On Sundays, we would have had a large roast. Aitchbone of beef, leg of mutton, or a hand of Pork. The roast would be accompanied by roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and a green vegetable depending on the season. The vegetables would include one of the following: cabbage, greens, Brussels sprouts, carrots, peas, turnips, swede and runner beans.
The beef would always be roasted while raised above the bottom of the pan on a trivet. Thirty minutes before the beef was cooked, my mother would pour in her mix for Batter Pudding. While this was cooking, all the juices already in the bottom of the pan, plus those yet to come out of the meat would mix in with the pudding, making the taste sensational.
We were a Catholic household, so, in those days, we ate fish on Friday. This would consist of Cod cutlets, sometimes known as Cod steaks. These would be cut sideways along the body of a large cod. Friday’s meal could also be fried scallops or a wing of Skate. The fish would be served with white sauce made from fresh parsley (supplied by the fish monger), potatoes mashed with milk and butter and, when available, fresh peas. There was nothing frozen available.
Monday to Thursday and Saturday our main meals would include cold meat, sometimes from the Sunday joint, rabbit casserole, meat pies, suet puddings, the most famous of which was an onion and bacon suet roll.
My mother would make a suet pastry, roll it out, sprinkle it liberally with lightly fried onions and chopped and, lightly cooked, bacon, then roll it up like a Swiss roll and steam it, in a cloth, for, at least, two hours.
Sometimes she would cook the pudding replacing the onions and bacon with Jam.
Here’s an original recipe for Suet Pastry:
1lb (450g) of flour
8oz (226g) suet
1 teaspoon of baking powder or a dessertspoonful Paisley flour, or, if Coombs’ self-raising flour is used, it is not necessary to use anything else to lighten the pudding. (Why could they not say ”use self-raising flour” ? In 1906, It was probably recently introduced into the grocery market)
Chop the suet very finely, stir the flour and baking powder into a basin. Add the suet, mix in well, and mix all in a stiff dough with a little cold water. Dip a pudding cloth into boiling water, flour it well at once, press the dough into a well-greased basin so that it fills the basin, cover with the floured cloth, leaving a large pleat in the cloth, so that the pudding may have room to rise. Tie the cloth down securely, and plunge at once into a saucepan of boiling water. Boil two and a half to four hours, the longer the better. If liked, the pudding may be tied up in the floured cloth and boiled in a saucepan without a basin.
Before doing all that, my mother would roll out the dough and cover it with our favourite filling before rolling it up. Of course, she had to stand by the pot from time to time to make sure there was still some water in it.
It was delicious and filling.
Another favourite, occasionally served, was Boiled Beef, with carrots and pease pudding. What a meal, the meat was very tender and tasty, the pease pudding was an alternative to potatoes.
Every so often, we would have faggots. At that time, these were made from pork offal and scraps, but today, they are made from Pork shoulder, belly pork and pig’s liver together with herbs and when cooked, served with mashed potatoes and onion gravy.
As I have said, vegetables at this time were seasonal. (Of course, they still are, except that they are brought in from all over the world.)
In the Spring, the coming of Jersey kidney potatoes was an event worth waiting for. Boiled with a sprig of mint, they had a taste to be savoured. What happened to them ?
Salads were for the summer. Spring onions came in the spring and, although they were available through to late autumn, they were not to be seen during the winter.
We had seasonal vegetables which would arrive in the greengrocers at a high price, the price tumbled as they became more plentiful and then rose at the end of their season when they became more scarce.
We used to help my mother with the shelling of the peas. We became deft at splitting the pod by squeezing it until it ripped open from one end to the other. Then, using the thumb, we would prise the peas away from their small stems and pop them into a bowl while the pods were left in a pile.
In the habit of the English at that time, Runner Beans would be left to grow as large as possible before harvest. The result was that they became stringy and we had to remove the string along one the side of the pod before cutting them. For years, I thought that this was the nature of the beans, until I discovered “les haricots verts”.
Next chapter: Chapter 5: Getting ready for Christmas