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Last Chance to See (and goodbye!)

December 31st, 2010 | Comments Off
by Faye, IWM Marketing Team

This New Year’s Eve, we wanted to toast a year of home-grown vegetables and inventive recipes – and also to wish you well in your garden and kitchen endeavours for 2011 because (sniff!) this is the end of the garden path for us!

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find Champagne mentioned anywhere in cookery books from the 1940s; not even a recipe laced with a bit of fizz (only sherry for the trifle). So we thought – as a parting gesture – we’d leave you with some possible new year’s resolutions for a thriving 2011 (taken from government posters and pamphlets from the 1940s, of course)…

1. Lend a hand on the land at a farming holiday camp
2. Turn over a new leaf. Eat vegetables daily to enjoy good health
3. Save kitchen scraps to feed the hens! Keep it dry, free from glass, metal, bones, paper etc…..your council will collect.
4. A clear plate means a clear conscience
5. Bottle fruits

If you need some more advice on how to become a budding gardener (geddit?) or a whizz in the kitchen a la 1940s, there’s still time to come and see The Ministry of Food exhibition at Imperial War Museum London – it closes on Monday (3 January) so do hurry! And don’t forget, you can get two adult tickets for the price of one by downloading this voucher and giving it in at the ticket desk. Happy New Year!

PS: Tea was rationed in 1940, so we know you’re not going to turn down a free cuppa! Thanks to our sponsors, Company of Cooks, if you keep hold of your Ministry of Food ticket you can get a free tea of coffee when you spend £5 in the Museum Café.

A Thrifty Offer: 2-for-1 tickets

December 22nd, 2010 | Comments Off
by Faye, IWM Marketing Team

We wish you a very merry Christmas and hope that your home-grown Brussels sprouts meet with requests for seconds rather than turned-up noses!

But don’t forget that The Ministry of Food exhibition at Imperial War Museum London closes on Monday 3 January 2011; once all those home-made mince pies have been polished off and Great Uncle John really can’t eat any more turkey sandwiches, you may be left wondering what to do with the mountain of leftovers in the kitchen…come along and be inspired by the ‘War on Waste’ that was fought in the kitchens of Britain during the Second World War. Discover some wonderful wartime recipes, and find out how the resourceful 1940s housewife got inventive with whatever she had in the larder…

We’re offering two adult tickets for the price of one when you come and see The Ministry of Food exhibition; simply download this voucher and present it at the ticket desk to claim the offer. And, thanks to our sponsors, Company of Cooks, if you keep hold of your ticket you can get a free tea or coffee when you spend £5 in the Museum Café.

A Christmas Special

December 21st, 2010 | Comments Off
by Faye, IWM Marketing Team

Christmas is the time for munching mince pies (this is a pretty constant activity in my household come December), slopping sherry into the trifle and making yummy stuffing for the turkey. These are all indoor activities! With this in mind, we approached the Allotment and Garden Guide for December 1945 with some trepidation, lest we were sent out into the cold to do some winter weeding. Brrrrrrr!

But the advice from the Ministry of Agriculture was unusually relaxed – perhaps ‘digging for victory’ seemed a little like raining on Britain’s parade during the first peacetime Christmas in seven years! Whatever the case, December frost is a jolly good excuse to put your garden spade away; if you don’t believe us, listen to what the Ministry had to say on the matter…’So as there’s very little we may be able to do outdoors this time of year, save possibly getting on with digging any spare ground that’s not frostbound, let us do a bit of fireside gardening, with a bit of looking back and perhaps a glance into the future.’

Well, we tried really hard to find a patch of frost-free ground to dig up but, alas, Britain remains frozen, so we thought let’s put our feet up and have a mince pie; time to do some serious ‘fireside gardening’. Luckily, we’ve got just thing for that. No shop-bought nonsense for us – we’ve come too far for that! – in the true Christmas spirit of the 1940s, here’s a wartime recipe for your mince pie filling, taken from The Ministry of Food: Thrifty Wartime Ways to Feed your Family Today, by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Plum and Russet Mincemeat

1kg plums (1lb 2oz) 250g (9oz)
finely grated zest and juice of 2-3 oranges (you need 200ml juice)
500g (1lb) russet apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 1cm cubes
200g (7oz) currants
200g (7oz) raisins
200g (7oz) sultanas
100g (3½ oz) orange marmalade
250g (9oz) Demerara sugar
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ nutmeg, grated
50ml (2fl oz) ginger wine or cordial (optional)
100g chopped walnuts
50ml (2fl oz) brandy or sloe gin

Method: Preheat the oven to 130ºC (250ºF). Wash the plums, halve and remove the stones, then put into a saucepan with the orange juice. Cook gently until tender, about 15 minutes. Blend to a purée in a liquidiser or push through a sieve. You should end up with about 700ml (1¾ pt) plum purée.

Put the purée into a large bowl and add all the other ingredients, except the brandy or gin. Mix thoroughly, then cover and leave to stand for 12 hours.]

Put the mincemeat in a large baking dish and bake, uncovered, for 2-2½ hours. Stir in the brandy or gin, then spoon into warm, sterilised jars, making sure there aren’t any air pockets. Seal with a sterilised twist-on lid or a waxed paper disc and cellophane cover. Store in a dry, dark, cool place until Christmas. Use within 12 months.

So, mince pie in hand, let’s reflect on our year in crops. The gardening hiccups of 1945, according to the Allotment and Gardening Guide, were as follows:

• Poor weather (‘The Januarys of 1940 and 1945 were among the coldest of the last half century…’)
• Late tomatoes
• Trouble with runners
• Marrows dying off suddenly
• Pests and diseases – there was the constant threat of greenfly and butterfly, but the nasty Cabbage White butterfly turned green crops into skeletons!

But we all know that a perfect summer strawberry or a big earthy spud makes it all worthwhile! The Ministry of Agriculture certainly believed in the virtues of growing your own for mind, body and spirit, although the concept of the thrifty housewife’s “good man” bringing home delicious and nutritious vegetables may give one indigestion nowadays…

What were your proud moments of the gardening year? Send us your pics of you and your crops! And what are your New Year’s resolutions for green-fingered success in 2011?

Coughs and Sneezes

November 9th, 2010 | 1 Comment
by Diana, IWM Marketing Team

Keeping the nation healthy and ‘fit to hasten victory’ was a vital part of the war effort, and it was the job of the Ministry of Health to ensure that the workforce was kept fighting fit. Pamphlets and short films issued by the Ministry of Information highlighted the importance of basic hygiene and healthy eating, both often difficult to maintain in the face of bombed-out streets and rationed food and fuel.

Bombs and ration books notwithstanding, the advice dished out in 1943 holds good today, especially as we enter the 2010 cold and flu season! Eating plenty of fruit and veg is a good start – try the ‘Not Lord Woolton’s Pie’ recipe as featured in Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall’s latest (and excellent!) cookery book, and take a look at this short film for a light-hearted masterclass in how not to sneeze!

Find Jane Fearnley-Whittingstalls book, The Ministry of Food: Thrifty Ways to Feed Your Family Today, and facsimile copies of the 1943 pamphlet How to Keep Well in Wartime in the Imperial War Museum Online Shop.

Jam Sessions

October 11th, 2010 | 3 Comments
by Colleen, East End WI Member

Here at the East End WI we were incredibly honoured and excited to be asked to prepare jam and pickles for The Ministry of Food exhibition. We had one or two experienced jam makers in our midst, but most of us were novices to be honest. Which all goes to show that with clear recipes, decent equipment, fine ingredients and good company, anyone can have a go and get it right…most of the time.

We started off with raspberry jam, a very simple classical recipe with equal amounts of raspberries and sugar – just put in the pan, heat until the sugar dissolves and simmer until setting point is reached. Spoon into warm, sterilised jars, seal, label and wait until you’ve baked a batch of scones to enjoy the fruits of your labour! Easy peasy.

Our attempts at a dried apricot jam were less successful. We overcooked it, burnt the fruit and ended up ditching it. Lessons learned, our foray into rhubarb and ginger was much more successful. Two pounds of chopped rhubarb were covered in the same amount of sugar and left to steep for an hour (should have been longer!). The rhubarb and sugar mixture then went into the jam pan, we added lemon juice and three well heaped tablespoons of chopped preserved ginger; heated this gently until the sugar dissolved; and then boiled briskly until setting point was reached. This time we used Annie’s aged sugar thermometer and the cold plate test just to make sure we didn’t overcook the jam. Result – another richly amber-coloured jam with a lovely sharp taste.

Ingredients: 2lb rhubarb, 2lb sugar, 2 tablespoon of lemon juice, 4 tablespoons of preserved ginger chopped.

Recipe from Basic Basics, Jams, Preserves and Chutneys Handbook by Marguerite Patten.

Our next experiment was with carrot jam, a real wartime recipe for times when fruit was hard to come by. We wanted an authentic gadget-free experience and managed to produce a pint of puree from two and a half pounds of carrots after much peeling, chopping, mashing and sieving. The puree, mixed with a pound of sugar, lemon rind, and two and a half tablespoons of lemon juice, went into the jam pan and was watched hawkishly to prevent burning while it cooked to a jammy consistency. We added almonds and a tablespoon of brandy before bottling – the jam won’t keep without the alcohol and even then it won’t last long. Our reward was a lovely deep orange jam, with an apple-y taste, sharpened by the lemon rind.

Ingredients: 1 pint of carrot puree, 1 lb of sugar, 1 lemon, half and ounce of sweet almonds (we used flaked), a tablepoon of brandy.

Recipe from Bombers and Mash by Raynes Minns.

Our adventures have converted us into avid jammers. We made pounds of jam for the local fete to serve up with our home made scones. No matter how hard times are, there’s always time for jam and scones!

Colleen, Member of the East End WI