Dinner and a movie

From soup to dessert, here’s a menu of scene-stealing dishes from the big screen


With the rise of the celebrity chef and the cult of food shows, the films of late have reflected this fashionable and delicious obsession. While classics like Babette’s Feast (1987), Big Night (1996), and Like Water for Chocolate (1992) continue to inspire foodie film-buffs, here we look at more recent contenders, and imagine recipes for dishes that are the un-credited screen stars—driving plots, inspiring passions, and consoling lead characters.

I Am Love (2009):

Food is integral to the plot in Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino’s new melodrama, I Am Love. In the film, the married Emma Recchi (played by Tilda Swinton) experiences an awakening while eating a plate of succulent prawns prepared by the talented chef Antonio, who becomes her lover. Later, a delicate Russian soup—Ukha—leads to the plot’s unraveling. Here’s a recipe for the pivotal soup:

Russian Salmon soup (Ukha)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 small carrots (1 chopped, 3 thinly sliced)
8 black peppercorns
4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
4 sprigs dill
2 leeks (white parts only), thickly sliced crosswise and washed
2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups white wine
1 lb. fish bones, such as snapper, rinsed
1 salmon head (about 1 lb.), gills removed
3 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4″ chunks
1 lb. skinless boneless salmon filet, cut into 1″ cubes
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Click here for method

Next: Honey lavender ice cream from It’s Complicated


It’s Complicated (2009)

The lead character Jane (played by Meryl Streep) is a divorced chef and successful bakery-owner experimenting with dating again in her adult life. On nights when she can’t sleep, she makes ice cream. Her mention of a cool batch of homemade honey lavender had foodies turning to their ice cream makers. Here’s a recipe:

Honey Lavender Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup half-and-half
2/3 cup mild honey
2 tbsp. dried edible lavender flowers
2 large eggs
1/8 tsp. salt

Click here for method

Next: Kerala Shrimp Curry from Cooking with Stella


Cooking with Stella (2009)

A Canadian diplomatic couple is posted for service in New Delhi in this colourful film about expat life and class tensions in India. While Maya goes off to work, her husband Michael stays behind and tries to learn his way around the Indian kitchen from his cooking “guru”, Stella, who is also the couple’s home cook. Here’s the recipe for her shrimp curry, which is renowned in Delhi’s diplomatic circles:

Kerala Shrimp Curry

1 pound frozen, cleaned shrimp, or 1 1/2 pounds fresh medium shrimp
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
Large pinch of Indian dried red chili powder, or cayenne
Generous pinch of salt
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tsp. brown mustard seed
1/2 tsp. fenugreek seed
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
About 1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. minced ginger
2 green cayenne chilies, seeded and minced
16 to 20 fresh or frozen curry leaves
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. Indian dried red chili powder, or cayenne
1 tbsp. tamarind pulp
Scant 1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup canned coconut milk
About 1 tsp. salt, or to taste
Handful of fresh coriander leaves

Click here for method

Next: Sole meunière from Julie et Julia


Julie et Julia (2009)

For Julia Child’s first meal in France, her husband orders delicious sole meunière and oysters. Julia has a gastronomic orgasm and culinary epiphany in the small restaurant: she doesn’t know it then, but it’s the beginning of her lifelong love affair with French cooking. Here’s a recipe by Bonnie Stern, inspired by the dish that awakened the cook in Julia:

Sole meunière

1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless sole fillets
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley

Click here for method

Next: Ratatouille from Ratatouille


Ratatouille (2007)

Pixar’s film about a rat named Remy is probably the only animated foodie film classic. The movie follows Remy, who—in the hopes of becoming a chef—forms an alliance with the garbage boy at a Parisian restaurant and then infiltrates the kitchen. The inspired rat serves up gorgeous, rainbow-coloured dishes. Here’s a blogger’s rendition of “Ratatouille’s Ratatouille”:

Ratatouille’s Ratatouille

1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 cup tomato puree
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 small eggplant
1 smallish zucchini
1 smallish yellow squash
1 longish red bell pepper
Few sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Few tablespoons soft goat cheese, for serving

Click here for method

Next: Rum-Vanilla Cream pie from The Waitress


The Waitress (2007)

Pies are the centrepieces and plot driver in a film about a waitress, Jenna, who is stuck in an abusive marriage with a man named Earl, and finds solace in baking. Each pie is named for her quandary of the day. “I Hate My Husband Pie” or “I Can’t Have No Affair Because It’s Wrong and I Don’t Want Earl to Kill Me Pie,” et cetera. Here’s a variation of the latter, which Jenna describes as, “Vanilla custard with banana. Hold the banana”:

Rum-Vanilla Cream pie

All-purpose flour, for surface
1/2 recipe Pâte Brisée (pie dough)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pod reserved
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. (2 1/2 ounces) golden rum, preferably Appleton
2 ounces (4 tbsp.) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar

Click here for method

Back to start: Russian Salmon soup from I Am Love

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