Monday, 17 February 2014

Corned Beef Fritters

Full Disclosure: I love Corned Beef.

Love might even be too tame a term for it since I'm fairly sure I would be happy eating it straight from the can with a spoon if that wasn't completely socially unacceptable. My Mum's Corned Beef Pie (oddly not a Marguerite Patten recipe) with chips, peas and gravy is the best meal I could possibly think of, so when it came to WW2 food there really was no choice for me other than returning to my favourite canned meat food. (I also love Spam.)

On page 34 of We'll Eat Again the graphic introduces us to 'The Butcher' who explains to us (through Mrs. Smith - whose name is delightfully generic) the inclusion of Corned Beef in the meat ration. The paragraph tells us that the people of WW2 are "lucky" to have such a versatile meat that can be served "Cold or hot, (...) in a dozen different ways" and if The Butcher has a slight mocking tone when he refers to Lord Woolton "watching his socks" then its forgotten in the realisation that this meat doesn't cost any of Mrs Smith's precious coupons at all. The Ministry of Food's propaganda was designed to speak directly to the people of Britain and this instance is particularly effective in that the reader comes away intrigued and confused as to the many different ways they could possibly cook this new food. Thankfully Marguerite Patten has more than a few suggestions as to what you can make and I will be following her recipe for Corned Beef Fritters.

The recipe is a simple one - essentially a batter mixture with bits of corned beef flaked in and then fried - and it makes a large serving for the amount of precious rationed goods such as eggs and milk it requires you to use. It says 4 helpings but I think I made closer to 6.

Chopped parsley was beyond my budget (especially when you only need a teaspoon) and I didn't fancy attempting to use reconstituted eggs so my ingredients are slightly more modern than what Marguerite Patten suggests. I did however go to the trouble of getting my hands on some dripping for use in the recipe. The packaging is delightfully nostalgic and I felt as though I really should have been asking for it over the counter at my local shop with my rationing tokens rather than picking it off the shelf in Morrisons!

In the typical Marguerite Patten way the recipe offers no flowery language or advice on how to make your fritters look an attractive shape. I blended and beat, melted and spooned and before long seemed to be making meaty pancakes out of a mixture that looks a bit like beef porridge. (If such a thing has ever existed - I really hope not!)

The results of my cooking were varied. I had to use far more dripping, which made my skin crawl with how fatty it was, than the recipe stated - though this may have been to do with my not cooking them half as quickly as Marguerite specified. "Crisp and Brown" (36) however they most certainly were on the outside, and the inside was a molten, melting, meaty mix that warmed my insides and filled me up really quickly. I can see exactly why these were popular during the war and deemed by Patten to be a recipe worthy of sharing in her role as ambassador for the Food Advice Bureau.

That said the dripping was, as I mentioned earlier, really not very nice to use as an ingredient and I find it hard to reconcile the fat that dripped off the fritters with what Dr. Alan Borg of the Imperial War Museum says about the diet of the time being "very much in line with the message of many doctors and nutritionists today". (6) "Fighting fit" it may keep you in terms of energy, but I'm glad that I am not expected to cook with dripping for all my meals - give me cooking spray or olive oil any day.


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