By Jenny Hammerton
When Dame Angela Lansbury travelled up to that Hollywood in the sky, the outpouring of love and respect for her terrific talent and tremendous career was palpable. She was beloved by many theatre, film and television fans and will be very much missed.
In the 1960s, Angela took drastic action to remove her teenage children from the toxic drug scene in Malibu. Her daughter was under the spell of Charles Manson, and she realized that “something had to be done”. So, she upped sticks and moved the family to County Cork in Ireland. She told journalist John Selby, “I refused all work for a year and simply kept house. I bought Elizabeth David’s books and learnt how to cook properly. It was a wonderful time in my life.”Dame Angela was a renaissance woman. She worked like a Trojan but also knew the importance of self-care and the joys to be found in simple pleasures such as sewing, gardening and, of course, cooking. “I am happiest in my garden and kitchen, being boring as all get out,” she told food writer Johna Blinn, “I’m not an exotic cook. I cook what I like – a lot of healthy, comfort food.”
Angela’s book Positive Moves (published in 1990) is a wonderful guide to living graciously. It contains several of her favourite things to prepare in the kitchen: Garden Vegetable Soup, Kitchen Sink Salad, Mustard Vinaigrette, Angel Hair Pasta with Fresh Summer Tomatoes and her Famous Power Loaf bread recipe.
I gathered as many of Angela’s other recipes as I could find for my Murder, She Cooked book. It contains ten in total, plus over 100 from other co-stars who appeared in the show such as Martin Landau, Janet Leigh, Robert Vaughn, Cyd Charisse, Elliot Gould, Gloria Stuart and Milton Berle. There are so many star-spangled dishes to try!
The recipe I am sharing here almost didn’t make it into the book. It was an eleventh-hour discovery, but it has fast become a favourite. It’s the perfect cake to make before watching an Angela Lansbury movie or an episode of Murder, She Wrote. A slice of this with a cup of tea is so Jessica Fletcher!
Angela Lansbury’s Walnut Date Bread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
1 cup chopped pitted dates
⅔ cup walnut pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose/plain flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Strawberry cream cheese (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325℉.
Generously oil a 9×5-inch loaf pan and dust it with flour.
Place the butter, baking soda, dates and 1 cup of boiling water into a heatproof mixing bowl. Let this cool. Mix in the walnuts, sugar, egg yolk, flour and vanilla extract. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour.
Cool for 10 minutes and remove from the pan onto a rack to cool. Slice and serve with strawberry cream cheese and freshly brewed tea.
Murder, She Cooked was published in September 2022 and is available to order from bookshops in the USA and UK and via Amazon worldwide. Read about the book launch.
Murder, She Cooked episode guides and recipes.
Going to Great Britain? Join Tim Benzie’s Solve-Along-A-Murder-She-Wrote.
See below for videos and other bonuses.
Jenny Hammerton is a film archivist with a nosey parker interest in what the stars of Hollywood Golden era liked to eat and drink. She’s been scribbling away about film star recipes for around eight years at Silver Screen Suppers and her bulging collection of film star favorites now numbers over 8,000. When not cooking and writing, Jenny works with the British Movietone newsreel collection for the AP Archive in London, and DJs on a wind-up gramophone with The Shellac Sisters. Hammerton’s books include Cooking with Joan Crawford, Cooking With Columbo, and Supper with the Stars with Your Host Vincent Price
Before committing to creating books, Jenny’s “Eat Like the Stars:” column was a regular popular EatDrinkFilms feature with recipes and lots of images of celebrities including Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, Diana Dors, Audrey Hepburn, Angie Dickenson, the Marx Brothers, Frank Sinatra, Zasu Pitts, Great Garbo, Robert Mitchum, Bette Davis, Yul Brynner, John Cassavetes and more can be read here.
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So many stars and their recipes Silver Screen Suppers
Links to Jenny’s books:
Enjoy the ultimate fan interview with Jessie and Leonard Maltin visiting Angela Lansbury in 2018 when she was a lively 93, on the Maltin on Movies podcast. Listen here
Hollywood and Broadway stars pay tribute to Angela Lansbury as collected by the L.A. Times.
More on Huffington Post.
Turner Classic Movies will present a 24 hour Angela Lansbury Marathon with 12 films on Monday, November 12. Full schedule here.
Enjoy Angela discussing making The Manchurian Candidate at the TCM Fest.
Discussing making Murder, She Wrote.
You can watch excerpts (and even a few complete episodes) from Murder,She Wrote here.
A sample clip from the “Jessica Meets Emma” episode—you’ll be seeing double.
And all seasons are streaming on your TV and devices. Find out where, here.
The 2022 Knives Out sequel, Glass Onion, has a surprise cameo from Angela, ironically alongside Stephen Sondheim, a couple of the movie’s many “inside” jokes. Lansbury starred in Sondheim’s great musical about food, Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1982)
Here she is, on the Tony Awards, singing “The Worst Pies in London.”
Angela and co-star George Hearn discuss Sweeney Todd.
Talking about her last stage show, Blithe Spirit.