Category Archives: Boys cooking

TVP – textured vegetable protein

One day a large parcel arrives on my desk from a food supplier. Inside is a bag of dried lumps that the sender suggests I use to make new, cheap high protein meals.
Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) has jumped into our food chain and the food company wants me to persuade the nation’s children that it is a delicious, cheap substitute for meat, which in the future, we may no longer be able to afford.
‘This is called TVP – it stands for textured vegetable protein.’
I hold out a handful of dried, beige lumps which smell of damp cardboard.

I pass round a pudding bowl filled with larger, softer, beige lumps.

‘I’ve soaked these chunks in water and now we are ready to make a meatless stew.’

Bert as usual, is at the front of the stools round my table.

‘Looks like dried dog turds, miss.’ The class sniggers.

‘Or bits of chopped up dishcloth.’ Bert likes plain food that he can recognize and  this TVP does not look plain.

‘Bert and Len. This lesson is learning about vegetarians and we are going to cook something modern for them.’

‘Again!’ Len grumbles.

They shuffle off to cook up carrots and onions in a thick Bisto gravy.

‘Now, class. we’ll stir in the pieces of TVP to make a main dish.’

They pass round the bowl and spoon a pile of the soaked chunks into their saucepans.

I chivvy them along.

‘It’s very clever, this stuff. The soya is extruded, texturised, then cut and dried into chunks. It’s used in school meals in America, and in many of their food products. And now it has arrived here.

Come on class, what shall we call this new stew?’

‘Muck’ says Bert.

‘Brown muck’ adds Len.

They don’t want to eat it or take it home, and shuffle out of the room clutching their out of date textbooks with the task of answering the impossible questions for homework.

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Ruff poof pastry

Rough puff pastry is another highly regarded pastry skill that I must teach, revered by visiting cookery examiners. This fatty, high calorie recipe has many health issues, enhanced by stuffing cream horns with jam and whipped cream and making sausage rolls from cheap, fatty pork.

They gather round my table. The caretaker is testing the heating system, blasting hot water through the ancient iron radiators and my room is hot, very hot.

Hot is not good for pastry making.

‘Cut the fat into walnut sized lumps then drop them into the flour.’

‘What size is a walnut miss?’

Smartie pants Alice is always challenging. But she’s right, and she’s keen – if you don’t know the size of a walnut you don’t know the size of the lumps.

‘This big.’ I hold up a piece of squashed fat and drop it into the bowl.

‘Add cold water, then work it together with your hands to make a soft dough.’

It’s sticky and squelchy and they are pleased to watch me struggle.

‘Why is it called rough poof pastry miss?’

Bert, the class comic, turns round to the group, smirking for approval. I give him a shut up look, but he carries on.

‘Miss, we make really rude things in your lessons. Fairy cakes, spotted dick, tarts and now this poof pastry.’

Alan is nudging Bert and enjoying the tease. It is hot. Very hot.

Cooking is full of rudeness. You rub things in, and knock pastry up, but I have to teach them the correct terms.

‘How long should you knock it up miss?’

‘Can you check if I’ve knocked mine up enough? Is it ready?’

This comic banter from the boys progresses into guffaws and can reach peaks of hilarity when someone falls off their stool, bringing the lesson to a halt with threats of reprimands and punishment.

‘Bert, if you keep this up, you’ll leave the room.’

‘Keep what up, miss?’ The faces of Bert and his chums are red from laughter.

The girls in this group are quieter and kinder. I have to remind myself to say ‘Thankyou’ to them for their lack of challenge.

‘Class, these are proper cooking terms and you have to know what they mean for the exam. Knocking up and rubbing in are things you need to learn.’

They must not get the better of me, especially when it is so hot.

Very hot.

After all these months of teaching I am still a country dolt, unfamiliar with the josh of the East End. My worst moment came during the school versus teachers hockey match when I wore my University sweatshirt.

BRISTOL UNIVERSITY in large white letters stretched across my chest. Students at the touch line giggled as I approached for a tackle.

‘What are they laughing at?’ I ask a colleague.

‘They think you have been to university to study Bristols.’ he replies.

‘Bristols are tits. Cockney Rhyming slang – Bristol City – titty.’

The offending sweatshirt goes in the bin after the match – which we lost.

They squidge and squash the fat into flour and water to make a messy pastry mash. This is a hot sweaty room with hot sweaty hands, and the dough looks like we feel. Somehow they scrape the flour, fat and water into a mound then fold and roll it to make the layers that puff up when it is baked in the oven.

This is a pointless, purposeless cooking activity.

I don’t care if the Stork Cookery Service has tested this recipe. They have never tried it with a class of teenagers in a hot, airless cookery room on a sunny autumn day.

I’ve had enough. They have had enough.

‘Wash up and take your Stork Cookery books outside and read about Rough Puff Pastry. ’

I hand out orange squash in Duralex glasses, and pass them round some McVitie’s digestive biscuits on a plate with a frilly doyley. We always have a bloody doyley. Standards must be maintained, even when it’s hot. They sit in the sunshine on the steps outside my room, drinking and munching.

Before I go home I pack and label their pieces of pastry and pop them in the freezer for next time.

Rough Poof Pastry can wait till another day. Bugger it.

A week later the room is still hot. Very hot. But the pastry is cold, ice cold.

‘You haven’t defrosted it properly miss.’ Kevin is being smart again, his rudeness just waiting to be released.

We roll and fold the cold dough which softens and eases in the heat, then roll and fold some more to create the magic layers that will make it rise. The ovens must be hot, very hot, so I dash round the room to check that we are ready for this baking bonanza.

The pastry dough is shared to make sausage rolls, Eccles cakes, jam puffs and cream horns, to display our ‘high levels of skill’.

Spare pastry is folded, recycled, cut into strips and twisted round cream horn tins. These rusting metal pyramids have been lurking in the school storeroom since the school opened in the fifties. No amount of scouring with Brillo pads removes the brown dust which lingers in the cracks, and cleaning just makes it worse.

Next year I throw them away, along with the iron griddles for drop scones, fish kettles for unaffordable fish, raised pork pie moulds and chocolate éclair tins. I’m sure one day they will appear in an antique shop window at a fierce price which reflects their culinary history.

Sausage rolls are glazed and snipped, and we brush Eccles cakes, jam puffs and creamed horns with sugary milk. The baking trays filled with pastries get my final inspection before they slot into the scorching ovens.

Fat drips from the pastry as it frazzles and cooks.

Suddenly we’re ready. The Eccles cakes have a crusty, sugary topping and ooze currants and mixed peel. They almost outshine the golden gloss of the sausage rolls.

The bell rings.

They grab their coats and rush.

Onto the next lesson.

Mustn’t be late.

‘Mr Smith in Maths gets cross, miss.’

No amount of feeding Mr Smith titbits can persuade him that my class should stay and clear up.

But we have learnt about rough poof pastry and it’s one more skill ticked off for the exam.

Wearily Sylvia and I patrol the cookers and lift the golden pastries onto cooling racks.  Dirty baking trays are piled into the butler’s sinks filled with soapy suds in the hope that their owners will return and wash up.  If not, Sylvia and I must scrub our way through lunchtime to make the room spotless for the next lot of eager cooks who are making Swedish Tea Ring from Cooking is Fun.

There are times when I think Cooking is Terrible.

Sylvia puts the kettle on. I strip off my rubber gloves and ease out of my sweaty nylon overall.

Claire in comes to collect her food.

‘Would you like one of my Eccles cakes miss?’

I gratefully accept since I have missed my lunch.

The Eccles cake is light and crisp and aromatic with mixed spice. I walk into the sunshine and sit on the steps with Sylvia drinking tea till the bell for the next lesson goes.

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Pink nylon overalls

In the 1970’s my cooking outfit is a pale pink nylon overall which just skims the hems of my mini dresses.

One sleeve  hides an armful  of elastic bands, essential for scraping back the fashionable long hair on boys and girls of the time. On rare visits to the staffroom, I must remember to remove my overall and rubber gloves before I collapse exhausted into one of the beaten up staffroom armchairs, and light a cigarette. Otherwise I might be mistaken for the school cleaner and may be asked to wash up the coffee cups.

Before we start any cooking, they must obey my chant.
‘Hair, hearings and hands – tie your hair back, and remove all jewellery except wedding rings. Since no-one is married, including me, bring me your precious things to lock up!’
There’s been a collective ‘ah’ from my new classes when I say I’m not married. Prying into the private life of young teachers is a popular diversion in most lessons.
‘Have you got a boyfriend, miss?’  Maureen loves gossip.
‘None of your business – aprons on please.’
‘Will you make your own wedding cake?’ Maureen persists in digging for clues.
‘Class, and that includes you, Maureen, let’s see your hands.’
They hold them out for inspection.
‘Liz– take off the nail varnish – the remover’s in my cupboard.’
Liz tuts with disgust. She’ll pay me back for making this fuss. Liz wants to cook and I’m stopping her with my stupid rules.

The class is checked so we can begin. Once they know I mean business, we speed through the Hair, Hearrings and Hands! eager to get on with cooking something to eat.

The TV cooks of the day never obey my hygiene suggestions. Fanny Cradock wears an evening dress, sparkling in diamond necklace and dangly ear-rings. She pokes long red fingernails into pastries and pies and I cringe at the thought of spitting out slivers of red varnish if I ever have to taste her cooking.

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Filed under Boys cooking, Home Economics in 1970, Jenny Ridgwell

Peppermint creams


It’s nearly the Christmas holidays and the fruit cakes are marzipanned and stacked high in the food larder ready for the final icing. Mincepies have spiced out the cookery room for the past week. We’ve made marzipan fruits, coconut ice, chocolate truffles and Christmas logs ready for the holidays.

This afternoon, my class of noisy boys is going to make peppermint creams as a present for gran or more likely to eat on the way home. We’re going to mix icing sugar with egg whites, add peppermint essence then dye the dough a vivid green – just so gran knows the flavour.
Kevin arrives late in bullish mood. Kevin is the school tormenter and general nuisance maker. He spends much of his time outside classroom doors or the headmaster’s room, waiting for punishment. Kevin is huge in size and personality and towers over me.
‘I’m going to make rum creams, miss. Don’t like peppermint. And anyway rum is more Christmassy.’
He eyes me provocatively and sways unsteadily. His right hand clutches a bottle of rum. Half of the contents are missing.
The class busy themselves sifting icing sugar into their mixing bowls. Through clouds of sugary dust I sense their nervousness. A confrontation is imminent.
‘Kevin – get ready to cook and leave the bottle of rum on my desk.’
To my amazement, the rum is placed next to my pile of marking and Kevin collects his apron and equipment.
‘Gather round class – I’m going to show you how to crack an egg to separate out the white.’
They collect at the demonstration table. Kevin has disappeared.
Cracking eggs to separate the whites is a delicate task and large clumsy hands frequently break the yolks and we have to start again. I sometimes wonder if this is a ploy to use the spoilt eggs for making omelettes at the end of the lesson.
‘Slide the yolk from shell to shell and catch the white in a clean bowl. Then mix it into the icing sugar and add the peppermint essence.’
A sudden movement catches my eye. Kevin rises from behind his table and stands to attention. He is wearing one of my pudding bowls as a helmet and has his right hand raised in a Nazi salute. He clicks his heels together.
‘Achtung! I told you I am using rum miss!’
The group is silent. No one wants to be noticed – well not by Kevin.
‘Kevin – we can’t use alcohol in the classroom. It’s forbidden and you are under age.’
‘You let the girls put brandy in their Christmas cakes – are you picking on me?’ Kevin looks like the Green Giant on the tins of sweetcorn. Only bigger.
He’s right about the brandy, and surprisingly quick witted now he’s drunk. But he’s wrong that I would choose to pick on him. Not unless I had two beefy minders with me for protection.
Kevin stumbles to my desk in search of rum. The rest of the group are busy rolling out the icing and cutting out circles and diamond shapes. A factory line of peppermint creams is under production.

I must face my fears and deal with Kevin. He plonks his great body weight down in my chair and lets out a gigantic yawn. A quiet mumsy approach might work here.

‘Kevin – put your head down and just rest. The room’s hot – you must be tired.’ Obediently he spreads his giant arms on my table, rests his head on his bulging forearm and begins to doze. I turn to the class, industriously packing up their sweets and clearing away. We smile conspiratorially together. The mumsy plan has worked. Peace is restored. I have won. And next week it is the Christmas holiday.


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Breast of lamb with roast potatoes

It’s quite hard to buy a breast of lamb these days as it is often chopped up and sold as barbecue lamb ribs! But if you can buy one from a traditional butchers it is really cheap if rather fatty!

Serves 4

Rolled, stuffed breast of lamb


1 breast of lamb with the bones in

1 packet of sage and onion stuffing mix

1-2 potatoes for roasting

Little lard – or use oil for modern cooking



Buy a breast of lamb in one piece with all the bones still in it. Use a sharp knife to cut round each rib bone. Make sure you don’t pierce through the skin. Take out the rib bones in one piece. Cut off any big bits of fat.
Make the stuffing with a dried sage an onion stuffing mix or make your own from bread, onions and herbs mixed with egg.
Put the boned breast of lamb flat on chopping board, with the skin side on the board. Smooth the stuffing evenly over the top. Roll up the breast of lamb starting with the thin end.

Squeeze it into a roll and then tie with string. Rub the outside with salt.

Preheat the oven at 150C /Gas 4.

Place the lamb on a roasting tin and roast the joint slowly for two hours, so that the fat melts out and the meat is tender with some crackling skin on the outside. Pour any excess cooled fat into a large glass jar. Do not pour down the sink as it sets solid in the u bend and is impossible to budge!

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Rock cakes

My mother was an expert rock cake cook and could turn the plain mixture into jam buns and horrid seed cake made from black, spiky caraway seeds that looked like mouse droppings and tasted of medicine. My mother’s rock cakes were so good that my sister took a biscuit tin full of them for her travels by Land Rover to Tehran. At the Turkish Iran border she used them for bribes when stopped for papers and permits. My sister still has blond hair and in those days looked like Farrah Fawcett Major, so she was lucky that the border guards were only interested in the contents of her tin. We were pleased that they didn’t search the car some more and find the gun that my sister’s companion had hidden in the dashboard compartment.
Rock cakes are a delicious mixture of flour, butter, sugar, egg, milk, sultanas and mixed peel made fragrant with mixed spice. In the hierarchy of cooking difficulty, rock cakes are a middle range cookery skill, lodged between apple crumble and full blown shortcrust pastry. When I’ve reached the rock cake lesson, my class  has reached the halfway point of the rubbing in method.  Hoorah for cookery goals!
We start with rubbing the margarine into the flour, spice, baking powder and sugar.
By now they know the rubbing in routine.
‘Come on Mo – give us the rules.’
‘Twist and shake miss, till the lumps have gone.’ They shake their hips and bowls.
We add a tablespoon of plump sultanas, some mixed peel and mix it all together to a soft dough with milk and egg.
‘Put little piles on your greased baking tray Fran.’
‘Piles miss? That’s what me nan gets when she sits down. Says they really hurt some days.’
Fran knows how to wind me up, but this time she just gets a scowl.
‘OK class, put spoonfuls of the mixture onto the tray and leave some space in between so that they have room to cook. Then into the oven for 20 minutes.’
Rock cakes are a stalwart of the cafes on bus and train stations around the country, and I’ve never had a duff one. In Harrogate, Betty’s Tea Rooms make a fancy northern version called Fat Rascals with a posh glacé cherry stuck on top.

Rock cakes are a middle of the range skill

Soon the cookery room fills with warm, spicy smells. I peer in the ovens and give the nod when they can take the cakes out to cool onto wire racks. Sometimes the boys stand back and watch, which may have something to do with my ever shortening skirts which cling to the inside of my nylon overall. Perhaps I should replace the pretty pink with a severe white cotton outfit.

The final results are hard to mark. Sometimes I cut the cakes in half to taste, and see if they are cooked. They at shocked at my boldness.
Terry protests when I tell him that his baking is rather too hard, and slightly burnt.
‘If they are called rock cakes, that means they should look and feel like rocks! I demand a higher mark.’

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Vegetarian cooking 1972

The 1970’s school cookery textbooks make strange, outrageous claims about vegetarian cooking, which I have to teach to get my classes to pass the exam.  At a time when large areas of the developing world eat a vegetarian diet, the books have odd things to say.

The Battersea College of Technology book of Cookery Recipes is one of our recipe books and sold for 3/6 – they haven’t accepted decimalisation yet.  Copies can ‘be obtained only from the secretary, Battersea College of Technology.’
Vegetarian recipes are suitable for ‘V.E.M.s – Vegetarians who include in their diet Eggs, Milk and milk products.’
This odd mnemonic is supposed to help us remember that vegetarians don’t eat meat.
It offers this advice for vegans:

  • ‘Replace milk with water in which vegetables have been cooked.’
  • ‘Replace cream with nut fat and butter with Nutter or Trex.’
  • Cheese must be replaced with Marmite and eggs left out altogether.

So there. That’s clear. When in doubt, leave it out.
Nut cutlets are my vegan recipe demonstration, made from chopped nuts and breadcrumbs, shaped into cutlets and deep fat fried.

If vegetarians don’t  eat meat, why have nuts shaped like an animal part? The fried, nutty bits are so unappetising that  even Bill, my food dustbin student, declines to taste.

O Level Cookery doesn’t help much on vegetarians either.

‘A vegetarian diet has limited choice and can be monotonous, bulky and unattractive.’
Well, to some people a bag of chips washed down with a can of cola unattractive too.
‘It is most difficult to supply protein as the protein in beans is of lower biological value so more must be eaten. This means the stomach is very full after each meal’.
Well good, isn’t that the point? Fill us up so we are not hungry?
‘This may lead to enlargements.’
Oh no! – enlargements of what?
And lastly
‘This vegetarian diet may be expensive.’
How so! Compared with rump steak or roast lamb? How much do they think a can of baked beans costs?
This textbook is written in 1971 and taught in cookery rooms throughout Britain, so how many children in our burgeoning multi ethnic society have to put up with this nonsense?

Cookery for Schools

Is Cookery for Schools more helpful on the textbook front? No.

  • ‘Meat and fish have distinctive flavours which stimulate the digestive juices and increase the appetite. In a vegetarian diet these flavours are sadly missing.’

Well, isn’t that the point! A vegetarian doesn’t want to eat meat of fish so they would hate these ‘distinctive meaty, fishy flavours’.

  • ‘Larger portions of vegetables should be served to vegetarians than to those eating a normal diet.’

So there we have it. Vegetarians aren’t normal, they must eat platefuls of vegetables which will fill them up and lead to enlargements. How am I going to teach that frippery?

At the end of the lesson, the class reads and answers the set questions in their exercise books.

Unfortunately the questions are as mad as the text – here’s the choice.

  1. Why are meatless dishes often unpopular?
  2. How can this be avoided?
  3. What are the difficulties in arranging and preparing meals for a vegetarian?

Here’s some answers that Cookery for Schools might expect from my kids:

  1. Meatless dishes are often unpopular because they don’t have any meat in them and me dad says he always has to have meat and two veg for his supper.
  2. Meatless dishes can be avoided by not eating them.
  3. The difficulties in arranging and preparing meals for a vegetarian are that you need lots and lots of beans and vegetables because they have to eat so many to get their protein and this can be expensive. And then they get really full and enlarged.

My class love to torment me with silly answers to my questions.
When I ask a test question ‘What are oats?’ Mick replies

‘Depends if you mean getting your oats, having your oats or porridge oats.’ I am careful with wording after that.

Changes in vegetarian cuisine are on the way. By the mid seventies, the financial downturn in the UK means thrifty cooking kicks in.  One day something big arrives on my desk. A bag of brown, dried bits that the sender suggests I use to make new, cheap high protein meals.  TVP has jumped into our food chain and the  company wants me to persuade the nation’s children that it is a delicious, cheap substitute for meat, which we can no longer afford.

My TVP lesson goes  like this.
‘This is called TVP – it stands for Textured Vegetable protein.’
I hold out a handful of dried, beige lumps which smell of damp cardboard. Next I pass a pudding bowl with larger, softer lumps.
‘I’ve soaked these chunks in water and now we are ready to make a meatless stew.’
Bill mutters first.
‘Looks like dried dog turds, miss’
‘Or bits of  old dishcloth.’ Len likes plain food that he can recognize. TVP is not plain.
‘Len this lesson is learning about vegetarians and we are going to cook something modern for them.’
They mumble and grumble and shuffle off to cook up some carrots and onions in a thick Bisto gravy.
‘Now we stir in the lumps of TVP.’
They pass round the bowl and spoon a pile of the soaked chunks into their saucepans.
I chivvy them along.
‘It’s very clever, this stuff. The soya  is extruded, texturised, then cut and dried into chunks. Come on class, what shall we call this new stew?’
‘Muck’ says Bill.
‘Brown muck’ adds Len.
They don’t want to eat it or take it home, and shamble out of the room clutching their out of date textbooks with the task of answering the impossible questions for homework.
That’s vegetarian cooking done for 1972.

History note

Vegetarian society

The Vegetarian Society was founded in 1847 and the first vegetarian hospital was opened in Ramsgate in 1846. It is amazing how little impact the society had on the things that were taught in school cookery lessons in the 1970s. The Vegetarian Society now has its own logo that goes on food labels and its extensive website ‘provides imaginative, creative and delicious vegetarian food.’

The Vegan Society

In 1944 a group of ‘non-dairy vegetarians’ formed a new society with a name to describe themselves – vegan derived from VEGetariAN. The Society wanted to show that ‘the use of animal products (such as meat, dairy, eggs, leather and wool) will be viewed as an inhumane and unsustainable practice from a much less enlightened age.’

Haldane Foods is one of the country’s oldest producers of meat and dairy-free produce. Some of their products are available under brands such as Realeat, Direct Foods and Granose which was established over 100 years ago, and some of its products were invented by a Dr John Harvey Kellogg.

Linda McCartney popularised a meat-free diet in Britain, published a guide to vegetarian cookery, ‘Linda McCartney’s Home Cooking’ in 1989, and launched her own range of ready-made vegetarian meals in 1991.


In the 1960s, there were fears that the world would run out of animal protein. In response to this, scientists set out to find an alternative protein source. The new protein was part of the fungi family and was called Mycoprotein after ‘myco’, the Greek for fungi.

TVP® – Textured Vegetable Protein – is a byproduct from soya beans, made after the production of soya oil. After World War 11 there was a huge demand for food, and sales of soya foods and soybean meal increased massively. In the 1930s the soybean meal had been used for animal feed, but by the 1940s it was ‘food grade’ and ready to use in soya products.

In the 1971 TVP was approved for the USA school lunch programme, and the product became an ingredient in many prepared foods, to reduce costs.

In 1973, in the UK, Cadbury’s launched Soya Choice which they claimed was ‘a roaring success’ because it was nutritious and half the price of meat. The UK economy was in a downturn, the price of meat had soared, so shoppers were looking at ways to reduce their food costs.

How is TVP made? When the oil has been removed from the soya beans, the remaining dough is cooked under pressure with steam and extruded. The extrusion technology changes the structure of the soy protein, resulting in a fibrous spongy matrix that is similar in texture to meat which is made into textured, dried granules, flakes and chunks. Add water and it swells up and is used as a meat replacer to extend dishes such as minced beef for pies and bolognaise.  It is low in cost, low in fat and relatively high in fibre as it is a plant food.

Today food producers around the world manufacture and sell extruded textured soy protein under a range of trade names, including soya meat. The modern versions come in many flavours including bacon, chicken, sausage, beef, ham and taco. One company website says that TVP can create some gas after eating, so maybe my early textbooks were true – a vegetarian diet can cause enlargements.

Today teaching about vegetarianism is a big topic in schools. Along with food allergies, e numbers and food labels, we have plenty of information and lots of delicious things to cook.

It is estimated that over 3 million people eat a vegetarian diet in the UK.

Brigid McKevith, Senior Nutrition Scientist, British Nutrition Foundation

‘Some large studies have shown that vegetarians have a lower overall mortality rate than the general population. A high intake of plant foods is associated with a reduced risk of some cancers and several studies have found an increased risk of colorectal cancer amongst those with the highest intakes of meat and the lowest intakes of fibre. However, there is no evidence that being vegetarian confers a protective effect.’

Vegetarian society

Vegan society


Filed under Boys cooking, Jenny Ridgwell, Retro recipes, Vegetarian cookery