The 1930’s National Mark recipe book has some recipes which we could find today in any modern recipe book, which again proves that British cooking doesn’t deserve the reputation it had. I dare-say after the war there were many cafés and restaurants which served sub-standard food, and there were plenty of good reasons for that. There are plenty of cafés and restaurants today where the food is ordinary or poor – but that doesn’t mean British cooking as a whole is poor… but I’d better get off my pet hobby-horse and get back to the November recipes from the National Mark Calendar of Cooking.

The recipe book, written by Ambrose Heath and Mrs D.D. Cottington Taylor, is already looking forward to Christmas because there is a pudding recipe included (flour, eggs, beef suet, breadcrumbs, raisins, currants, sultanas, sweet almonds, mixed peel, dark brown sugar, nutmeg, mixed spice, zest and juice of a lemon and brandy) and mincemeat ( apples, carrots, beef suet, mixed peel, currants, raisins, sultanas, glacé cherries, Demerara sugar, almonds, mixed spice, brandy or raisin wine)

  • leek and potato soup
  • braised beef
  • onions stuffed with beef and mushrooms
  • bubble and squeak – a good tip!
  • egg and potato casserole
  • red cabbage
  • apples with chocolate
  • fruit milk pudding
  • cheese bread
  • stuffed celery

The soup sounds quite luxurious with eggs, cream and butter added towards the end, once it has been blended and sieved; the braise beef is prepared in an economical but creative way – the meat cut into slices but not quite cut right through so it has the appearance of a book and between the ‘pages’ is a stuffing of liver, onion and breadcrumbs, tied round to secure it and simmered in stock with herbs and added vegetables. There are two recipes for red cabbage, one from Limousin in France with added chestnuts and pork fat, and the other as a casserole with onions and spices and vinegar and sugar to give a sweet and sour slant.

The apple dessert has the cooked fruit filled with a chocolate sauce and covered in meringue which is baked in the oven until golden; the fruit milk pudding seems the most dated of recipes, but I guess it could be reworked to make something more current but with a retro style it is a dish with fruit in the bottom (the recipe calls for canned fruit, but I think we would use fresh!) covered with tapioca simmered in milk and with egg yolk and sugar added when it is cooked, then a meringue topping added and put back into the oven to brown.

The cheese bread is a simple homely dish, of bread soaked in milk and gently fried in butter with a cheesy topping, and the stuffed celery is celery stuffed with Stilton…

So… what is the good tip for bubble and squeak? For those who don’t know, bubble and squeak is a breakfast or lunch dish – served with eggs at breakfast and cold meat at lunch, made up of left over potatoes and other vegetables, fried into a crispy sort of rosti. Here, served with fried left-over beef, is the National Mark tip:

Everyone knows that delicious mixture of fried slices of boiled beef and a cake of mixed potatoes and greens. But not everyone knows this refinement!
When you are frying the potatoes and greens, mix them with one or two National Mark eggs (according to the size of the cake) cook this thoroughly through and see what a difference it makes.
Black pepper is better as a seasoning here than white, too.

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