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By Robert Gibert [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Second World War Recipes

Rations, shortages, and a lot of imagination

Rationing began to trickle in during 1940, and by 1941, when the U boats were sinking any merchant ships coming anywhere close, there was a feeling that the Nazis were trying to starve everyone out.

My grandmother, ready to battle any culinary challenge, created her own handwritten recipe book, and here are a few of the more intriguing dishes that came out of the Second World War.

Toad in the Hole


My DC writing group had a highly entertaining time
guessing what on earth this could be when it appeared
in one of my manuscripts. Naturally, they wondered if
perhaps their British friends were eating frogs, but I
quickly assured them that frog-eating is most definitely
the reserve of the French. In reality, the dish consists of
sausages in a pancake- or Yorkshire-pudding-style batter,
baked in the oven.

A spot of research later revealed that the recipe was
probably named as such because of the sausages
(originally it was pieces of left-over meat) poking out
resembled toads sticking their heads out of holes. Why
this name presented itself as the best of all options is
anybody’s guess.

Even today, it remains a common dish, and I remember

it fondly as a school dinner with sausages (two per
serving) and sometimes gravy. During the war—especially after Spam was imported en masse from the US beginning in 1942—Spam in the Hole became de rigueur.



1 lb sausages (or Spam)

1 oz of butter, margarine, or dripping

5 oz flour

Salt and pepper

1 egg (or 1 tbsp dried egg powder)

2 tbsp water

1/2 pint milk or milk and water



  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 F, 200 C, or Gas Mark 6

  2. Place a cooking dish or tin, with the butter or margarine in it, into the oven for 5 minutes

  3. Add the sausages, prick and cover in the cooking oils, and cook for 5-10 minutes

  4. Increase the temperature to 425 F, 220 C, or Gas Mark 7

  5. Make the batter by mixing first the dry ingredients and then slowly adding in the water and milk

  6. Pour the batter over the sausages and bake for 30 minutes, or until the batter is risen and golden brown


Lord Woolton Pie, Grandmother-style!


This famous World War II dish was invented by a Savoy Hotel
chef for Lord Woolton to entice the British public to eat meat-
free during the heavy rationing—for the latter part of the war
it was reduced to around one pound of meat per week. It is
essentially vegetable pie, and even a desperate people very
often found it wanting.

My grandmother’s recipe, however, added some extra flavor
in the form of chopped liver. Offal, which wasn’t rationed until
1942, played an impressive part in her cooking. Heart stuffed
with vegetables was a favorite, as was liver pate.

She was also notoriously fond of using wild mushrooms,
collecting them from various local haunts, even if it took
stealing into a neighbor’s garden at night.



1 lb potatoes
1 lb carrots
1 lb cauliflower
1 lb swede (rutabaga)
1 leek

1 onion

1/2 lb mushrooms

Chopped, fried liver (or sausage)
Fresh parsley
1 or 2 teaspoons of marmite (yeast extract) or stock
1 heaped tablespoon of oats

Salt and pepper

4 oz flour
2 oz margarine



  1. Chop and fry the onion, leek, mushrooms, and bacon in margarine

  2. Chop all the other vegetables, put them in a big saucepan, and just cover with water, add stock (or marmite) and oats, stir well, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 mins

  3. Drain, mix in the onions and bacon mixture with plenty of salt and pepper and a teaspoon of margarine, then place in a pie dish

  4. Make the pastry by chopping margarine into small pieces and rubbing it into flour until it resembles bread crumbs, then add a little water and make a dough

  5. Roll out the dough and place over the pie dish, making a few holes with a sharp knife

  6. Glaze with a little milk or water, and cook at 180 C for 20-30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown


Nothing Patties


My grandmother’s mother spent her early life in colonial
India, and as a result, my grandmother was brought up on
curry. She made exquisite Indian food throughout her life,
all based on her mother’s recipes from India. Her “patties”
were especially popular at parties, and here is one of my
personal favorites, which she called “nothing patties” as
they didn’t contain any meat.



A large onion

Three or four potatoes

Cooked and chopped vegetables (carrots, cabbage, parsnip,
swede, beans, peas, green lentils)

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp chili powder

A few cloves

1 egg (or powdered egg during the war)

Salt and pepper

Butter, margarine or vegetable oil for mashing and frying



  1. Chop and fry the onion in butter or margarine, add the spices and salt and pepper

  2. Peel, chop, and boil potatoes, then mash with a little butter or margarine

  3. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and blend

  4. Make patties with your hands

  5. Place in a hot frying pan and fry until browned on each side

Photo: rusvaplauke/Flickr

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