After initial frenzied panic-buying at the very start of the war, the British public settled into a routine of voluntary frugality. Economy was encouraged but there were no genuine shortages until late 1916 when the German U-boat blockades began.
Meanwhile, on the frontline, it’s no secret that the food wasn’t up to much in the trenches: tins of corned beef and stew; tooth-breakingly hard (literally) army biscuits and a bit of bread, stale by the time it arrived featured heavily.
One recipe that does sound hopeful is this pudding from a trench kitchen of the time.
Some trench kitchens were lucky enough to have good, imaginative and resourceful chefs but these were fairly rare. Inevitably, usually the officers had a better time of it eating-wise than the men in the trenches.
It would be nice to think this pudding made with sweetened and softened biscuits got to the rank and file: what a welcome treat it would have been for them.
Baking caramelises the sweetened milk, turning the mix into a moist and light-textured pudding with a crispy chewy top. When it’s ready it looks and smells like Christmas cake.
Try this scaled down adaptation: it’s more delicate in character owing to the more refined digestive biscuits replacing the original army ones, but it does give a flavour of the original.
Leave a minimum 1 inch of space around the top of the dish: the mixture will rise significantly during baking and you don’t want it flowing over the edges.
- 200g digestive biscuits
- 110g mixed dried fruit and peel
- 2x 370g tins condensed milk
You will need a 1½ litre baking dish
Crush the biscuits finely. Combine with the fruit and peel in the baking dish. Pour over the condensed milk and stir thoroughly. Soak for 3 hours.
Bake in a low preheated oven: 150C (fan oven) or equivalent for 1¼ hours until brown on top and moist underneath.
About the photos . . . .
These photos were taken at lunch time on one of the well-being days I do for Salisbury diocese. The theme was WW1 ‘Cooking in the Spirit of Remembrance’. We all got a bit excited by this pudding and it was nearly gone before we thought to take some photos! Here we are on the same day, making homity pie. I must stop taking photos into the light!