Just recently I’ve read (and written) a few stories about World War II London. I’m inspired to write a Stress Free London Blitz Dinner Party. Food shortages not withstanding, it’s easier than you think.
Yes there were food shortages, and rationing – mainly meat, tea, dairy, sugar and manufactured sweets. Fresh vegetables were hard to come by, but people were encouraged to “Dig for Victory.”
This also meant that there was an amount of substitution (some legal, some not so much) in the food supplies, as well as weird fake meats made from vegetables.
Our London Blitz Dinner Party takes huge liberties, because you probably wouldn’t have access to all this food at the same time.
Foreign beverages were very hard to come by (e.g., French wines and distillations like brandy), though there was still access to British beers and distillations (e.g., rum, gin and whisky).
Plenty of water and tea, not so much coffee. And after a point, your tea would be recycled leaves, or a mix of old and new.
Meals were still more formal than today, sitting in a designated dining space, usually seperate to the kitchen. Often with table cloths and napkins.
You could either play Big Band tunes (e.g., Glen Miller or Artie Shaw, or signers like Vera Lynn or Bing Crosby). Or, if you’re game, a WWII bombing sound effects file. Though be warned, if you have surround sound it could be quite chilling.
Armed forces, nurses, or period costume.
Our London Blitz Dinner Party, as always, has six guests invited to arrive at 6.30 for 7.00 pm.
6:30 Apéritif: Mock Crab on Toast with Gin and Tonic
Melt 15 g (½ oz) margerine in a saucepan then add two well beaten eggs (or for more authenticity reconsituted powdered eggs). When the eggs are half scrambled (a couple of minutes) add 30 g (1 oz) of cheese, a desert spoon of mayonnaise, a few drops of vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.
Butter may be healthier, but less authentic. Feel free to substitute throughout this meal.
Serve warm or cold with toast, like a dip.
7.00 Entrée: Pumpkin Soup with beer (London Pride if you can get it)
Preheat your oven to 220 °C (425 °F).
Deseed 1 kg (2 lb) pumpkin and chop into medium sized chunks. Place on a baking tray and dot with margerine. Add a couple of garlic cloves if you like. Bake for 45 minutes, turning once or twice.
In the meantime, peel and chop an onion, and fry in a saucepan with 30 g (1 oz) margerine until soft.
When the pumpkin is done, peel and add (with the garlic) to the onions and top up with 1L (2 pints) of vegetable stock and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring gently.
When it’s done, liquidise, and reheat with salt and pepper to taste, and enough milk to dilute to your desired consistency.
You can make this ahead, and reheat when ready to eat.
8.00 Main: Cottage Pie with more beer
Preheat your oven to 200 °C (390 °F).
Peel and chop a couple of big potatoes, add to salted water and boil until tender. Say 30 minutes. Mash with enough milk and margerine to create a nice spreadable texture, then salt and pepper to taste. If you like, mix in some cheese.
Brown 450 g (1 lb) of mince, then add an assortment of peeled and chopped seasonal vegetables (e.g., onions, carrot, peas and whatever else you have lying around). Add salt, pepper and dried herbs to taste (e.g. rosemary, thyme, parsley, or a combination). Stir in 600 ml (a pint) of stock and simmer for 15 minutes. If the meat is runny, consider adding some gravy powder or flour to thicken it.
Put the meat in a dish and top with the potato. If you like crusty bits, rough up the top with a fork. Bake for 20 minutes.
You can leave it at that, or steam some green veg on the side.
Again, you can make this ahead of time and reheat when you’re ready to eat.
9.00 Dessert: Bread Pudding with even more beer
Preheat your oven to 160 °C (320 °F).
Soak 285g (10 oz) stale bread in a little water for about 10 minutes. Squeeze out the water and place in a basin with 60 g (2 oz) margerine, 30 g (1 oz) sugar, 60 g (2 oz) dried fruit (e.g., sultanas, currants or raisins), and an egg. Mix it all together with cinnamon to taste and enough milk to make it sticky.
Squish into a greased pan and bake for an hour, until browned.
Traditionally served hot with custard, but you could also serve it cold with cream or icecream.
10.00 Tea, Coffee, Cheddar and a sip of rum
Generally, a WWII meal focused on two solid courses, but you could serve cheese if you like.
This is the perfect meal to make ahead and reheat (or not) as you go. Making as much as you can the day before, will allow plenty of time for the flavours to develop.
12.00 Prepare the mock crab.
12.30 Prepare the soup.
13.30 Prepare the cottage pie.
14.30 Prepare the bread pudding
6.30 Guests arrive
6.45 Reheat the soup over a medium heat. Put your pie and pudding dishes on the bench to warm up so they don’t crack when you put them in the oven.
7.00 Serve the soup, and reheat the oven to 180 °C (360 °F).
7.15 Put the cottage pie in to heat up.
8.00 Serve the cottage pie.
8.45 Put the bread pudding in the oven to heat up.
9.00 Serve the pudding.
10.00 Serve the tea/coffee and digestive.