Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Split Pea and Barley Soup

Let us, then, be up and doing, 
With a heart for any fate; 
Still achieving, still pursuing, 
Learn to labor and to wait.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, A Psalm of Life

If we - that is, I - have learned anything from this year's MoFo theme, it's that energy, perseverance, and fortitude are key to surviving privation and adversity. (An ability to queue patiently, and a knowledge of roots, tubers, and legumes also come in damned useful.) Which brings us to the subject of legumes. As Carolyn, the intrepid blogger at The 1940s Experiment, notes: "Dried peas were available through the points system during the rationing years…you could get quite a lot of split peas for your points every month (8 lbs) if you didn’t use your 16 points up for 2 lbs of dry fruit or just one can of meat/fish." Since beans and peas pack a lot of nutritional punch, their frequent appearance in wartime recipes makes perfect sense; in fact, the most surprising thing is that the UK's entire population didn't turn vegan on the spot!

Today's recipe is a fairly basic split pea soup, to which can be added whatever root veggies happen to be on hand; carrots, turnips, parsnips, cabbage, the ubiquitous onions and potatoes...after a month of this, I'm sure you're getting the idea. I made this while housebound by Hurricane Sandy, and used most of the contents of our vegetable bin, along with a some barley from my mother's insanely overstocked larder for that substantial "something" so welcome on a blustery afternoon (and of course a handful of green leafies never comes amiss if you have some lying around). And although Sandy wast exactly the Blitz, the soup kicked some serious ass; in combination with a pile of cheesy oatcakes, it was the kind of dinner that fuels a person to be up and doing, with a heart for any fate.

Split Pea and Barley Soup
~ 1 tbsp. margarine (I use Earth Balance) or neutral oil such as canola
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 1 large carrot, diced
~ 1 large parsnip, diced
~ 1 large stalk celery, diced
~ 1 large potato, diced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, sage, marjoram
~ Generous dose of fresh black pepper
~ 1.5 cups split peas
~ 3/4 cup pearled barley
~ 1/4 head cabbage, chopped (about 2 cups)
~ 1 tsp. each: vegan Worcestershire sauce, Liquid Smoke
~ 8-10 cups vegetable stock
~ 2 bay leaves

~In a large, deep pot, heat the margarine or oil and sauté the onion over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.
~Add the carrot, parsnip, celery, potato, and dry seasonings; cook about 5-7 minutes more, stirring occasionally and adding a  splash of broth as needed to prevent sticking.
~Stir in the split peas, barley, cabbage, Worcester sauce, Liquid Smoke, and the bay leaves. Stir to coat and cook another few minutes.
~Raise the heat to high, add 8 cups of the vegetable broth, then cover and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for about an hour, or until the split peas are tender. Stir occasionally and add more stock if the soup is getting thicker than you'd like.
~ Fish out the bay leaves and serve hot. (NB that this thickens as it sits, so you may want to add a bit of water when reheating the excellent leftovers, which just keep getting better!)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cheesy Oatcakes

Marguerite Patten tells us that oatmeal, "one of the finest foods for giving warmth and a 'must' for growing children," and notes that "they will probably like it as Oatcakes, made this way" before offering a recipe that calls for 8 oz. oatmeal, 1.5 ounce self-raising flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tbsp. "melted dripping" {{shudder}} and "enough boiling water" to form a mixture to be rolled out "as thinly as possible...Cut into triangles and bake[d] in a fairly hot oven." After dutifully taking all that on board, I freely confess that my rendition's relationship to Ms Patten's is tenuous at best. In fact, the whole idea was the combined result of a pot of cold, leftover breakfast oats and  the looming need for Mofo posts; the rest, as they say, is revisionist (albeit yummy) history. 

Cheesy Oatcakes
~ 2.5 cups cooked, cooled steelcut oats
~ 3/4-1 cup flour, plus extra for rolling
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, baking powder, dry mustard
~ A few generous grinds black pepper
~ 1/2 cup vegan cheese, shredded (I used Daiya)
~1 tbsp. margarine, melted

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
~ In a large bowl, sift together 3/4 cup of the flour, salt, mustard, baking powder, and pepper.
~ Add the cooked oats, cheese, and margarine, and combine thoroughly, adding more flour as needed to make a stiff dough.
~ Form the dough mixture into a ball and allow it to rest for a few minutes while you dust your cutting board with flour and dig out your rolling pin.
~ Place the dough on your floured surface (sprinkle the top with a little more flour if it seems sticky), and roll out to about 1/3" thickness. 
~ Use a biscuit cutter (I just use the floured rim of a pint glass) to cut the dough into circles, and place on two ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, flipping once midway through baking, until the cakes are lightly browned. Cool on  a rack before storing in an airtight container or - a far more likely scenario - devouring immediately.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lancashire Hotpot

Lancashire hotpot is one of those "stone soup" recipes where whatever happens to be on hand gets tossed into the pot, and a filling meal is the end result; other regional examples include lobscouse and cawl. As with most dishes of this ilk, traditional versions are fairly meaty, and as this blogger notes, "The type of meat to be used in a true Lancashire hotpot is a matter of some controversy, with many being of the opinion that it should be lamb (with optional lamb kidneys) and some thinking it should be beef. As much food can be added as will fit in the pot." 

Since neither lambs or cows are food - and who the hell wants to eat anyone's kidneys? - you won't find any of that nasty stuff here, but you will find more of this MoFo's Victory Garden staples. I also added some Gardein beefless tips that were hanging out in the freezer, but you could easily use all mushrooms for the "meaty" component; after that, it's just a matter of rounding up the usual suspects to add to the mix. Onions, leeks, carrots, parsnips, celery, and turnip/swede are all mentioned in various recipes, and I used all of these except the last, which is one of the very few veggies I genuinely dislike. Traditionally, the whole business is then topped with a layer of thinly sliced potatoes, but if you're feeling lazy and/or iconoclastic and don't mind flying in the face of custom, you could substitute mashed and reduce the cooking time slightly. The finished product was tasty, filling, came together pretty quickly, and went over well at ours; the relative dearth of leftovers indicates it's a MoFo experiment that will be making future appearances. 

(A few pop cultural notes that may be of interest: hotpot was the signature dish of Coronation Street's long-serving barmaid, Betty Williams, who served it up at The Rover's Return from 1969 to 2011. In Wallace and Gromit's A Grand Day Out, the former bucks up his canine companion's spirits by encouraging him to "Hold tight, lad, and think of Lancashire hotpot" as they blast off for the moon - their ideal  holiday spot, based on its reputation for being made of cheese. And the casserole is one of the few things for which Michael Caine's mod Cockney misogynist, Alfie, praises his unfortunate "bird," although he worries that "its" cooking is making him fat: "And it can cook, too. A bit limited on the menu. It goes in for Lancashire hotpot and steak and kidney pie. They blow you out a bit, but it does do a marvellous egg custard.” Yeah, whatever, Alfie.)

Lancashire Hotpot
~ 1 tbsp. margarine
~ 2 cups vegetable broth
~ 1 large leek or onion, chopped (I used a combination)
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 2 carrots, sliced
~ 2 parsnips, sliced
~ 4-5 cups chopped mushrooms (I used portobellos)
~ 1 tsp. each: sage, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, dry mustard
~ 1/2 tsp. salt
~ 1 tsp. each: Marmite, vegan Worcestershire sauce, Liquid Smoke
~ A few generous grinds of black pepper
~ 1 package vegan "beef" tips (optional)
~ 2-3 tbsp. flour
~ Potatoes, thinly sliced or mashed, to cover the top

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and coat a casserole with cooking spray.
~ In a large, deep skillet, saute the leek and/or onion and garlic over medium heat for a few minutes.
~ Add the carrots, celery, parsnips, and half the broth; cover and cook another 5 minutes.
~ Add the mushrooms, dry seasonings, Marmite, Worcester sauce, and Liquid Smoke. Cook 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shrooms have softened and released their liquid.
~ Add the "beef" tips (if using), the remaining broth, and the flour. Stir to combine and cook, uncovered, for another few minutes, until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to the casserole.
~ Now it's time for the potatoes: 
1. If you're being traditional and using sliced, layer half the potato slices over the vegetable filling, dot with a little margarine, the add the remaining potatoes, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a little more margarine. Cover with foil and bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked. Remove foil and bake another 10-15 minutes to brown. 
2. If you're an iconoclastic maverick (or just lazy/pressed for time), top the filling with a generous layer of mashed potatoes champ, smooth with a rubber spatula, and top with a little melted margarine and a dusting of salt and pepper. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until beauteously browned.
~ Allow to rest a few minutes before serving.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ginger Pumpkin Bread

Sorry to have been such a bad MoFo participant this week...and the naughtiness continues, because today's offering is neither a WWII recipe nor even slightly austere! But it still fits with our theme, since the game-changing ingredient in this bread is from my mother's cupboard stores, which I am still working through

A childhood of rationing and austerity (to say nothing of all that Ministry of Food propaganda about the danger of wasting anything) resulted in a lifelong propensity to stockpile all sorts of foodstuffs, and more than two years after my mother's passing, we still have - among other things - some barley, a bag of Odlum's strong flour, a huge jar of strawberry jam, several boxes of confectioner's sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, a can of marzipan, some fancy balsamic vinegar, and a frozen Tupperware of homemade lentil soup that awaits some as-yet-unknown special occasion to be eaten. (I think we'll make it through the winter just fine!)

Anyway, the crystallized ginger that makes this recipe kick so much ass was actually a gift from me; my mother loved all things ginger-flavored, but rarely splurged on treats for herself. Since she was the only person in her life she didn't compulsively overfeed, I'm not surprised she'd used this "luxury" product sparingly, and I'd forgotten all about the stuff until I was searching for something else entirely and inspiration struck. The result was the most delicious quick-bread I've ever made - sweet, spicy, and somehow "fancier" than an ordinary pumpkin loaf,  with the added bonus of making me think of my mom. 

Ginger Pumpkin Bread 
Dry Ingredients
~ 2.5 cups white whole wheat flour
~ 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ 1/2 tsp. each: baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger
~ 1/4 tsp. each: nutmeg, mace
~ 1/3-1/2 cup crystallized ginger, chopped fine
~ 1/2-2/3 cup raisins

Wet Ingredients
~ 2 cups pumpkin puree (1 can)
~ 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
~ 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened soymilk
~ 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract

~ Coat a loaf pan with cooking spray and preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
~ In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add the raisins and the chopped ginger last and mix them around to coat with the flour mixture (this will give them some "grip" in the batter).
~ Combine the wet ingredients and mix thoroughly.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the pumpkin mixture, and combine thoroughly.
~ Transfer the batter to your waiting loaf pan, and bake at 375 in the center of the oven for about 45 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted comes out clean. (Ovens vary wildly, and mine tends to be a bit slow; just keep an eye on things!)
~ Remove from the oven and allow the bread to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pigs in Clover

Pigs in Clover 
"For this wholesome and economical dish you will need 6 medium, well-scrubbed potatoes, 6 skinned sausages and some cabbage.  With an apple corer, remove a center core lengthways from each potato and stuff the cavity with sausage meat. Bake the potatoes in the usual way and serve on a bed of lightly chopped, cooked cabbage."

I confess that today's entry is more a case of "as inspired by" than a faithful recreation of its 1940s prototype, which appears in Marguerite Patten's simultaneously entertaining and sobering We'll Eat Again: A Collection of Recipes from the War Years

Initially, I had every intention of giving the original a shot with only two minor alterations: the substitution of a vegetable-based "sausage" filling for the offal of unfortunate oinkers, and a bed of kale rather than cabbage for the little darlings to rest upon once they were baked. The first obstacle appeared when I realized we don't have an apple-corer, and the second when I couldn't find one in a shop for love nor money. 

Since I wasn't keen to risk my digits gouging out the center of raw potatoes with a paring knife, that effectively put the kibosh on my recreating the dish as written. But then I thought to partially cook the tatties, scoop out some of their midsections, stuff them with the "sausage," put the two halves back together, and bake them in foil; this would probably would have worked fine, but I'd have been left with way too much extra filling. And so it was that I opted for the classic twice-baked potatoes approach: microwaving the spuds, scooping out the insides, combining it with my sausage stuff, and then putting the whole business back in the skins and baking them uncovered until brown and crispy. This turned out great, and once nestled into a pile of leafy greens, with some steamed carrots and cauliflower cheese for boon companions, these little piggies made a delicious (and filling) dinner.

Pigs in Clover
~ 6 large baking potatoes, scrubbed and baked (oven or microwave is fine)
~ 1 tbsp. margarine
~ 1 small red onion, diced
~ 1 large stalk celery, diced
~ 1 parsnip, grated
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1/2 pound mushrooms, chopped
~ 1/2 cup vegetable stock or water
~ 1 tsp. each: Marmite, vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, marjoram, sage, thyme
~ Pinch of mace
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 2 tbsp. rolled oats

~ Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ Scoop out the center of the cooked potatoes into a bowl and set aside; being careful to leave the skins intact.
~ In a large skillet, melt the margarine and sauté the onion, celery, and parsnip over medium heat for about 5 minutes, adding water or stock as needed to prevent sticking.
~ Add the mushrooms, garlic, and seasonings and cook 5-7 minutes more, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and are quite soft.
~ Add the rolled oats and any remaining stock and cook a few more minutes more, or until most of the liquid is cooked off.
~ Add the cooked potato to the mixture in the skillet and combine thoroughly; set aside until cool enough to handle.
~ Carefully scoop this mixture into the potato skins, and arrange them on the prepared baking sheet.
~ Bake at 425 for about 20-25 minutes; ovens vary, so be sure to check occasionally to ensure they don't burn.
~ Remove from the oven and allow to cool 5 minutes before serving on a bed of "clover," in the form of leafy greens of your choosing.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Baked Cauliflower Cheese

Cauliflower baked in a cheesy white sauce is the quintessence of comforting British nursery food, and a measly two ounce allotment of cheese per week didn't mean that Albion's children had to do without! By employing a little frugal ingenuity, cooks on the home front were able to ensure that homey favor(u)rites like this one continued to grace wartime dinner tables as they had in more prosperous times. (Which the Ministry of Food assured everyone were totally coming back, just as soon as the Hun was neutralized and peace restored.) So buck up, stiffen your backbone, measure out that rationed (vegan) cheese with a smile, remember that better times lie ahead, and enjoy, because this dish is pretty damned good!

Baked Cauliflower Cheese
~ 1.5 lbs. cauliflower, broken into florets
~ 2.5 cups plain, unsweetened soymilk
~ 1 bay leaf
~ 5-6 each: black peppercorns, whole cloves
~ 2 tsp. bouillon, or stock cube to suit the amount of liquid
~ 1/2 tsp. prepared English mustard
~ 1/2-1 tsp. Liquid Smoke (optional, for that "bacony" something)
~ 1 tbsp. margarine
~ 1 large leek, cleaned and chopped
~ 1 tbsp. flour
~ 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
~ 1/4 cup grated vegan cheddar cheese
~ 1 slice stale or toasted bread, crumbled

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and coat a deep pie dish with cooking spray.
~ In a saucepan, combine the milk, bouillon, bay leaf, peppercorns, cloves, mustard, and Liquid Smoke (if using). Cover, bring to a boil - you can obviously do this in the microwave as well - and then remove from heat and set aside to "seethe" for at 15-20 minutes.
~ While that's happening, cook the cauliflower in salted, boiling water for about 4 minutes, until just cooked. Drain and rinse immediately with cold water.
~ Strain the milk mixture and discard the bay leaf, peppercorns, etc.
~ In another saucepan, melt the margarine over medium-low heat and sauté the chopped leeks for about 2 minutes.
~ Turn the heat to low and add the flour; cook for a minute, and add some of the milk to make a roux. 
~ Add the nutritional yeast, vegan cheddar, and half the milk; raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring, for a few minutes more. Add the remaining milk and cook another 5 minutes until smooth.
~ Transfer the cooked cauliflower to the baking dish and pour the cheese over it, making sure all the florets are coated.
~ Top with the crumbled bread and bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until browned and bubbling. Allow to rest about 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lentil and Oatmeal Sausages

During the war - and for the nine subsequent years when rationing remained in effect - grocery shopping in the UK entailed waiting in long queues for limited supplies; the image above shows one week's ration for an adult (including four rashers of bacon and one egg; that black pile at lower left is the precious 2 oz. weekly allowance of tea). Even when eked out with all those potatoes and root vegetables from backyard gardens and allotments, this was not a lot of food, and the dearth of available meat meant that cooks found creative ways to stretch what they had a bit farther. One way to do this was to add fillers like oatmeal, flour, and (you guessed it) potatoes, while other dishes skipped the animal products entirely to produce more economical - and arguably healthier - alternatives like today's recipe.

Before I go on, I must admit that one of my favorite food-related things about being in England is the ready availability of proper vegan sausages. You can walk into any decent supermarket or health food store, and there they are: sometimes several different brands and varieties of traditional flavors like Glamorgan, Cumberland,'s like heaven! Back home in the colonies, there are companies that offer vegan analogues of Italian, kielbasa, and chorizo sausage, but that's not what a girl wants with her mushy peas and gravy, dammit. (Sorry, Field Roast; even the apple and sage ones don't begin to come close.) So it's become increasingly clear that if we want English-style sausages on this side of the pond, we have to bloody well make them ourselves. Unfortunately, all the go-to recipes seem to feature seitan (of which I'm not especially fond), and the project has largely fallen by the wayside.

That is it had, until my wartime MoFo theme brought this recipe to my attention. These babies are made entirely from whole foods, and without any mucking about with vital wheat gluten or tedious kneading and steaming. Best of all, they are absolutely brilliant: cheap, easy, nutritious, and delicious in just the right way! While they would be perfect with any of the traditional accompaniments, we enjoyed our inaugural batch with sautéed leeks and kale, Marmite roasted potatoes, Isa's Easy Breezy Cheezy Sauce from Appetite for Reduction, and the last of the Irish soda bread. Next time I'll probably go for mushy peas and a pile of mash amid a lake of mushroom gravy; who says austerity has to be...austere?

Lentil and Oatmeal Sausages
~ 1 tbsp. margarine
~ 1 small red onion, minced fine
~ 1 small parsnip, grated
~ 1 small apple, grated
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, sage, marjoram, thyme, parsley
~ 1/4 tsp. mace
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 1 tsp. vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
~ 1.5 cups cooked lentils
~ 1/2 cup rolled oats
~ 1/2 cup water or broth
~ 2-4 tbsp. flour or nutritional yeast (I used a 50/50 mix)

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit, and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ In a skillet, melt the margarine and saute the onions, grated parsnip, and apple over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes, until quite soft.
~ Add the seasonings, the lentils, and the oatmeal, and continue cooking about 10 minutes, adding water or broth as necessary to prevent sticking and create a smooth mixture.
~ Stir in the flour and/or nutritional yeast to form a stiff "dough,"combine thoroughly, and remove from heat until cool enough to handle.
~ Form the mixture into, well, sausages (I got an even dozen), and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, turning occasionally so they brown on all sides.
~ Serve with gravy, mashed potatoes, mushy peas, and/or whatever else you like to have with sausages.
~ (NB the original recipe gives the option of rolling the sausages in some toasted breadcrumbs before cooking; I didn't bother since I was going to bake them, and figured the crumbs might burn. That said, this might be nice if you're inclined to follow the prototype and fry the sausages in "a very little fat"; my only caveat would be to handle them with care, because they're a bit fragile. And please let me know how they turn out if you decide to try it!)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Marmite Roasted Potatoes

P's for Protection Potatoes afford;
O's for the Ounces of Energy stored;
T's for Tasty, and Vitamins rich in;
A's for the Art to be learnt in the Kitchen.
T's for Transport we need not demand;
O's for old England's Own Food from the Land;
E's for the Energy eaten by you:
S is for Spuds which will carry us through!

So, by this point you're probably getting the idea that the Ministry of Food really wanted the British to eat potatoes during the war. And you would be absolutely right! Not only were people encouraged to use them in place of bread, there were many (and often extremely creative) applications for the perennial Solanum tuberous. 

Even a cursory look through contemporary recipes is rewarded with more quixotic uses for the humble spud than you can shake a stick - or a ration book - at. Potato pastry? Check. Potato pudding? Got it. Potatoes taking the place of eggs, fish, whipped cream, and even - gulp - lemon curd? Roger Wilco! 

That being the case, I figured that after a few days of neglecting our pal Potato Pete, it was time to redress the balance. However, rather than attempting to disguise him as a leg of mutton or a Christmas cake, I hereby present a simple and delicious preparation of the potato as itself: roasted with a coating of English mustard, Marmite, and just a smudge of your weekly allotment of marge. What could provide more fitting fuel with which to fight for king and country?

Marmite Roasted Potatoes
~ 2 lbs. potatoes, cut into 2" chunks
~ 1 tbsp. melted margarine (or oil)
~ 1 tbsp. Marmite
~ 1 tsp. prepared English mustard (I am currently addicted to Colman's)
~ Black pepper
~ 1-2 tbsp. hot water

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ In a small bowl, combine the margarine, Marmite, mustard, pepper, and hot water.
~ Place the potatoes in a large bowl, pour over the Marmite mixture, and mix until well coated.
~ Transfer potatoes to the baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes (ovens vary wildly, and mine tends to be slow), shaking occasionally, until the spuds are golden brown and crisp.
~ Serve immediately.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Irish Soda Bread

“Pat-a-loaf, pat-a-loaf
Baker’s Man
Bake me some Wheatmeal
As fast as you can:
It builds up my health
And its taste is good,
I find that I like
Eating just what I should.”

Yeah, whatever you say, Ministry of Food. One of the many interesting things I've learned through this project is that flour and bread weren't actually rationed until after the war. In Great Britain and Europe, the cessation of military hostilities didn't mean the end of personal sacrifice: in practical terms, "victory" was accompanied by continued (and sometimes increased) privation for the better part of the following decade. 

That renowned brainbox Wikipedia tells us: "Some aspects of rationing became stricter for some years after the war. Bread, which had been reduced in quality during the war but not formally controlled, was rationed from 1946 to 1948; potato rationing began in 1947. At the time this was presented as needed to feed people in European areas under British control, whose economies had been devastated by the fighting. This was partly true, but with many British men still mobilised in the armed forces, an austere economic climate, and a centrally-planned economy under the post-war Labour government, resources were not available to expand food production and food imports. Frequent strikes by some workers (most critically dock workers) made things worse." 

Although commercially baked bread was available during the war itself, it wasn't necessarily to everyone's taste. Much of the flour in use before the war was imported from abroad, and new restrictions meant an increased reliance on domestically grown wheat, with an emphasis on no wastage (how else are we supposed to defeat the U-Boat?). So it was that the National Wheatmeal Loaf was introduced in 1942. This admirably austere product "contained all the wheat grain including the husks. This resulted in a heavy loaf of bread that was a dirty beige colour with a gritty texture."  

For those of us with parents and grandparents raised during this period, such details help explain their baffling tendency to stock up on readily available items. For instance, my own mother never bought fewer than 25 lbs. of potatoes at a time, and the ginormous containers in which she stockpiled staples like flour, sugar, oats, rice, and barley are the stuff of family legend. (We used to joke that if Hitler ever came back, she'd be ready for him, but it's immensely poignant how that childhood hunger informed her worldview, and how far-reaching its effects were.)

Bearing all this in mind, it's easy to imagine the appeal of homemade bread, especially if it doesn't require the time or resources of a yeast-raised loaf. Irish soda bread fits this bill perfectly,  and this recipe is both simple and delicious. I should disclose that I've actually posted this before, but since it's A. virtually identical to the WWII recipe I found, and B. foolproof, I figured if it ain't broke don't fix it. My only change from the original recipe is the substitution of soured soy milk for buttermilk; the minimal investment of time and energy only increases its allure, since everyone will be just as happy as if you'd spent the whole afternoon kneading things and punching them down (which you are obviously free to let them believe).  So go to the kitchen and mix up a batch, and in about an hour you will be striking a blow for victory - or at least eating fresh, delicious bread. 

Irish Soda Bread
~ 4 cups white whole wheat flour
~ 2 cups plain, unsweetened soy (or other non-dairy) milk
~ 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
~ 1 teaspoon sugar
~ 1 teaspoon salt
~ 1 teaspoon baking soda

~ Preheat the oven to 450 and coat a flat baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ In a small beaker, mix the soymilk and vinegar and set aside for 15 minutes to sour. (This buttermilk functions as a leavening agent; it helps activate the baking soda to make the dough rise without yeast.)
~ In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda.
~ After 15 minutes, give the milk and vinegar a quick stir with a fork, make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and pour in the liquid. Mix well with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to form a slightly sticky dough.
~ Knead ever so briefly to ensure it is mixed well (you want to handle this dough very little).
~ Shape the dough into a flattened circle about 2 inches thick, and place on a lightly greased baking tray. Take a sharp knife and make a shallow cross in the top of the loaf.
~ Place the loaf in the middle to top half of the oven and bake at 450 degrees for the first 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 375 and continue baking another 30-35 minutes. The bread is done when a knock on the bottom of the loaf is rewarded with a satisfying hollow sound.
~ Remove from the oven cover with a clean tea towel, and allow the bread to rest for 15 minutes before slicing. 
~ Serve with Earth Balance, marmalade, and/or Marmite for breakfast, or some hot soup at lunch or dinner. (NB this makes great toast, and any stale remnants can be used for breadcrumbs!)