Chapter 7: A Staple Diet

English: organic cultivated Russet Burbank potato

English: organic cultivated Russet Burbank potato (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, back to the food. On occasion, my mother would, deliberately, cook more potatoes and cabbage than was needed.  This was to enable her to cook Bubble and Squeak.

Recipe of the period:  Bubble and Squeak.

75 grams beef dripping or butter
2 onions peeled and chopped (they were all the same size then)
Cayenne pepper (now: Freshly ground black pepper)
454 grams of potatoes cooked and mashed.
175 grams of cooked green cabbage, well drained and chopped.
Heat half dripping or butter (could not afford to use butter then) In a large, heavy-based frying pan and fry the onions over a gentle heat. Set the onions aside.
Put the rest of the dripping in the pan and add the potatoes. Mix in the cabbage, season with salt and pepper and spread out over the base of the pan to make a cake about 2.5 centimetres thick.  Cook for four minutes or until golden brown underneath. Put a large plate over the bubble and squeak and turn over the pan. Slide the “cake” back into the pan to cook the other side and cook for another four minutes.  Serve with the onions and a brown sauce.

One of our standby meals was Scotch broth with great chunks of fresh bread.

1930s recipe for Scotch Broth:

900 grams scrag-end of lamb or mutton with all fat removed.
2 litres of water
125 grams barley
125 grams dried peas, soaked in water overnight.
Bouquet garni.
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large leek washed and sliced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small turnip, peeled and diced
2 large carrots diced
125 grams of shredded cabbage
1 tablespoon of finely chopped parsley.
Place the meat in a heavy saucepan and add the water. Then the barley, peas and bouquet garni.
Bring the mix slowly to the boil and then simmer for two hours, skimming off the scum from time to time.
Add the leek, onion, turnip and carrots and continue to simmer for an hour.
Remove the meat and leave to cool enough to handle.
Strip the meat from the bones and chop into small pieces.
Return the meat to the broth and add the cabbage, and continue to simmer for another thirty minutes.  Then its done.  Well, time was not all that important then. Mothers would have all day to cook. Then, few of them went out to work, there was plenty to do at home.

Lentil soup served at Zerza Restaurant in NYC

Lentil soup (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lentil soup was another great standby, and here is a recipe that my mother used.


1 pint of red lentils, half a carrot, one onion, 1oz of butter or dripping (dripping ?), 2 sticks of celery, or a teaspoonful of celery seed tied in muslin, 2 quarts of cold water.

The lentils should be washed, and, if possible, soaked for several hours in cold water.  Then melt the dripping in a saucepan, and add the lentils and the vegetables, sliced.  Stir over a gentle heat for a few minutes and add the water.  Boil all for about an hour, then rub through a hair sieve, add salt and pepper, re-heat and serve with fried bread.  That recipe dates from 1906, the year that my mother and father got married.

Those were the days when eggs had to be treated with respect.  Whatever recipe books might have been available at that time, all would have told the cook to break an egg into a cup before adding it to the other ingredients.  This was because of the prevalence of rotten eggs.   It was not until one cracked the egg that it was possible to tell if they were fresh or not.  There were no battery hens then, all the eggs would be gathered in the same manner  as today’s “Free Range” eggs, that is, gather them where you may.  If one is missed, it might be found the next day, or maybe the day after, or maybe the week after.  There was no mistaking the bad egg, the smell was horrendous and soon permeated the whole kitchen.  Of course one broke the egg into the cup instead of dropping it straight into the ingredients, in case you had to throw the lot away. Even today, I always have a good look at an egg before I mix it with other ingredients.

Most of our desserts required the inclusion of eggs, we had milk puddings and, one of my Mum’s specialities, Bread and Butter Pudding.

Here is her recipe:

Bread and Butter Pudding

6 thin slices of white bread
50 grams of butter
50 grams of currents or sultanas or a mixture of the two.
40 grams of caster sugar
2 large eggs
600 ml of milk.
Remove the crusts from the bread. Cut into small squares and spread them thickly with butter.  Put half the bread squares into an a buttered 1-litre ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with all the fruit and half the sugar.  Place the remaining bread squares on top.
Beat the eggs and milk together and pour into the dish over the bread.
Leave to stand for 30 minutes so that the bread can absorb some of the liquid.
Bake in a moderate oven (160 C) for up to an hour or until the top is crisp and golden.

(Recently, I have been served Bread and Butter Pudding that was made with French Brioche instead of bread.  It was wonderful and makes an interesting alternative)

We would have rice pudding, Apple Tart with custard, made with Bird’s Custard Powder, Blancmange and trifles, from Victorian recipes.

Talking of apples. There’s the old joke: “ What’s worse than finding a maggot in your apple ?” Answer “Half a maggot !”  In those days, one had to carefully inspect fruit to see if it had been invaded by some crawly thing or another.

Most days, we would have porridge for breakfast.  These would be “Creamo Oats” prepared by adding hot water to the oats.  I would get a spoonful of sugar and deposit the sugar in the middle of the porridge and when it had melted, I would mix it up with a dash of milk and then devour it.  My Dad would sprinkle salt on his, I think it is a Scottish thing.

Some time later, for breakfast, we had the occasional bowl of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and then Shredded Wheat.

Macaroni Cheese was on offer as a treat from time to time.  The recipe my mother used is also dated from 1906, but the dish is much older than that.

Home made macaroni and cheese, with some dried...

Home made macaroni and cheese, with some dried herbs and grounded pepper. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is the recipe:

4 oz Macaroni.  3 oz cheese. Half ounce of butter.  Half ounce of flour.  Half a pint of milk and salt, pepper, cayenne and prepared mustard.
Method:  Break the macaroni into small pieces and boil till tender ( about ten – 12 minutes).  Grate the cheese. Melt the butter, stir in the flour, add the milk, and boil three or four minutes, stirring well, then put in the macaroni and seasoning, cool the mixture a little, then stir in about three-quarters of the cheese.  Pour into a buttered dish, sprinkle the rest of the cheese on the top, and brown in a hot oven or under the grill.

Next Chapter: Chapter 8: My first school lunch

© Terence Gallacher 2014.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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