Philip Harben wrote a lot of the recipes which appear in his Cooking Quickly recipe book at a previous time of austerity, which was nothing like we have now… we are so lucky in comparison… he describes being “heartily and miserably sick of that dreary word” and “in the midst of a world famine“. Some of his recipes reflect that austerity, but I daresay in the postwar years when people prepared and sat down to teat them the jolly bonhomie of Mr Harben brightened their dining.

Some of his recipes were very simple – rather like student cooking! For example, the curious sounding ‘cheese soup’ sounds exactly like what we might have cooked as hard-up students!

Cheese soup

Add grated cheese – 1 oz to the pint of ordinary Cheddar (much less if a strong cheese like Parmesan) to boiling water, well-flavoured with any good propriety ‘meat extract’. This is surprisingly good. The flavours blend perfectly, and the cheese makes it really nourishing – more than can be said for most ‘consommés.’

I have to say I’m not convinced on that one, but celery leaf soup sounds delicious – and again, how economical to use the leaves as well as the stalk!

Celery leaf soup
(25 mins, 6 people)

  • 1 small button onion or 1 oz of onion
  • 1 lb potatoes
  • 1 oz fat of any sort
  • 1 pint milk which can be either fresh, diluted, condensed or reconstituted powder (if you use powdered milk use 2 oz of fat instead of 1)
  • ½ oz flour
  • 1 oz soya flour (optional
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 good pinches of pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped celery leaves
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped celery heart

peel and chop a small button onion and put it into a good saucepan with a cup of water. While it is coming to the boil peel potatoes and chop them up into pieces smaller than lumps of sugar. Put the pieces of potato into the saucepan with the boiling onion. Put the lid on and cook gently for about 10 minutes. Frequently stirring with a fork if necessary to prevent the potato sticking to the bottom of the pan as the water reduces.
At the end of the cooking time you will find that the water has nearly all gone and the pieces of potato are beginning to break up. Mash them thoroughly with your fork till there are no lumps left, and then throw in the fat and begin to whip the mashed potatoes. Sprinkle in the flour and the soya flour if used, and mix well in. Now thin the purée down gradually with the milk, until you have a smooth, thin cream; add the chopped celery leaves, salt and pepper, and simmer for ten minutes, to give the leaves time to infuse their flavour. Make the total quantity to one quart, with water. At the time of serving, sprinkle into each bowl of soup, a teaspoon of raw finely chopped celery heart.

 

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