From school dinners to Lebanon

I have been investigating the old school dinner puddings of semolina, sago and tapioca. They were milk puddings with sugar and served with red jam – not strawberry jam, or raspberry jam but red jam. I had a look in my mother-in-law’s school cookery recipe book from when she was the cook in a school kitchen. The beginning of the section on dried milk and milk puddings starts with instructions on how to reconstitute dried milk – 2 lbs dried milk to one gallon of water and 2 oz margarine!

The first recipe is an all-purpose recipe for milk puddings which can be made using whole grains, e.g. rice, barley, sago, macaroni and spaghetti, crushed grain, e.g. semolina, or powdered grain, e.g. cornflour. The recipe for semolina is 4 parts milk ( plus ½ part margarine), to 3 lbs semolina, to 2 parts sugar, pinch of salt. It’s so simple – bring the milk, sugar, margarine, salt, to the boil, stir in the semolina and stir well until cooked. There is a chocolate option, substituting some of the semolina with cocoa. There are recipes for a cornflour pudding (sounds horrid) chocolate blancmange, rainbow blancmange (thirds coloured white pink and chocolate and set in layers – I hate blancmange at school and I don’t even think the rainbow option would tempt me) custard rice, junket and jelly cream.

I’m sure my mother-in-law would have loved to have made this for the school children:

Lebanese cake

  • use a square tin, greased and lined, 9×9 inch
  • 4 eggs separated
  • 12 oz castor sugar
  • 1 tsp zest of orange
  • 5 tsp aniseed flavoured liquor – such as raki or ouzo
  • 3 fl oz orange juice (from your zested orange)
  • 3½ oz semolina
  • 2½ oz ground almonds
  • finely cut slivers of lemon peel
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (from your peeled lemon)
  1. best egg yolks with 3 oz sugar and orange zest, until very pale
  2. beat in liquor
  3. stir in orange juice, semolina and almonds and leave to stand for at least 30 mins
  4. beat egg whites until very stiff then gently fold into rested semolina mixture
  5. bake at gas mark 4, 180° C, 350° F for about 20-25 mins
  6. while it is baking, make the syrup – put all ingredients with 8 fl oz water into a pan and heat gently for about 5 mins
  7. do not let it boil but make sure the sugar is dissolved, then take off the heat
  8. take the cake from the oven when cooked and very gently pour over the syrup



  1. David Lewis

    I remember that the meat in the stew at school was mostly gristle and I would get sick trying to eat it. I would hide it in my pockets and throw it over the schoolyard fence to an eager dog. Got caught once and got caned again by Miss Merriweather. I think she was a sadist. It’s a wonder that I turned out half-assed normal when it comes to dealing with women. Hey Teachers! Leave us kids alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lois

      I’m trying to remember what we called meat like that… I’m sure we had a particular name… It was very particularly gristly, wasn’t it!! Horrid, nasty Miss Merriweather!


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