WARTIME RECIPES: WHAT TO COOK IN LEAN TIMES
Updated: Jan 7
How do we navigate the kitchen when food is in short-supply?
Empty shelves, longer than usual queues, and a slight panic to be the first in the door when the next shipment comes in. This has just been in the past week, not only in Canada, but across the world. While scenes like this may be unfamiliar to many of us, there was a time in the not-so-distant past when not all foodstuffs were plentiful. During the Second World War, a lot of our parents, grand-parents - and for some - great-grandparents had to simply make do with a little less. Certain items were short due to difficulties in transportation, or rationed to make them last as long as possible. Getting troops on the front lines enough to eat was vital for the war effort, and as a result, folks on the home front often had to make sacrifices.
In light of the current COVID-19 crisis, as many are currently rushing to supermarkets for non-perishable food items and finding themselves having to self-isolate, I wanted to share with you all some old-fashioned recipes that saw our forbears through their darkest hours. It's not all doom and gloom, of course; food, just as in life, is what you make of it! That being said, let's take a look at what you can make right now at home, even on a limited supply.
1) Duchess Soup
Soup is a great way to economise when you only have a few ingredients!
- 1 qt milk
- 3 tbsp flour
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp chopped parlsey
- 1 tbsp minced onion
- few grains cayenne
- 3 tbsp grated cheese
- salt & pepper
Scald milk and onions together. Pour over flour and butter which have been thoroughly blended together. Cook well, stirring constantly. Remove from fire and add grated cheese and chopped parsley. Season to taste and serve at once. This recipe is taken directly from the Navy League of Canada's "Victory Cookbook" (c. 1941).
2) "Good Supper Dish"
Here's a super easy one for everyone right now. All you need is some sausage, rice, and a can of tomatoes. Tomatoes are one of the best canned foods to have, not only are they super healthy, but they can add a ton of flavour to an otherwise bland dish! Here's a recipe for a "Good Supper Dish", also from the Navy League:
"1 can tomatoes, 1 and half cups rice. Cook rice in tomatoes. Canned sausage or par boil some sausage to remove superfluous fat. Place rice and tomato in casserole and cover with sausage. Bake in oven til sausage is cooked and brown."
3) Wartime Carrot Biscuits
You can't forget dessert! And if you're unable to run out for cookies, or are missing your daily after-work coffee shop treat, these are perfect! You will need:
- 1 tbsp margarine - 2 tbsp sugar + a little extra - Few drops vanilla flavouring - 4 tbsp grated raw carrot - 6 tbsp of plain flour
- 1/2 tsp of baking powder).
Cream the fat and sugar until light and fluffy, then, beat in the flavouring and carrot. Fold in flour, then form mixture into small balls. As you would with cookies, place each ball on a baking tray and flatten.
"Sprinkle with sugar and bake in a brisk oven for 20 minutes."
This recipe was adapted from a community page entitled "Recipes Past & Present". You can check it out here.
4) Baked Corn and Tomatoes
- 2 cups cooked corn, canned or fresh
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 cups tomatoes
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
Mix and place in buttered baking dish. Cover with crumbs. Dot with butter and bake at 350 degrees F. Half an hour. Also from the Navy Victory Cookbook!
5) Lord Woolton Pie
A real staple of wartime Britain, this dish is filling, low in fat, and packed full of vegetables. This recipe for Lord Woolton pie derives from an original Ministry of Food leaflet. Check it out here.
No juice and don't want to head to the grocery store for fear of spreading the virus? No problem. With a few simple home ingredients you can have your electrolytes restored easily. This recipe comes from the Navy League of Canada's "Victory Cookbook" (c. 1941).
-4 lbs sugar
-2 oz citric acid
-4 pts boiling water
"Grate orange rinds. Let sugar and water boil to dissolve well. Add grated rinds and acid crystals, do not use orange juice. Let stand until cool, strain and bottle. For a drink, add about 2 tablespoons syrup to glass of water."
7) Homemade Bread
It wouldn't be wartime if we weren't making bread. This is a staple food we probably all take for granted today. So, if you didn't buy bread before self-isolating, or don't have enough frozen, here's a couple of recipes for some delicious homemade bread:
a) Wartime bread (typically whole wheat flour & with oats for extra nutrients)
b) Traditional three bun bread (my favourite!)
8) Fish Chowder
This recipe is a family one, it's so simple, and has been a staple for generations of my family. Though it certainly fits the bill for wartime, it has stuck around and is a great one for you to try if you're looking for something easy, filling, and economic. You will need:
- 1 onion
- 2 sticks of celery
- 3-4 potatoes
- 2 fillets of fish, depending on size (cod or bass recommended)
- 2-3 tbsp butter
- 2 cups of water
- 1 can evaporated milk (or 1 and a half cups of cream)
Chop vegetables and mix together with butter in large pot. Stir over medium heat for ten minutes. Next add water and bring to the boil. Once vegetables are nearly cooked, turn heat all the way down and add milk (or cream). Then add fish. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Serves 4.
9) Beans & Toast
You've probably got a can of beans somewhere in the pantry, and just that and a loaf of bread can be all you need for a nutritious (& delicious!) meal. Beans are full of protein, and this meal is designed to fill you up. Though not necessarily uncommon today, beans & bread was a staple during wartime (also beans n' spam!). If you want, and you have handy, add some chopped bacon or ham for additional flavour. You can choose to do toast or bread, and whether you want them separate or beans on top. Even add eggs if you like and make a full breakfast style meal.
10) Hot Cheese Salad
Also taken from the Victory Cookbook, this is a simple recipe for those looking for something a little green.
"Make a thick white sauce with butter, flour. milk, salt and pepper, and grated cheese. Then add crab meat and sliced hard-boiled eggs and serve on lettuce leaves."
11) Cucumber Pineapple Salad (Jello)
- 2 tbsp. gelatine
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1/2 lemon (juice)
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 cup cucumber (diced)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup shredded pineapple
- 1/2 cup vinegar
"Soak gelatine in cold water, dissolve in boiling water. Add remaining ingredients and chill until firm."
This recipe makes a great side and tastes almost like dessert! If you don't have pineapple or cucumber, use other fruit.
12) Round Steak In Casserole (Stew)
- 1 and 1/2 lbs of round steak (cut up)
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp parsley
- 3/4 tbsp chopped onion
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 3 small onions
- 1 cup stock or water
- 3 potatoes
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 2 tbsp fat
- 4 tbsp flour
- 1 carrot
"Season meat with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with flour. Melt fat in pan; when it is hot, brown meat on both sides and put in casserole with finely chopped carrot and onions. Add chopped onion and parsley to fat in the pan and fry for 2 minutes. Add flour, stirring until smooth, then add stock or water. Stir in lemon juice and paprika and pour over meat. Add potatoes, cut small. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees F."
For one of my personal favourites, also a great retro recipe, substitute the beef for chicken and the carrot for sliced mushrooms (canned or fresh). Chop one large oni. Add two chopped celery sticks, and following the recipe above, fry and add stock. Then add 3 diced tomatoes and cook for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
Boil the potatoes separately and mash them. Then add the casserole on top of your potatoes. Makes an incredible meal! See the recipe I use here: Devonshire Chicken Casserole.
Thanks for reading!
If you want to see how some of these recipes hold up, we are going to be trying some of them out over the next while and posting them to our YouTube channel (MyVintageLifestyle)!
And if you are interested in more wartime recipes, check out our Wartime Recipes cookbook, now available on Etsy!
Don't forget to follow us on Instagram! @thevintagelifestyleblog