April Extra: Stitchcraft Cooking, September 1949

IMG_3207“Someone coming to tea, nothing much in the house and you are short of materials? Here are three recipes that don’t need much in the way of ingredients, don’t take long to mix and are delicious to eat.”

I’m obviously not going to have anyone over for tea anytime soon, since Covid-19 social distancing and isolation restrictions are still in full force. Not being able to go out to buy groceries very often if at all and having to use many non-perishable items that had been lingering in the back of cupboards did make me think of those recipes in earlier Stitchcraft issues, though. In Great Britain, many items were rationed even years after World War II ended, and easy, economical recipes in women’s magazines from the late 1940s reflected that situation.

IMG_3208Previously, I had made a “nut pie” from a recipe in Stitchcraft‘s December 1949 issue, and having found cashews, walnuts and almonds in the cupboard, I made it again last week. It was delicious, came out perfectly and I can really recommend that recipe with whatever combination of nuts you have on hand. Today, I felt like baking something sweet and found these recipes for a date-and-ginger cake, cheese scones and “oat crunchies” on the cooking page of the September 1949 issue. I didn’t have dates but I did have oats, margarine and dark sugar beet syrup (black treacle / molasses), so oat crunchies it was.

The recipe is simple: 3 ounces lard and 3 ounces margarine, softened in the oven and mixed with 14 tablespoons oats, 3 tablespoons syrup and 1/2 teaspoon “bi-carbonate soda” (baking soda), then baked in a greased tin, cooled and cut into squares. What could be easier? I don’t cook with lard, but I did actually have two kinds of margarine, so that was the only substitution, and I made a half recipe to try it out. The consistency of the mixture before baking should have been “fairly stiff” but it was surprisingly liquid. I guessed the margarine had softened too much, i.e. melted, so I added more oats. Then I baked it at “Regulo 4, or 375”  (190 C) for 30 minutes as specified.

Oh, dear.

It bubbled up and sort of exploded in the oven while baking, burning a little on the top but still staying quite liquid throughout. It has cooled down by now and solidified slightly, but is still nowhere near “crunchy” territory — more like mushy granola. The recipe did say 3 ounces lard and 3 ounces margarine — maybe it should have been 3 ounces total? (I did remember to halve all the measures, so I definitely didn’t use twice as much fat as I should have.) It tastes absolutely delicious, though, as you might expect from something that is essentially fat mixed with sugar and a few oats!

Moral of the story: I probably won’t make this recipe again, definitely wouldn’t serve it to company (if anybody is allowed to visit ever again), but if anyone needs some fat- and sugar-packed lockdown comfort food that can be made without leaving the house for supplies, and doesn’t need to photograph said food for a blog or be seen eating it out of the baking pan with a spoon (ahem), this will probably fit the bill.

December Extra: Stitchcraft Cooking, 1949

stitchcraft1949In its earlier decades, Stitchcraft included a page of easy and economical recipes in each issue, mostly for tea-time cakes or pastries. The tradition ended around 1950, so none of my 1960s issues have a recipe page, but I do have a few magazines from the late 1940s and thought this would be a fun time to try out their “Christmas Cooking” ideas.

December 1949 gave us a savoury recipe for nut pie and a very easy recipe for candy made of condensed milk, sugar and vanilla. I had some ground nuts on hand, so decided to try the nut pie. The recipe is quite simple and calls for 2 parts by weight of finely ground nuts of any kind, 1 part each of cooked rice or semolina, breadcrumbs, and sautéd onions, plus mixed herbs, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. My version had ground almonds and hazelnuts, Arborio (risotto) rice which I thought would stick together better than other sorts of rice, no breadcrumbs as I forgot to buy bread and didn’t feel like going out again in the rain, and some sunflower seeds for topping. Here’s my adaptation of the 1949 recipe:

  • 120 grams (about 1 1/3 cup, measured after grinding) finely ground nuts
  • 60 grams (about 1/2 cup) Arborio rice
  • 1 small onion
  • A small handful sunflower seeds
  • Olive oil for frying onions and greasing the pan
  • About 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 pats of butter or margarine

Cook the rice in 2 parts water to 1 part rice and let it absorb all the water. Chop the onion finely and sauté it in a bit of olive oil until soft and golden. Grease a small loaf pan with olive oil and sprinkle with sunflower seeds (they will come out on top when the pie is inverted.) Mix all ingredients except butter or margarine thoroughly with oiled hands and press the mixture evenly into the pan. Top with butter or margarine and bake in a 190°C (375°F) oven for about 30 minutes, or until slightly browned on top. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then invert onto a board or serving platter.

This is about half the amount of the original recipe and makes enough for 1-2 portions. It was hard to tell when it was “done” — after all, all the component parts had either already been cooked, or didn’t need to be — but I figured it was ready when the top began to brown a little. It didn’t hold together as well as I had hoped, so I might add a beaten egg next time I make it.

The original recipe suggests serving it with thick, brown gravy, baked potatoes, peas or stewed celery, or “apple-sauce goes well, too”. I didn’t see the need to eat potatoes with something that already had rice in it, so I made some simple sautéd carrots and fennel to go with it. Gravy or applesauce would have been a good idea, as the loaf was a little dry, but it tasted absolutely delicious.

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I imagine this recipe would make an excellent stuffing for a holiday goose, duck or turkey, as it can be cooked as long as needs be and has a nice nutty, meaty taste. You could cook a loaf of it outside of the bird for vegetarians. Nota bene: if you use margarine instead of butter, this recipe is vegan, and if you make it without breadcrumbs as I did, it is also gluten-free. Just don’t expect it to hang together in a compact loaf that you can slice, and do serve some kind of sauce to go with it. Also nota bene: I am not a food photographer and this is what it actually looked like. Bon appetit and happy holidays!