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
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!
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.