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!

More on goosegogs…

I can hardly wait for my gooseberries to be ripe – which sounds like a line from ‘The Two Ronnies’ – gooseberry crumble has been requested, but looking in Mrs Beeton, I also find recipes for gooseberry and currant jam, gooseberry cream, gooseberry fool, gooseberry pudding – baked or boiled, gooseberry tart, gooseberry trifle and gooseberry wine. A friend of ours made gooseberry wine and it was really delicious, very pale, pale green and very slightly pétillant.

  • the jam needs 6 lbs of red hairy gooseberries (this is sounding more and more like ‘The Two Ronnies’!) and ½ pint red currant juice
  • the  cream is sieved cooked gooseberries mixed with cream which has been thickened with gelatine and coloured with food colouring (Mrs Beeton suggests spinach-greening…)
  • the fool is made with a pint of pulp to ¼ pint whipped cream, sweetened to taste
  • the baked pudding is made from 1½ pints gooseberries which have been cooked in a jar standing in a saucepan of boiling water and rubbed through a sieve, added to ½ pint of breadcrumbs, 2 oz sugar, 1½ oz butter and poured into a dish lined with pastry and then baked – in Mrs Beeton’s day (18455 when this book was published, it would have cost 1 shilling)
  • boiled pudding has a pudding basin line with suet crust, filled with half of 1½ pounds of fruit, sprinkled with 2 tbsps of brown sugar and then the rest of the fruit added, put the suet crust on top and seal very carefully then cook for 2½-3 hours
  • the gooseberry tart sounds to us more like a pie as it is covered with pastry on top, but it has the same quantities of fruit and brown sugar as the boiled pudding
  • the trifle is just what you would expect a trifle to be,fruit, custard and cream, garnished with glacé cherries and strips of angelica
  • and gooseberry wine… is wine made out of gooseberries! I have no idea about wine making, and although the process sounds easy enough when you read about it, I’m sure there must be more to it than the recipe suggests!!
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