Cooking on the ration - including wartime recipes

Tuesday, 5th May 2020, 11:22 am
Updated Tuesday, 5th May 2020, 11:23 am

Food rationing was a way of life during World War Two and lasted long after VE Day, with some provisions not widely available until the mid-1950s.

As the nation commemorates 75th anniversary of VE Day on Friday May 8, we look at what was available and how we cooked.

The Dig for Victory campaign was launched so Brits could grow their own vegetables, including potatoes and carrots.

Other citizens were known to help themselves to rabbits, duck or pheasants - illegal poaching!Every citizen was issued with a booklet, which they took to a registered shopkeeper to receive supplies. At first, only bacon, butter and sugar were rationed.

Rationing went on well after 1945

Gradually, the list grew. Meat was rationed from March 11 1940, cooking fats in July 1940, as was tea, while cheese and preserves joined in March and May 1941.Allowances fluctuated throughout the war but, on average, one adult’s weekly ration was 113g bacon and ham (about four thin slices), one shilling and ten pence worth of meat (about 227g minced beef), 57g butter, 57g cheese, 113g margarine, 113g cooking fat, three pints of milk, 227g sugar, 57g tea and one egg.

Other foods such as canned meat, fish, rice, condensed milk, breakfast cereals, biscuits and vegetables were available, but in limited quantities on a points system.

Some types of imported fruit all but disappeared. Lemons and bananas became unobtainable for most of the war, oranges continued to be sold but greengrocers customarily reserved them for children and pregnant women, who could prove their status by producing their distinctive ration books.

The parsity of oranges inspired one of the funniest of Dad’s Army episodes. In the Love of Three Oranges, Captain Mainwaring bids for the fruit in a fundraising auction.Most controversial was bread. It was not rationed until after the war ended, but the “national loaf” of wholemeal bread replaced the ordinary white variety, to the distaste of most housewives who found it mushy, grey and easy to blame for digestion problems.

Copious amounts of tea and beer would have been drunk on VE Day.

In fact, many pubs ran out of ale by curfew and 10.30pm closing time.

Coffee, as we know it, did not exist.

Whisky was in short supply although rum was still issued to members of the Armed Forces.

Today, if you can get it, you can drink it. Just pace yourself and make sure your little ones also have their favourite tipple to toast victory with you.

Potato recipe

One of the characters that encouraged people to eat potatoes during the war was Potato Pete.Potatoes weren’t just healthy, with research showing children get more vitamin C, B1, B6, folate, iron, magnesium and potassium from potatoes than from beetroot, bananas, nuts, broccoli and avocado combined.They weren’t rationed and were home-grown.

One of the recipes was Potato PigletsThis recipe combines potato and sausage meat to produce the perfect Potato Piglet. The Ministry of Food, set up during the First World War, dedicated time to promote the health benefits of a wartime diet, and vegetables were regarded as the saviour of the wartime family.

Potato Pete

Ingredients:6 medium well-scrubbed potatoesCooked cabbage, lightly chopped6 skinned sausages

Method:Remove a centre core, using an apple corer, from the length of each potato, and stuff the cavity with sausage meat. Bake in the usual way and arrange the piglets on a bed of cooked cabbage.The potato removed from each is useful for soup.

Dessert on the ration

Because sugar, eggs and butter were rationed, it was a clever cook who could come up with a reasonable dessert.Sponge puddings were a speciality of many a housewife, adding ginger and cocoa powder to the basic mix.

Golden syrup, although also rationed, was a favourite ingredient ...Steamed and boiled puddings

Ingredients: serves four8 oz flour2 oz sugar2 oz fat1 dried egg (optional)1 teaspoon baking powder

Golden syrup

SaltWater or milk to mix

Method:Beat the fat and sugar until white and creamy.Then add the flour mixed with baking powder, salt and reconstituted egg alternately.Add enough milk to make the mix a dropping consistency.If no egg is used, mix with the milk alone. Add fruit or flavouring.Place in a greased basin cover with greased paper and steam for 1 ½ to 2 hours.