Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The start of our wartime diet: Lord Woolton pie

Woolton pie Aug 11 2

Above and below - Lord Woolton pie

Woolton pie Aug 11 1

I am now at the end of my 2nd day on a wartime diet. The biggest change I am trying to grasp is the concept of once the ration is used, there's no going to the shops to top up. If something is used up, that's it, there's no more until the next ration period. So everything has to be used very carefully. Meals have to be planned in advance.

This was brought home to me when I made my first wartime recipe yesterday, Lord Woolton pie (named after the Minister of Food). As with so many recipes of the period, it was invented (by the head chef of the Savoy) to use effectively the food resources available to Britain. One of the props of wartime food policy was fresh vegetables. They were produced in the UK therefore avoiding the need to use valuable shipping space to import them.

The jolt to my system was making the pastry. We used 3oz of cooking fat. Our ration was 4oz for a person per week. Fortunately the pie will last both of us for three evening dinners each.

The recipe is:

1lb each of potatoes, carrots, cauliflower and swede. We also added an onion. These were worth their weight in gold. Before the war, most of Britain's onions came from the Continent. Once war was underway, that supply was shut down. Britain therefore had a massive onion shortage. People with allotments could grow onions and many did, helping to supplement the national supply. Our allotment is clearly already working for us on our wartime diet as it was one of our own onions that we used.

Boil the vegetables with a tablespoon of oatmeal and a bit of vegetable stock until the veg has softened. Then add them to a pie dish. Add some herbs (fresh or dry - we used fresh from the allotment) and then top it with wholemeal pastry. White flour was virtually outlawed in 1942 as to make it requires more wheat than is needed to make the same weight of wholemeal flour. And wholemeal is more healthy anyway.

Don't glaze the pastry with milk. It was rationed to 3 pints a week per person so it can't be used for decorative purposes. Bake the pie in the oven for about 25 minutes at 180C.

Lunch over the past two days has been a potato salad. Potatoes were one of the key wartime foods and it is likely that we would have come close to starvation if we were not growing so many ourselves. Growing potatoes produces more calories per unit of land than most other crops so it made sense for Britain to maximise the amount of land used to grow them. Government propaganda of the time also encouraged people to eat potatoes instead of bread.

I can however envisage a time over the next two weeks when I get sick of potatoes unless we have a way of turning them into lots of different dishes. For the two wartime lunches so far we have discovered by accident that having pickle with the potatoes improves the meal. I put pickle in David's lunch yesterday and forgot to add it to mine. When we compared notes we realised the omission.

With the salad today I decided to ignore at least partly government requests to eat potatoes instead of having bread by having both! The reason for this was simple: I was getting short of boiled potatoes. Having taken wartime advice to cut down on use of fuel, I boiled up two days' worth of potatoes on Sunday evening in one go. By lunchtime today, I was running short so I had in addition tot he salad two (small) slices of bread spread with marmite which, helpfully, is not rationed. I also needed something a bit more savory than a simple salad.

wartime lunch Aug 11

We have now sorted out how we deal with tea. We have 2oz each a week of loose leaf and I was fearing that, as a heavy tea drinker, I would be through it in no time. Through the day I am having a cuppa that consists of mint tea. After a bit of experimentation, we have worked out that for real tea, we need to keep the tea leaves in the pot rather than empty them out and reuse them a bit later. We simply add a bit more tea to the pot (having removed any cold liquid first). At the end of the day, when the tea leaves in the pot have been done to death, we can throw them away (into the compost bin).

I had a shock yesterday when I went to the shops to get some of my rationed goods. We are rationed to 2oz of cheese each per week. Have you seen how small that amount is? The shop didn't even sell it in such small quantities. I had to buy 8oz. That's 2weeks' supply for both of us and it still doesn't look much.

And finally, I am beginning to feel hungry between meals. Our modern day lifestyles mean that if we are peckish and the next meal is not for a couple of hours, we still dip into the biscuit box or the fridge for a snack. My guess is that this snacking is one of the biggest contributors to the obesity epidemic. On our wartime diet, there is no snacking between meal, at least of the fatty food variety. I did snack a few minutes ago but that was to eat a carrot! Nevertheless, I am craving for a chocolate biscuit right now!


Sean James Cameron said...

When you want a snack just "keep calm and carry on!"

Anonymous said...

It's amazing isn't it that in this day and age with all our abundance of food we still sometimes can't make our minds up what to eat!x Julie