VE day part 2: recipes

Cauliflower cheese

A real wartime staple and happily eaten throughout my life. Mother used to make a lot of cauliflower cheese: well, everybody did.

Vegetables were not rationed during the war and flour and milk were generally available. Obtaining cheese might have sometimes been problematic in London but the weekly ration of 2-4 oz per person (60-120g) would make this an attainable family dish.

  • Ingredients: half a young fresh cauliflower, separated into florets; young cauliflower leaves, 1 Tbsp plain flour, 1 tsp english mustard paste, approximately 500ml milk, 100-150g grated cheddar cheese, salt and pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar.
  • Method: steam the cauliflower florets for a couple of minutes until almost cooked, strain and turn in to a baking dish. Make a béchamel sauce using the flour, butter mustard and milk (see asparagus quiche if uncertain of the method). Stir in most of the grated cheese. Pour the sauce over the cauliflower and scatter the remainder of the cheese on top. Bake at 160°C until bubbly and brown. Serve with steamed cauliflower leaves tossed in oil and balsamic vinegar.

Tomatoes on toast

The Kuczyńskis ate this for breakfast and it seemed terribly exotic: definitely not the London staple of tinned tomatoes and fried bread. This was in Port Moresby in 1960, but seems an ideal wartime recipe as bread was not rationed and people grew their own tomatoes. Olive oil would have been a bit tricky though …

  • Ingredients: tomatoes, bread, olive oil, a few fresh herbs and seasonings.
  • Method: slice the tomatoes and sauté them in olive oil with a few fresh herbs added. Turn over the slices half way through. Make toast and put it on a plate. Slide the tomatoes and oil onto the toast and eat when cool enough to do so.

Peace Cobbler

I’m hitting a lick for peace — and every time I’m in Georgia, I eat a peach for peace.

Duane Allmann

Imagine the scene: A GI brings a can of peaches from the PX home to his girlfriend’s mother and instructs her on how to make a peach cobbler. This is my tribute to all the young people who came from abroad to Britain to fight and otherwise contribute to the war effort.

The recipe is adapted from Peach Cobbler in Cooking Texas Style by Cindy Wagner and Sandra Marquez. It is not a crumble-like offering, most commonly shown these days but a lattice topped dish of baked spiced fruit.

  • Ingredients for the filling: One can of sliced peaches, 1Tbsp butter, 1Tbsp ground almonds, a shake of Sri Lanka cinnamon or Jamaica allspice. Brandy
  • For the pastry: 60g plain flour, 30g cold butter, 1tsp sugar, cold water/juice, ground almonds.
  • To finish: melted butter, sugar, chopped or flaked almonds. Cream
  • Method: Drain the peaches and pour them out into a non stick pan. Add the butter, ground almonds and a small dash of brandy (optional, you can add a little juice). Leave on a low heat until the butter has melted – stir it through gently and leave to cool.

Make a shortcrust pastry as described in asparagus quiche. Don’t roll it yet – wrap the dough in film and put it in the freezer for a few minutes. While it is resting, arrange the cooled peach slices neatly in a 15cm diameter oven proof dish. Shake over a little ground spice.

Then get the pastry out of the freezer and, on a floured board, roll it into a rectangle. This is the fiddly bit: you are aiming for pretty thin but strong enough to plait. Slice long ribbons about 2cm wide and lift them carefully off the board. If it all goes wrong, just roll it up and start again, or try rolling out half at a time.

Once you have the ribbons, interlace them across the top of the fruit. When this is complete, squeeze the edges down over the sides of the dish and cut them as evenly as you can. Then brush the lattice with melted butter and sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake for 30 minutes at 200°C. Halfway through, throw on the flaked or chopped almonds.

The Texans say to serve with ice-cream but this would have been unlikely in 1945 so I suggest a spoonful of single cream. Other changes could be to make a proper frangipane filling, or use apples instead. Either way, it could still be a peace cobbler.

So, time to kick back after a lot of cooking. Take up your warm bowl of cobbler, be thankful, put on Fats or The Duke or The Count or possibly for my generation, Mountain Jam, ABB c1971.

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