The British wartime Ministry of Food was particularly concerned about the midday meal of workers, especially those in physically-demanding jobs. Many factory workers could take advantage of on-site canteens, and town workers could go to the rather fancily-named subsidized ‘British Restaurants,’ but these were not always available to farm workers. One solution was to take the food to the fields – and so the Rural Pie Scheme was born. An article in The Times in April 1942 explained the plan:
Pies and Snacks for Farm Workers.
Lord Woolton’s New Scheme.
The Minister of Food is anxious to secure that farm workers are able to take a meal on the job as munition workers can. This has been possible for some through rural British Restaurants – “where these have been established they are doing well,” Lord Woolton stated yesterday – and through canteens on farms themselves.
“But these methods,” the Minister of Food stated,” “really only deal with places where farm workers are not too widely scattered. Now we have a third scheme, which we call the meat pie scheme, and that has the best chance of being quickly developed. We have tried it in practice, and it seems to be pretty hopeful.”
Divisional food officers have been asked to expand this scheme, under which meat pies and snacks are delivered to the workers on farms, as quickly as possible. They will call meetings of local authorities, voluntary helpers, and farmers and farm workers. In addition to local authorities, any responsible voluntary organization, such a W.V.S. or a women’s institute or a group of helpers certified by a war agricultural committee will be authorized to operate schemes for the manufacture and distribution of meat pies and snacks in rural areas. The pies and snacks will be made by British Restaurants, or a local authority may authorize the village baker to make them. Care will be taken to ensure that the food reaches the farm workers.
Much has already been done. In the Seven-oaks area, for instance, there are mobile canteens operating, with three centres which serve 200 meals a day. In the Haslemere district, there is a British Restaurant which not only serves 200 meals a day, but sends out hot meals in containers to a local farm. In the Eastern division, 13 rural district councils are serving meals, and four are sending cooked meals to farms.
Such was the success of the scheme, that it is recorded that 1,300,000 pies were sold in one week in 1944
As the recipe for the day, I give you an article containing the instructions for making meat pies the like of which were only a dream under the meat-rationing rules of World War II. It is from a regular column called Recipes for Small Households, in the Times in October 1938.
Some Good Pies
Pies are of two recognized kinds. Raised pies (filled with meat or pieces of boned bird or game) and those done in a pie dish with a covering of pastry, in which whole, halved, or disjointed birds are laid. In any case the dish is rubbed with shallot and buttered with chopped parsley before being filled. Crevices can be packed with finely chopped liver. Shredded mushroom or a little mushroom [word missing; ketchup?] are good additions, but bacon is quite indispensable, as a third of the pie must be of fat.
Strongly flavoured sauces are taboo, the savoury qualities of the meat and stock (mixed with wine) being sufficient. Two ounces of dried mixed herbs pounded with half an ounce of mace and one of black pepper make a useful seasoning. Our elders complain, not without reason, that “pork pies are not what they were,” so here is an old-time recipe for that delicacy.
Cold Pork Pie.
Roll out a good short crust and line a deep round dish with it. Fill it with an even number of slices of fat and of lean pork which have been rolled in white spices and chopped sweet herbs. Season with salt and pepper (mixing three ounces of salt to one of pepper and using half an ounce of this to one pound of meat). Dot with tiny pieces of butter. Cover with a pastry roof, make a hole in the top and glaze, towards the end of the baking, by brushing a well-beaten egg over the surface. When finished, remove the crust and pour in sufficient jellied gravy made from a pig’s foot stewed with shredded onion and plenty of finely chopped parsley until the meat drops from the bone. Then cover again and cool. If served hot, some like the addition of sliced apples and a little white wine.
Beef and Bacon Pie.
Choose some good undercut of beef, and have it cut a third of an inch thick. Divide into pieces about four inches long by two and a half wide. Season them with pepper, salt, and mace. Next cut thin slices of cold boiled bacon of a like size, and lay one on each, rolling them both up together. Rub the pie dish, as usual, with a shallot, butter it, and sprinkle finely chopped parsley over it before packing it closely with these rolls. Powder with more chopped parsley. Pour over some good jellied stock, put on the lid and bake for the usual time.
Small individual pies (mutton or beef) are always popular. Accompanied by carrots (put raw through a mincer and cooked in a little hot water with butter flavoured with pepper and salt), either of these two recipes makes an excellent luncheon dish.
Add sufficient diced neck of mutton to chopped onion, parsley and mushroom. Season with a little thyme, pepper, and salt. Cook until tender in good veal stock flavoured with Worcestershire sauce. Then thicken with flour, stirring thoroughly. Take out and cool. Now fill with this mixture some cases of half-puff pastry the size of a saucer. Put on the lids and bake in a moderate oven for about half an hour. Brush over with egg. Here is another filling. Take a quarter of a pound of rump steak (finely minced) with a quarter of a pound each of chopped potato and swede and two ounces of onion. First put in a layer of potatoes and swede, then the onion, and lastly the meat. Sprinkle well with pepper and salt.
I will give you some real wartime pies tomorrow!