I woke up yesterday morning to a scribbled note that read, “No kettle, no toaster, but I had a wonton crimper.”  It took me a while to remember what this related to but eventually, it came to me.  It was a line from a conversation with an old friend Matthew the night before about buying kitchen gadgets and fripperies.  He was telling me that when he lived in San Francisco he bought himself a wonton crimper after seeing how they made plain dumplings beautiful, but he had neither a kettle nor a toaster.  Which for most Brits are much more essential kitchen items.

He used his wonton crimper once.  I too have many things of this ilk, gadgets or items of crockery or decorative items bought specifically for a single movie star recipe.  The enormous bean pot I bought for Bette Davis’ Boston Baked Beans springs to mind (used once in 2019 and never since).

The tortilla press bought for Dolores Del Rio’s Enchiladas in 2018 too – I think I have used this three times in five years, so that’s not bad.

This might be the maddest thing I have bought purely and simply for a recipe though, for the Clark Gable cocktail I made for Dinner and Movie in September.

But at least I have already used this twice in a couple of months, once for the cocktail demo video and once taking some ice out into the garden to add to sloe wine when my friend Lucy came to stay.

The latest in this long line of fripperies is this beautiful fish mould.  Bought purely and simply for the purpose of testing William Conrad’s Salmon Pȃté recipe for the forthcoming Cooking the Detectives book.

When it arrived it was much bigger than I was expecting, but it was very pleasing indeed that the mixture fit the mould perfectly.  In ye olden dayes I am guessing fish moulds were a standard size?  Which according to Tippi’s recipe would be 5 cups I guess.

This is an EASY thing to make and would be an impressive centrepiece for a dinner party as long as you don’t make the same mistakes I did.  Some tips follow.

1 – I didn’t think to butter the mould before I poured the mixture in. Hence once it had set, there was no way it would be popping out of there onto the plate.

2 – I chopped way too much parsley and I thought, rather than waste it, I’d stick it in. This resulted in one of my dinner guests Katy saying, “It’s kinda green, not pink,” which was true.  As I thought to myself as I decanted it into many ramekins, my fishy was quite literally green around the gills.

3 – even if the fish had popped out nicely, I do not have a plate big enough for it to sit on so I admit, I feel another purchase of something I am only ever going to use once coming on…

Of the colour of the pȃté Matthew wondered if I had, “Let the salmon go off a bit.” – but I can assure everyone, GREEN PÂTÉ IS SAFE TO EAT and eat it we did.

My final tip on this recipe was prompted by food writing coach Jenni Muir‘s test cook of this recipe for the Murder, She Cooked book.

Her feedback really made me laugh, but also it was super useful as I realised it would be a very good idea to get everything ready so that when I dissolved the gelatine, I wasn’t faffing about letting it go cold before I added all the other bits and bobs.  It worked!

Jenni’s feedback, “It’s very nice. I did find myself wondering where the few drops of Tabasco were as they were almost always an ingredient in the salmon pâtés and mousses of my childhood. I couldn’t decide if Tippy Conrad’s use of hot stock to dissolve gelatin in the blender was genius or reckless – the whole time I had the voice of Miss Nops from the Cordon Bleu ringing in my ears that this was NOT the way to dissolve gelatin and so it proved. When I poured out the finished mixture there was a layer of chicken gel set hard on the bottom of the processor bowl, which I had to quickly remelt and stir in – but then I was using a food processor rather than a blender and maybe it cooled too quickly with that extra surface space to spread over, and me perhaps not being quick enough to throw in the remaining ingredients. In any case, it set beautifully and quickly. And I’d happily make it again in retro mood – it’s super easy and people (or at least my family) are reassuringly impressed by it.”

This recipe will definitely be included in the Cooking the Detectives book in my chapter about the brilliant Nero Wolfe. The ultimate foodie crime solver!


Switch to your own country for the correct postal costs if you are not in the UK.  All books except Cooking With Joan Crawford can also be ordered via your local bookshop or possibly from your local library.

Cooking With Columbo Murder, She Cooked Supper with the Stars

NEW! Cooking With Joan Crawford


Dinner and a Movie Murder, She Wrote Episode Guides and Recipes

Monthly movie star menus direct to your inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!