These days we can almost every type of food all the year round, unless we really make the effort to be seasonal in what we cook and eat, we can have anything at any time. This wasn’t the case in 1936 when my copy of the National mark Calendar of Cooking was published, issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, was published in 1936, by the National Mark a government organisation, created in the late 1920’s.

The National Mark Calendar of Cooking, is exactly that; a recipe book which takes the housewife through the year, promoting home-grown fruit, vegetables and other produce. For this month’s recipes, new fruits have been included as they come into season, gooseberries and strawberries, and lots of new vegetables – which must have been a wonderful treat for families who had been eating mostly cabbage and leaf vegetables, roots and ‘forced’ vegetables. Strawberries are on the menu, “the most delicious and yet most uncertain fruit in England” as the author describes them and gooseberries for which a recipe of gooseberry tart with mock cream is included. Two varieties of beans are now available, no longer forced (grown under glass or in special conditions) beetroot and peas, and leeks, seakale and swede have disappeared, to make their return in the autumn.

The recipes have a summer feel too – beetroot soup, cucumber cream soup, duckling with new peas, six summer salads, asparagus tips and cheese… these recipes might be eighty years old but they seem very summery and tempting to me!

No-one but my likes cucumber, and I can’t imagine making a small enough quantity to try, but here is a recipe for cucumber soup (yes, I know, it does sound a bit odd!)

Cucumber cream soup

  • 1½ cucumbers
  • 1 oz butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 oz flour
  • ½ pint milk
  • 3 tbsp cream or unsweetened evaporated milk
  • a little sugar
  • 1 pint white stock or chicken broth
  • salt and pepper
  1. scoop out about 1 tbsp of tiny cucumber ‘peas’ or cut into small dice, boiled in a little salt water, drained and set aside
  2. peel and cut cucumber into slices, removing seeds if they are big or tough
  3. melt butter in pan, add flour, gradually add stock/broth, sugar,, salt and pepper, stirring while you bring it to the boil
  4. add the sliced cucumber and simmer until tender
  5. rub through a sieve (or blend it) add the milk and return to the pan – bring back to temperature
  6. blend the egg yolk and cream and stir into the soup OFF the heat
  7. allow to cook – but not boil for about 5 minutes
  8. add the cucumber balls or dice and serve

I haven’t a separate picture of a cucumber, but here is a salad which features them!

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