To round off my week’s World War Two rationing challenge I have been busy baking. I thought making some sweets and cakes might fill me up and the action and scent of baking cheer me up at the same time.
Kerri left a message on the blog suggesting I make something called carrot fudge. I’m not sure if it’s something our latest TV cookery queen, model Sophie Dahl aka The Delicious Miss Dahl, whose new series started this week, would dream of presenting viewers with, but I was curious. Unfortunately while I had a carrot, I couldn’t get my hands on any gelatine. It wasn’t in the local shop and my neighbours didn’t have any. Nor did I have any animal bones at home to boil to produce it myself, so I found something similar to make in my Eating for Victory cookbook which sounds even worse – crumb fudge. Yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s made from crusts dried in the oven.
Not to use up too much fuel at once, I decided to make a vegan cake at the same time – a vanilla sponge cake, which Flo had suggested I try out. I was a bit worried as I didn’t have enough olive oil left in my rations to make it with. In the end, the cake mixture was dry but I baked it anyway. What emerged from the oven was more of an enormous biscuit than a cake, but it wasn’t entirely inedible.
Strangely enough, while the crumb fudge sounded oddball, it turned out to be the better dessert of the two. I dried the crusts in the oven and then smashed them with a rolling pin into fine breadcrumbs. The cookbook recommended saving them in a tin for a few months. And as they are just fine croutons, it seems like a very good use for them. Once I threw the syrup, butter, sugar and cocoa into a saucepan and it began to melt, I found myself sticking my finger in and it tasted surprisingly good. I thought adding the crumbs would make it weird, but they looked strangely like hazelnuts. Perhaps I was hallucinating. I wondered what on earth the Delicious Miss Dahl – staring at me from last week’s issue of the Radio Times – would make of it all. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw her turn a light shade of green.
All in all, I’m amazed by the ingenuity people displayed during World War Two. There are plenty of lessons we can all learn from those days, such as not wasting food and thinking outside the box in terms of recipes (admittedly not all the recipes I would want to see again). But not having your usual ingredients stretches your ability as a cook and I think I’ve been found wanting! I would never have considered making a vegan cake for example before, but it was a brilliant solution for even a carnivore lacking eggs and margarine.
But I am very glad that I didn’t live through those difficult times, and not just because of the food. That said, I hadn’t realised just how much my own sense of wellbeing revolves around the need for tasty grub. I’m quite shocked by that and feel I’ve learned something new about myself. All I can say is how glad I am our cuisine has improved over the past 70 years. A little garlic and chilli powder goes a long way!
Do you think British cooking has improved since the war? Does Britain have an unfair reputation for poor cuisine? Leave a message and let me know your thoughts.
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