10 February 2010

waste not, want not

In spite of the sudden drop in temperatures around here, there is something of an air of clearing the decks. This is my Belgian Cake, a light fruity affair with a touch of bite, which helps to use up any leftover mincemeat - and somehow there always seems to be some left in the cupboard after Christmas. The recipe comes from my battered and much loved Cranks Recipe book which still gets used a fair bit here for its simple soup recipes and the house speciality vegetable crumble.

As it happens, I've been rather immersed in worthy wartime recipes too, firstly while researching jam and pickle recipes for our WI jam making project, then just trying to get a feel for what it must have been like to feed a family on rations during and after the war years. A few of us went along today to the Imperial War Museum for a preview of their Ministry of Food exhibition and had a taste of some of typical recipes - mock goose (good, but nothing to do with the taste of goose), potato oatmeal savoury biscuits (very good), scone bites with mock cream made with margarine and sugar (gross) and, for lunch, corned beef and piccalilli sandwiches (rather good, actually).

We were filled with admiration for the fortitude and imagination of those women who were responsible for feeding themselves and their families on the meagre rations and limited range of foods available, on top of the daily shopping and queuing, keeping the house clean, making do and mending and, in nearly 6000 WI preservation centres around the country, making jam. No wonder they needed half as many more calories as we do and an 8oz a week ration of sugar each. And all that cooking. The ABC of Cookery, published in 1945 advises good meal planning, rather like the Love Food, Hate Waste advice, but also gives suggested menus for four meals a day, plus snacks for some, and recommends having some form of fat at each meal to prevent getting tired and hungry too quickly. All of which explains why my Aunt Mary insisted on regular meals and had a grip of iron up until she died at 90.

If you aren't rationing yourself and fancy a treat, here is the Belgian Cake recipe. Don't worry too much about using wholemeal flour or raw brown sugar if you don't have it, use white and dodge the thunderbolt.

Cream 4oz (100g) butter/ margarine and 3oz (75g) brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in 2 free-range eggs a little at a time. Fold in 5oz (225g) wholemeal self-raising flour, 8oz (225g) mincemeat and 1tbsp water. Spoon into an 8in square cake tin and level off. Bake at 170 degrees C (450 degrees F/ Gas Mark 3) until well risen and golden. ( The recipe says for around 30 minutes but mine has never been ready that quickly - nearer to 40 or 45 mins I'd say).

Time to polish off the last of the sloe gin now.


knit nurse said...

Sounds great, I must remember it for next year's leftovers. This year I used last year's leftovers for the mince pies :-o. Probably not really recommended but no-one seemed to notice and we are all still alive! We don't get through much in our house. I have to concur in terms of the Cranks book, and particularly the veggie crumble - always goes down a treat with veggies and carnivores alike!

knit nurse said...

Incidentally, the edge of the plate that is peeking cheekily out looks rather gorgeous!

Liz said...

I used to run an after school reading club and after we'd read some children' fiction set during the war we had a go at some wartime recipes. The children refused to eat what they'd made. Mind you, most of them said they only ate chips and pot noodles. That cake looks delicious. Will have to dig out the Cranks book (it's here somewhere) for the crumble recipe.

colleen said...

Have to say, I find it really heartening to know that there are other copies of those Cranks books out there among you. ( The plate used to belong to John's nan and is perfect for square cakes. Unfortunately not much else left other than a wee milk jug and two tea cup/plate settings.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this recipe! I do indeed have some leftover mincemeat - although I am (still) intending to make it into Nigel Slater's Apple and Micemeat Sponge (Observer magazine just after Xmas). I used to have that Cranks book, found in an Oxfam somewhere, and it has gone missing and I really miss it!

Anonymous said...

thanks so much for posting this recipe, my Cranks book is in storage while we move house and I really wanted to make this cake for Christmas!