like me).
“Brown sauce (H.P.) is a very tasty condiment to enhance the flavour.” adds Justin. Chacun à son goût.
LIZ HURLEY: Watercress soup. “I swear by this and drink at least six cups a day when eager to lose a few pounds” says the glamorous actress/model/whatever.
Ingredients (serves 4)
• 1 small onion, finely chopped
• 2 potatoes, diced
• 2½pints chicken stock (water can be substituted for even fewer calories!)
• 3 large bunches watercress, stems removed
• salt and pepper, to taste
Sweat the onion in a little chicken stock or water until translucent. Add the potatoes and the rest of the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Add salt and pepper and simmer until the potatoes are soft.
Add the watercress and stir for 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat. Blend.
Put the soup in a small metal bowl and place in a sink full of ice to keep the colour green.
❃ As I write this comes the news that Boris Johnson has added British watercress to the Geographical Indications (GI) scheme, which is supposed to protect our products from foreign imitations. Watercress has been added because ‘its production methods, associated with steadily flowing water … deserve special status because it has remained unaltered by selection and breeding – meaning that its unique flavour has remained largely unchanged for generations.’ The protected status means that only specific plants grown in flowing water can bear the name watercress when commercially sold in Great Britain. The EU does not recognize the GI scheme and can do as it pleases.
HUGH JACKMAN: Kale. I’m under doctor’s orders to lose some weight so I’m always interested in recipes that help with this and aren’t too boring, like Liz Hurley’s above and this one from the Australian actor, who patronized Franklin Becker’s Little Beet restaurant in New York when he was trimming down to play Wolverine. Wearing a bike helmet, black T-shirt, sunglasses and a backpack [says my source], Jackman told the staff that he loved the food and happily posed for photos with customers and staff.
So, what favorite foods brought the actor back to the restaurant again and again? One of them was this kale salad, and Becker shared his recipe for it with a magazine. The dish ‘pops with pickled currants, a generous helping of Pecorino cheese and a bright, tart dressing made from vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice and lemon oil.’
Ingredients for kale salad (serves 4)
• 5 tbsp. currants
• 1 tsp. white balsamic vinegar
• 1 tsp. lemon oil
• 2½ cups baby kale
• black pepper, to taste
• salt, to taste
• ½ cup grated Pecorino cheese
• 5 tbsp. pumpkin seeds
• lemon dressing (recipe below)
1. To pickle the currants, place them in a small bowl of vinegar and lemon oil. Let sit for a minimum of 30 minutes. 2. Season kale with salt and pepper. Add half of the currants, Pecorino and pumpkin seeds and toss gently. Add dressing and toss again. Sprinkle remaining Pecorino, currants and pumpkin seeds on top.
Ingredients for the lemon dressing
• 2 tbsp. lemon juice
• 2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
• 2 tbsp. lemon oil
• ¼ cup olive oil
• black pepper, to taste
• salt, to taste
Mix the lemon juice and vinegar together with a whisk or stick blender. Add lemon oil and olive oil slowly until fully incorporated and the mixture thickens. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
❃ Long ago I shared an office and became friendly with a woman named Anne who introduced me to her own very simple slimming recipe — I wanted to lose weight even in the 1970s — which I subsequently cooked for myself and became quite partial to. It involved shredding some white cabbage and flash-frying it in a little olive oil, then putting it in a bowl and sprinkling it with soy sauce. It’s cheap and ultra-quick with practically zero calories, and tastier than you might think. Anne is gone now but I still cook this dish occasionally.
JERMAINE JACKSON: Dum Aloo. With his brother Michael he was one of the Jackson Five, of course, and to promote his own career after Michael’s death he appeared on Celebrity Big Brother with Shilpa Shetty (see below). I don’t recall him doing much cooking on the show but more recently he was persuaded to test a recipe by the excellent people at http://www.allrecipes.com who presented this Indian dish as Spicy Vegan Potato Curry (Dum means slow-cooked, and aloo is potato). “I made the recipe exactly as written.” said Jermaine; “Good recipe! It has some kick to it so if you’re ‘spicy sensitive’ adjust as necessary.”
• 4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1 yellow onion, diced
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 1½ teaspoons cayenne pepper
• 4 teaspoons curry powder
• 4 teaspoons garam masala
• 1 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
• 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans [chickpeas], rinsed and drained
• 1 (15 ounce) can peas, drained
• 1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
1. Place potatoes into a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and allow to steam dry for a minute or two.
2. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, curry powder, garam masala, ginger, and salt; cook for 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, garbanzo beans, peas, and potatoes. Pour in the coconut milk, and bring to a simmer. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
FRANZ KAFKA: Bramboracka (Czech potato and mushroom soup). One of the very few modern writers to become an adjective (Kafkaesque) from his nightmarish stories like Metamorphosis and The Trial, Kafka became a vegetarian initially for his health but soon became disgusted by the very idea of eating meat.
‘Soup, in particular,’ [says paperandsalt.org whence comes most of this information about his eating habits] ‘flows throughout Kafka’s stories and diaries: pea soup, goulash, even “fruit soup.” The most arresting image comes from Kafka’s diaries, where Max Brod [his friend and later biographer] sits on the ground, “eating a thick potato soup out of which potatoes peeped like large balls.”
‘Brod was likely eating bramboracka, a traditional Czech dish loaded with underground treasures: mushrooms, carrots and the omnipresent potatoes. This version has a buttery, rich taste thanks to the roasted garlic—pure satisfaction, no meat required.’ Here’s paperandsalt’s recipe for bramboracka:
• 2 garlic heads, outer layers of skin removed
• 2 tablespoons butter (or olive oil, to make it vegan)
• 1 small yellow onion, diced
• 1 tablespoon flour
• 2 cups mushrooms (I used cremini, but button or shitake would be good too)
• 6 cups vegetable broth
• 3 to 4 carrots, chopped
• 2 leeks (white and light green parts), chopped
• 1½ cups baby potatoes
• 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
• ½ teaspoon dried oregano
• ½ teaspoon salt
• freshly ground pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Slice off the top of each garlic head and drizzle with oil. Wrap both heads in foil and bake for 45 minutes. Let cool, then squeeze or scoop roasted cloves into a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Warm butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 2 minutes, then add flour and stir until lightly browned, another 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until tender.
3. Add broth, carrots, leeks, potatoes, caraway seeds, oregano and salt. Add roasted garlic paste. Stir, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
MARIAN KEYES: One of her recent post-lockdown tweets went “My notion-y tay! An Ottolenghi recipe! An easy one, this one, only 51 hours of prep and a mere 7 of the ingredients had to be ordered from Jupiter… Mind you, Himself will be in for a ‘right land’ if we ever go back to normal and the elaborate dinners come to an abrupt halt.”
Taking a break from writing bestselling novels and baking cakes she’d just cooked Yotam Ottolenghi’s ‘Sticky sweet-and-sour plums and sausages’ from a recipe torn from The Guardian (available online here), and while it’s not specifically a vegetable dish it does contain onions, garlic and potatoes, and as Yotam points out vegetarian sausages can be substituted for meaty ones — and doesn’t it look good! It is good.
❃ My friend Celia is a fan of Yotam Ottolenghi too and sometimes cooks his wonderful Caponata, with twists of her own: more about this under Martin Scorsese below.
LIBERACE: Gazpacho. The flamboyant entertainer — I can’t quite bring myself to call him a pianist, with Martha Argerich, Oscar Peterson and Jerry Lee Lewis active at the same time (Liberace died in 1987) — liked to entertain as lavishly as his stage costumes might suggest he would, but however tasteless we might have found Liberace personally his recipes were good ones, as tasty as can be. Gazpacho, as Rimmer in Red Dwarf learned too late to avoid embarassment but as I’m sure you know as well as Lisa Simpson, is served cold. It originated in Andalusia as poor man’s food for workers in the vineyards and olive plantations.
Ingredients (for 8)
• 2 gloves garlic, crushed
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 8 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, or one 14-ounce / 1lb can
• few drops Tabasco sauce
• 1 tablespoon vinegar
• 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 small cucumber, peeled and cut up
• 1 medium onion, cut up
• 3 tablespoons bread crumbs
• 2 cups chicken broth or water
• ice cubes
• 2 cups hot croutons
• minced scallions
• grated hard-cooked egg yolk
• chopped pitted green or ripe olives
• chopped green pepper
1. Buzz the garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, Tabasco sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar, cucumber, onion, and crumbs in a blender with the broth. (You may need to divide the ingredients; the blender shouldn’t be more than three-quarters full.)
3. Serve in soup bowls with an ice cube in each, or from a tureen with a number of ice cubes. Pass the croutons piping hot and have any or all of the minced vegetables available in bowls as garnish.
LORDE: Onion rings. Some mystery surrounds the New Zealand songstress’s alleged enthusiasm for these. Could she really have had an Instagram page devoted to the subject? It seems that she did: “I sort of naively didn’t realize it would be a thing,” she’s reported to have said; “I was going to different places and trying the onion rings at each of those places.” She has now taken the page down, however, because “I feel like it kind of reads like the kind of thing a pop star would do to look relatable, which I wasn’t doing. It was like a funny thing with my friends on the tour and I was like, this is a good pastime.”
That was in 2017, but this year Lorde seems to have resumed her online onion ring reviews — I say seems because it’s sometimes difficult to tell the real from the fake — as in these comments on the Pickled Onion Rings at Auckland’s Hotel Ponsonby: “We’re talking PICKLED onion rings which is a first for this reviewer. I totally vibe the concept — used to eat pickled onions out of the jar as a youngster — however I think if you’re gonna go there, go there, and let acidity rather than sweetness dominate. Absolutely sensational batter, perhaps the best I’ve tried. 4/5 overall ringsperience.” The Instagram page, genuine or not, can be found here.
So what makes a really good onion ring? Lorde’s fans have not been slow to come up with ideas, some of which look delicious. See them here. I haven’t tried any of them yet, having already made the batter for the fried green tomatoes [see under Fannie Flagg above] and feeling a bit battered myself at the moment.
DAVID LYNCH: Quinoa. It’s a grain rather than a vegetable, but since the other main ingredient in this dish is broccoli and since it comes with a bizarre instructional video from the great movie director how could I exclude it? [Click on the picture to watch the clip.]
I find it rather hypnotic and indeed hilarious in a strange, Lynchian sort of way but if you don’t have the patience to sit through the whole clip here’s his recipe summarized:
• ½ cup quinoa
• 1½ cups organic broccoli (chilled, from bag)
• 1 cube vegetable bullion
• Braggs Liquid Aminos [available from Amazon in the UK]
• Extra virgin olive oil
• Sea salt
* Fill medium saucepan with about an inch of fresh water.
* Set pan on stove, light a nice hot flame add several dashes of sea salt.
* Look at the quinoa. It’s like sand, this quinoa. It’s real real tight little grains, but it’s going to puff up.
* Unwrap bullion cube, bust it up with a small knife, and let it wait there. It’ll be happy waiting right there.
* When water comes to a boil, add quinoa and cover pan with lid. Reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes.
* Meanwhile, retrieve broccoli from refrigerator and set aside, then fill a fine crystal wine glass — one given to you by Agnes and Maya from Lódz, Poland — with red wine, ‘cause this is what you do when you’re making quinoa. Go outside, sit, take a smoke and think about all the little quinoas bubbling away in the pan.
* Add broccoli, cover and let cook for an additional 7 minutes.
* Meanwhile, go back outside and tell the story about the train with the coal-burning engine that stopped in a barren, dust-filled landscape on a moonless Yugoslavian night in 1965. The story about the frog moths and the small copper coin that became one room-temperature bottle of violet sugar water, six ice-cold Coca-colas, and handfuls and handfuls of silver coins.
* Turn off heat, add bullion to quinoa and stir with the tip of the small knife you used to bust up the bullion.
* Scoop quinoa into bowl using a spoon. Drizzle with liquid amino acids and olive oil. Serve and enjoy.
❃ I see that someone on YouTube has offered this theory about the clip: “The quinoa represents the eternal quest for sustenance of the soul. The broccoli represents the eternal darkness of evil. When combined with some vegetable bouillon, you are left with the convergence of all realities. And dinner.”
MOBY: Improvised Chilli. The popular recording artiste has recently published his own vegan cookbook* in which he tells us that there are no real measurements here: “You just kind of throw a bunch of stuff in a pot and at some point you decide it’s done.”
❃ Moby is evidently a man after my own heart, for this is very much my own approach to cookery too, as you’ll see when I start publishing the somewhat eccentric recipes from my personal repertoire. Maybe next time.
In case you don’t know (I didn’t until I found this recipe): although it’s made from wheat, seitan (pronounced say-tan) has little in common with flour or bread. It rather surprisingly acquires something of the look and texture of meat when it’s cooked, making it a popular meat substitute for vegetarians and vegans.
• onions, maybe 5? (5 onions, diced)
• garlic cloves, I don’t know . . . 10 cloves? (10 cloves garlic, minced)
• 10 or so? tomatoes (10 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped)
• 4 cups water or vegetable stock
• frozen corn, a few bags (6 cups frozen corn)
• 6 cups sliced seitans
• 3 cans black beans (15 ounces each)
• lots of chilli powder (1 cup chilli powder)
• 1 tube polenta (18 ounces polenta, chopped into 1″ cubes)
• 1 tub tofu (16 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1″ cubes)
• fresh salsa
• salt, optional
Add the corn, seitan, black beans, chili powder, polenta, and tofu. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring, so the chilli doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook for 3 hours.
Serve with cornbread and fresh salsa. Salt it, if you wish.
Surrinder Syall is another cook who eschews quantities: see the entry for Meera Syall below.
* Moby’s book is The Little Pine Cookbook: Modern Plant-Based Comfort (Avery, 2021). “Whatever you’re making, the spirit of Little Pine, of community, of sharing, and of giving is in all these recipes, and they are here for you to savour every day.”
MUSSOLINI: Garlic. The Italian dictator’s favourite dish was a simple salad of chopped garlic dressed with oil and lemon, which he maintained was good for his heart. “He used to eat a whole bowl of it,” his wife Rachele confided to the family cook after his death; “I couldn’t go anywhere near him after that. At night I’d leave him to sleep alone in our room and take refuge in one of the children’s rooms.”
FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE: Artichokes. A friend at school became interested in philosophy and urged me to read Nietzsche [1844-1900] whose ideas he was finding impressive, so on his recommendation I bought the newly-published Penguin translation of Also Spracht Zarathustra (illustrated below right), but didn’t like it: all that stuff about the Superman and the Will to Power etc. didn’t sit well with me, and my parents were appalled to find me reading it, having endured a war in which another German tried to put these ideas into practice. They didn’t like me listening to the music of Wagner and Richard Strauss either, but I find that I can still enjoy it without thinking too much about their politics.On the domestic front, however, ‘Nietzsche absorbed a love of cooking by learning … through those around him. In Sorrento, in a villa surrounded by lemon trees, his housemaid showed him her secret to a perfect risotto, lovingly ladling out the stock as she stirred. Studying the techniques of his Italian housekeepers, Nietzsche was eager to become a teacher himself. He wrote to his mother: “I shall teach you later how to cook risotto — I know now.” In Genoa, his landlady taught him to fry artichokes and whisk eggs for torta di carciofi, the local specialty.’ [–from paperandsalt]
An excellent recipe for artichoke tart (illustrated at left above) can be found here.
TONY ROBINSON: Turnip. I’m not much given to name-dropping (do I hear a chorus of “Oh really?” from the people who know me) but when he was a budding young actor Tony bought the artwork of one of my cartoon strips for £20 which at the time I was very glad to receive, and I’ve followed his career with interest ever since. He seems to have done pretty well for himself. One of his recent tweets says “Try my recipe for turnip surprise” which goes as follows:
1. Dig up a turnip
2. Throw it at someone
I wonder if Sir Tony still has my drawing framed and hanging on his wall. Somehow I doubt it.
COLONEL SANDERS: Squash — and not a chicken in sight. The Colonel, or someone representing him on the website (he died in 1980), says: “This is a vegetable dish that was a great favorite in my restaurants. Take it from me, it is just out of this world.” [–from colonelsanders.com]
• 1 acorn squash (2lb or 900g)
• ¾ teaspoon allspice
• ½ to ¾ cup sugar
• ⅓ to ½ cup melted butter
• ½ teaspoon salt
1. Peel the squash the cut the flesh into cubes about ¾ or 1 inch in size. Put into a medium saucepan.
2. Sprinkle on the mace and salt. Add sugar, butter, and water, which should completely cover the squash.
3. Bring to the boil then simmer slowly until the squash appears transparent and has taken in the butter and the sugar (about 45 minutes).
Did you know btw that Colonel Sanders’s first name was Harland?
❃ Just as I’m writing this the newspapers are reporting that “New Zealand considers jabbing KFC customers under a drastic new Covid-19 vaccination strategy as Jacinda Ardern aims for 90 per vaxx rate.” It seems that KFC is very popular amongst the Kiwis, with reports of “police arresting two men attempting to enter locked-down Auckland with ‘a boot-full of KFC’.” while the NZ Herald reports a man setting up a tent outside his local fried chicken takeaway ahead of the restaurant’s re-opening on Wednesday. They could of course eat vegetables instead.
MARTIN SCORSESE: Aubergine (eggplant). The dish is Caponata, from his mother’s Catherine’s recipe.
Mrs Scorsese appeared as an Italian matriarch in several of her son’s movies, most memorably in Goodfellas (1990) in which she appeared as Joe Pesci’s mother during the gangsters-come-home dinner. Often, she cooked meals for cast and crew members of her son’s films. Her tomato-and-meat sauce was probably the only recipe ever to receive full billing in the credits of a movie when Martin Scorsese starred the sauce and his parents in Italianamerican, his favorite of all his films. In 1996 all the recipes from the family were written and published in Italianamerican: The Scorsese Family Cookbook, with photos and anecdotes that tell the story of three generations of Scorseses.
Ingredients (serves 8-10)
• 2 large eggplants [aubergines]
• 1 jar oil-cured black olives (6½ ounces)
• 1 jar green olives (5¾ ounces)
• 1 jar capers (3 ounces)
• 4 large stalk celery, diced
• ½ to ⅔ cups olive oil
• 2 large onions, sliced
• 2 can tomato sauce (16 ounces)
• ¼ cup sugar
• ½ cup red wine vinegar
• freshly-ground pepper to taste
• salt to taste
1. Trim the eggplants, cut them into 1-inch cubes, and transfer them to a colander. Sprinkle with salt and let them stand for 30 minutes. Rinse, drain well and pat dry.
2. In a bowl, combine the black olives, green olives and capers. Cover with warm water and let them plump for 20 minutes, drain well.
3. In a saucepan of boiling water, blanch the celery for 1 to 2 minutes, or until just tender. Drain and pat dry.
4. In a large skillet set over moderate heat, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil until hot. Add the eggplant in small batches and cook it, stirring occasionally and adding 3 to 4 tablespoons of water to prevent sticking, until just tender and golden brown. Transfer the fried eggplant to a bowl and, adding oil and water as needed, fry the remaining eggplant.
5 Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet and heat it until hot over moderate heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, just until tender. Add the tomato sauce, 2 cups water, the reserved eggplant, olives, capers, celery, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer the mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
6. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and vinegar, stirring until dissolved. Add the sugar mixture to the eggplant mixture and stir to combine. Transfer the caponatina to a bowl, let it cool to room temperature, and chill it, covered, for 1 to 2 days to allow the flavors to blend.
❃ On my first selection of Vegetables of the Rich and Famous my friend Celia commented: “… have you tried caponata? If not, you might have to come round to ours, soon, as I feel one coming on!” Celia did indeed make a caponata a few days later, and it was fantastic. I’ll hope to return to Celia’s caponata in a future post, giving it ita own entry as there’s no reason why she and it should be marginalized by the Scorseses.
SHILPA SHETTY: Corn fritters (pakoda). She was well-known as a star in Bollywood movies and as such famous in ethnic communities outside India, but she wasn’t a very familiar face in Britain until she appeared on tv in Celebrity Big Brother in 2007 and suffered some unpleasant racist abuse from three of the other young women in the house. Jermaine Jackson (see above) was there too but managed to steer clear of the racist crap. The viewers sided with Shilpa and voted her the winner of the series.
Ingredients for the fritters
• 1 cup sweetcorn, boiled and coarsely mashed
• 2 small sweet potatoes, boiled and grated
• 2 spring onion greens (scallions), finely chopped
• 2 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped
• 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
• 1½ tbsp flax seed powder
• ½ cup breadcrumbs
• 1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
• salt to taste
• vegetable oil for frying
For the dip
• 3 tbsp curd
• 1 tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped
• salt to taste
Instructions for the fritters
1. In a bowl, add the mashed corn. Add sweet potatoes, spring onions, chopped coriander leaves, red chilli, flax seed powder, breadcrumbs and grated cheese. Mix all the ingredients well.
2. Add some salt and mix again.
3. Now grease your palms slightly with oil. Take a portion of the fritter mixture and shape them into small triangles.
4. Heat frying oil in a pan. Place the fritters on the pan and cook for about two to four minutes on each side till they turn golden brown. Your fritters are ready.
For the dip
* Take curd in a bowl. Add chopped mint leaves and salt. Mix the ingredients. Your dip is ready.
Shilpa now has her own cookery channel on tv, with many of her cookery demonstrations (in English) on YouTube. She has also published several cookbooks and dvds.
MEERA SYALL: Vegetable biryani. Emma Freud met Meera on one of her tv shows and introduced her like this: “Meera Syal is one of my favourite humans. Not only is she a brilliant actress and stunning novelist, but she makes the best vegetarian biryani I’ve ever eaten. Her culinary skills were taught to her by her mother, Surrinder, who lives with her in north London. We talked about her mum’s rural Indian childhood, and Meera cooked me her signature dish.”
Emma: How did your mum become such a great cook?
Meera: My mum grew up in a small village in the Punjab, and her family were farm owners so they cooked whatever they had picked that day. They didn’t have fridges, ovens or kitchen appliances, and never wasted anything. Mum grew up making her own butter and yogurt, and the whey that was left over was mixed with spices and drunk as a health tonic, or used as a conditioner for hair to keep it shiny. [..] I find it bemusing that most famous chefs are men, whereas I think the really creative cooks are the women who transformed whatever was in the cupboard into three meals a day. That’s proper cheffing, not doing something fancy with a blowtorch.
Emma: Have you got family recipes that have been passed down through your family?
Meera: I wish my mum would write a book. I’ve tried several times to get her to transcribe her recipes, but it’s impossible because of the instinctive way her generation cooked their food. Forget about precise quantities — it comes down to a bit of this, a splash of that, cook until you feel it’s ready.
For that reason there’s no recipe to go here, but the BBC website directs us to these pages:
❃ I love a good biryani myself and have occasionally had a go at cooking one of my own: not recently, however, because the last time i tried it the dish was just about done when I lifted the cheap wok from the hob, and the pan — imperfectly attached to the wooden handle — did a 180° flip and deposited its contents onto the kitchen floor. I’m now saving up for a better wok.
K.T. TUNSTALL: Zucchini (courgette). During the recent lockdown the talented singer/songwriter guested on Quarantine Kitchen to make her Zingy Chili and Lemon Zucchini Noodles, or zoodles.
❃ Her recipe begins “Spiralize your zucchini” which puts me in something of a quandary. I like to test these recipes before posting them but am I really going to buy a spiralizer, which I suspect I might use only once or maybe twice before consigning it to a kitchen cupboard along with the Breville Sandwich Toaster, the George Foreman Grill and various other gadgets purchased over the years, never to be seen again? A bit of online research reveals that there are other ways of preparing these noodles, however — here‘s one — and suddenly I see that I don’t need to buy a spiralizer at all.
• 1 large zucchini/courgette
• large knob of salted butter
• 1 small tin of anchovies
• 3 garlic cloves, chopped
• zest of 1 lemon
• chilli flakes
1. Spiralize your zucchini
2. Melt the salted butter in a pan
3. Sauté the chopped garlic for a minute or two, then add the anchovies. Stir over a gentle heat until the anchovies melt into a paste
4. Add the zucchini noodles to the pan and stir well to coat them with the anchovies, garlic and butter
5. Keep stirring to heat the zoodles
6. Once the zoodles have softened to your desired taste, add the lemon zest and the chilli flakes
7. Drizzle a little extra olive oil over the dish and serve
❃ On my first selection of Vegetables of the Rich and Famous Celia commented: “Hoping to sneak in under your riff-raff radar, I’d like to offer courgette slices lightly floured, then fried in olive oil and good butter, until crisp on the outside but meltingly soft on the inside. Sea salt sprinkled over adds to the deliciousness.” Indeed it does.
PETER USTINOV: Okroshka (cold soup of Russian origin).
Ustinov was one of the 20th century’s leading contenders for the role of Renaissance Man: playwright, author of stories and novels, screenwriter, actor on the stage and in films (two Academy Awards), cultural ambassador, humorist and raconteur … He was proud of his Russian heritage, writing books and hosting tv series on the subject. He died in 2004 and is greatly missed.
Ingredients (serves 4)
• 1 tbsp. each minced green and white parts of scallions
• ½ tsp. dried tarragon
• 10 radishes, minced
• ½ tsp. dried tarragon
• 1 tbsp. minced fresh dill (or 1 tsp. dried)
• 1 tbsp. each vinegar and lemon juice
• 1½ tsps. of salt
• 1 tsp. of freshly ground pepper
• ½ cup sour cream
• 2 hard-cooked egg yolks, mashed
• 1 tsp. prepared mustard (or horseradish
• ½ cup cooked mashed potatoes
• 1 No. 10½ can undiluted chicken broth (or beef consommé)
• 1½ cups dry white wine (or beer)
• 2 small cucumbers, peeled and very finely minced
• 2 hard-cooked egg whites, mashed
• ½ cup crushed ice
1. Combine scallions and radishes with herbs, vinegar, lemon juice and seasonings.
2. In a separate bowl blend sour cream, egg yolks, mustard, potatoes, chicken broth and wine. (If beer is used add just before serving.) Stir in scallion mixture, blend well. Cover tightly, refrigerate at least 3 hrs. Spoon into flat soup plates. Divide cucumbers, egg whites and crushed ice evenly in each plate. Serve with slices of sour rye bread or dark pumpernickel lightly spread with sweet butter.
Thoughts: Russian cooks traditionally chop the vegetables very finely but American cooks can accomplish the same with a blender. [The rest of us can do it with a blender too –RGJ]
VICTORIA WOOD: Cauliflower. In her own words, this recipe makes The Best Cauliflower Soup Ever Made.
The death of Victoria Wood in 2016 deprived us of a huge talent much too soon. Pace the recipe reproduced below she may not have been well-known outside the UK but she was hugely admired — loved — here. I personally liked her rv sketch-shows best, especially the ones featuring the spot-on parody of bad soap operas Acorn Antiques, but I never missed her musical performances and her appearances as a stand-up comedienne. Later in her life she concentrated more on tv drama, variously as writer, producer and actor, always good in every capacity and the recipient of several awards for this work. An amazing woman.
I’ve seen this recipe in a couple of places online but haven’t been able to trace its original source. Did Victoria contribute it to some celebrity cookbook or tv show? The screenshot below is as close as I can get to an explanation. I’d guess that the recipe is genuine — it seems characteristically Victorian, so to speak — and anyway it’s a good one.
PHILIP WORKMAN: Vegetarian pizza. Far from rich but briefly famous in 2007, Workman made headlines worldwide when he was sentenced to death by lethal injection for killing a policeman while robbing a Wendys hamburger joint in Nashville, but when offered the usual last meal of his own choosing said that he didn’t want one and instead would like the prison to give a large vegetarian pizza to a homeless person.
The prison officials denied his request but on May 9, 2007 as Workman was being executed, homeless shelters across Tennessee received massive numbers of vegetarian pizzas from people all over the country honoring Workman’s last meal request. “Philip Workman was trying to do a good deed and no one would help him,” said one woman who, together with friends, donated $1200 worth of pizzas to Nashville’s Rescue Mission.
❃ Back home, and less dramatically, the Papa John pizza chain do a pretty good veggie pizza which they call ‘Garden Party’, but when there’s time I like to buy a good-quality vegetable pizza from a posh supermarket and augment it with a selection of sliced Mediterranean vegetables, fresh home-grown basil and oregano, and lots more cheese before heating it up in the oven. Yum yum. I don’t drink much these days but this practically begs to be washed down with a glass or two of red wine.
I’m only slightly ashamed to admit that I’ve never made a pizza from scratch.
If you’d like to send me a recipe of your own please email me via the Contact panel at the top [or here]. Your Comments are also welcome, of course.