Bread omelette and fish made of rice: The ingenious (and unappetising) recipes that kept the Home Front fed in World War Two (2024)

  • Ingenious recipes show how wartime cooks made the most of rations
  • Basics like rice and potatoes used to create 'fish' and 'meat' dishes

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Fish made from rice, duck made from sausage meat and an omelette made of bread - you would be forgiven for thinking these were dishes from a Heston Blumenthal restaurant.

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But these remarkable recipes are actually the creation of resourceful World War II housewives who had to make do with meagre rations.

They show how home cooks improvised with basic ingredients and food they could grow in their back gardens to concoct dishes that were otherwise unavailable in wartime Britain.

Foods like duck, turkey and fish were hard to come by, so ingenious cooks made mock varieties from readily available ingredients like potatoes.

The recipes, that are on display at the British Library’s Propaganda exhibition until September, include ‘Mock Duck’ - a concoction made from potatoes, sausage meat and a little sage - and ‘Imitation Sausage Rolls’, made from beans and meat fat.

Another recipe explains how to make ‘Mock Fish’, battered ‘fish’ fillets created from ground rice, milk, margarine and anchovy essence.

While ‘Bread Omlette’ is a dish designed to make eggs go further and involves soaking breadcrumbs in milk to make them expand before using them to bulk out the traditional dish.

And for housewives stuck without a turkey at Christmas there is help at hand. One recipe explains how you can create a Christmas turkey with a joint of mutton and ‘a bit of imagination’.

The recipes were compiled into two books - The Kitchen Front and More From the Kitchen Front - from popular BBC radio broadcasts The Kitchen Front, part of a Ministry of Food campaign.

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Aired most mornings during rationing after the 8 o’clock news, the show provided practical information on surviving healthily on rations and emphasised the importance of home grown food.

The programme was often hosted by famous comedians, including Mabel Constanduros in character as the infamous Mrs Buggins, who brought a slice of tongue-in-cheek humour to the serious advice.

Ian Cooke, curator of Propaganda, said: ‘The point was to emphasise how important it was to not waste food and be able to cook healthily and eat healthily on restricted resources, as well as to encourage people to use what was local to them so the country wasn’t relying as much on imports.

‘There was a lot of concern over the nutritional value of food. They wanted people to have a feeling food was something to be enjoyed, something to be proud about.’

He added the comic edge to the programme made it particularly successful.

‘The idea was to really bring home how important the issues were in a way that wasn’t going to wear people out,’ he said.

‘The recipes were meant to be practical. They were supposed to be easy and quick so women could get into work. They were made with food what would be available.’

MOCK DUCK FOR DINNER? THE WARTIME RECIPES YOU CAN TRY AT HOME

Mock Fish

Bring half a pint of milk to the boil, shower in two ounces of ground rice and add a teaspoonful of chopped onion or leek, a piece of margarine the size of a small walnut, and a seasoning of anchovy essence.

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Let this simmer gently for 20 minutes, then take the pan off the fire, and stir in a well-beaten egg.

Mix well together, and the spread the mixture out on a flat dish: it should be about half an inch thick.

When it is cold, cut it into pieces the size and shape of fish fillets, brush these with milk, roll them in breadcrumbs, and fry until golden-brown. Serve parsley sauce with them.

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Mock Duck

Boil a chopped large onion or leek in a little water. When cooked, mix with a little sage. Boil and mash 2lbs of potatoes.

Now take a fairly large piedish, put a thin layer of sage and onion at the bottom, next a layer of sausage meat (use 1 1/2lbs in total), then a layer of mashed potatoes. Continue this way until the dish is full. The last layer of potatoes forming a sort of crust.

Press evenly with a fork and make a few holes with a skewer. Into the holes pour a little thick brown gravy (made from the onion and potato water).

Bake in a fairly hot oven for about 30 minutes. Serve with boiled chopped carrots, turnips or beans, and the remainder of the thick brown gravy.

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Mock Hamburger Steak

Take 4oz mince, 8oz grated raw potato, 4oz oatmeal, a little chopped leek or onion if available, pinch of herbs or mint and parsley chopped together, 1 tablespoon of Worcester sauce and pepper, salt and mustard.

Mix all the ingredients together and form into four cakes. Fry in a little hot fat for 15 to 20 minutes.

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Propaganda: Power and Persuasion is at the British Library until September 17.

Bread omelette and fish made of rice: The ingenious (and unappetising) recipes that kept the Home Front fed in World War Two (2024)

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