Revisiting Exeter Stew

We went to Exeter today, and looking over what I’ve written her I discover I shared something about Exeter Stew:

Spry was a vegetable fat product used for every sort of cooking and baking. I came across a little recipe book which I had obviously bought but have no memory of acquiring… which is always a delight, to find something you didn’t know you had!
I had never heard of Exeter stew before, even though Exeter isn’t that far away from us, just seventy-odd miles down the motor way. Exeter stew is basically beef stew made with 1 pound of stewing steak, an onion and a carrot and a turnip… and salt and pepper. This seems a little low on flavour, sounds as if it would be rather thin… but you never know! It’s cooked for 2½ hours before savoury balls are added… they are actually dumplings… I think½ dumplings sound nicer than savoury balls!

Exeter Stew

  • 3 oz flour
  • 1½ oz Spry
  • piece of onion chopped (don’t know how big!)
  • pinch of herbs
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  1. rub Spry and flour together
  2. add onion, herbs and baking powder
  3. mix to a light dough with water
  4. divide into six balls, roll in flour
  5. place on top of stew and cook for ¾ hour

I also wrote about Spry:

I have just discovered that my little Spry cookery book – which I bought for £1 in a charity shop and cost 1 shilling when it was first published, is actually eight-two years old! It was published in 1936! I can hardly believe it! The recipes are very practical, clearly written, and although there are some we would not expect our families to eat today – stewed trip and onions for example, or kidney soup, there are plenty of others, especially the puddings, cakes and biscuits which do appeal. SPRY was a cooking fat made from vegetable oil and the introduction to the little book explains it like this:

SPRY is a snow-white vegetable fat, made entirely from pure vegetable oil. It is tasteless odourless, and perfectly digestible. But the special point of SPRY is that it has been ‘ready-creamed’. This gives it a velvet texture, absolutely new in cooking fats, and this smoothness gives you easier working and also better results in every kind of cooking. And because SPRY has no flavour of its own, it improves the flavour of every ingredient used in cooking, just as cream brings out the flavour of fruit. There’s another special point you’ll like about SPRY, too. It will keep absolutely fresh for months on end, under ordinary kitchen conditions.

The last ‘special point’ would have been very important to ‘housewives’ at the time – in the 1930’s few people had fridges!


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