Thick soups must never be solid

I wrote about artichokes a couple of days ago, inspired by my friend Andrew Simpson’s blog post mentioning recipes from the 1940’s. I wrote in general about people growing their own vegetables when they could, in back gardens, vegetable patches, pots and allotments. I’ve mentioned before, along the same theme about people (mostly women)  cooking imaginatively, often with recipes handed down by their mums or grandmas, making do with odds and ends, cheap cuts, fillers such as suet puddings, potatoes, dried beans – yes, I ramble on quite often, sticking up for British cooks and British food! Country people would use all sorts of things they foraged, townspeople went to markets, but come the industrial age, there was little time, and little money and families had to eat what they could find, what they could afford. I shall descend from my hobby-horse now, and return to food and cooking in the 1940’s.

There were so many cookery books available then, and an interest in food and cooking meant there were recipes published in newspapers and magazines, and broadcast on the radio too. Many of the writers of these recipes (but not all) were trying to be encouraging and helpful to people not confident in their cooking or who were struggling because of rationing. It started in 1940 to make sure everyone had a fair share of what was available; it is thought that rationing actually led to many people having a better diet, and “vulnerable” individuals, such as pregnant women and children were prioritised. Items such as meat were strictly rationed, and food production was interrupted by aspects of the war too.

This is what Nell Heaton wrote in the introduction to her section on soups in ‘Cookery To-day and To-morrow’:

Many people are afraid to make soup because they have no meat. Such fears are quite unnecessary, for if the recipes are carefully followed delicious and nourishing soups can be made. Always remember that soup should be brought slowly to boiling point, then simmered, and, when necessary, strained through a fine sieve. Thick soups must be rich and thick, but they must never be solid. The quantities given may be halved or increased as desired, and garnishings and accompaniments varied according to the occasion
Quick soups may be made by adding raw grated vegetables to vegetable stock and boiling for a few minutes, adding seasoning and if desired thickening. A little grated beetroot added to the soup ingredients give an added richness.

Back to artichokes, and Andrew’s blog mentioned a 1947 recipe for artichokes in cheese batter; this is interesting because cheese was on the ration until 1954, so I guess using it in a batter would make it go further.
Here is Nell’s recipe for artichoke soup:

Wash and peel 1 lb of Jerusalem artichokes, adding a little vinegar to the water to preserve the colour. Melt 1 oz of margarine in the saucepan and fry a grated onion in it for a few minutes. Then add the artichokes with a pint of vegetable stock or water. Cook till the artichokes are soft and then pass them through a sieve. Return to the pan, stir in a tablespoonful of flour and add ½ pint of milk. Re-heat, stirring well the whole time, allow to boil for 5 minutes and serve.

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