Dreams of Blackcurrant Leaf Cream

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.

About TheBigForest

TheBigForest. A silly artist maker creating in felt and paper construction. Like us on Facebook: TheBigForest. Find us at Twitter : twitter/TheBigForestuk

9 comments

  1. I love the sound of your outfit!

  2. What a great book to discover and fab recipe

    • It came from one of our favourite pursuits, rural car boot-ing somewhere in Sussex! The recipe sounds delicious (and fattening which isnt a problem once in a while!).

  3. annperrin

    That’s brilliant have loads of young blackcurrant leaves going to try it at the weekend if I can work out a gill! Farmers wives would have had a better time in those days. I was 7 in 1947 All I remember was my mother roasting Spam one Christmas and trying to pretend it was Turkey. But my granddad had a fruit shop in Goodge Street so we did get the odd bruised apple and later a real banana Take care

    • Some of the recipes use odd bits and pieces of animals which I assume was to get round rationing and would only have been availible to farmers wives (lambs tail pie for example which tells you to ask the shepherd to keep them warm under a sack!). Other recipes have instructions that sound like they are from an earlier age, putting a pie in a ‘quick’ oven and gills of cream etc.
      I should image a real banana was beyond most peoples wildest dreams!

    • Ive just been told by a helpful person that a gill is a quarter of a UK pint.

  4. Blackcurrant leaf cream sounds sublime; I have Ribes growing in my garden which smells heavenly when you brush against it. I wonder if similar works of magic and a few substitutes would result in equal pleasures……. It’s nearly time for elderflowers too…… Yummy!

    • We have tried other recipes from Farmhouse Fair and they all turn out brilliantly so I suspect this one will too, even with careful substitution. No doubt Mrs Pritchard, Nellie Richmond and the other ladies wouldn’t have been able to face the local Womens Institute if they had produced a faulted recipe!
      Elderflowers…………mmm, elderflower cordial and a whole range of other delights…

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