What Austerity or “Wartime” Foods have you eaten?

By Mecca Ibrahim •

Photo of Bryan Webb’s Pigs’ Trotters with beetroot chutney & salad leaves from Great British Chefs

As Remembrance Day and Veterans’ Day events take place this weekend, we wanted to look back to times when food wasn’t in such great supply.

Ration for one week
This case shows the weekly food ration for one person in 1940 - Imperial War Museum.

In wartime in the UK, food was being rationed & people ate cheap cuts of food. There’s now a move back to “austerity” cooking, as we discover inventive ways to make offal or little used cuts of meat really tasty. We love Bryan Webb’s version of Pigs’ Trotters.

Slow cooking helps to turn cheaper cuts of meat into things of beauty. Pork Belly is on the menu at most gourmet restaurants now, but there was a time when pork belly was considered a “rough meat” and it was featured in The Imperial War Museum’s “Ministry of Food” exhibition.

Robert Thompson’s slow cooked Island pork belly is cheap enough for you to blow out on the lobster it’s served with.

Our, CEO, Ollie is a big fan of cooking odd cuts of meat. At Great British Chefs our stomachs collectively churned when he excitedly put a message on Facebook saying that he’d bought a load of pigs’ ears and was going to cook them the next day. They were enormous but only 50p an ear! Following Pascal Aussignac's recipe he boiled them in salted water & then cut them into strips.

Cut up Pig's Ears waiting to be fried

On Facebook our fans were incredulous and said “you’re not seriously going to eat these”. But once they were deep fried in batches, they were absolutely delicious and tasted like crackling!

Opinions from fans on Facebook were divided but the general opinion was “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it”.

Fried Pigs' Ears

Spam was popular in wartime and even today, spam fritters make a tasty supper.

Spam ... it's what's for dinner!
From a 1940’s Woman’s Day magazine by Wandering Magpie.

Best bit about this photo isn’t the banana/spam combination (anyone tried it?) but the fact that the Spam in the picture on the tin is blue! Nice. Imperial War Museum.

Moving on from savoury dishes, don’t forget that even yummy treats like carrot cakes originated from when fruit was in low supply.

Food for sale at Aldwych

Dishes such as Lardy Cake (great post & recipe below from our strategic advisor & guest blogger Matthew Fort), Bread Pudding, Gingerbread, Suet Pudding and Treacle Tart all came about when butter, sugar and eggs were in short supply.

Lardy cake

2 oz lard;
2 oz currants;
12 oz white bread dough, risen;
2 oz caster sugar;
pinch of nutmeg;
drizzle of honey

Roll out the dough to an oblong. Spread on lard and sprinkle with sugar, nutmeg and currants. Roll up like a swiss roll and place in a greased shallow baking tin. Cover and leave to rise for about 15 minutes. Brush lightly with honey and bake at gas mark five, 190C (375F) for 35 to 40 minutes. Serve hot with butter.

Matthew added: “Just warm a piece of lardy cake (yes, even in the microwave) and load it with a compote of blackberries and a dollop of clotted cream, and tell me you don’t feel nearer to heaven than with a spoonful of pannacotta or tiramisu”.

Shaun Rankin's - Treacle Tart from Great British Chefs

Josh Eggleton's - Caramel Panna Cotta with Homemade Gingerbread - from Great British Chefs.

We hope this look at austerity cooking has given you some ideas for inexpensive but delicious meals to try. What “wartime” dishes have you eaten or cooked? We’re discussing this over on the Great British Chefs Facebook page


Mecca Ibrahim

Mecca is Head of Marketing and Social Media at Great British Chefs and has spent the last 10 years at some of the biggest and most innovative internet businesses out there (Yahoo, Just Giving, E-How, Moo.com and Joost). She was winning awards for her blog when most people didn't know what a blog was. Mecca hosts an annual food blogging competition called NomNomNom and runs the multi-award winning London Underground Tube Diary.

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