Looking at my mother-in-law’s school cook’s recipe book, I wonder how many people who are so critical of school dinners now, would be amazed at what was on offer back then; the cooks were all properly trained and the food they cooked was very strictly controlled and balanced for a decent diet for the children and young people they were catering for. There was variety,  economical ways of using cheaper cuts and plentiful seasonal fruit and vegetables, and dried and preserved produce at other times of the year. This cookery book dates back to the early 1950’s, although I have a later edition.

Looking at the section entitled ‘supplementary recipes – pastry’ there are nineteen desserts; as you might imagine there are plenty of recipes using apples, cheap, plentiful and wholesome – to use a term current at the time – apple and apricot flan, apple flan, apple and pumpkin pie (pumpkins are not just a recent arrival from the USA!!) apple royal and spiced oat apple. Rhubarb, another readily available, locally grown product is also on the menu, rhubarb and date slices (dried dates, cheap and available) and rhubarb layer pudding. Apricots were used in the apple flan, but also with coconut (dried, cheap, always available) apricot and coconut slice, and figs, also dried and no doubt delicious in fruit dessert strips.

Once bananas and lemons were imported again after the war, hey began to appear on all menus, including those in schools, so in my mother in law’s little book there is banana flan, Canadian lemon flan, lemon cream flan and baked lemon and coconut pudding. Rationing may have been well and truly over but there were still items used which would not appear now – or not in any named form! Marrow for example, appears in lemon flan and in marrow and apple pie; I’m sure it could still be used as a cheap ‘filler’ with nothing unnatural in it and being mostly made up of water! Dried coconut, oats, jam – what might be called store-cupboard essentials  are used in crunchy tart, jam and coconut tart as well as other recipes I’ve already mentioned.

With the recipes below, remember that these are for a hundred (100) children – so divide the ingredients accordingly!

Delaware pudding must have sounded exciting to the children (maybe they made the dinner ladies’ lives a misery in 1959 by singing ‘Oh, what did Delaware boy what did Delaware’ every time it was on the menu!) and it sounds delicious too:

  • pastry
  • 6 lbs chopped apples
  • 4 lbs currants or sultanas
  • 3 lbs
  • golden syrup
  • mixed spice
  1. line tins with pastry reserving some for top
  2. mix the ingredients thoroughly and divide between tins
  3. cover with remaining pastry, steam for 2½-3 hours and serve with hot fruit sauce or custard

Hayton tart took a little more preparation, but I’m sure, adjusting it for modern tastes in terms of sweetness, it would be a great dessert!

  • rich flan pastry
  • meringue made with 36 whites of egg, 3 lbs castor sugar
  • filling 1 – 3 lbs apricot jam and 10 lbs cooking apples cut in thick slices
  • filling 2 – 4½ lbs chocolate cut into small chips
  1. make the flan cases and bake blind
  2. using filling 1 – spread the pastry with jam, fold the meringue and apple slices together and put into flans, dust with castor sugar, bake in a slow oven until the meringue is set and the apples cooked
  3. using filling 2 – fold the chocolate chips lightly into the meringue, place into flans, bake in a slow oven until the meringue is set

Prune pie is also very simple; I love prunes and this sounds really nice, but I think I would cut back on the sugar, and maybe even omit it!

  • pastry
  • 10 lbs prunes, soaked overnight in cold water
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 lbs brown sugar
  1. drain excess liquor, add sugar and grated lemon rind and juice and put into dish
  2. cover with pastry, brush with water and sprinkle with castor sugar
  3. bake in a hot oven

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