Recipes for January

The National Mark was introduced into Britain in the late 1920’s early 30’s to regulate and promote produce of every kind, fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, encouraging ‘housewives’ to shop locally, supporting food producers and always look for the national mark symbol as a sign of good quality. A little recipe book was produced, The National Mark Calendar of Cooking, following the seasonal foods available; it is a delightful little book, and the recipes I have tried to work. It was written by Ambrose Heath,  a cookery writer of the time and Dorothy Daisy Cottington Taylor, a cookery expert.

Here are their recipe suggestions for January:

  • oxtail soup
  • fillets of beef pompadour
  • rolled steak
  • mixed potato purées
  • Brussels sprouts au gratin
  • vegetable casserole
  • small raspberry trifles
  • rice fritters
  • baked savoury eggs
  • cold cheese creams
  • duchy toasts
  • twelfth night cake

looking at this list you may wonder why raspberries are there since the middle of winter is not their season; the National Mark also regulated tinned products (no frozen food in those days) and would encourage ‘housewives’ to use them to ensure a varied and healthy diet.

Small raspberry trifles

  • 1 tin raspberries (these days fresh fruit is available in supermarkets pretty much all the time, so use if you wish, or frozen unless you want to make an authentic version of the recipe)
  • 1 jar raspberry jam
  • 5 or 6 sponge cakes (or one big one)
  • ½ pint milk
  • 1 oz sugar
  • fresh dairy cream
  • 1 packet raspberry jelly
  • 2 eggs
  • sherry or home made-wine

A trifle is a dish with which one can use one’s imagination to the utmost, for there is no hard and fast rules as to how it should be made. The introduction of wine enhances its flavour but it can, of course, be omitted for economy, or a suitable home-made wine which costs little can be used instead.
For parties,and to simplify service, it is better to serve the trifles in individual glasses. Very attractive glasses suitable for the purpose can be bought at Sixpenny Stores, or small individual fruit dishes can be used instead.
First, split the sponge cakes, o if a large one, cut into slices and spread fairly liberally with the jam. Strain the syrup from the raspberries and add the sherry or home-made wine to it. Pour it over the sponge cake, and allow to soak while the custard is being made.
For the custard use 2 eggs, ½ pint milk and sugar to sweeten, and cook it slowly in a double saucepan, or jug standing in a saucepan of water. Stir until the mixture thickens. Then pour it over the soaked cake. When the custard has set,put the raspberries on top.
Prepare the packet of jelly in the usual way, and stir to cool it. When nearly cold, and just beginning to set, whisk it up stiffly until it resembles stiffly beaten white of egg or snow.
Use the whipped jelly and whipped cream to top the trifle. For reasons of economy, the whipped jelly can replace the cream entirely, or a small quantity or cream be piped round the edge of each glass.

This seems like a perfectly usual traditional trifle, until you realise that whereas we would have the sponge, fruit and jelly set in the bottom of the dish,the custard poured on top and then decorated with cream and some reserved fruit, this recipe is different; jam is added to the sponge and the juice/wine, then the custard, then the fruit, then the whipped jelly – which sounds most curious – this I must try! When I was a child we had at home, and for school dinners, a cheap version of trifle, old cake spread with jam, covered in custard, that was it… Maybe it was just a ‘light’ version of trifles as they used to be!

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