Ration Week (7th July – 13th July)

Ration Day 6



2 slices of toast and jam

Curried vegetables & rice

Prunes & custard

Bacon & cheese sandwich

Today's farm 'family'
Today’s farm ‘family’

The monotony is definitely starting to hit and I’m feeling a little bloated from all the vegetables.  Once again, I’m glad to be going up to the Farm for lunch.  It’s not just having the food cooked for me, it’s the fact that the meal becomes a bit more of an event, and something to look forward.  The other times I’ve been to the farm for my lunch it’s been a brilliant opportunity to get visitors involved and engaged and today is no different.  Because it’s a vegetarian menu today (Curried vegetables and rice, followed by prunes and custard) it means we can share all of it with visitors to the farm.   Lots of people take taster pots and quite a few sit and join us at the table.  It’s such a nice experience as it gives me chance to talk to people about what (and why!) I’m doing but also just to have a natter with new people – a gentleman on a coach trip from London and a couple travelling in a motor home spend time with us and it’s lovely to hear more about them and their experiences.  It reminds me why I love food so much – because (among other things) it has such a power to bring people together.  We all need it and every culture and time period has its signature dishes.  It strikes me that far from this being diminished through rationing, it is increased.  It is more an act of generosity to share food when you have less and the ‘family’ that gathers round the table becomes more important than what you’re actually eating.  It brings pleasure to the meal, even if you’ve had the same thing to the last three weeks.  As a newbie to the museum, it’s also given me a chance to meet and chat to staff I wouldn’t necessarily cross paths with normally.  I’m left with a nice warm feeling in my belly that is much more than just the tasty food (which it really was – I went back for seconds!)


A good old bacon sarnie
A good old bacon sarnie

For tea time, I am grateful to my past self who had the foresight to know that it would get a bit harder as the week went on.  I’ve saved my 4oz. bacon for a much need (if slightly measly by modern standards) bacon sandwich with a whole half of my cheese ration (1oz.).  In the spirit of getting the most out of everything I save some of the fat for tomorrows lunch and use the leftover fat in the pan to make a piece of fried bread (good for morale if not for the waist line!).  It’s been a good day and a stark reminder of how easy I’ve got it compared to families who were going through this (and much worse!) week after week.

Find out how my fellow food blogger Anna is getting on here.

Rations used for Day 6

* 100ml. milk

* 4oz. bacon

* 1oz. cheese

* Oatmeal, bread, jam, vegetables, rice

Ration Day 5



2 slices of toast with jam

Mock Duck

Carrot Cookie

Fish Pie

Mock duck at Home Farm
Mock duck at Home Farm

I’m well into my routine now and having porridge as my ‘actual’ breakfast and then a mid-morning second breakfast of toast and jam seems to be a good way to stave off the hunger.  Having missed out on the Home Farm lunches for the past couple of days I was excited to get back to the Museum.  I was however, a little nervous about trying the Mock Duck on the menu.  I knew it was made of sausage meat and I don’t have a problem with that – I think it’s something to do with one thing pretending to be another.  Either way, I shouldn’t have worried.  It was really tatsy – layers on onion, apple and sausage meat with sage and a nice crispy outside.  I don’t know that it looked (or tasted!) like duck but I certainly wasn’t disappointed.  A member of staff who will not be named not only had seconds but was also rumoured to be taking the leftovers for lunch the next day… so it can’t be bad!  For pudding we had carrot cookies.  I only had one so I’m not counting it from my rations (mainly because I can’t work out what 1/12 of a tbsp. is!) but they were still warm from baking and a great end to lunch.  I think they’re also one of the things I’ll be making again post ration week as a little sweet treat to have with a hot drink.

Fish Pie
Fish Pie

Although fresh fish wasn’t rationed it also wasn’t as readily available as it is now and would probably have meant getting in early when there was a delivery and not minding a queue (certainly that was the case during the war years).  I was looking forward to my fish pie for tea – it had been a tough choice between this and a homemade fish ‘n’ chips.  It’s fair to say it didn’t go quite to plan.  I used leeks with carrots and peas for the filling as I had these in although the recipe says to use carrots or swedes.  The white sauce didn’t thicken (I’ve made it before fine but just couldn’t get it right this time) and then to make matters worse I dropped loads of the finished pie on the floor when I was dishing up! The leeks gave the pie quite an oniony taste and the sauce was still much too thin even when it was cooked.  Normally, I would probably have thrown my toys out of the pram, abandoned the meal and thrown some oven chips in.  But this is ration week and it’s waste not, want not.  And of course, it was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be.  At least the potatoes on top had gone nice and crispy and it was still a warming comfort food.

Rations used for Day 5

* 400ml. milk

* ½ oz. butter

* Carrot cookies would have used 1 tbsp. margarine & 2 tbsp sugar for the whole batch but I only had one and I’m taking them as a gift!

* Oatmeal, bread, jam, sausage, apple, onion, sage, fish, vegetables unrationed


Ration Day 4



2 slices of toast with marmalade

British garden salad with roasted beetroot

1 slice of toast with jam

Honey Roasted veg, mashed potato with cabbage and peas

2 squares of chocolate

British Garden Salad - Mark 2!
British Garden Salad – Mark 2!

I’m back on a double breakfast – although the toast and jam ends up being more of

a brunch! For my actual lunch I make a salad, similar to day 2 but this time with the addition of roasted beetroots.  It takes a while to roast them and of course ends up with beetroot juice everywhere!  But it’s worth doing as it adds not just colour but a real ‘meatiness’ to the salad and a nice texture and sweetness.  Because it’s a bit of a lazy Sunday, I end up snacking on some more toast in the afternoon.






Sunday Dinner
Sunday Dinner

For the evening meal I’m determined to have some kind of a Sunday roast even though I don’t have any meat.  I’d thought about using my measly bacon ration but I’m saving it for when I get desperate later in the week!  In a bit to have some different textures and flavours I honey roast some potatoes, parsnips, onions and carrots with a fair whack of honey (unrationed) and the tiniest bit of melted butter.  Once these are close to being ready I boil some potatoes and cabbage to mash (making enough for an extra portion later in the week) and some peas.  I also make gravy but cheat using Bisto as I never got any gravy browning in.  I’m missing the meat to begin with but actually all the veg is cooked really well (I was very careful not to overcook the cabbage to retain the goodness) and was surprisingly filling.  My daily allowance of a couple of squares of chocolate finished the meal off a treat.


Find out how fellow food blogger is getting on here.

Rations used for Day 4

* 150ml. milk

* 4/10 oz. butter

* 2 squares of chocolate

* Bread, marmalade, salad, jam, honey unrationed


Ration Day 3



2 slices of toast with jam

Leftover soup & 2 slices of bread

Sausage casserole

2 squares of chocolate

The ever available toast & jam
The ever available toast & jam

Day three, and because it’s the weekend I decide to give myself a double breakfast in the hope it will also keep me feeling full for longer.  So it’s porridge (made with half milk, half water to extend my milk ration) and two slices of toast with jam (just jam, no butter or margarine).  For lunch, it’s the leftover leek & potato soup from yesterday.  It’s a relief to have something already made.  One thing I’ve already found is that meals – the planning, preparing and cooking, takes much longer.  In terms of the planning, it’s making sure you have variety across the week while not using up any of your rationed goods all in one day.  The preparation takes longer, partly because I’m using unfamiliar recipes, but also because most meals include at least three different types of veg.  Maybe this is the case for lots of people nowadays but not for me and this week has definitely made me more aware of that I should be eating more vegetables.  There’s something about the time taken to prepare a meal that also makes you appreciate it more (even when it seems a little frustrating) and I think I’ve cut down on my snacking because of it.  Either way, and even for someone who loves cooking, doing it from scratch for every meal, is definitely a full time job!


Sausage casserole
Sausage casserole

For tea, I’d planned to have a steak and vegetable ragout.  However, in a very un-1950s mistake I forgot to take it out of the freezer.  I didn’t fancy another vegetarian tea so I swapped in some sausages.  These were unrationed in the early 50s so it’s a fair exchange.  It also meant I saved on my fat ration as I started the sausages off in the oven and they released enough fat to cook the vegetables in.  I was home alone tonight so I treated myself to a couple of squares of chocolate and a Celebrity Masterchef binge watch.  I have to say though, when you’re on a restricted diet, watching people cook vast quantities of food does lose its appeal slightly…

Find out how fellow blogger Anna has been getting on here.

Rations used for Day 3:

* 100ml milk

* 3/10 oz. margarine

* 2 squares of chocolate

* Oats, bread, jam, sausage, vegetables unrationed


Ration Day 2



Carrot Sandwich

Salad – lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, radish, watercress

Homemade crisps

Leek & Potato Soup with 1.5 slices of bread

4 squares of chocolate

Today was a busy and slightly terrifying day.  It turns out there’s been a lot of interest in the rationing experiment and this morning I was off to BBC Tees radio to give a short interview.  This in itself was a scary prospect but it would also put me to the test being out and about and not being able to just grab food as I go.  So I had as big a bowl of porridge as my milk rations would allow and packed myself up a carrot & chutney sandwich for emergency use.  Then it was off on the X9 to Middlesbrough, reading all my notes on the way there – I felt like I was revising for an exam and was certain I’d be caught out for not knowing the answer to a difficult question about rationing or the ‘50s.  I needn’t have worried – all the staff at the Studio were lovely and Mike was brilliant at putting me at ease.  He also enjoyed the carrot cookies I took in for him to try.  You can hear the interview here (at 1hr 50) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03yx8vr

And if you’d like to try the carrot cookies for yourself here’s the recipe:

Carrot Cookies

(From “We’ll Eat Again” by Marguerite Patten O.B.E.)

1 tbsp. Margarine

2 tbsp. sugar and a little extra for sprinkling on tops of the cakes

A few drops vanilla, almond or orange flavouring

4 tbsp. grated raw carrot

6 tbsp. self-raising flour or plain flour and ½ teaspoon baking powder

  1. Cream the fat and sugar together until it is light and fluffy
  2. Beat in the flavouring and carrot
  3. Fold in the flour or flour and baking powder.
  4. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture into small greased patty pans.
  5. Sprinkle the tops with sugar and bake in a brisk oven for about 20 minutes.

It was a long bus ride home and now the nerves had gone I was very happy to have my sandwich and pleasantly pleased with the taste.  It was as well I’d filled up as I then found out I was doing a pre-record for Star Radio in the afternoon (link to follow).  What with all the interviews and being featured in two local papers (http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/could-you-stomach-world-war-11583108 & http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/14609339.Museum__39_s_writer_in_residence_takes_on_challenge_of_living_off_wartime_rations/ ) I was starting to feel quite the celebrity.  It’s a shame I wasn’t on the 5 star diet to match!

British Garden Salad
British Garden Salad

After all the excitement, lunch was a very simple salad – inspired by the ‘British Garden’ (lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, radish, watercress).


One of the things I realised I was going to really miss this week is crisps so this afternoon I experimented with some homemade oven baked crisps.  I tried two different types – the first with just the smallest amount of fat (melt butter in a small frying pan, lay thinly sliced potato in the pan to soak it up, then transfer to an oven tray) and then seasoned with salt and pepper, the second were coated in honey.  Without a doubt the salt & pepper ones were a much better result, not least because the lack of fat on the others meant I could hardly get them off the tray! I think I’ll be making these again in the next few days to satisfy my crunchy salty crisp cravings!


Homemade Crisps - before cooking
Homemade Crisps – before cooking
Homemade Crisps - after cooking
Homemade Crisps – after cooking













Tea for the night was leek and potato soup.  Realising that the week’s meals were going to very quickly become quite

Leek & Potato Soup
Leek & Potato Soup

monotonous I decide to make a real effort and set a proper table for tea.  It felt like, by making something of an event of the meal and making it look good, I could trick myself into forgetting it was another bowl of vegetables.  I wonder if this is why there is more of a focus on presentation in a lot of the recipes I’ve found?  I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the meal but actually it was super tasty and really filling.  It felt like a real comfort meal and one I’d definitely be returning to if I was doing this for a longer period.  Even better, it made plenty so that lunch tomorrow is already sorted.  Later on I also treated myself to a couple of squares of chocolate which I’m trying to spread out to last me the week!


A successful second day has left me feeling much more optimistic about the days ahead!


Find out how fellow blogger Anna has been getting on here: https://annainthekitchen.wordpress.com/2016/07/08/ration-week-day-2/

Rations used for Day 2:

* 300ml milk

* 3/10 margarine

* 6/10 oz chocolate

* Oats, salad, leeks, potatoes, bread – unrationed


Ration Day 1


3 slices of toast with margarine

Pigs in clover with cabbage, carrots & war time loaf

Potato Ring

As soon as I started researching and planning for this week I was relieved to see bread (and potatoes) on the list of unrationed items.  I was less confident when, an hour after breakfast today (my first day), I was already feeling hungry.  I’m a natural snacker and couldn’t turn to lots of my usual things (mainly crisps!).  I ended up having another slice of toast and hitting the cookery books to make sure I’d had things planned for the days to come.  Then it was time to get ready and head up to the 1940s farm at the museum.

Enjoying 50s rations at Beamish MuseumThe brilliant staff there are making a rationed inspired lunch every day for staff to try with some extra treats for visitors.  On today’s menu was ‘Pigs in Clover’ which is a jacket potato, cored before cooking, with sausage meat in the hole.  It was served with boiled cabbage and carrots and wartime loaf.  It was much tastier than I was expecting and a great comfort food.  For pudding they’d made blackout cake for us and the visitors the try.  There were some very uncertain faces as it’s definitely not how we expect a cake to taste.  It’ a little drier than your usual (as it’s made with no eggs) but actually was nicely filled with flavours of treacle and ginger.

Here’s the recipe if you’d like to give it a go yourself:

Blackout Cake

¾ lb flourBlackout cake for ration week at Beamish Museum (2)


½ lb black treacle

¼ lb lard or margarine

¼ lb oatmeal

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp vinegar

2 tsp ground ginger


Melt the fat and treacle and stir in the dry ingredients.

Dissolve the soda in the vinegar and add to the mixture last.

Bake in a moderate oven for an hour.

Potato ringTea tonight was, however, a complete disaster.  I made a recipe simply called ‘Potato Ring’.  The ‘potato ring’ is simply a ring of grated potato with lard, flour and parsley cooked in the oven.  The finished thing is then filled with vegetables of your choice. 45 mins in and the centre was still raw so it was mashed flattened and re-cooked while I ate the vegetables meant for the centre.  I’ve noticed that a lot of the older recipes give a lot less instruction and I come to the conclusion that I must have made the ring much too thick.  Not the best start but I’m sure if I was eating like this for longer, I’d be an expert at all recipes potato related!

All in all, not the best start to the day and it’s made me realise the challenge of the week.  But I’ve filled my fridge with fresh vegetables – I’ve never had such a healthy shop! Fingers crosses, with some better planning I’ll soon be a pro at ration inspired dishes.

Find out how fellow blogger Anna has been getting on here:



Rations used for Day 1:

* 3/10 oz margarine

* ½ oz cooking fat

* 1 sausage

* Bread, potatoes, vegetables  – unrationed

Ration Week (7th July – 13th July)

Ahead of the Festival of the Fifties (14th – 17th July) I’ve set myself a challenge to live off the rations that were still in place in Britain in the early fifties.  I’ll be posting my experiences and menus here.  I’ve done as much research as I can through books and chatting to people but I’d love to hear from you if you have a different story or recipes of your own to share!

Becci Sharrock with her eggless chocolate cake (1)

For the challenge, I’ll be living off the following quantities for the week:

Bacon & Ham (4oz), Meat (4oz), Sugar (8oz), Tea (2oz), Cheese (2oz), Butter (2oz), Margarine (4oz), Cooking fat (4oz), Milk (3 pints), Eggs (1), Sweets & Chocolate (3oz)

The following were unrationed at the time I’m looking at: Bread, Potatoes, Oatmeal, Preserves, Vegetables, Offal, Sausages, Fish, Chicken, Rabbit and Game.  However, I’m trying to take into account that although unrationed, not all of these things would have been readily available in large quantities (e.g. fish).

As part of the week, the 1940s farm will also be cooking up some ration inspired meals for staff with extra tasty titbits for visitors to try.

Joining me in the challenge will be fellow food bloggers Anna (https://annainthekitchen.wordpress.com/) and Jeff (http://www.newcastleeats.co.uk/).  I’ll be keeping you up to date with their progress along the way.

Wish us luck!