Last Sunday was St Valentine’s Day and Vincent Price fans across the UK and the US joined together for another special online zoom event hosted by yours truly and Victoria Price.
We had a ball showing vintage TV shows, holding a trivia quiz (which proved very popular) and presenting some delicious food fare made especially for the occasion.
Wanting to bake some heart-shaped cookies (in honour of Vincent’s wonderful turn in Edward Scissorhands), I found a suitable recipe in Vincent’s 1969 Come Into the Kitchen Cook Book – Hard Gingerbread.
If you stick to the measurements, this makes a mammoth amount – so I halved everything and ended up with 48 medium-sized cookies. I also didn’t have a heart-shaped cutter, so I improvised but making one out of cardboard. I think it worked quite well.
Now, they did come out a little on the pale side (as I used maple syrup instead of molasses, which I could not find ), but dipping them in chocolate ganache was a sweet solution.
Next time, I will certainly seek out molasses or golden syrup and will up the amount of ginger – just for a little extra heat. A wonderful Valentine treat.
American actor Dwayne Hickman (b 1934) is best known as the title character in the 1960s US sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis opposite future Gilligan’s Island star Bob Denver, and appearing in a handful of American International Pictures drive-in teen flicks like How to Stuff a Wild Bikini. He and his Bikini co-star Frankie Avalon also teamed up for the 1965 Vincent Price spy spoof Dr Goldfoot & the Bikini Machine.
So when it came to testing out a recipe for Jenny Hammerton’s forthcoming culinary collection, the Murder, She Wrote Cookbook, I couldn’t resist trying out Dwayne’s House of Hickman Chicken. Little did I imagine just what a saga it would turn out to be.
Now although this is Dwayne’s recipe, it was his first wife Carol who actually did all the cooking in the Hickman household. The story goes that while Carol (who was married to Dwayne from 1963 to 1972) was spending a week in New York, some of the couple’s friends had decided to drop in on Dwayne, who then decided to cook dinner for everyone.
He remembered a favourite recipe that Carol had made with chicken and cream of mushroom soup. By mistake, however, he added in cheese soup, but it was one of those great accidents, as it went on to become the standard way to make the dish over at the Hickmans.
Here’s Dwayne’s original recipe… and what it looked like on my first attempt.
HOUSE OF HICKMAN CHICKEN (serves 8)
INGREDIENTS 8 half chicken breasts 1 can cheddar cheese soup 1/2 can cream of celery soup 1 cup chopped mushrooms (canned or fresh) 1 onion, thinly sliced 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
METHOD Mix the soups, onions, and mushrooms together. Lay the chicken breasts in a casserole or baking pan. (You can serve from the casserole: if you use a baking pan, you have to put the chicken on a platter when it’s done). Sprinkle with pepper, and bake in a 350C/Gas Mark 4 oven for about an hour.
MY COOKING NOTES * As I wasn’t serving a gang, I used four chicken breasts from my local butcher and sliced them in half. I also halved all the other measurements to serve four. * For the soup, I used standard 295g cans of Campbell’s condensed soup – (I must admit the cream of celery was hard to find, but the cheddar cheese soup was another story – see below). * I also sautéd some extra fresh mushrooms (pan-fried in a little butter) and added them to the top of the mixture, but also kept some aside to sprinkle on top after taking it out of the oven.
MY VERDICT Even though I used some extra mushrooms, I actually found this dish to be rather bland. Will I try it again? Probably, but I’ll certainly be adding in a dash of tabasco or some such spicy sauce. Also – as you will read – I will probably have to make my own Cheddar Cheese Soup (the recipe is at the bottom of this post).
THE CHEDDAR CHEESE SOUP SAGA OK, so I wanted to use the exact ingredients to learn what made this dish so popular with the Hickmans. However there was a problem. It was that serendipity ingredient – the cheese soup. It’s not readily available in any UK grocery stores.
Last November (which seems like forever, now that we are all in lockdown), while I was in New York conducting one of my Vincent Price Legacy UK tours, I thought it would be so simple to just pop into a store and get a couple of cans. Uh! Uh! I couldn’t find it anywhere. However, one of our attendees, Patricia, who lives in New Mexico and is a big foodie, said she could get them cheap at her local Smith’s grocery store and send them to me. I said, great! Well, what I didn’t know was how much a can of Campbell’s condensed Cheddar Cheese soup being sent from the US to the UK was going to end up costing me.
About a month after I had returned from my trip to the US, I got an email from Patricia asking if I had received a surprise package from her. I said I hadn’t. So I did a little sleuthing and discovered that Patricia had written the wrong postcode on the package being sent to me in London. It was now sitting in a sorting office in Exeter, even though it had originally been sent to an East London postal office not far from where I live, and a delivery was attempted to a similar address to mine in Tiverton. Thankfully the staff at Royal Mail were really helpful, and they had it delivered to me the following day.
I was really so thankful to Patricia for sending me this elusive ingredient, but the cost of shipping was ouch!!!. After working it all out, those two cans came to US$22 a piece. Oh well, at least it makes for a great dinner conversation and thankfully I have found an alternative.
HOMEMADE CHEDDAR CHEESE SOUP I haven’t tried this as yet as I still have one can left for another attempt, but if I do then I’ll be trying this recipe which looks like the perfect substitute for the hard to find Campbell’s Soup canned variety. Will just have to readjust the measurements, I suppose.
INGREDIENTS 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 3 tablespoons flour 1/4 teaspoon salt (Kosher) 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard 1 cup milk 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
METHOD 1) In a small saucepan add the butter and melt over low heat. 2) Add in the flour and whisk, cooking for about a minute (but stop if it turns brown at all). 3) Add in the salt, mustard and milk and whisk until smooth. 4) Add in the cheese and whisk until smooth
Prep time (5mins), Cook time (10mins) Serves 1, Calories 712kcal
Over the past three weeks Victoria and myself have been hosting weekly interactive Q&A’s via zoom and our latest saw us celebrating Vincent’s culinary legacy with over 40 fans tuning in from all around North America and the UK. It was another great success with cooking, clips, cocktails and chat being the menu de jour.
The different time zones meant some attendees where making brunch, others lunch, while in the UK, it was dinner time – and everyone got into the spirit sourcing their inspiration from Vincent and Mary Price’s three classic cookbooks: A Treasury of Great Recipes, Come Into the Kitchen and Cooking Price-Wise. Here’s just a sample of what was dished up.
Our next session takes place on Sunday 17 May (8pm BST), where the theme will be art and collecting – so show us your art, tats and the pieces that inspire you, plus will have clips and a discussion on Vincent’s lifelong passion for the visual arts. SIGN UP HERE
Then, on Sunday 31 May (9pm BST), we celebrate the birthdays of Vincent, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Just watch the film beforehand and then join in our Q&A session about their friendships and collaborations on film, TV and even radio.
Have you, like me, been letting your bananas get a little too ripe lately? Well don’t throw them away as I’ve got another tasty recipe from Mary and Vincent Price’s A Treasury of Great Recipes cookbook – Banana Nut Bread. It really is so simple to make and you can scoff a slice or two for breakfast, morning or afternoon tea, or even as a late-night snack.
Here’s how to make it and at the end of the post, there’s a video of me making it. Hope you enjoy!
INGREDIENTS Butter Sugar All-purpose flour Baking soda Salt Bananas Walnuts
METHOD 1. Preheat oven to moderate (350F/4).
2. Cream together until lights: 1/2 cup (113g) butter and 1 cup (200g) sugar.
3. Beat in 2 eggs.
4. Sift together 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir into butter-sugar mixture, blending well.
5. Stir in 1 cup mashed ripe bananas and 1/2 cup (40g) chopped walnuts.
2. Spoon batter into a well buttered 1-pound bread tin (9 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 2 3/4) and bake in moderate over for 1 hour, or until loaf tests done.
7. Cool for 5 minutes, then turn out on rack to cool completely.
MY TIPS When creaming the butter and sugar, ensure the butter is at room temperature to ensure a smooth mixture. Sometimes I cheat and put the butter in the microwave for 1min using the quick defrost setting. Just don’t let it turn to liquid.
As for the eggs, I always take them out of the fridge a couple of house before using them. Like the butter, they work best at room temperature. I also lightly beat them separately before folding them gently into the mixture. This helps with the rise of the loaf I suspect.
If you don’t have any walnuts around, try toasted almonds or cashews (40g) or even chia seeds (1tsp).
As for the bananas – the riper then better I say. And rather than waste them if you have more than 1 cup mashed, just throw the whole lot in and give the baking an extra few minutes. Just so long as you knife comes out clean you will be OK.
MY VERDICT A winner! This has become a firm favourite in my household, and we are now making it once a week. Great toasted with some butter and jam.
Call out for test cooks! Absolutely everyone welcome, whatever your cooking prowess – there is even a GREEN SALAD recipe up for grabs folks! Choose a recipe and spread the word….
I’m excited to announce that I am working with Jenny Hammerton of Silver Screen Suppers on a new book featuring 100 movie star recipes. I will be writing about 50 of Vincent’s films and co stars and Jenny has chosen two dishes to accompany each movie. There will be a Vincent Price recipe for each, with a Co*Star accompaniment.
We are allocating one test cook per recipe for the book, but if you’d like to try more than one, Jenny will be happy to send them out to you.
We totally understand that during the Covid-19 epidemic certain ingredients might be difficult to obtain but we can discuss suitable substitutions. Take the plunge and pick something, it will be fun, we guarantee it!
All test cooks will be thanked in our acknowledgements, and we may use some of your feedback about the recipe to add some FLAVOUR to the book!
As we are all in lockdown mode at the moment, I’ve been trying to avoid heading out to the shops as much as possible and so am relying on what’s in my kitchen cupboards to rustle up some tasty dishes with the minimum amount of ingredients and fuss.
Well, I found some leftover cornmeal (AKA polenta) that I had bought to make a lemon drizzle cake ages ago and decided that would be my key ingredient. OK, the expiry date was 2014!!!!, but I was not going to throw it out. Now what to make?
My go-to book is Mary and Vincent Price’s A Treasury of Great Recipes which was first published in 1965, and got a 50th anniversary reprint in 2015. I have tried quite a few now (check them out in the Cooking with Vincent and his Co*Stars section of this website), and I found one that seemed not to elaborate and required just some basic ingredients: Pasticcio Di Polenta – or Cornmeal with Mushrooms.
INGREDIENTS Yellow cornmeal Salt Butter (I used unsalted) Bread crumbs (I used panko) Mushrooms (I used chestnut) Cream, (I used double) Parmesan cheese, grated
POLENTA Vincent and Mary’s method of making polenta required a double boiler, which I do not have. So I used two saucepans. Also there was no amount given as to how much cornmeal to add to the quart of water, so I just made a guess (it worked I think).
Firstly, I brought the water (3 UK cups) to the boil, added salt, then gradually mixed in the polenta (I used 2 cups as I wanted to use up what I had left in the packet), and stir quickly.
Once it had thickened (which was very quick), I placed the saucepan on top of another one half filled with boiling water, covered it, and left it to simmer for 2 hours.
Then I poured it into a casserole dish (there was too much mixture for a loaf shape dish, which is in the original recipe) and chilled it overnight.
PASTICCIO 1. Preheat oven to moderate (350/4). 2. Turn out chilled polenta and slice it into 3 horizontal layers. 3. Butter the baking dish and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs. 4. Place a sliced layer of polenta on bottom of dish. Dot with 1 tablespoon butter. Cover with: 1/2 cup sliced mushroom caps and 3 tablespoons cream. Sprinkle with: 1 tablespoon grated parmesan. 5. Do the same with the second slice. 6. Put last slice on top. Dot with 1 tablespoon butter and sprinkle with 1 tablespoons grated parmesan. Cover and bake 1 1/2hours in a moderate oven.
MY VERDICT Delicious with a capital D and It didn’t matter that the cornmeal was four years past its expiry date. Although in retrospect I think a loaf tin would have given me extra thickness so as to cut the three slices more evenly.
Now what also attracted me to making polenta, was that it is very versatile. I’ve already made chips (which went very well with the homemade strawberry and chilli jam that I had made a few days ago with some strawberries that were just about to go off), and I shall next try Vincent’s suggesting of frying some slices, then wrapping them in bacon and baking them until golden brown and crisp. I’ve also found another packet of cornmeal, so I think I’m going to whip up some muffins next.
Last year, my foodie friend Jenny Hammerton, who curates Silver Screen Suppers, published the Columbo cookbook featuring recipes from all the show’s guest stars. It was great fun to be asked to contribute by taste testing some of the recipes.
I naturally chose the Vincent Price episode, Lovely but Lethal, which featured Vera Miles as that week’s guest villain. Her recipe, Mexican Casserole, was super cheesy but a little disappointing , but I also chose to test out Roddy McDowall’s poached pears, which has since become a firm favourite.
Jenny’s next book will be based on Murder, She Wrote and she’s hosting a cookalong to get everyone to sample the recipes she intends to feature in the forthcoming book. Now, being a huge Batman fan (in which Vincent egg-celled as Egghead), I’ve chosen Cesar Romero (aka the Joker) and his Arroz con Pollo, a traditional dish of Spain and Latin America, closely related to paella, that he came across in Havana when he was a little boy.
ARROZ CON POLLO: THE RECIPE
MY VERDICT: So how did the dish turn out? Rather good, I must say. This is a really simple one-pot dish, but with tasty flavours. I’d never used lard before, but it works a treat in giving the chicken a nice golden colour, and making this recipe did give me a chance to use up some of the saffron I bought on my last trip to Spain.
As for the small can of pimientos (red, heart-shaped sweet peppers ), I had the devil of the time tracking that down – only to find it readily available at Lidl and Waitrose. I had been looking for tiny ones (like those you see stuck in olives) – duh!
THE MEASUREMENTS: And as for the chicken, I opted to use my local butcher and boy that really made a difference. It was so plump I ended up keeping one breast to make one of my faves (yellow curry with potatoes). If you do end up trying this recipe yourself, there’s enough here for four servings.
As with most vintage US-based recipes, I had to revaluate the weights and measures. So for 1/2 can tomatoes, I used 0.88mls (as the standard US measure is 355ml); 1 pound of rice became two cups; the wineglass of sherry (I used Tesco’s Jerez-Xeres’ Fino Sherry) worked out to be 2/3 US cup; and I used 59g of Pimientos, which I sliced. The whole thing cost around £16. I’m certainly trying this again, but next time I might add more of the pimientos and a bigger pinch of saffron.
Interestingly, Batman isn’t the only thing that links Cesar Romero and Vincent Price. Just the other day, I was re-watching Irwin Allen’s all-star 1956 epic, The Story of Mankind, and who should pop up but Cesar playing the Spanish envoy to Philip II opposite Agnes Moorehead’s Elizabeth I (Agnes of course was in The Bat with Vinnie and worked with him on the touring stage production of George Bernard Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell in the early-1950s). To bad they didn’t have any scenes together though. But here’s Cesar’s bit in the film.
Now, here’s something you don’t see every day. My friend Robert Taylor in the US was good friends with Cesar and he’s sent me this hilarious picture (see below) of his personalised travelling bag. It’s rather camp, don’t you think and screams the 1970s?
Well, the story goes that it was custom-made by some artisans in the Mexican village that Cesar used to vacation at and they gifted it to him – along with a couple of other items. Robert’s not sure if Cesar ever actually used them, but he was gracious enough to accept them. They now reside alongside Robert’s other film memorabilia of Hollywood’s golden age.
The Murder, She Wrote episode in which Cesar appears in, Paint Me a Murder, is chock full of famous faces, including Ron Moody, Stewart Granger, Robert Goulet, Cristina Raines, Judy Geeson and Capucine. Cesar plays a famous painter who thinks someone is planning to kill him so they can make a fortune from his paintings (which could triple in price once he’s dead).
It’s just a shame that Vincent never appeared on the long-running show, and being an art expert in real life, he would have been perfect for this episode, which would have not only giving him the chance to team up with another Batman alumni, but also to work once again with Angela Lansbury, who played Queen Anne in 1948’s The Three Musketeers opposite villainous Richelieu.
Now, if you want to know more about Cesar, here’s a wonderful tribute courtesy of A&E.
Each year, I participate in an annual Pieathlon with a host of food bloggers from around the globe so that I can share some of Vincent Price’s own recipes from his repertoire.
This year, however, I thought I’d go a bit surreal and select a dish from Salvador Dali’s decadent 1973 gastronomic tome Les Dîners de Gala. Devoted to the pleasures of taste, it comes with a warning from the legendary artist: ‘If you are a disciple of one of those calorie-counters who turn the joys of eating into a form of punishment, close this book at once; it is too lively, too aggressive, and far too impertinent for you.’
The basic principal of the annual Piethon organised by Yinzerella (who runs dinneriserved1972.com) is for everyone to send in a recipe, whereby we are then assigned a pie of her choosing. Now, I think she’s making me pay for my choice: which was Dali’s Oasis leek pie, a very rich dish filled with bacon, cheese, heavy cream and leeks.
For me, she selected a 1970s Weight Watches recipes for Cherry Pies sent in by Surly over at VintageRecipeCards.com. It’s pretty simple to make, but has some ingredients I truly dislike: white bread, artificial sweetener and gelatin. And aside from the gelatin (I went for a vegan version), I played by the rules. The results were – very stodgy indeed.
There are no sizes given as to how big the pie dish should be and when I crumbed up the 2 slices of bread, it didn’t reach the ends of the apple pie dish that I normally use. So I opted to make 12 mini-pies instead. For this first effort, I ended up crumbing 6 pieces of bread and added 5 teaspoons of the crumb mixture into each case before pressing them down. Then I popped the tray in the fridge to cool down for 10-minutes.
Next, I made the cherry mixture using 250g of Tesco’s Sweetheart cherries from Kent (you get 32 in a box, just perfect for this recipe). Now, I don’t have a cherry pitter, so I had to cut them up a bit (unlike in the picture, where they are most full). The recipe called for one envelope of unflavoured gelatin, so I used one packet of Dr Oetker Vege-Gel. There’s no indication as to how long to stir this over a low heat (just ‘until dissolved)’. So I did it for 5-minutes to allow the cherries to break down a bit. Big mistake, the resulting mixture came out thick and rubbery.
I certainly had the right amount of mixture for the 12 cases, though, and used Olive Oil margarine (the recipe calls for imitation or diet margarine, but I couldn’t find that). Into the oven they went and I had to extend the 10-minute baking time to 25-minutes to get a pale golden colouring on the pies.
The test taste proved hilarious – everyone agreed they were just eating warm bread with something tasteless on top. The pies lacked any flavour from the cherries, and they missed the sweetness.
So, for the second batch, I replaced the artificial sweetener with some Caster Baking Sugar, reduced the Vege-Gel to just 3g, and made the cases thinner, with just 3 teaspoons of crumb. I also used a US measure of water instead of a UK measure. The result: more flavour in the cherry mixture, but the base was still bready and now too soft. None of my tasters liked them.
While we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in the UK, I shall be getting into the spirit today cooking up this tasty Pumpkin Pie recipe from Mary and Vincent Price’s Come into the Kitchen Cook Book, which was first published in 1969, and got a glorious reprint last year.
VINCENT PRICE’S PUMPKIN PIE
1 9-inch unbaked pie shell
1½ cups canned or mashed cooked pumpkin
3 eggs, well beaten
1½ cups heavy cream
¾ cups granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground mace
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
• Make the pie shell with a high scalloped edge, refrigerate for several hours.
• Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
• In a large bowl (with a pouring lip if you have one) combine the pumpkin with the eggs, then the cream, sugar, salt and spices. Blend well and pour into the chilled pie shell.
• Bake for 15 mins, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 50-65 minutes more, or until knife inserted in center of the pie comes out with only a few flecks clinging to it.
• Chill before serving.
Having tried four of the 10 steak recipes in Vincent and Mary Price’s A Treasury of Great Recipes, the one I keep coming back to is Steak Au Poivre (Black Pepper Steak). OMG! I’m salivating just at the mention of it.
‘If you think, as I do, that black pepper and rare beef make beautiful music together, then you will like this steak recipe too. We learned it in Chicago from friends who had brought it back from France in this stockyard city must be especially alert to new ways of preparing beef. This one is a winner.’ VINCENT PRICE
1 Wipe with a damp cloth: a 1 1/4-inch sirloin steak (3 pounds). Dry carefully.
2 Coarsely crush: 2 tablespoons peppercorns. (Use a mortar and pestle or a potato masher.)
3 Pound crushed pepper into both sides of the steak, smacking it in with flat side of a cleaver or the potato masher. Steak should be quite thickly covered. Let stand for 2 hours.
4 In a heavy skillet heat: 1 tablespoon butter and 1 teaspoon cooking oil. (This mixture can get hotter without burning strain it if you want the loose bits of than butter alone.)
5 Over high heat sear steak quickly on peppercorns both sides. Cook 5 minutes on each side.
6 Remove steak to a hot platter.
7 Stir into pan: 2/3 cup dry white wine and 1 tablespoon brandy (optional). Boil wine rapidly for 2 minutes, scraping up brown meat drippings at bottom of pan.
8 Remove from heat and swirl in: 2 tablespoons butter.
Strain the sauce over the steak (or don’t strain it if you want the loose bits of pepper too) and garnish with watercress.
My go-to steak recipe at the moment. It’s simply, hugely flavoursome (the aroma of the searing black pepper is quite something) and truly honours the produce – with my choice cut being fillet. You also get quite alot of sauce out of this, which you can keep refrigerated for 2 days.