Posts Tagged ‘Recipe’

In the Kitchen: Fruits of our Labour

July 27th, 2010 | Comments Off
by Faye, IWM Marketing Team

In 1939 and 1940, thousands of evacuees arrived at railway stations miles from home and found themselves in a strange and foreign place – the British countryside! While evacuation was certainly not the stuff of books and films – to our knowledge, flying beds were not a common sight over Dorset as in Bedknobs and Broomsticks – there were still adventures to be had. Among the stories of hardship and homesickness, for many, this was their first time in the countryside. They had escaped the cities where German bombs were expected to fall and arrived among the farms and fields, arbours and apple trees, brooks and boughs of a Britain ripe for picking…

The city kids had never seen the like – never been somewhere where you could wander along hedgerows, pick berries off the bushes and gobble them up on your way home from school. (Of course, it’s heartily recommended to wash your berry harvest before said gobbling, but we doubt this stopped the evacuees from filling their tummies). Besides, foraging for food was an important wartime skill – one that would have been appreciated in the homes of wartime families. Even the youngest tot could be enlisted to collect a basketful of berries that would put jam in the larder and a pie on the dinner table. Fruit-picking was often organised by schools, which ran harvest camps as well, and the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides also instructed children on how to properly pick fruit.

So, we’re taking our summer fruits inspiration from this army of pick-your-own helpers. Who needs posh punnets of strawberries when wild ones are in season right now? Why fork out a fortune for exotic fruits when tasty blackberries provide some of the best free food around? Whatever the season, there are fruits to be harvested – apple trees to be climbed to reach the plumpest crop, raspberries to be delicately picked to avoid squishing and loganberries to be identified. Loganberries are somewhere in between a raspberry and a blackberry, apparently, and if anyone knows what to do with them, we’d love to hear your (frugal) recipes – leave them in the comments section below!

In the meantime, here’s one of our own, taken from the exhibition book, The Ministry of Food: Thrifty Wartime Ways to Feed your Family Today, by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Jellies with Fresh Fruit Juice

900 g (2 lb) berries
2 tablespoons elderflower cordial
115 g (4 oz) granulated sugar
1 sachet granulated gelatine to set 1 pint juice or equivalent sheet gelatine

Method: Put berries in a saucepan with just enough water to stop them sticking to the bottom and cook over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes until the juices run. Sieve fruit into a bowl, squashing it down to extract the juice. Then strain the juice through muslin.

Add elderflower cordial and stir in sugar to sweeten the juice. Make sure sugar is completely dissolved and if mixture tastes too strong, add some water.

Measure the sweetened juice, add gelatine and pour into glasses or moulds to set overnight in the fridge.

For the ultimate summer picnic on a shoestring, pack some sarnies and head out into the wilderness to pick your pudding! There are lots of pick-your-own farms around nowadays, but to be truly faithful to the principles of the 1940, it’s got to be done the good-old-fashioned way!

Everything Stops for Tea

July 9th, 2010 | 1 Comment
by Faye, IWM Marketing Team

On this day in 1940, that great British staple – a cuppa, a brew, a cup of Rosy (for the Cockneys among us) – came under the ration. Thankfully, the British government understood the country’s deep need for tea; that anything less than two to three cups a day would strike at the very heart of wartime morale. Action was immediate and swift when war broke out, and tea was dispersed to warehouses across the land. In the event of air raids on London, tea would not be bombed. Phew!

Even so, life on 2 oz a week was far from ideal for a nation that had previously been used to putting the kettle on every time someone got out of bed, arrived at work, had a conversation, returned from work or put their feet up, not to mention the obligatory pause in whatever one was doing at 4 o’clock. The popular wartime song Everything Stops For Tea, featured in The Ministry of Food exhibition, is a jolly homage to the British 4 o’clock tea break.

Tea break

But, surely, this was key to Britain’s wartime survival, because instead of getting withdrawal symptoms from not enough tea in the day, Britain put the kettle on and made sure teatime retained its place in society, regardless of whether there were fields to plough, animals to tend or meals to prepare. The practice of tea o’clock stirred the nation’s spirit and allowed people on the home front to ‘pour’ over their news. We even think that our ingenious 1940s housewives could have rustled up a pretty decent afternoon tea on their limited resources. No need to let standards slip if the vicar’s wife is coming round for tea, is there?

If you really think you couldn’t face a scone the frugal way, ie. without dollop upon dollop of clotted cream, then drop scones are a tasty alternative, and simple too. Here is a recipe we came across in We’ll Eat Again – A collection of recipes from the war years selected by Marguerite Patten:

Sift 4 oz plain flour with 2 level teaspoons of baking powder and a pinch of salt. Add 1 tablespoon dried egg powder then beat in ¼ pint milk and 2 tablespoons water.

Grease and heat a heavy frying pan, electric solid hotplate or griddle. To test if the right heat, drop on a teaspoon of batter, this should turn golden brown on the bottom in one minute. Put the mixture in tablespoons on to the plate and leave until the top surface is covered with bubbles then turn and cook on the second side. The scones are cooked when quite firm.

Our advice is to smother your drop scones with jam, obviously of the home-made variety using your home-grown fruit! One more thing: if you are having the vicar’s wife round for tea, there are certain rules of etiquette that need to be respected, the most important of which is whether the milk should go in before or after the tea itself. George Orwell, writing just after the war, caused a stir by declaring that it should be after, but, for this most delicate of matters, we have to refer to that bastion of British civilisation, Debrett’s, who tell us that the milk is poured first. And whatever you do, don’t dunk your biccies in polite company…. Happy teatime!

Anyone for Tennis?

June 29th, 2010 | 4 Comments
by Faye, IWM Marketing Team

Anyone for tennis? Well, actually, no! They don’t stop play for any old reason at Wimbledon, but during the Second World War the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club found some more timely uses for their well-watered grounds. Among them, a small farmyard of which we thoroughly approve. So, hens, pigs and rabbits were in and strawberries and cream were out, but this didn’t mean people couldn’t whip up their own at home. In fact, we think strawberries and cream is a very ration-friendly pud, combining a grow-your-own element with a substitution recipe.

So, firstly, let’s serve up some mock cream. We’re not sure it quite lives up to its creamier equivalent, i.e. the real thing, but if Marguerite Patten, wartime cook extraordinaire, is willing to try it, then so are we!

Here is a simple recipe from We’ll Eat Again – A collection of recipes from the war years selected by Marguerite Patten.

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Quantity: 2-4 helpings

1 oz margarine
1 tablespoon dried milk powder
1 oz sugar
1 tablespoon milk

Method: Cream the margarine and sugar. Beat in the milk powder and liquid milk.

Now for the strawberries! These will definitely require a bit more care and attention than a bowlful of mock cream, but will yield a lovely crop if we adhere to three basic principles: avoid frost, lots of sunshine and shield from the wind. Besides, as well as the satisfaction of enjoying the fruits of our labour, we know we’re going to be feeling positively virtuous for our frugal ways. After all, what 1940s housewife wouldn’t have had a turn if she’d heard the price of strawberries and cream for the whole family at the All England Club? Yes, far more fulfilling to grow your own and save the pennies.


The grow-your-own spirit also has a flavoursome effect on the juiciness of your strawberries. A little bird told us (don’t let little birds anywhere near your strawberry plants, by the way) that strawberries do not travel well, but if the furthest you have to go is your own back garden, then you’re in for a treat. Our motto: pick it at its prime! (The All England Club does know about this, and the strawberries for Wimbledon are picked the day before in Kent, in case you’re wondering!)

The next best time for strawberry planting is early September, so we’re afraid you’re not going to see much fruit this summer, but if your strawberries are already flourishing, do let us know your top tips and send us some pics. To find out more on growing your own strawberries, check out this Royal Horticultural Society guide.

How to Make Short Pastry

June 17th, 2010 | Comments Off
by Jesse, IWM Web Team

Click on the album below to read Ministry of Food Leaflet No. 26, How to Make Short Pastry, published by the Ministry of Food in March 1946.

The Kitchen Front

June 11th, 2010 | 3 Comments
by Daniel Stephens, Cook

Daniel Stephens

We’re four months into this project, and we’re all conditioned to rationing now. We haven’t seen a fresh fish for ages – plenty of kippers and tinned salmon, though – and beef is a luxury we rarely have. We did get hold of a few pork ribs last month, along with the more regular supply of mutton, chicken and the rabbit, of course. Always plenty of rabbit!

Spring was pretty tricky. You get to April, the clocks have gone forward, the days are warmer and it feels like everything should be growing. Well, everything is growing, but only just – and in fact this year, with the cold winter, everything was late. So everyone wants springtime food, and all we have is pretty much what we had in February….potatoes, leeks, purple sprouting broccoli.

Mother Nature’s crops always have a head start on everyone else’s (what does she put on them?), so we had wild garlic and sorrel and, eventually, nettles (two pairs of gloves and the stings still get you). So for me, and for every cook (during the war) with a vegetable plot, we are coming into the good time. Cooking gets easy from here. We have the first courgettes, turnips, runner beans, gooseberries and strawberries.

We’ve also been experiencing similar supply problems to those suffered during the war when the U-boats intercepted our supply ships. But in our twenty-first-century case, we have had ash clouds from Iceland stopping planes getting our produce to us.

By the way, in December I was in my favourite antique shop buying The Woman’s Own Cook Book (1936) and got chatting to the owner, who gave me one of her mum’s staple wartime recipes. It went on to our first menu in February, and it’s still there now. It’s Mrs Harwood’s cheese and lentil pie, our most popular and, dare I say, our most frugal dish. Thank you, Mrs Harwood!

Kitchen Front is open from 10.00am to 5.30pm daily, so come in for lunch, afternoon tea or just a light snack and experience The Kitchen Front first hand.

Prior to joining Company of Cooks, Daniel was Sous Chef at River Cottage in Dorset from 2006–2009. He is the author of River Cottage Bread Handbook and continues to teach bread courses at River Cottage.