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!

Collared beef

Would anyone these days go to the trouble of preparing collared beef as is described in the 1930’s cookery booklet, the National Mark Calendar of Cooking? it is described as an excellent way of using cheap cuts of beef – “and is very delicious served cold with salad for luncheon, supper or breakfast!. This isn’t a dish you’d prepare for guests, it’s a dish to be eaten at home… and how may of us would eat beef for breakfast?

Should you be tempted, here is the recipe:

  • 4lb salted flank of beef
  • 1 small onion
  • bunch of herbs including parsley, thyme, a little sage and marjoram
  • 1 bayleaf
  • 3 blades of mace
  • 2 cloves
  • 20 allspice
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp celery seeds
  1. wipe the meat and remove any bones and gristle
  2. place it flat on a plate, and sprinkle with a little of the chopped herbs
  3. roll it tightly and tie the ends ad middle with string
  4. cove with a pudding cloth, put it into a saucepan with the remaining herbs and the spices
  5. cover with sufficient water and simmer for 3½ – 4 hours
  6. when cooked, place the meat in a meat press or press with a heavy weight – one means of doing this is to place it on a pastry board with a flat piece of wood on top and on this place several flat irons or heavy weights
  7. leave for 24 hours, remove the pudding cloth and brush over with meat glaze
  8. decorate with piped butter and garnish with parsley

meat glaze:

  • good beef bones
  • a little meat free from fat
  • vegetables but not potatoes
  • seasoning
  1. simmer everything very slowly for several hours
  2. remove the fat
  3. return to pan and reduce to the consistency of glaze

I’m not sure that with 4 lbs of meat, 2 cloves and a bayleaf would make much impact on the flavour at all! I’m also not sure whether the plate is involved in the cooking, is it put in the pan with the meat on it, covered in the pudding cloth? And does ‘cover’ mean just drape over the top or actually wrap round the whole joint? Who knows! Would this be a suitable recipe for a Nottingham jar? Maybe!