Potatoes, we love them, they are a basic of our western diet. That most favourite of our carbohydrates eaten as lovely buttery new potatoes, mash, chips, baked potatoes they underpin our diet almost every day.
We always grow a few potatoes on the allotment and this year we have a bumper crop of both early and first early potatoes. So I am taking the opportunity to practice some old recipes, one from the First World War and one from World War Two.
During both wars, those at home were encouraged to grow more vegetables, people were encouraged to eat alternatives to wheat flour and potatoes were popular as they were a good source of carbohydrates and easy to grow. Potatoes were used to bulk out so many recipes – from bread through to pastry, and they even found their way into puddings and cakes.
From the First world War comes a recipe for potato pastry from The Daily Mail Cookery Book by Mrs C. S. Peel (1918)
225g cold mashed potatoes
110g plain flour (you could use wholemeal flour to be truly authentic)
45g dripping or margarine (if using the former make sure it is at room temperature)
1 tsp baking powder
Following Mrs Peel’s method to make the pastry, mix the flour, salt and baking powder; rub in the dripping. Add the potatoes and mix well and lightly. Make a stiff paste with cold water.
Flour a board and roll out to ¼ inch thick. She doesn’t instruct the cook to leave the pastry to rest but you could make it in advance and leave it in the fridge until it is required.
It has a different consistency to regular short crust and has a naturally sweet flavour to it. It is also more fragile than ordinary pastry but can be patched much more easily.
This a actually a really good pastry and today I used it to make a vegetable pie and the scraps to make some cheesy sticks. Try it I think you will be surprised.
During the Second world War bringing women into the workplace meant they had less time to cook and less choice of ingredients and rationing during the Second World War meant that cooks had to become more canny and inventive with what they had. Fuel was also rationed
The second recipe is from this time. As potatoes weren’t on ration until later in the war they were used to eke out other recipes in this case bread. This particular recipe was a hand written recipe found in a lovely notebook which, although not dated, luckily had a few newspaper cuttings (strangely nearly all for marrow and ginger jam), which on the reverse have articles which date from 1942 – 1948
500g strong bread flour
250g potatoes 1 x sachet dried yeast 100ml water (you may need more, up to
150ml, depending on the type of potato used)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
The potatoes should be boiled and then passed through a sieve or mashed very well. While still hot, the potatoes should be mixed with the flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and bring together into a dough.
Kneed the dough, for around 10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Put in a bowl, cover and allow to rise for around an hour or until doubled in size.
Knock out the air, cut in half and kneed each for a few more minutes and form into two loaves. Put on a floured baking sheet and leave to rise for another hour or until again doubled in size.
Score the top with a sharp knife and the loaves are ready for the oven.
Bake for 30 minutes at 220oc/425of/gas7.
The bread is ready when browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. This produces a delicious, light crispy loaf that is worth making anyway. Crispy and tasty.
The bread recipe can be found in Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen