Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Tuesday's Time To ... Celebrate The Jubilee!

Today was the final day of the four days of celebrations that have been held here in England to honour our Queen's Diamond Jubilee. On 2nd June 1952, the coronation of our Queen, Her Royal Highness, Elizabeth 2nd, was held, and this year marked 60 years of her reign. The only other Queen in English history who has celebrated such a long reign is Queen Victoria. There has been a service of thanksgiving from St. Paul's Cathedral in London today, followed by a carriage procession. These were televised, so we caught a few of the highlights, but did not spend all day watching the TV as we had other things that we wished to do with our day off (today and yesterday have been bank holidays in England to mark the celebrations).  While we watched and listened I must admit, we did all feel very proud of our Queen and Country!   I did like to see all the lovely outfits that the Queen has worn over the weekend too - very beautiful and elegant, although nothing like the ones that her predecessor Queen Victoria wore! You can see some of the most famous outfits worn by different members of the Royal Family if you visit Sandringham, their country home in Suffolk, and of course also in the famous Victoria & Albert museum in London, where you can see clothes that Queen Victoria wore along with many other beautiful artefacts.

To mark the celebrations in our own home, we decided to eat a tea in honour of Queen Elizabeth II, so I cooked a meal that was a little different than what we are use to eating for our evening meal today. Rather than have a traditional "high tea" as many people have chosen to do, we decided to have something else, because we enjoyed a special tea like this not long ago when we celebrated our wedding anniversary back in May. So instead I had a look through all my recipe books, and decided to create a meal based on the sort of food that people would have eaten back in 1952!

For our main course we had this ...

Savoury bread-and-butter pudding!  This is a post-war recipe from my "Post War Kitchen" cookbook.  In 1952 rationing was still prevalent and fancy ingredients scarce, so basic recipes like this one were very popular.  I followed it with a few tweaks to make it a little more exciting to our more modern taste-buds.  If you would like to have a go at copying this recipe, it is very simple - really the same as the stratas that I often make if I want a dish I can prepare ahead of time.  And yes it was delicious - in fact even nicer than I was expecting - the cheesy topping made the crust of the bread very crisp and tasty, and it was beautifully light and fluffy underneath - almost like a rather fancy soufflee - which I imagine is how it was intended to be.

You will need one loaf of 2 - 3 day old bread - I used a cheese and onion monkey bread loaf that I got at the supermarket on Saturday, but any bread will do - though be warned, don't try to make this using prepackaged "sliced" bread - it will turn into a cotton-wool like mush if you do and be horrible.  You need real bread with a proper crust - but it doesn't need to be fresh - in fact you can add any bits of bread you may have that need eating up, along with bits of bacon or ham if you have any, added to the other ingredients, which makes this a very frugal recipe indeed!

Also you will need ...

1 pint milk (full fat is better - but it will work if you prefer to use half-fat or semi skimmed.  I used half-fat as this is all we ever buy)
1 egg
1 small onion, chopped
1 small red pepper, chopped
about 3 oz grated cheese
salt and pepper

Start preparing this dish for your evening meal the morning before you intend to eat it.

1.  Grease a 9 x 13 inch casserole or roasting pan.  Cut the bread into thick slices and then into diamonds (I didn't have to do this with the monkey bread, which is like a ring of joined-together rolls.  Instead I sliced each roll section in half).  Arrange the bread slices in the pan. 

2.  Pour the milk into a mixing bowl and break in the egg (more modern strata recipes usually ask for more eggs than this.  I was worried this would be thin and runny when it cooked, but it wasn't - no one noticed the lack of eggs.  In war-time of course, powdered egg would have been used but I didn't fancy being that authentic!).  Beat milk and egg together and add seasonings to taste.

3.  Cut the onion and pepper into small cubes and sprinkle over the bread, then pour over the milk and egg mixture.

4.  Grate the cheese and sprinkle over the top.

5.  Now place in the fridge, and leave to chill for several hours.

6. Remove from the fridge to come to room temperature (about 45 minutes, in our chilly kitchen) before baking, which will take about 40 minutes at 180 degrees in a fan assisted oven.  If the top starts to brown too quickly, cover with some foil for the last 10 minutes or so).

I served this with taties (potatoes roasted in their jackets) and green vegetables, as it would have been eaten 60 years ago, and some English mustard as a condiment (which really did complement the flavours - another time I will try adding a little to the actual dish). 

To follow, we had raspberry crumble and custard!  Another traditional, frugal English dish - and the custard was made, just as it would have been back then, with old-fashion custard powder!  In fact, this isn't a deviation from what I normally do - I always make custard this way.  It takes a little longer than mixing a ready-made sachet or buying a can and warming it up, but it is much more economical and I like how you can make as much or as little as you need.  I'm sorry there's no picture of that.  It took a bit of trouble to get the laptop set up and I did not want our meal to be served cold.  To make the crumble I simply made a topping from all-purpose flour, muscovado sugar and butter, and sprinkled it over 2 packs of defrosted frozen raspberries (back in 1952 of course, these would have been picked straight from the bushes, but it isn't quite ripening time here in chilly England just yet, though we did have some fresh raspberries to eat this weekend - not enough for a crumble, though).  I don't bother to stew the raspberries before using them for a crumble if they have been frozen - as they defrost they produce plenty of juice, and I don't even add any sugar to them - the topping is sweet enough as it is.  Of course, you don't have to serve crumble with custard - ice cream is nice too, or a little cream (which is what I had as I am personally not a great fan of custard).  Some members of the family had custard and cream, but I won't tell which ones!

This was the prayer that was said this morning in St. Paul's Cathedral at the service of thanksgiving for our Queen.  We felt it would be very fitting if Papa Bear used it as our grace this evening, so this is what he said ... perhaps you might like to say this prayer today, too?

God of time and eternity, whose Son reigns as servant, not master;
We give you thanks and praise that you have blessed this Nation, the Realms and Territories with Elizabeth, our beloved and glorious Queen.
In this year of Jubilee, grant her your gifts of love and joy and peace as she continues in faithful obedience to you, her Lord and God,
And in devoted service to her lands and peoples, and those of the Commonwealth, now and all the days of her life;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen