Just the other day I was offered some rhubarb out of the boot of a work colleagues car.
For anyone that knows me, if it’s free I’ll make use of it and enjoy it even more knowing that it’s cost me nothing. It’s the mend and make-do philosophy innately ingrained in my psyche. In this case the immediate thought of mouth watering apple and rhubarb crumble with custard that entered my head as soon as my work colleague opened the boot of his car to display his mountain of rhubarb, absolutely solidified this transaction and if he had, at that moment changed his mind, there is no doubt that I would have grabbed an armful and made a run for it.
Today I made the crumble. I made a portion for everyone, I even made a small dish for my work colleague.
It’s been forever since I’ve baked a proper British pudding and every spoonful that entered my mouth was accompanied by sounds of wanton desire that were slightly obscene. There is something wrong with a pudding if it’s consumer doesn’t groan a little…
Here is the authentic WW2 recipe. Enjoy and groan a little yourself…
Apple and Rhubarb Crumble
1 lb rhubarb
1 lb tasty apples
2 tablespoons of golden syrup or 2 oz sugar
7 oz plain flour
3 oz oats
3 oz margarine or butter
3 oz sugar for topping
1 oz of light brown sugar to sprinkle on top
pinch of salt
Wipe the rhubarb and cut into small pieces. Simmer in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon of water for about 10 minutes until cooked.
Slice the apples into small pieces. Simmer in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon of water for about 5 minutes until cooked.
Mix rhubarb and apple together when cooked and mix in the golden syrup or sugar.
Grease a pie tin and spoon in the mixture.
Place plain flour, pinch of salt, 3 oz sugar and 3 oz of butter or margarine (in small pieces) into a bowl together.
Rub between fingers to create a breadcrumb like mixture and spoon over the top of the stewed fruit thickly.
Sprinkle with the brown sugar.
Place in an oven at around 170 C for 20 minutes until golden brown.
Serve with custard.
And as well as eating apple and rhubarb crumble for my dinner I also took some photographs from my garden this afternoon. I picked some of the herbs I grew last year and took photos of the most beautiful dragonfly (I’ve been told its a Migrant Hawker)…it was too beautiful not to share.
PS: It’s good to be back…
I’m picking wild blackberries in my garden every couple of days so today when I found a simple shortbread recipe in the ‘Eating for Victory’ book (a collection of reproduction WW2 instructional leaflets) I immediately decided the shortbread biscuits would need a blackberry on top to give them an extra a burst of flavour.
Let me tell you…the blackberries worked so well! It will take me a LOT of willpower to not devour all of them!
So the recipe is incredibly simple and I didn’t even use a rolling pin and a biscuit cutter.
3 oz plain white flour
2 oz margarine
1 oz sugar
10 fresh blackberries, rinsed and patted dry
Rub the margarine into the flour and sugar.
Knead into a dough without adding any water.
Roll out to about 1/8th inch and cut into biscuits (I simply tore off a walnut sized amount, rolled into a ball and flattened it in my palms and dented the middle once on the baking tray to place the blackberry).
Sprinkle with a little sugar.
Bake in a cool oven (about 150 c) until very pale golden brown around edges.
Makes 8-10 biscuits.
Here are some photos I snapped with my phone of the process..
Eggs were so scarce during WW2 that many recipes were modified to adapt to rationing. Many cake recipes were created that were perfectly acceptable without eggs and this chocolate sponge was one of them. I made it today, also using a wartime recipe for a chocolate filling which I used to sandwich the sponge together and glaze the top.
The filling is very much like dark chocolate and had I not been re-creating an authentic wartime recipe, some orange oil/essence and some orange zest would have really worked well in the filling and topping.
As it stood it was a nice, tasty, moist cake despite not having a big rise on it. For modern tastes it would be really nice served with cream or a raspberry coulis.
Eggless Chocolate Sponge with Dark Chocolate Filling
1/2 lb self raising flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
3 oz caster sugar
1 tablespoon syrup
14 tablespoons of hot water
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3 oz margarine
* Mix the flour, salt. cocoa and sugar together.
* Dissolve the syrup in the water and add the bicarbonate of soda.
* Melt the margarine and mix all the ingredients together including the essence but do not beat the mixture which should be very soft.
* Divide the mixture between to well greased 8″ sandwich tins and bake in a moderately hot oven for 20 minutes.
* When cooled use jam or a chocolate or mock cream filling between the two layers.
1/2 oz margarine
2 oz cocoa
2 oz caster sugar
2 tablespoons of strong black coffee
Melt the margarine. Remove from the heat and add the cocoa and sugar. Beat in the coffee until the mixture becomes a good spreading consistency.
Two ounces of cheese and some sliced onions, sprinkled over the top, go a long way in adding flavour to this simple, tasty and comforting wartime dish. Don’t limit yourself to just potatoes though. Throw in any leftover root vegetables to add to the potatoes and it will be delicious! Today I added chopped carrot and turnip.
Cheese, Potato & Onion Pie
3 lbs of potatoes chopped (or make up to 3 lbs with any chopped root veg)
2 onions chopped in half and very thinly sliced
2 oz grated cheddar cheese
tablespoon of margarine or butter (or fat saved from bacon)
Thyme, salt and pepper
Scrub vegetables and scrape or peel if necessary.
Chop into smallish pieces (carrot needs longer to cook so if mixed with potatoes make sure the carrot pieces are smaller).
Simmer vegetables until tender in boiling water.
Meanwhile add sliced onion to a pan with a little butter/margarine/fat and saute gently until golden.
When potatoes/vegetables are cooked and tender drain well and then mash with a tablespoon of margarine/butter and lots of seasoning. At this stage you can add extras such as some garlic powder or some chopped sauted garlic to add extra flavour. Mix well and when you are happy with the flavour add to a pie dish.
Sprinkle over the top with some grated cheese and finally the sauted long onion slices spreading out evenly over the top.
Place in a pre-heated hot oven at 220 C until the top is golden. This will take about 20 minutes.
Serves 4 as a main dish with a few green vegetables on the side or 6 as part of a meal.
It was quite common to mash up your leftover potatoes with other vegetables during the war. One example of this is ‘bubble and squeak’.
To use up the last few potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips and swedes that maybe past their best in the larder, they were often scrubbed clean and chopped up into small pieces and boiled together until soft then mashed up with margarine/butter and lots of salt and pepper. To make it even better the mash could be put into a pie dish and browned in an oven.
Through trial and error, for my personal taste I like to make my root vegetable mash with 50% potatoes and then whatever I have left cooked in with it. I really like a parsnip added to root vegetable mash as it gives it an extra flavour boost!
Root Vegetable Mash
Ingredients (I used quadruple the amount below)
Potatoes (2 medium per person)
Parsnip ( 1 medium per person)
Carrots (1 medium per person)
Salt and Pepper
Extras: Some chopped and sauted garlic, fresh thyme and/or chives add a nice touch.
Chop up the scrubbed vegetables and boil until soft in water.
Drain, add salt and pepper, add butter (or dairy free margarine if vegan) and a drop of milk (I use organic oat milk) and mash until you achieve the consistency you like.
Place mixture in large pie dish or two small ones.
Brown in oven.
I’m in love with this wartime cookie recipe. These oaty, sweet, buttery, wartime biscuits really make you appreciate a 15 minute break with a hot cuppa tea in some old vintage china.
This recipe is super simple and quick.
4 oz (115 g) margarine or butter. (I used half and half as butter really adds that extra flavour)
3 oz (85 g) of sugar (I use unrefined caster sugar)
7 oz (200 g) of rolled oats
5 oz (150 g) self-raising flour or plain flour sifted with 1 teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt
1 reconstitued dried egg or fresh egg (I didn’t use an egg at all and it was fine)
A little milk
* Pre-heat the oven to 180C (350F) or Gas Mark 4.
* Grease two baking trays well or use parchment/baking paper instead.
* Cream the margarine/butter with the sugar until soft and light.
* Add the rolled oats and mix.
* Sift the flour, baking powder and salt and add the egg (if used) into the * mixture and mix well again before adding in a little milk to moisten. The dough should be stiff and quite dry but sticks together. Knead together.
* Divide out mixture into about 20 lumps the size of a walnut.
* Press between palms to flatten to about 1/4 inch thick and place on baking tray and press into shape.
* Bake for about 15 minutes until edges are golden.
* Leave on baking trays to cool.
Makes about 20.
EXTRA TIP: I divided the dough into half. The first half I left plain. The second half I sprinkled on some sultanas and some lemon extract and kneaded in. The lemon/fruit/oat biscuits were absolutely delicious!
It’s the first weekend in months where I haven’t had to be somewhere, go somewhere or do something and consequently I actually have time on my hands to do something I REALLY REALLY love and that is recreating wartime recipes! I’ve had a lovely day so far! I’ve so desperately needed down time.
So I have yet to find out why this pie is called ‘Hunt Pie’. The closest I have come is finding a business called ‘John Hunts’ which established itself in 1860 manufacturing pie making equipment. Could this possibly be linked?
Anyway, I made the pie for lunch and I have lots of portions left for tomorrow and because I love vegetables and pastry and added a little more seasoning than the recipe called for, I found it quite delicious!
So please enjoy the original recipe below (and my slight modifications to suit my palette in brackets).
3/4 pint of water
1 onion or small leek
3/4 lb of chopped root veg and cabbage (I used a couple of potatoes, carrots and spring greens)
4 oz lentils (I used red/orange lentils as they did not require soaking)
2 oz minced beef (I am veggie so instead I used 2 oz of marinated tofu)
1/2-1 teaspoon of meat or vegetable extract (I used a teaspoon of marmite)
salt and pepper (I also added garlic salt)
2 oz porridge oats or oatmeal
2 oz of plain flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
water to mix
(I added an oz of margarine as I cooked the pie in the oven rather than in the pot)
Chopped parsley (I hate parsley so used chopped chives)
Bring water to boil.
Add onions/leeks, vegetables, lentils, vegetable/meat extract and seasoning, put lid on pan and cook on medium for about 10-15 minutes. Stir to prevent sticking.
Make pastry and press into a round shape enough to cover the top of the mixture in the saucepan. (I prefer a crispy pastry so once the mixture was soft and thickened which took about 30 minutes in total, I added it into a pie dish and rolled out the pastry on top and placed it in the oven).
Replace saucepan lid and cook for a further 15-20 minutes.
Lift pastry with a slice and set aside.
Remove mixture and place in pie dish and put pastry back on top.
Sprinkle with parsley.