On The Home Front:
Original Wartime Recipes from The Great War
1914 to 1918
1916: What To Do With Cheese
Cheese And Lentil Savoury Recipe
Lentils are a highly nutritious as well as an economical food, and when treated as follows, they are also very delicious. Take eight ounces of cheese, five and a half ounces of lentils, three ounces of breadcrumbs, four ounces of onions, one and a half ounces of fat, parsley, salt and pepper.
Wash the lentils; peel and chop the onions and cook them in a little water with the lentils, stirring occasionally. Have the cheese grated; put it into a basin and when the lentils and onions have nearly finished cooking stir them to the cheese and add the breadcrumbs, a tablespoonful of chopped parsley and pepper and salt.
One of the most fascinating pieces of commissioned work I have undertaken recently was linked to the act of commemoration for all those who fought and lost their lives in The Great War of 1914 to 1918. I was asked to recreate some original recipes from the era and then style them with appropriate props and photograph them. I was sent an extensive list of recipes as sent in to The People’s Friend by their readers of the time, and what a remarkable and interesting list of recipes they were. From Treacle Scones and Vegetable Cutlets to Portuguese Toast (eggs, ham, onion and tomatoes on toast) and Bonza Stew (vegetable stew), the recipes were a poignant and a tangible snapshot of the way we used to cook and eat at the beginning of the twentieth century. The recipes were published in the special edition of The People’s Friend in September of this year, and, as we are in the week of remembrance, I thought it would be interesting to share all the recipes I made for the project today.
1915: Apricot Charlotte
Soak half a pound of dried apricots all night in just enough cold water to cover them. Next morning add some sugar, and stew until tender. Well butter a pudding bowl, and scatter brown sugar on bottom. Line it thoroughly with bread buttered, and pour apricots in when ready. Press plate on top, and put into oven for half an hour, when it will turn out nice and brown. Serve with sweet sauce and it will be delightful.
In the end, I whittled the list down to six recipes, each one to represent a different course and with some of them using leftovers and ingredients that are not that common today; the recipes I chose to recreate were:
Pea Soup (1914) – made with split peas, onion, carrot and turnip, this soup was very comforting and extremely filling.
Cheese and Lentil Savoury (1916) – this was a spread made with cheese, lentils, breadcrumbs and parsley.
Saturday Pie (1915) – a classic leftovers dish of cold meat, mashed potato, onions and herbs.
An Indian Recipe (1917) – a curry by any other name, this was originally made with rabbit, although I used chicken thighs.
Apricot Charlotte (1915) – a thrifty pudding made with stale bread and dried apricots.
1918 War Cake (1918) – a very thrifty boiled fruit cake made with scant amount of fat (margarine) and no eggs
As an extra project, I applied a “time machine” edit to some of my colour photos (in a photo editing programme) so all the black and white images are reproduced as if the photos were taken on a box camera of the era. I styled them with old cutlery, linens and crockery from a similar time period, and served the recipes as suggested in the original recipe. I discovered that most of the recipes that suggested they would feed four people, would in fact feed two to three people nowadays……another indication of how our portion sizes have increased along with our girths. I had to adapt some of them slightly, so where dripping was suggested, I used butter instead, and I used brown bread and white pepper in all the recipes, both which would have been more common at the turn of the century. In the Indian Recipe, I used chicken thighs in place of rabbit, not due to any squeamishness on my part, as I like rabbit, but because I wanted to show that the recipes could be recreated with another ingredient for today’s taste.
1917: An Indian Recipe
Cut a fowl or rabbit in small pieces. Shred onion small and fry in butter. Sprinkle fowl with flour, salt and curry powder, and fry till a nice brown. Then add a pint of stock. Stew slowly to half quantity, and then serve with rice. Slice 3 large Spanish onions very fine, and fry to a pretty light brown. Sprinkle this over the above stewed chicken or rabbit.
I thoroughly enjoyed “test-driving” these 100-year-old recipes, and it made for a very tangible connection with the housewives of the day, as well as making me feel that in some way I had contributed to the First World War’s centenary in a very personal way. I have shared some cooking notes and authentic recipes from WW1 below and I hope you have enjoyed my WW1 project cooking on The Home Front. See you soon with more recipes, travel notes and news, have a relaxing weekend, Karen
The Mid-Day Meal – Pea Soup
Take one pound split peas, a good-sized piece of dripping, a piece of carrot, a piece of turnip, an onion, a little minced parsley, salt and pepper. Wash the peas well, and soak them over night. Put them on to boil with two or three quarts of cold water and the dripping. When the soup comes thoroughly to the boil, put in the onion, neatly cut into pieces. After it has boiled for three hours, strain it, and return it to the pot, adding the pepper and salt, the grated carrot and turnip, and the minced parsley. Let it come again to the boil. Serve a slice of toasted bread cut into squares with the soup.
Butter the bottom and sides of a pie-dish, and spread a layer of mashed potatoes on the bottom. On this put a layer of chopped cold meat, nicely seasoned with pepper and salt, and a little onion and a dusting of herbs. Then arrange another layer of potatoes and meat; add a little thick gravy. Cover the dish with a nice crust, and cook until pastry is done. A.C., Dundee.