By Annette Lange

Looking for inspiration and innovation to make your short film and production design as believable as possible? Is your character being held hostage under harsh conditions with nasty food? Torturing orphanage kids with disgusting food but don’t want to actually torture your actors? Don’t want to go method?

Here are a couple of ideas of cheap and easy recipes for food you can make to fool your audience into thinking the food is disgusting.

The actor will thank you for it – and want more!


Basic ingredients that are cheap, yet healthy, nutritious and quick to prepare are split peas, lentils and oats. They get real mushy when cooked, and their color is not really desirable. In this way, they are ideal because they look unappetizing, but with the right combination of ingredients, they taste great!


What you need:

  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • pinch of salt
  • brown sugar/honey,
  • cinnamon
  • nuts (optional)

For one portion, bring a cup of water with a pinch of salt to boil and add half a cup of oats. Reduce the heat, cook for one minute (while stirring), remove from heat and let it stand for 2-3 minutes.

Alternatively, you could also cook the oats and water in a microwave oven for 2 minutes on high, stirring occasionally, or use milk instead of water. But for the sake of making the food look disgusting, I’d suggest using water.

To make it taste better, stir in some brown sugar or honey when it’s still hot. You can also chop up some nuts and mix it into the porridge to make the texture better, just make sure you hide it well.

It’s all about presentation, and in this case, you don’t want to present it very well… so, just mix it and voila – nasty food Number 1!



What you need:

  • 200g red lentils (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 brown onion (chopped)
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp curry paste
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 1 tsp grated ginger root
  • 700g tomato puree

Cover red lentils with water and simmer for 20 minutes in a pot. Fry the onion in a saucepan until golden. In a separate bowl, mix: curry powder, ground cumin, turmeric, chilli powder, salt, sugar, curry paste, garlic clove and grated ginger root. Add it to the onions and cook over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the tomato puree and simmer for 10 minutes. Add onion mixture to drained lentils and cook for 5-10 minutes.

The mixture will thicken and look like an unidentifiable paste of some sorts. I did not leave enough time for the lentils to thicken, so mine looked a bit like gravy. Leave to thicken more, and it will look more unappetizing.


  • 1 brown onion, chopped
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 200g green lentils
  • 1 potato, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste

Chop up onion and fry in a saucepan. Dissolve a cube of vegetable stock in a cup of hot water and add to the onions. Add green lentils, 1 potato (peeled and chopped), 2 chopped carrots (and whatever vegetable your heart desires, really), cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the lentils are soft. This can take between 20-30 minutes.

The soup itself does not look too bad, but if you liquidize it, it will look quite revolting because of the colour of the lentils. The less liquid/broth, the better. This is actually how this article came about: me having a bad idea and liquidizing my lentil soup and in turn, getting very odd looks and comments about my food – success!


Split Peas are great for soup – yellow mush – and similar to the lentils, you can cook it with all sorts of vegetables and blend it. But seeing that I have already suggested soup and mush, I thought I’d try a different way, to make it look bland, dry and hard to swallow.

What you need:

  • ½ cup yellow split peas
  • ½ cup brown rice
  • 2 ½ cups chicken stock/broth
  • ½ brown onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

I boiled ½ cup of rice and ½ cup of yellow split peas together in 2 cups of chicken stock. In a separate saucepan, I fried ½ an onion (finely chopped) in butter, added 1 tsp of chicken stock (dissolved in ½ cup of water) again and add curry powder, salt, pepper and a bit of lemon juice. Then I poured the sauce over the rice and lentils (so you can’t really see that it is actually moist) and mix it. It does not look like much – but it is tasty!

And there you go… these recipes and ingredients are easy to play around with. Also, besides all the spices for the curry, they are probably ingredients you already have at home.



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