I know its been ages since I wrote anything for this blog, work and herbal things have been keeping me busy. Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of England going to war with Germany in WWI and around the country people held candlelight vigils, their were ceremonies and services and people remembered the those men and women who sacrificed their lives to build a better future.
My hubby and I watched the BBC2 programme 'World War One Remembered' it focused on honouring a lost generation, which were silenced for ever amid the hellish cacophony of the WWI battlefields, and were remembered on the 100th anniversary of Britain’s First World War declaration.
War is never glamorous or pretty, but when you look back it does fill you with awe, battles were fought overseas and here to keep food on the table and some semblance of normality going for those left behind.
I wanted to do more than just watch the programme and light a candle so I decided to cook a WWI inspired menu for our tea yesterday. I chose a dish that was called 'Trench Stew', it evolved to be called Corned Beef Hash where I grew up in Manchester, with additional ingredients and flavourings. In the days of Thai Green Curry and an array of world cuisine foods that we eat on a weekly basis, in many ways basic cooking and English recipes have been left behind in our house.
I made a few dumplings to go in the stew, although I'm sure the soldiers in the trenches didn't have those, I made a simply suet pastry and turned 1/3rd in to dumplings and the rest into a jam roly poly that we served with custard. It was made all the more special because the jam in our roly poly was a homemade jam or 'Dark Red Plum' that had been made by my hubby's auntie and gifted to us along with a lot of other homemade jams and jellies. How I miss making chutneys, pickles and other yummy and tasty homemade items, I think last night has reawakened the urge to get creative in the kitchen again, watch this space!
As we're trying to pay off our mortgage faster and save for a rainy day plain, simple meals seem logical as they make economical sense. I worried about the use of lard and butter for example in wartime dishes, but then realised my parents and grandparents ate them and turned out just fine, so over the next few months I'm dusting off my wartime cook book and seeing what I can find to feed me and my darling hubby that will fill our bellies without emptying our bank account!
I have to say that as I chopped vegetables, mixed everything together, stirred my pan of bubbling stew and watched the dumplings and pudding rise, my thoughts kept turning to wondering what people were thinking that night back in August 1914, hours before the country went to war at 11pm? My Great Grandmother, Sarah Jane Webster could have been making stew for her 4 sons and 3 daughters none of them older than 8 years of age, so safe from drafting but not safe for the perils and dangers that war could bring.
This morning I woke up to my two cats, not a care in the world beyond making sure the days work got done and my article was submitted to the garden magazine I occasionally write for, what a contrast to what my Grandmother woke up to 100 years ago, I've seen films, read newspaper articles and books but nothing compares to the reality. I find that I cannot celebrate what happened but yesterday did make me realise just how incredibly lucky I am today. To everyone who made a sacrifice, no matter how great or small I am humbly in your debt and eternally grateful!
1914 - 2014 Trench Stew
- 3 Medium Potatoes (1914 - 1 Turnip), peeled and chopped
- 2 Medium Carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 Medium Onion, peeled and chopped
- ½ Tin Corned Beef, cubed into 1" pieces
- 2 Beef Stock Cubes (1914 - I'm not sure if they would have had access to stock cubes in the trenches, our great grandmothers would have made their own stock and adding stock to this stew certainly improves the flavour.)
- A few generous dashes of Worcestershire Sauce (1914 - I think the same applies here as stock cubes, I would hazard a guess that the soldiers used whatever they could obtain to add flavour to their food.)
- Salt & Pepper to season
- 1 Pint of Cold Water
The method is simple, add the potato, carrot and onion to your pan of water along with the stock and Worcestershire sauce and bring it to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer the stew until the vegetables and cooked through and tender. 15 minutes before the end of the cooking time add the corned beef and season to taste with salt and pepper. If you want to add dumplings add them at the same time as the corned beef.
Serve in bowls with pickled beetroot, cabbage or onions.