We were rummaging through the book shelves earlier in search of a particular recipe when we came across Farmhouse Fare – Recipes from Country Housewives Collected by The Farmers Weekly. Like the found photo albums I blogged about a couple of days ago old recipe books open a door to other lives and past concerns. The Prawn Cocktail Years (1997) by Simon Hopkinson explores old recipes as social history in a self conscious but enjoyable way and creates a framework of particular food settings that were the height of fashion at points in post-war British history. The Fifties Hotel Dining Room, The Sixties Bistro, The Continental Restaurant, each location has accompanying recipes and amusing social history. We love recipe books that function both as a good read and a blueprint for making food (friendly wave to Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson) and The Prawn Cocktail Years is such a book, excellent as a bedside book and a good companion in the kitchen.
We have enjoyed several retro food experiences in our attempt to walk back though the door to times past. One, for example, was at the Angus Steakhouse on the corner of Haymarket, London. This restaurant is the pinnacle of tourist hell (or heaven), no one British would venture there but we found a table because inside it is forever 1972 (as we imagine it). Prawn cocktail, steak and chips with a tomato, peas and a grilled mushroom, profiteroles for pudding and all washed down with furiously sweet Liebfraumilch. On this occasion I wore, to make the evening complete, a particularly beautiful Dior 70’s dinner suit in brown velvet I bought in an Oxfam shop in North Norfolk, a shirt with a ruffle and a purple velvet bow tie. It says something about the tourist nature of the venue than no one batted an eyelid clearly thinking that I was simply wearing what was sophisticated and cool for a night out back home in, say, Yakutsk, Russia or Fairbanks, Alaska (and for all our blog readers in Yakutsk and Fairbanks – sorry).
But I digress, as I always do, and its time to return to Farmhouse Fare. The book is dated August 1947 – about the same period as The Map That Came to Life. There are some recipes that reveal it was published in the immediate post-war period (mock banana pie, emergency jam etc) but most of the recipes are a delight and have the name of the farmer’s wife or daughter underneath; Caraway Seed Cheese (Miss Nellie Richmond, Yorkshire), Chocolate and Date Baked Pudding (Mrs R Pritchard, Herefordshire) and here is one of our favourite recipes:
Blackcurrant Leaf Cream
Black currant leaves are most delicately scented in the spring and then is the time to use them for flavouring sweets and all kinds of puddings.This is my own special recipe: Boil 1lb. of white sugar with 1/2 pint water and a cupful of young blackcurrant leaves. Boil without stirring, for 15 minutes; then strain and pour the hot syrup very gently on to 2 beaten egg whites. Beat all the time, till the mixture begins to thicken; then stir in the juice of a lemon and a gill of whipped cream.
Serve in individual glasses, it is the most delicious sweet. Mrs. R Johnstone, Kirkcudbright, Scotland.
We havent tried it, but we will one day, when we walk through the door to inhabit one of our 1950’s photographs. There you will find the bears from TheBigForest making Blackcurrant Leaf Cream on a spring evening listening to the radio in their cottage with a view over the forest and an Austin A30 van parked outside.