A picnic with the National Mark

I was writing somewhere else about picnics, and I suppose I had picnics in my min when I was looking at my little National Mark Calendar of Cooking book from 1936. Maybe I wouldn’t pack a picnic for us with dishes from the little recipe book, but supposing I was writing about a family in the 1930’s who were going on a picnic, what might they take with them?

Mother no doubt would prepare it all, and I can imagine it in a traditional whisker basket or hamper, lined with a blue and white checked cloth. Father would find the right spot to lay out the rugs and cloth, and he would light the Primus stove to make tea.

Mother might have made sandwiches with the National Mark recipe for brown bread (wholemeal flour, yeast, butter, sugar, salt and tepid water) and maybe they would have beef in them. Collared beef (‘very delicious served cold‘) is beef simmered for a long time with onions, herbs (parsley, thyme, sage, marjoram)and spices (mace, cloves, bayleaf, allspice, pepper, celery seeds) – that would be delicious indeed in sandwiches! There were no plastic pots and tubs then, so I guess the salad was either brought as separate ingredients and prepared  sitting on the picnic rug, or maybe prepared and put into a bowl and wrapped in grease-proof paper. There is a lovely selection of salads in the June chapter:

  • celery leaf
  • lettuce and green peas
  • tomato and celery
  • cheese
  • rice, ham and tomato
  • cauliflower

Beef mayonnaise is another option instead of one of the salads above; cubes of beef, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, hard-boiled eggs and home-made mayonnaise (made with olive oil – it’s not just a recent fashion, pre-war cooks used it too!) There are lots of lovely desserts in this little book, desserts which would be practical to bring on a picnic. A sort of clafoutis made with plums, blackcurrant and almond paste tart, strawberry flan, gooseberry tart – and to go with the cup of tea father has made, fruit and nut cake or raisin brown bread. Father himself might prefer the cider cup!

My featured image, by the way is of my own  family on a picnic – a long time after the war I have to say!

Good Things of Life – Nottingham Pudding and Pickled Almonds

I came across some Australian recipes from 1933; my attention was drawn by Nottingham pudding, and I wondered if it involved a Nottingham jar which was like a casserole dish – a ceramic pot with a lid in which delicious things could simmer and cook. Well, no; a Nottingham pudding is a sweet, spiced batter poured into a well buttered dish (it sounds a bit like a clafoutis) and peeled, cored whole apples set into it and cooked until they are soft and the batter is crispy and light… sounds very nice, actually!

On the same page was a recipe for candied lemon peel which involved a lot of processes including brining the lemons for four days and cooking them for two hours before anything else happened. There was another recipe, for Worcestershire sauce which seemed mainly vinegar and mushroom ketchup boiled for many hours with spices and lemon then left to stand for a week before bottling… then, the recipe tells us, it will keep indefinitely.

A boiled fruit cake and an apple yeast cake, are both what you would expect, both sounding as if they would taste very good with a nice cup of tea… maybe they are the sort of things I could take on the family holiday next year!

Then came a recipe which sounds most intriguing, but I don’t think I will ever try, partly because it involves young, green almonds before the kernels have set… which I can’t imagine me ever coming across! At home as a child there was often a jar of pickled walnuts in the cupboard, my dad and I both loved them – you never see them these days; I have occasionally bought a jar but they are just sour and nasty… maybe it is time playing tricks, but I remember they had ‘bite’ and a distinctive flavour.

So if I – or you should ever come across some young, green almonds before the kernels have set, here is the recipe you need:

Pickled Almonds

  • young, green almonds before the kernels have set (no quantities are given so just use your instincts!)
  • salt for brine
  • vinegar (enough to cover almonds)
  • pickling spices
  1. wash the almonds thoroughly and prick with a darning needle (if you haven’t a darning needle, and I’m not sure any of us have such things these days, use a skewer or fork)
  2. . throw into a strong brine of salt and water (about a cup of salt to every quart of water) and leave for 24 hours
  3. heat the amount of vinegar required (enough to cover almonds), season with spices (as for pickled onions)
  4. bring to the boil and pour over the almonds
  5. put into jars and when cold tie down
  6. leave for at least a fortnight before using

I love recipes like this because it shows how people never used to waste anything; whatever the product or stage of its growth, or state of its condition it could be used for something.



Beef mayonnaise

I’m not sure that beef mayonnaise sounds very enticing for today’s foodies, but maybe it sounded exotic and delicious to cooks in 1935 when the National Mark Calendar of Cooking was written by Ambrose Heath and Dorothy Cottington Taylor. If it was described as beef salad, or beef with mayonnaise it might sound a little more appetising.

The little cookery book was divided up into months with seasonal recipes for each; I  like the sound of a lot of them but August’s don’t appeal quite as much… tomato ice, tomato jelly salad, stuffed cucumber (cooked) and beef mayonnaise… hmmm. The other recipes are more interesting, marrow soup (creamy and herby) fricassée of chicken in a lemon, parsley, butter and nutmeg sauce, plum batter (a little like a clafoutis) raisin brown bread and cider cup… I reserve judgement on stuffed cauliflower.

Beef mayonnaise

  • ½ lb cooked beef (presumably roast)
  • 2 lettuces
  • 1 cucumber sliced
  •  lb tomatoes, chopped, reserving a few slices for decoration
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, sliced
  • mayonnaise made from 2 egg yolks, ½ tsp each of salt and pepper, ½ pint olive oil, juice of ½ a lemon or 2 tsp vinegar
  1. arrange a few large lettuce leaves at the bottom and around the sides of a salad bowl,
  2. break up the rest of the lettuce, (reserving the two hearts) and tear into small pieces
  3. put the shredded lettuce, tomato cucumber, beef in a bowl with the mayonnaise and blend
  4. arrange the beef mayonnaise in the bowl with the lettuce leaves
  5. garnish with tomato slices, egg and lettuce hearts