More Jottings

Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth.

Babies:  It’s said that every new-born baby looks like Winston Churchill, and recent arrivals tend to prove that this is indeed so. Luckily most of them soon grow out of it.

Banzai!  I wrote a light-hearted bit about Japan in an earlier Jottings which set me thinking in a more serious vein. I don’t consider myself to be in any way racist, but in comics and movies when I was a kid the Japs were the enemy. We’d all seen The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), set in a Japanese prison camp in Burma where the prisoners were treated very cruelly, while at school some of my classmates were keen on war comics which bore names like Action! and Commando! and often featured Japanese pilots who yelled “Banzai!” as their Kamikaze planes flew to their doom. Pretty soon these same boys were yelling “Banzai!” as they attacked each other (and me) with pillows after lights out. There were some nasty books circulating too dealing in rather too much detail with Japanese war atrocities, such as The Camp on Blood Island and The Knights of Bushido. These things revolted me but they were inescapable, yet as the years went by and as the dust of Nagasaki and Hiroshima settled our perception of the Japanese slowly changed, and by the 1980s my company was trading with Japanese publishers very happily and for some years now I’ve been driving Japanese cars, but though It’s probably unworthy of me I can’t help wondering where all the cruelty went. In peacetime did it just melt away, never to be seen or mentioned again? Perhaps I’m wrong even to mention it here.

Humphrey Lyttelton

Deafness, partial:  “I have one curious trait which I believe to be inherited from my father … Whenever ten or more people are gathered together in one room, chattering away like broiler-fowl at feeding-time, I go deaf. It is as if the input channels of my ears become overloaded and automatically cut out as a precaution against short-circuiting and bursting into flames. For me, social convocations for drinks or meals turn, when warmed up and under way, into surrealistic happenings in which lips move, tongues wag, eyebrows plunge and soar but nothing that could be remotely described as human speech reaches me.” — Humphrey Lyttelton from Last Chorus: an autobiographical medley (2009)  I almost cheered when I read this, for I suffer from exactly the same ailment and had always thought it was a weird thing peculiar to me but to find that Humph, a jazz musician and popular radio host, had it too and lived a very happy and successful life despite it was heartening. When I was younger and went out socializing a lot it was a real handicap in the chatting-up stakes — I was the original guy you’d always find in the kitchen at parties — but these days I don’t go to parties and it’s no problem at all.

Diana: the Musical:  The recent kerfuffle over Prince Harry’s book Spare reminds me of a couplet from this bizarre musical work when Diana looks at her newborn baby and sings “Harry, my ginger-haired son / You’ll always be second to none.” As a prediction this was way off the mark, of course, and the show contained many other cherishable lines, e.g.

Jeanna de Waal as Diana and Roe Hartramp as Charles

● Some paparazzi chasing Diana: ”Better than a Guinness, better than a wank / Snap a few pics, it’s money in the bank.”
● AIDS patient to Diana: “I may be unwell, but I’m handsome as hell.”
● Charles angry at Diana’s dance routine with Wayne Sleep: “How about for a start / Don’t act like a TART.”
● Diana, bored at a cello recital by Rostropovich: “The Russian plays on and on / Like an endless telethon / How I wish he were Elton John!”
● Diana at a fashionable party: “Nights like this, I envy the poor / Their parties can’t possibly be such a bore.”

The original stage production was much delayed by Covid and was trounced by the critics when it finally did appear (in The New York Times Jesse Green wrote, “If you care about Diana as a human being, or dignity as a concept, you will find this treatment of her life both aesthetically and morally mortifying.”) but it has been filmed for Netflix and many clips from it can be found on YouTube.

Screenshot from Diana: the Musical

There’s a particularly good (i.e. bad) one here, and a chunk of the soundtrack here which amongst other things gives us the word fruffles.

Earworm:  I got this one — an earworm, as I’m sure you know, is one of those annoying tunes that gets into your brain and won’t go away — on a visit to New York in 1986 when I was in a taxi taking me from one appointment to the next, and a record came on the radio. I heard only snatch of it, a high-pitched voice singing “ooh-ooh baby blue” or something like that, and I didn’t hear who was singing it or the title of the song. But it stuck in my mind and has remained stuck there ever since, damn it. I tried quite hard to identify it, looking at the US charts for the period to see what records might have been hits there at the time, and even singing the bit I remembered to friends who knew more about music than I did. No luck with any of that. Had I got it wrong? Had the high-pitched voice been singing “ooh-ooh Betty Boo” or “Dicky Doo” or something similar? Eventually I gave up the search, but the earworm remained. Imagine my surprise, then, when idly flicking around YouTube the other day I came across a video called Two-Hit Wonders of the 1970s and there it was! Long story short: it had been a a big hit in the USA and elsewhere in 1975 — the NY radio station must have been playing it as a golden oldie — but was virtually unknown in the UK, and it was ‘Jackie Blue’ by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, a group hitherto unknown to me. The high-pitched voice turned out to belong to the drummer, a hairy fellow who also wrote it. It took me 35 years to identify the thing, and then I did so only by accident. Anyway, I downloaded the track and now play it two or three times day in the hope of getting sick of it and banishing the earworm forever, but at the moment I still like it.

If you want to risk hearing it and getting the earworm yourself it can be found here.

More family stuff:  One of my ongoing projects is to find and archive family photographs to get them all into decent-quality digital form, and amongst my late mother’s things I found a folder of very old pictures which I’m scanning and retouching one by one: a voyage of discovery as I’d never seen many of them before. Here’s one of my mother’s family, the Smiths, from the 1920s:

On the left is my Nana who I claim as the original Betty of Bettys Café fame — she was never very keen on smiling for the camera — then my mother, then my grandfather J.J. who ran Bettys for many years but died young, and finally Uncle Ray. It doesn’t do to dwell too much in the past, however, and I’m glad to say that my family in New Zealand are keeping me plentifully supplied with photos of the new generation:

That’s Mia at the back, then (from the left) Isabelle, Finn and Madeleyne: one great-nephew and three great-nieces. Can these beautiful kids really be related to ugly old me?

Language note:  In recent months a lot of americanisms have crept into the speech of our politicians and public speakers: drilling down, doubling down, ramping up, etc., but the one that really irks me is the use of likely instead of probably, as in “It will likely rain tomorrow.” This is now becoming widespread: in today’s newspaper former British Army Colonel Philip Ingram is quoted as saying “Western response would likely be the conventional destruction of every Russian piece of kit inside geographic Ukraine.”  Col. Ingram really ought to know better.

Lewis, C.S.:  My father knew him personally and would send me copies of his books when I was a teenager away at boarding school, including these Pan editions which are still the best cover designs I’ve seen for these titles. (Pan retitled Perelandra as Voyage to Venus.)  I have them still. Still good.

Meat, red:  “I caused looks of utter horror on Masterchef when I said I didn’t go along with the fashion for serving pink lamb. ‘I like mine well-done and crispy-skinned. Good old falling-apart lamb, like Granny used to cook,’ I said. ‘Why do we have to copy the French?’ Needless to say, I wasn’t invited back.” —June Whitfield, from her autobiography.

June Whitfield in Absolutely Fabulous

I like mine well-done and crispy-skinned too. When I bought my first house in the mid-1970s and started to learn how to cook properly — or as properly as it ever got — this coincided with a sudden vogue amongst my generation for serving meat semi-raw. “It’s much more tasty this way,” said friends serving me slices of nearly raw meat slopping about in tepid blood, and some of them sneered at me for not following this new fashion. Well, over the years I have eaten meat prepared in many different ways and stubbornly I still prefer it well-done, and it was good to find sensible person like Dame June agreeing with me.

Monopoly:  Interested to see that there’s now a Harrogate edition which has Bettys Cafe as one of its stops. Regular readers if this blog will know of my family’s early links to Bettys.

New Zealanders eat more ice cream per capita than any other nation. Fact.

Pronunciation:  When I was research student long ago my father used to annoy the hell out of me by pronouncing it ree-search (“How’s your ree-search going?”) at a time when everyone else pronounced it with two equal syllables as in reverse or rehearse. Well, times change, and now ree-search seems to have become standard. I don’t like it, but even worse is the now almost universal pronunciation of kilometre with the emphasis on the middle syllable: kill-OM-eter. It makes no sense, as we don’t say kill-OLL-eter for kilolitre or cen-TIM-eter, but I’m afraid it’s here to stay. I blame Top Gear for this.  Grrrrr.

The colon, from Punctuation Personified by Mr. Stops (1824)

Punctuation:  “Kipling, of course, found a new use for the colon.” –from Tavern Talk by Collin Brooks (1950). Did he, indeed? Being very interested in such matters — and isn’t that ‘of course’ annoying? — I had a look through Kipling’s works to see if I could spot this so-called new use, but the only unusual use of the colon that I could see occurred at end of the first two stanzas in Kipling’s famous poem ‘If’, though in some editions it’s been replaced by a semicolon, no doubt by editors who thought they knew better than the author. If this is what Brooks means by ‘a new use’ it seems hardly worth mentioning — but perhaps I’ve missed something.
Tavern Talk has a bit more to say about punctuation, however: “Bart Kennedy, that almost forgotten man, thought he could make a new use of the full point. For a while his technique was effective, but it grew tedious. Parody eventually killed it.” When I first read this in the 1970s I could find out nothing about Bart Kennedy, but now we can google him and get the basic facts, which are that he was … well, here‘s a link to his Wikepedia entry. Some of his books have been published online too, and we can see his innovative use of the full point in a succession of short often verbless sentences:

from Slavery, pictures from the depths (1905)

Other writers have since employed this sort of staccato style, e,g, Peter Tinniswood in his later works like The Stirk of Stirk, and no doubt many other too.
Finally, there’s a punctuation mark used to signify irony or sarcasm that looks like a backwards question mark [⸮] but since it doesn’t feature in most computer fonts it isn’t widely used,

Rhyming slang:  In an earlier Jottings I made the suggestion that scarper, meaning run away, leave, scram, might be rhyming slang from Scapa Flow (=go), but my friend Bob was quick to point out that this was not so, and that it derives from the Italian ‘scappare’ – to escape. This has been in use since the 17th century. Swell’s Night Guide, 1846 includes the quotation:  “He must hook it before ‘day-light does appear’, and then scarper by the back door.”

Saddest book title: Leftover Life to Kill by Caitlin Thomas (Dylan’s widow).

Saucy books of the ‘sixties:  I belong to various online groups devoted to the celebration of vintage paperbacks, of which I possess hundreds, where members upload pictures of the books in their collections and of their latest finds. Most of these books are from the genres of thrillers and science fiction with splendidly lurid covers, and occasionally one of these brings back sharp memories, e.g. The Passion Flower Hotel which was considered a very naughty book in the early 1960s. It was read avidly by my sister Carol and the other girls at her boarding school where it had to be hidden from the teachers and, at home, from parents too. Tee hee. I wasn’t averse to a bit of sleaze myself and remember a few books that I read at the time in search of cheap thrills. One was The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy, which I enjoyed and actually admired as a novel, but sleazier by far was The Carpetbaggers. Does anyone read Harold Robbins these days? I doubt it.

Wasabi:  Most wasabi paste isn’t real wasabi, which is expensive.

X-Ray Specs:  I knew that they would be a con, and that they wouldn’t really enable me to see through women’s  clothes to their naked bodies — something I was very keen to see when I was 13 or so — and when I finally got hold of a pair (of x-ray specs, not yet naked women) by a most circuitous route of course they didn’t.

Zoom:  Over the Christmas/New Year holiday we planned a Zoom session between England and New Zealand but I was in such a dismal state with cold and general low spirits that I knew I wouldn’t be able to give a good account of myself — maybe we’ll try again at Easter — so to end on a more upbeat note here‘s a record that I used to have on a compilation tape and always liked.

More Vegetables of the Rich and Famous

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
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
• paprika

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.
8. Blend.
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.

Photo from the Growing in Haringey group on Facebook

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.

Fried green tomatoes

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

To garnish:
• 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:

Classic bubble and squeak

• 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 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.

from Introducing Kafka by David Zane Mairowitz illustrated by Robert Crumb

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 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.

“It’s tomato soup served ice cold!”

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.)
2. Chill.
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.”

Lorde with onion rings (not to scale)

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)
• cornbread
• 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]

• 1 acorn squash (2lb or 900g)
• ¾ teaspoon allspice
• ½ to ¾ cup sugar
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.

Martin and his mother Catherine Scorsese

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.”

Meera Syal with her mother Surrinder

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 In dinnerladies (1999). I couldn’t find a picture of her holding a cauliflower.

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.

My favourite pizza (unpaid ad)

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.

Vegetables of the Rich and Famous

Being extracts from my forthcoming masterwork in 12 de luxe volumes coming next year from Stroud & Greene, publishers of fine works for the gentry.

BEN AFFLECK:  Carrots. This recipe for pan-seared carrots with maple and thyme comes from Makini Howell of Plum Bistro in Seattle who says that it’s a great favorite of Ben Affleck‘s, which seems plausible as Howell has served dinner for Affleck and his wife Jennifer Garner in their home, and he also cooks for Casey Affleck, Joaquin Phoenix and a host of other celebs.

“We can see [says the website] why either Affleck brother would gobble these carrots down. Thanks to maple syrup, chopped garlic and smoked tofu, each bite is sweet, savory and smoky all at once, not to mention vegan (the younger Affleck has been vegan for more than 15 years). Howell says Phoenix is also a fan of the dish.” I am too.

Howell specializes in vegetarian and vegan food, and is happy to share his recipe here.

Marilyn Monroe was another carrot fan, but she preferred them raw: see below.

LINDSAY ANDERSON:  Brussels sprouts. Not the most popular vegetable but I quite like them myself and have even been known to cook and eat them at times other than Christmas, but Lindsay Anderson the theatre and film director really liked them. He ate them several times a week himself and bullied his friends and the actors in his productions into eating them too, giving detailed instructions on the (in his view) correct method of cooking them, insisting amongst other things that the stem of each sprout should be scored with a cross before cooking. Delia, however, says that doing this makes no difference at all to the cooking time or the flavour and I tend to agree with her, though I still do it.

Beyoncé’s guacamole

BEYONCÉ:  Avocado. This recipe for guacamole is the only recipe that the popular songstress has ever published, and it’s good and very easy to make. Peel two ripe avocados and remove the stones, then break them to fragments with a spoon in a bowl. Chop up one small onion, one small tomato and one clove of garlic and add them to the bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Put the bowl in the fridge for about 20 minutes before serving with corn chips.

BRIAN BEHAN:  Lettuce. The Irish writer and raconteur, brother of Brendan and Dominic once said “I had cancer of the arse and I cured it by drinking Brighton sea-water and eating lettuce.” Make what you will of that remarkable assertion. See also Philip Larkin.

William Bligh

CAPTAIN BLIGH:  Breadfruit. (Let’s not ignore it.)

The captain of HMS Bounty — then a mere Lieutenant — whose imperious manner provoked the famous mutiny of 1787 was actually on a mission to collect breadfruit plants from Tahiti and transport them to the West Indies to feed the slaves there. Cast adrift by the mutineers in a small boat Bligh and few other officers eventually made landfall in what is now Indonesia, and he eventually got back to England to explain why he’d lost the Bounty. The wikipedia entry here gives a reasonably fair account of all this and of what became of the mutineers on Tahiti and Pitcairn Island. Not a pleasant story.

Breadfruit curry

Bligh was exonerated of all blame and promoted to Captain — it seems that he was by no means the tyrant depicted in the movies of the mutiny, memorably so by Charles Laughton — and in 1791 was given another chance to obtain breadfruit for the Caribbean islands from Tahiti, and this time he was successful in transplanting a large number of trees, though the slaves didn’t much like breadfruit, preferring bananas.

Breadfruit — the taste is supposed to resemble freshly-baked bread, hence the name — is actually a versatile and very nourishing foodstuff which can be baked, steamed, boiled, fried, microwaved, grilled, barbecued … It really ought to be more popular than it is. This recipe for breadfruit curry is a good one, the video showing how to cut up the raw article (which I’d argue is much more of a vegetable than a fruit) before making it into a delicious meal.

JOAN COLLINS:  Red beans. “This recipe is for people who give parties but don’t like to cook” says the glamorous actress. It’s called Red Bean Salad and it couldn’t be simpler: fry up some red onions in butter and when they are cool, mix them with cooked beans and sour cream.  Sounds weird, tastes good.

The great jazz musician Louis Armstrong loved red beans and rice prepared in the New Orleans manner — he often nostalgically signed his letters “red beans and ricely yours” — but as his recipe contains ham hock it’s disqualified from this blog. Instead, here’s another another recipe for red food:

SALVADOR DALI:  Red salad. The famous surrealist published various cookbooks which contain some outrageous — and completely impractical — dishes, included more for their shock value than usefulness, but while the recipe here goes for a visual effect — red, red and more red — it does actually work as a palatable dish, especially if you like red cabbage (which I do). This serves 4 for lunch or 8 as a first course

• 8 ounces red beets, diced
• 12 ounces red cabbage. finely grated
• 5 tablespoons heavy cream, chilled
• 3 tablespoons lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• 1 shallot, sliced
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• salt and cayenne pepper to taste

Combine the cream, tomato paste, sugar, shallot and pepper. Beat with a whisk until mixture is light and foamy, about 3 minutes. Slowly beat in lemon juice. Place beets and cabbage in a bowl. Add dressing and mix well. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve on a bed of lettuce [says Dali, but I think radicchio would be more in keeping with the red theme) with hot French bread and a light red wine on the day it is made.

MARLENE DIETRICH:  Potatoes.  Seeing a revival of The Blue Angel at the local art cinema when I was a teenager made a great impression on me. (Seeing Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot at about the same time knocked me sideways, but anyway…) Marlene was an enthusiastic and expert cook, and if she’d lived longer she’d no doubt have published a celebrity cookbook in the USA where she lived and worked after fleeing the Nazis, but the only one that saw print was in her native Germany: Ick will wat Feinet (Berlin slang for “I want something good.”) by Georg A. Werth (2001), which contains her recipe for ‘potato salad Potsdam style’. Poking about online I found an earlier version of this in an old movie magazine — it was evidently a favourite of Marlene’s — and here I’ve blended the two, omitting the warm meat broth from the Werth version as we’re being veggies today. Vegetable stock should perhaps be used instead, as Marlene insisted that “the salad must be nice and moist!”

Wash six medium-sized potatoes and cook in boiling salted water until soft. Cool, remove the skins and cut into very thin slices. Cover the bottom of a baking dish with the potatoes, seasoning with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with finely-chopped celery and finely-chopped parsley [and slices of cucumber and green pepper, and finely-chopped onions too in the Werth version], and work into the potatoes. Mix two tablespoons each of tarragon and cider vinegar and four tablespoons of olive oil, and add one slice of lemon cut one-third thick. Bring to the boiling point, pour over the potatoes [with the veg stock], cover, and let stand in the oven until thoroughly warmed.

‘When you wake from a deep and meaningful dream and decide to paint it’ (unknown artist, evidently no fan of okra)

GRETA GARBO:  Okra, also known as lady’s fingers. The silent movie star Dagmar Godowsky knew the reclusive actress and said: “Isn’t it funny, you remember certain habits of people. What they liked to eat; She liked — what is it, that Southern vegetable? … Stravinsky loved pistachio ice cream. I can’t see pistachio ice cream without thinking of Stravinsky, and … Garbo loved okra! She could eat that every day. She loved it.”

I once cooked some okra to make a Creole Gumbo and found it revolting: slimy, horrible-looking and foul-tasting but above all slimy. I’m told that there’s a way of cooking okra that renders it crisp and delicious, but I can’t believe that this appalling plant could ever taste good so haven’t tried that.


ALLEN GINSBERG:  Beetroot. The famous beat poet made a lot of soup, often a vegatarian version of borcht, which of course consists mostly of beets. His recipe goes like this: boil two big bunches of chopped beets and beet greens for one hour in two quarts of water with a little salt and a bay leaf, and one cup of sugar. When it’s cooled serve it with a bowl of sour cream, accompanied on the side (if you like) by hot or cold boiled potatoes and/or salad.

Ginsberg became fond of Indian cooking as he travelled around the world in the 1960s and on the way he learned how to cook aloo gobi, the classic cauliflower and potato dish, but since Gwyneth Paltrow seems to have bagged cauliflower as her celebrity vegetable on this blog may I direct you to the version by the excellent Felicity Cloake, whose recipes I follow avidly in The Guardian every Saturday. Here she is, and also from the wonderful world of Indian vegetable cookery here’s a recipe from

George Harrison with a magnificent platter of Kṛṣṇa-prasādam (look it up)

GEORGE HARRISON:  Lentils. When the Beatles first became famous and were interviewed for the teen magazines they all said that their favourite meal was steak and chips, but when they moved down from Liverpool to London their tastes became more sophisticated. John Lennon was dubious when offered mangetout for the first time (“OK but put it on the side of the plate away from the food”), and George Harrison spoke of branching out into “the avocado scene”.

As the 1960s progressed the Beatles’ tastes developed still further. John met Yoko Ono and they adopted a macrobiotic diet, though they both gorged on caviar. Paul McCartney and his wife Linda became very high-profile vegetarians, while George became interested in Indian music and religion — and food. Ringo seemed happy with his baked beans.

Unlike the McCartneys, George wasn’t one for publishing vegetarian recipes all over the place but he did share one for what he called ‘Dark Horse Lentil Soup’ with Mary Frampton for her book Rock and Roll Recipes (1979), and here it is:

• 1 red chilli
• 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
• 2 large onions, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1 cup lentils
• 2 large tomatoes, chopped
• 2 green peppers, chopped
• 1 bay leaf
• Salt and pepper to taste

Directions. Heat a small amount of oil in frying pan. When oil is hot, add chili and cumin seeds. When seeds stop sputtering, brown onions and garlic in heated oil. Wash lentils well and cover with water. Add browned onions to pan of lentils. Add tomatoes, peppers, bay leaf, plus salt and pepper. Bring to boil, cover, then turn down to a very low heat. The soup is ready to serve in an hour and tastes even better the next day.

THOMAS JEFFERSON:  Peas. When he wasn’t busy drafting and signing the Declaration of Independence, buying Louisiana for the nation, founding the University of Virginia or having affairs and spawning children with some of his 6oo black slaves, the 3rd President of the USA liked to grow peas. He was no dilettante pea-grower, however, cultivating as many as fifteen types of English pea on his estate at Monticello, and his frequent jottings on these vegetables in his Garden Book indicate that he paid particular attention to this pursuit, happily noting when “peas come to table.” By staggering the planting of different varieties Jefferson was able to eat them fresh from the garden from the middle of May to the middle of July.

This wasn’t just because Jefferson liked peas. He also entered an annual local contest to see which farmer could bring to table the first peas of spring. The winner had to invite the other contestants to a lavish dinner that included the peas. Though Jefferson’s mountaintop garden, with its southern exposure to warmth and light, should have provided an advantage for the contest, the contest was almost always won by a neighbour named George Divers.

I hope that some of the slaves who actually grew the peas managed to sneak a few for themselves when Jefferson wasn’t looking.

I’m tempted to include the late Linda McCartney’s recipe for pea soup here which I think was her first published recipe long before she turned herself into a brand, but it’s much the same as George Harrison’s lentil soup (and comes from the same source), so if you want a good thick pea soup just follow George’s instructions substituting split peas for lentils.

JOAN JETT:  Tomatoes. “A lot of vegetarian food is repulsive. Take quiche and soufflé -– why would you eat that?” says the feisty rock star. ” I like pasta with good olive oil and garlic. I also love tomatoes and make a great passata to go on top.”  See also Elvis Presley.

PHILIP LARKIN:  Lettuce. The poet/librarian liked to read while he was dining alone in his flat, as he generally did, and found that the ideal meal for this purpose was macaroni cheese, because it took about 20 minutes to prepare (this was before the advent of microwave ovens), which was just enough time to sink a couple of stiff gin and tonics and play a few of his favourite jazz records, and when it was cooked he didn’t have to pay attention to what he was spearing on his fork because with macaroni cheese “it’s all the same.” On the rare occasion when he entertained guests, however, he made no attempt to cook for them and fed them with lettuce sandwiches. The reaction of his guests to such fare is not recorded. See also Brian Behan.

MARINETTI:  Fennel. The Italian Futurist published a cookbook in 1932 which contains the following recipe for ‘Aerofood’: “The diner is served from the right with a plate containing some black olives, fennel hearts and kumquats. From the left he is served with a rectangle made of sandpaper, silk and velvet. The foods must be carried directly to the mouth with the right hand while the left hand lightly and repeatedly strokes the tactile rectangle. In the meantime the waiters spray the nape of the diner’s neck with a conprofumo [perfume] of carnations while from the kitchen comes contemporaneously a violent conrumore [music] of an aeroplane motor and some dismusica [music] by Bach.” [–translated into English by Suzanne Brill]

Meghan Markle’s zucchini pasta sauce

MEGHAN MARKLE:  Zucchini — baby marrow, better known in the UK as courgette. Lately there’s been a bit of a fad for zoodles, noodles made from zucchini which have the advantage of being gluten-free [see here if you’re interested], but the Duchess of Suffolk has her own way with this vegetable, which is to slow-cook it for several hours with a little bouillon until it turns to a “filthy, sexy mush” and then use this as a pasta sauce with nothing else added: no oil or butter, but you can add a sprinkling of parmesan cheese on the top if you like.

It sounds and looks disgusting but it’s actually very tasty. Do try it. Go on.

You know you want to.

MARILYN MONROE:  Carrots again. Marilyn told a journalist that her evening meal was almost always the same — some sort of meat with raw carrots. “My dinners at home are startlingly simple. Every night I stop at the market and pick up a steak, lamb chops or some liver, which I broil in the oven. I usually eat four or five raw carrots with my meat, and that’s all,” she said. “I must be part rabbit, I never get bored with raw carrots,” adding that she always saved room for dessert.

Marilyn Monroe eating a carrot

Re carrots: Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder and CEO, avoided meat and had many strange dietary fads, at one time eating so many carrots that he started to turn orange. Marilyn, clever girl, seems to have avoided this.

See Ben Affleck’s entry above for another way of enjoying carrots.

GWYNETH PALTROW:  Cauliflower. One of the best summer recipes from Gwyneth’s recent cookbook It’s All Easy is for Cauliflower Tabbouleh. Goes very well with her Falafel. This recipe serves 4-6 as a side dish.

• ½ medium head of cauliflower
• 1 small garlic clove, very finely grated or minced
• Juice of 1 small lemon, plus more to taste
• ¼ cup olive oil, plus more to taste
• A pinch of Aleppo pepper
• A pinch of salt, plus more to taste
• About half an English cucumber, seeded and cut into ½-inch pieces (1 cup)
• ⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley
• ⅓ cup chopped fresh mint
• ⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
• 2 scallions, thinly sliced

To make the cauliflower “couscous,” break the cauliflower into florets, then pulse in a food processor 10 to 15 times for 1 to 2 seconds each time. Stop when the cauliflower has been broken down into pieces the size of quinoa or couscous. In the bottom of your serving bowl, whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, Aleppo pepper, and a pinch of salt. Add the cauliflower, cucumber, herbs, and scallions and toss to combine. Season with salt, more lemon juice, and olive oil to taste.

Allen Ginsberg (see above) liked cauliflower too.

ELVIS PRESLEY:  Tomatoes. It may come as something of a surprise that Elvis ate any vegetables at all given the appalling state of his health and his huge appetite for hamburgers, ice cream and his favourite fried sandwiches of which he could stuff down a dozen or more at a sitting, but his regular breakfast consisted of burnt bacon, Spanish omelette, biscuits — the American kind resembling bread rolls — and tomatoes: “A sure way to the King’s heart was with a big plate of sliced beefsteak tomatoes.” [–Brenda Arlene Butler in Are You Hungry Tonight? Elvis’s Favorite Recipes]  Although he sang about polk salad I don’t think Elvis ever actually ate the ghastly stuff.  See also Joan Jett.

VINCENT PRICE:  Corn (off the cob). When we were old enough to pass for 18 some of us used to bunk off school in the afternoons to go and watch horror films in the local fleapit which often featured Vincent Price in some adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe, and we loved his over-the-top acting in roles like Prince Prospero in The Masque of the Red Death and many another. It wasn’t until some years later that I discovered that he was actually a very cultivated fellow, a connoisseur of art and music, a decent actor when given a good part, and a real gourmet with several excellent cookbooks to his credit. This recipe for Elote con Crema a la Mexicana (Mexican creamed corn) comes from A Treasury of Great Recipes which he compiled with his wife Mary in 1965, and which has proved to be the most popular item on this blog which collects movie-stars’ recipes: dozens of them. Here’s this one:

1. In a skillet melt 4 tablespoons butter.
2. Add 1 medium onion, chopped (4 tablespoons), and 1 clove garlic, minced.  Sauté until onion is lightly browned.
3. Add the kernels cut from 8 ears of fresh corn, 4 chilies poblanos, thinly sliced [green peppers will do at a pinch], ½ teaspoon salt, and ¾ cup diced Swiss or Muenster cheese.
4. Cover with a towel and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Serve the corn with a bowl of sour cream on the side.  A generous spoonful on top of each portion is delicious.

MARY SHELLEY:  Kale. When she wasn’t thinking about graveyards, body parts and horrid electrical experiments the author of Frankenstein quite often thought about kale. Her husband Percy (the poet) was careless of his health. “He could have lived on bread alone without repining,” his biographer Richard Henry Stoddard wrote. “Vegetables, and especially salads … were acceptable,” and the vegetable was often kale, which like most other people at the time she saw not as a health-giving comestible but as a comfort food. When her aunt Everina fell ill, Mary, far away in Rome, persuaded a friend to put together a care package for her: “jelly, oranges, sponge-cakes and her favourite kale.” Kale became a frequent gift.

Mary Shelley by Lucie Rice

The excellent Paper and Salt blog (from which most of this information comes) says that ‘Kale had a vogue for some time as a “miracle food” – which it is not –- but it was around long before the fad. In fact, it was commoner than cabbage in Britain for centuries as a basic green vegetable. Young kale used to be chopped up into what we called “spring greens” (along with colewort), when I was a boy. There is the secret for kale and for colewort (called collards in the US). If you let the leaves grow big, they also get tough and hard to cook. But if you cut them young in the spring, they are tender and easy to cook. That means you have to grow them yourself of course. Commercial greens are always going to be old and tough(er).

‘The simplest way to prepare kale is to strip the leaves from their stalks by hand and to rip them up into small pieces. Wash the pieces thoroughly and then put them into a pot with the water still clinging to them. Cover tightly and steam until tender. With young leaves, this is not a long process, but will take trial and error. Drain and mix into the greens some olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and minced garlic. Reheat for a few minutes, and serve. Even Shelley would like that dish. If you want to get fancier, serve the kale with poached egg on top – or add some chopped ham in with the kale.’

NED SHERRIN:  Artichokes. The innovative producer and broadcaster was fond of artichoke and parsley soup, which he made himself every December (“I like to have a good thick soup on the go at this time of year.”) I like to do that too, and I often make a wonderful thick vegetable soup in the winter months from a recipe I clipped from a newspaper years ago, but as I’m personally neither rich nor famous I’ll have to find an excuse to share that with you another time.

Tolstoy (with beard) and his family

LEO TOLSTOY:  Cucumber. In Blessings in Disguise, one of his volumes of autobiography, Alec Guinness tells a story that he heard from Sydney Cockerell: “In 1903, when Tolstoy was living at Yasnaya Polyana, Sydney had an opportunity of visiting him there […]  When he arrived at the Tolstoy home he was shown down to the apple orchard, where the entire family was taking tea. He said they were all sitting or lying in long grass under the trees, drinking tumblers of black tea and eating cucumbers spread with honey. The samovar was crooked, the conversation nil, the only sounds were of hissing steam, bees and the crunching of cucumbers.” I haven’t tried this as I dislike honey and think it would just spoil the cucumber, which I do like especially with a good vinaigrette, but for literary honey-lovers a plate of these offered to guests might make an interesting and unusual hors d’oeuvre.

MARK WAHLBERG:  Macaroni salad.  The actor, producer, and as Marky Mark a former rapper once said “Nobody makes pasta salad like my mama,” but thanks to his brother Paul, a chef, we can have a shot at their late mother Alma’s speciality, though note that the quantities given here make enough for a dozen people.

Mark and Alma Wahlberg

• 1 pound elbow macaroni
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1 teaspoon celery salt
• ¾ cup mayonnaise
• ½ cup finely-diced green bell pepper
• ½ cup finely-diced celery
• 3 tablespoons diced red onion (optional)
• 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
• Salt and freshly ground pepper

Step 1  In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni until al dente. Drain, then rinse the macaroni until cool. Drain very well.
Step 2  In a large bowl, toss the macaroni with the oil. Add the garlic powder, celery salt and mayonnaise and toss to coat. Stir in the green pepper, celery, onion and parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill before serving.

FOREST WHITAKER:  Asparagus, green beans, and hearts of palm. I’ll close this selection with a triple whammy of vegetables from this fine actor, aided and abetted by Martha Stewart. I was delighted to find this recipe as green beans are my own favourite vegetable and this is a really excellent way of serving them.

• ¼ cup white-wine vinegar
• ¼ cup vegetable oil
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill leaves
• Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 3 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and sliced crosswise
• 1 small onion, thinly sliced
• 1½ pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut into ½-inch pieces
• ½ pound green beans, trimmed and cut into ½-inch pieces
• 1 (7- or 8-ounce) can hearts of palm, rinsed, drained, and cut into ½-inch pieces
• 2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded and cut into ½-inch pieces
• ½ small head iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced

Step 1  In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, sugar, and dill. Add cucumbers and onion, season with salt and pepper, and toss until well combined; set aside.

Step 2  Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add salt and return water to a boil. Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside. Place asparagus in boiling water; cook until just tender, 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer asparagus to ice-water bath for 1 minute, remove and pat dry; transfer to cucumber mixture. Add beans to the boiling water, and cook until just tender, 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer beans to the ice-water bath for 1 minute, remove and pat dry. Transfer beans to cucumber mixture along with hearts of palm, tomatoes, and lettuce. Season with salt and pepper; toss until well combined.

See Forest and Martha doing the business here.

Are YOU rich and famous? Do you have a favourite vegetable and an interesting way of serving it?  If so I’d love to hear from you and maybe I’ll include you in my book. (No riff-raff need apply.)