Monday, 29 July 2013

I Like a Nice Cup of Tea

What with tea being rationed, you had to make sure to get as much as possible out of every cup. This little British WWII film shows you how. A delightful little gem, I think!

Thursday, 18 July 2013


I've mentioned before that in Sweden during the war egg powder wasn't used to the extent it was in Britain. In fact, I haven't seen egg powder in the sense "dehydrated eggs" in any recipe here. Instead, we had something called "SMP" – "SMP White" and "SMP Yellow" (or "SMP Yolk", the word for yolk in Swedish is simply "yellow"). Usually there's no explanation of what it is or how it is to be used; it's clearly assumed that everyone knows.

Due to circumstances I shan't go into here, I was given a "SMP Cookbook" a few years ago "for bakeries, coffee shops, restaurants and food establishments" that explains a little more in depth what it actually was.

SMP White, it's said, is a protein product in powder form "extracted from one of our most valuable nutrional foods – milk." It gives a protein solution that can easily be whipped into a firm mass with plenty of volume, excellent for meringues, to make light custards and for cooking. 3 gr of SMP White powder + 17 gr of water equals one egg white. To whip it, you mix 100 gr of powder with 1 litre water, and in order to get the best results, you should let it stand for a few hours before whipping.

Apparently this is what it would look like once it was whipped. Not too unlike egg white!

SMP Yellow is said to be made from milk and be "the equivalence of egg yolk". Nor further explanation is given, but it is stated that SMP Yellow can substituted for at least 50% of ordinary egg yolk, or egg powder. It can also be used in sauces, in various dishes, mayonnaise and ice cream and on bread and other products to greate a golden crust. 6 gr of SMP Yellow + 26 gr of water = 1 egg yolk, apparently. When baking, you can mix it dry with the flour.

Look at the happy chef, baking with his fake egg powder! Wouldn't you like to be this happy?

3 gr of the White and 6 gr of the Yellow powder mixed with 43 gr of water is said to equal one egg. You should mix the powder dry and then stir in the water. This blend is can substitute 50% of the eggs in a recipe  when baking and making "more demanding dishes" like omelettes, finer sauces, soufflées etc. For "simpler dishes" like pancakes, bread, simple cakes etc it is claimed to be able to be used entirely in the place of eggs.

Apparently this is an example of a cake made partly from egg substitute.
I'm rather sorry you can't buy it anymore, so when cooking my Swedish wartime recipes, I'll have to use real eggs instead. But it is rather intriguing, isn't it? If it worked, why did they stop making it? If nothing else, it could be good for people with allergies!

Some sort of meringues, I think, made without egg

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Just an ordinary day

So, being an almost vegetarian trying out a ration book life style, what would a typical day for me look like? Last week, it could be something like this:

Breakfast: Two slices of crisp tunnbröd, scraped with hummus with sliced cucmuber. A pot of lapsang.

After that, I take the bike to work, about 5-6 miles, and work for a few hours.

Mid-morning snack: A cup of coffee with a little milk, two more slices of bread, this time scraped with apple sauce.

Then more work, until lunch.

Lunch: porridge made from oats and dried apple, spiced up with a little cinnamon and cardamom, with a little apple sauce and milk.

About 30 min walk to stretch my legs.

Work, work, work, only interrupted by some coffee with a little milk and some snacking on fresh fruit.

Take the bike home, 5-6 miles.

Dinner: The mushroom & cabbage stew (recipe yesterday) with a large helping of plain boiled potatoes and lots of fresh salad.

Later, there's usually more coffee or tea and a crisp roll. I usually get mega-cravings right before bed so I have some (sometimes a lot) of fresh fruit.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Mushroom & cabbage stew

One problem with wartime food is that it's usually not very pleasing to the eye. It makes for rather bad food blogging, because clearly, who gets inspired by brown stew and potatoes? Not the most aesthetic food, obviously, but there you are. Better brown stew with Churchill today than humble pie with You-know-who tomorrow!

This was a stew made with things I already had at home and it's really more winter food than summer-y, but since I made it on a glum and rainy day, I didn't mind.

Serves 4

  • 2 small or one large onion
  • A hefty piece of cabbage
  • Plenty of dried mushrooms
  • Meat or vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp cooking fat (I used olive oil)
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 + 1 tbsp flour
  • salt, pepper, hot water

Start by heating water and pouring it over the mushrooms, taking care to let them stand and swell for about an hour. Drain the mushrooms, but save the water – it'll make a lovely base for your stew.

Chop the onions and the cabbage. Heat the fat (but not the butter) and let the onions soften and get a little golden. Add the cabbage and let it simmer until the cabbage is starting to soften and look a little golden too.

Mix the butter and the flour, and add it to the pan. Sprinkle the second tbsp of flour over the vegetables and stir. Add the water from the mushrooms and as much stock as you need to get a nice stew-like look to it. Finally, add the mushrooms.

Stir and let it simmer until the cabbage is soft and the stew has thickened a little. Taste with salt and pepper and serve with potatoes and some fresh vegetables (if you have them).

This recipe uses very little rationed ingredients – only the fats, actually, but it's really tasty and plenty filling!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Home Front Reproduction Memorabilia Pack

A while back I ordered some books from and among the suggestions based on my shopping, I found The Home Front Memorabilia pack (pictured above). Since it was just a little over £6 I added it too my order and a few days later it landed in my letter box.

I have to say it was extremely good value for money – several reproductions of government leaflets, a sample of a ration book, a Woman's Illustrated, tickets complete with war slogans etc. It was nice since everything was reproduced as is – with smears and stamps etc. I think it's meant to be used in schools and I can really see how that would bring home the realities of the war to children in a way mere words cannot.

I see that there are several more packages and I'm a little tempted to get the Women's War Package and the Blitz newspapers and... You see, what I'm like, right? Like Cookie Monster, i want it all!

Anyway, just wanted to pass on the tip for anyone interested in the gritty realities of the British Home Front.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Sewing Conversion Cheat Chart

If, like me, you are a home sewer (and you should be in the interest of mend and make do), you will probably often run into patterns using a different measuring system than you do. Me, I'm forever trying to convert inches to cm in my head and I finally got so tired of it I decided to make a conversion chart. Since I figured I wasn't the only one with this problem, I decided to share it, so here you are – The Inches To Centimetres Conversion Chart For The Frustrated Home Sewer:

 Hope you'll find it useful!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Butter & Bread - hard to do without

Recently, I visited the Army Museum in Stockholm, where they have the exhibition called To Feed An Army about food and war. One section of the exhibition concerns rationing during World War II (in which we were not actively taking part, but were affected nonetheless), and that naturally interested me especially.

I was intrigued to find this newspaper clipping which concerns a survey regarding what people thought of the rationing system. Basically, they had asked people how they felt about the rationing of
  • flour & bread (top left in picture)
  • butter (top right)
  • pork (lower left)
  • meat (lower right)
The options were "adequate", "tight" and "inadequate" and you can see the results in the pie charts above, where white = adequate, grey = tight and black = inadequate. It's interesting to see that over 50% found the meat rations adequate, while almost as many (46% and 44% respectively) found it very hard to get by on the allotted amount of bread and butter.

I think the answer lies in what was the staple of people's food – not even before the war that many people could afford to eat beef very often, and so the meat rationing didn't affect them that much. Bread, however, was one of the staple food groups for most people and so they felt the rationing much more keenly.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting enough to share with you all. Has anyone seen anything similar regarding another nations?

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Save some scraps, feed a hen!

Source: National Archives, UK (Cat ref INF13/143 f13)

During the war, the egg shortage in the UK was a major nuisance. There was dried egg powder coming into the UK from America, rationed at one package – the equivalence of a dozen eggs – every four weeks. You were only allowed one fresh egg a week, with extra allowances for pregnant women and small children. Before the war, the average consumption had been 3 eggs a week; the same amount as you could consume in the form of dried eggs during the war. This had not been equally distributed, though, so in fact, the poorer groups probably got more protein from eggs during the war than they had before.

In Sweden, eggs in cooking and baking were quite often exchanged for "SMP-white" (for egg white) and "SMP-yellow" (for egg yolk), but I'm not quite sure if that was made from eggs or something else – I seem to recall seeing something about it being made from milk rather than egg. Quite often, though, I find that the recipes recommend that you can exchange egg products for "egg colour", adding nothing but a little yellowish colour, so that any thickening must be left to flour or starch. That sounds bad, doesn't it? So one can understand the message in the poster above – save the scraps and feed the hens!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Elisabeth's Grandmother's Dessert Pie

Fellow Dieter and Swede Elisabeth shared a Swedish wartime recipe for pie. She says about the recipe:

"It is passed on from my grandmother to my mother to me. Notice it has little sugar, but very much flour - they were farmers and had good access to flour, but not to the rationed sugar."
Here it is:
  • 100 g sugar (a little more than 1 dl, 1dl sugar = 0,85 hg) 
  • 200 g butter 
  • 300 g flour (6 dl of flour - be sure to sweep of the excess, "strukna mått") 
  • Fruit or berries
Mix it all into a paste (or dough) and use about a third to make a bottom crust. Bake in 150 °C until it has a nice golden coulor.

Fill crust with apples (or berrys, for example a mix of raspberry and blueberry), use remaining dough to make a top-crust. Bake in oven until smells tempting and the cover has a nice colour.

Elisabeth says she always adds sugar over the berries or apples, and then enjoys it with lots of custard-sauce. Well, I don't know about "lots of custard sauce" but custard powder wasn't rationed in Britain so if you could get it... I'll leave you to sort that out with your conscience!

Monday, 8 July 2013

So you want to pitch in and do your part?

We all know about land girls, right? And we've all seen dozens of pictures with "land girl fashion" - most retro clothes retailers has at least one flowery dress or headscarf marketed using the term. But what did land girls wear, really?

Miss June Perry enrolled in the Women's Land Army 1943 to 1946 Photograph by Malby. Source:
Besides the ubiquitous dungarees, photos quite often show land girls in their uniform. The most distinctive feature of that is likely the roomy corduroy knee breeches and the knee socks, matched by a knitted sweater, with shirt and tie. So if you want to pitch in and do your part as a land girl, it seems the knee britches are a must. But where to get them?

Luckily, a while back I came across Corsetra Designs who has put up a free pattern for exactly those britches. I haven't tried it myself yet, but I am sorely tempted. Both the pattern and the instructions seem sound, so if I only had some tan corduroy... I especially like that since all land girls seem to have complained about the poor fit of the breeches and how huge they were, you can just err on the side of caution and not worry too much about fit. Too big is just authentic!

If someone else has tried the pattern or is willing to give it a go, I'd be happy to share your experiences! After all, the free world needs us!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Dig For Victory!

If you want to eat well this winter, you better get to work on that allotment/Victory garden! Watch my friend Paddy as he shows how to Dig For Victory in this little video made in, ahem, 1938:

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Great grandmother Anna's Wartime Apple Cake

The recipe is a bit odd, because the actual cake contains neither butter nor eggs and only very little fat poured over it. The story behind it is that my great grandmother, who was a cook, supposedly made this up during the war. My mother used to make this all the time when I grew up, always taking care to feed me some stories about wartime rationing with it.

I call it “apple cake” rather than “apple pie” because the result is very much like a very moist, heavy sort of sponge cake. It doesn’t need custard or ice cream or cream and it tastes even better cold and doesn't get dry - it's still fine after a few days in the fridge. It yields a lot too, so it'd be very good for some sort of festive occasion, either with tea or coffee, or as a simple and rustic dessert.
2,5 dl sugar (1 cup)
6 dl flour (2.5 cups)
3 dl milk (1.3 cups)
5 teaspoons baking powder
5-8 apples (depending on size)
sugar, cinnamon
butter or margarine according to taste (I’d say about 100 g but the more the tastier - but obviously, you could get away with much less)
  1. Peel and slice apples very thinly (remove the seeds and such first of course).
  2. Mix sugar, flour and baking powder. Pour the milk a little at the time while stirring. Stir until smooth. It’s going to be not quite like dough, but a lot stickier than when you make ordinary sponge cake or muffins.
  3. Prepare an oven-pan (a large one, I used one that was about 35×30 cm – about 11×14 inches) with butter and breadcrumbs. Pour the mixture into the dish.
  4. Cover it with layer of apple slices.
  5. Pour some sugar and cinnamon on them.
  6. Put on another layer of apples. Add more sugar and cinnamon.
  7. Finish by pouring the melted butter evenly over the cake.
  8. Bake in 225 °C (450 °F) for app 20 min

*Sorry for the poor picture quality; it's an old photo 

Monday, 1 July 2013

First week of experiment!

So the first week of my experience of living on war rations has passed.

I can report having both butter, meat, bacon, margarine, tea and sugar left of my ration, but I may have used a little too much milk. I also cheated one day when my mother invited me to dinner and fed me lamb chops and apple pie. The funny thing was that when she served me, my first reaction was "but you musn't waste your entire meat ration on me!" Then I realised that the stores are full of as much meat as we could want. For the sake of fiction, I will however pretend that she did (and I know she would have, had we really been at war). I ate some kippers (which would not have been rationed but hard to get), and one egg (scrambled) so technically I still have 3 eggs to go (from my "dried egg powder eggs"). I also spent a few points on lentils, but you get a lot of dried beans and the like for your points so I have plenty left. But I have been scouring the black market for coffee. I admit! I can't give up my coffee (which wasn't rationed in the UK, however, but I imagine very hard to come by).

So far? I feel good. Healthy, well-fed, no sugar cravings and I think I have rarely eaten so much fruit and greens as in the past week (and coming from a former vegetarian, that says a lot). Since I don't weigh myself I can't say if I shed any weight, but a staggering 5 cm (2 inches) has come off from my tummy so I'd be surprised if I didn't.