- Food & Drink
At The Imperial War Museum, The Ministry of Food exhibition is currently explaining how we didn’t just fight them on the beaches, but also on the hob, in the oven and queueing at the butchers. To tie in with the exhibition, the cafe has been transformed into The Kitchen Front and is offering museum visitors the thrilling interactive experience of getting to eat some of the dishes they’ve just learned about.
Apparently they’re not that tasty, but the last time I went, the rabbit stew and national bread were all gone and I had to make do with a tuna mayonnaise sandwich and a trip around the nuclear war section.
Being a sucker for punishment, I decided to create a rationing dish at home and I plumped for Woolton pie. I’ve actually made it before, for Leonard’s 1940s themed birthday party, except that I stuffed the filling into buttery pastry cases (no one likes rationing, not even for an evening). The original 1941 recipe called for 1lb each of potatoes, cauliflower, swedes and carrots, 3 or 4 spring onions, 1 tsp of vegetable extract, 1 tbsp oatmeal and parsley, to be cooked on the hob for 10 minutes and then baked under a potato or wholemeal pastry crust.
I adapted it a bit, based on what I did and didn’t have in the fridge (and I completely forgot to add the parsley) and I topped it with potato pastry. The result is what I would call ‘sustenance’. It’s stodge of the thickest kind and if anyone ever wanted to prove that British food was bland, they could point at Woolton pie and say: “You see!”
That isn’t to say it’s bad. If the weather was cold and you’d be working hard all day and built up a huge appetite, a bowl of this with gravy poured all over it would be the edible equivalent of a warm bed with fluffy pillows and a pile of blankets. But it isn’t very exciting. If I was going to make it again, I’d firstly not forget the parsley. I’d also add spring onions in as well as the leek and I’d stir in some wholegrain mustard.
75g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 leek (about 200g untrimmed), trimmed and sliced into rings
350g cauliflower, broken into small florets
400g swede, peeled and chopped into small cubes
450ml hot vegetable stock
4 tbsp oats
2 tsp Marmite
2 tbsp fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 Peel and chop 700g potatoes. Cook in boiling water for about 20 minutes until tender. Drain thoroughly, return to the pan and mash until very smooth. Mash in the butter, then sift in the flour and baking powder with a pinch of salt. Stir to combine. Set aside.
2 Peel and dice the remaining potatoes. Place in a pan with the leek, cauliflower and swede. Add the vegetable stock, cover and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C/fan oven 160°C.
3 Stir the oats and Marmite into the vegetables and season to taste. Spoon into an 11/2 litre ovenproof dish with a slotted spoon. Spoon the potato pastry over the top of the pie filling. Bake for 30–40 minutes until the golden brown. Serve with gravy and extra veg.