Since I received my very first Delia cookbook when I was a teenager I’ve been addicted to cookbooks. I have a particular fondness for cookbooks with a bit of history in them. I am by nature a fairly thrifty cook, so the household manuals and farmhouse cookbooks which have been handed down through my family are fascinating and incredibly precious to me. When I got my hands on a copy of Churchill’s Cookbook by Georgina Landemare, I knew I was in for an historical treat.
Published by the Imperial War Museum, Churchill’s Cookbook by Georgina Landemare is a 160 page snapshot of wartime dining for the upper classes. Georgina Landemare was cook to the Churchills throughout WW2 and was engaged by Churchill’s wife Clementine as she felt she would be able to make the best out of the rations available. Georgina Landemare was an accomplished but untrained cook who was heavily influenced by her husband Paul Landemare, a distinguished French Chef at the Ritz.
The Churchill’s, although subject to the constraints of the ration book where in the lucky position of having a farm on their estate at Chartwell, giving them ready access to eggs, milk, cream, chicken, pork and most vegetables. Churchill’s Cookbook doesn’t tell the every day story of the struggles of working class ration book Britain. It is a fascinating read, with a chapter devoted to setting the scene, introducing Georgina and discussing the favourite foods of the household.
The book is divided into sections; soup, fish, eggs, poultry, meat, sauces, salads, vegetables, puddings, savouries, pastry, biscuits and cake. The 250+ recipes in the book are brief and simply written. I like old recipes because they tend to work with fewer ingredients and are generally (though not always) simpler.
I decided to try out some of the recipes myself, I liked the look of these “Bachelor’s Buttons” and I thought my son would enjoy baking them with me too. I’ve never really had much success with biscuits for some reason, I always either over or under bake them, so I put these to the test.
The recipe was very straight-forward and it only took me a few minutes to whip up a batch. The recipe didn’t say when to add the vanilla essence so I added it with the egg and it didn’t say to set aside some sugar to roll them in prior to baking. I suspect during wartime they wouldn’t have just used the whole 3oz in the mixture and then rolled them liberally in another ounce or so of sugar, but that’s what I did.
I also didn’t know what a “medium” oven was, put popped them in my oven at 200º until they were starting to brown, this took around 10 minutes. My top tip would be to get them off the baking sheet very quickly whilst they’re piping hot, otherwise they stick. They were very delicious and as light as a feather. I’d definitely bake these again.
I was a little surprised at the range of rich foodstuffs in this book, especially considering it was a wartime cookbook, but I suspect the Prime Minister and his household may have had access to more than just his ration.
This book might raise a few eyebrows, with Georgina’s recipes including Cervelles Conought (curried brains), but there are some delicious sounding and fairly frugal recipes I’ll be looking to try out over the coming months.
Winston Churchill was well-known for his hearty appetite and love of food. Churchill’s Cookbook gives a fascinating insight into what he ate during the Second World War, indeed, Georgina was told by the Prime Minister on VE night that he could not have managed through the war without her. Fascinating stuff.
Churchill’s Cookbook by Georgina Landemare is available from the Imperial War Museum shop and is priced at £10.