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Recipe Number Forty Three March 2007
Suet Pancakes

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It's great that the weather is now showing signs of warming up unlike the sub zero weather that faced us as we returned from our annual holidays in late January.  Just one of the problems when travelling to a warm place is that you quickly get used to the warmth of the sun when spending time in another country.  Mrs R decided that this year we would have a quite relaxing holiday, unlike many of the others that she had planned in the past.  She promised me faithfully that this holiday would be kept simple and for us just to head off to a nice warm country and chill out, taking time to unwind and all that stuff.  No riding camels, or driving up mountains in four by fours, and a firm promise that there would be no contact sports or anything that would inflict pain in any way that included things like jumping off bridges with elastic wrapped around your legs, or being dragged over water by a high powered boat.  And I must say she kept to her word.  Well apart from a small a small relapse, when it was suggested that it may be a good idea to descend to the bottom of the ocean in what seemed a very small rusting submarine, only to be saved by the news that on the day we were booked to descend to the deep it could not depart as they found out it had sprung a leak and had to be lifted out on to dry dock for repairs.

It always seems hard to return back to the restaurant after being away but with the thought of a new menu to prepare we are raring to go.  The young chef that works at the restaurant has spent a bit of time in France enjoying French food and, of course, French wine.  The week before he went we spent time going through food words in French and also phrases that may be of help when trying to converse.  Del Boy would have been proud of us.  It was during one of these French lessons that my friend Brian, the roving reporter came to see me and said that he had found this little book and thought that it would be interesting reading.  I could see that the book was old but still in quite still in good condition.  The book looked as if it was written in the 1930s and was issued by Norfolk County Council for use by school cooks in preparing school meals.

What made the little book more interesting was the fact that each meal was giving the total cost of the ingredients and, of course, it was in old pennies.  Another interesting little gem in the book was the handwritten pages in black ink; maybe written by the person that the book belonged to all those years ago.

Little handwritten remarks alongside the printed recipes, changes that the cook had found out would, in their mind, improve the recipe, and it was interesting to read of the typical meals that were served to children in those days.  There was a page with the heading "Caution".  This gave the reader vital information like "don't forget to draw out the damper when the oven is to be used and to push it in when cooking had finished", "don't handle pastry more than necessary", "don't close the oven door with a bang when baking", "don't put saucepans away before they are dry".  All good tips.

As I looked through the book at the meals that the children were given, it became clear that, although they were not getting their fat intake through burgers and fatty chips, modern school meals that Jamie is trying to change today with our healthy way of eating in the 1930s the children certainly didn't lack an intake of fatty foods.  Listed in the book were recipes for dumplings, sausage puddings, jam roly poly puddings, rissoles, and pigs fry.  Just a few of the ingredients now thought of as bad for you.  But this was food way back in the 1930s and, of course this would be needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  The normal young lad or young lady would have no problem in those days in burning off the fat content of their school dinner.  Remember no 4x4s in those days and a three mile walk to school was just up the road.

As I read the little book I noticed that beside each menu would be the cost of preparing the dish, take the recipe for Irish Stew to feed four children.  Ingredients came to the grand total of 8d.  For that you made the meal with one pound of scrag mutton, two pounds of potatoes, three large onions and seasoning of salt and pepper and, of course, water.  Another recipe made 10 good size suet dumplings for the cost of just 4d.

When it came to giving the children their pudding way back when this book was printed, Treacle Tart would cost 2d and scrap bread pudding would feed the whole school for around 6d but, for all round good value, there was the cornflour pudding that seemed to contain sweet little.  In fact the recipe called for only milk, cornflour and sugar, and it must have tasted of very little but welcome if you were starving.

One of the pages had a recipe handwritten with a recipe for Suet Pancakes on it but what made me notice it was that in brackets was the word "excellent".  Maybe in the eyes of the beholder the word "excellent" may have stood for an excellent way of filling the children up, or maybe I am being unkind, and the truth was that way back in the 1930s these little Suet Pancakes were a real treat for the children and were truly described by them as excellent.


Recipes from the Norfolk School Cookery Book
Suet Pancakes

Take a bowl and pop in 4oz flour, add a little pinch of salt, 3oz of suet, half a tea spoon of baking powder, half a cup of milk and mix the ingredients to a stiff paste.  Roll out on a floured board to a thickness of half an inch thick.  Cut into rounds with a cutter.  Cook in a hot pan on the stove of hot lard.  When brown, turn over, serve with warm jam or pour syrup over.

Well if you can still remember school dinners from around the 1930s and still hanker after warm milk and lumpy custard, here's your chance to go back in time and relive the taste of the old school days.  Just a note - if you wish to reproduce this recipe make sure that you take cook's advice and draw out your damper when cooking.


Colin Rushmore

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