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Wartime Baking Recipes

Updated: Jul 11

CWA and recipes from long ago

Take a little dash of cold water,

A little leaven of prayer,

A little bit of sunshine gold,

Dissolved in morning air.

Add to your meal some merriment,

And thought for kith and kin,

And then a prime ingredient –

Plenty of love thrown in.

Flavour it all with essence of love,

And a little dash of play,

Let a nice old book and a glance above,

Complete the well spent day.


That verse is printed on the first page of a wartime recipe book produced by the Kilkevan Branch of the CWA, in Queensland. It is now tattered and torn, showing how well it has been used. My mother contributed a recipe, while we lived there in 1945. In fact, my mother was a member of the CWA for around 70 years. As a teenager, I was an associate member for a few years.

Writing my memoir, has stirred up memories of all aspects of my life. By the time I was ten years old, in 1950, wartime rationing had finished in Australia. The days of control over supplies of tea, sugar, butter and meat were over. Housewives had learnt to manage during rationing, and were still using wartime baking recipes that they had used during the past years.

When butter was in short supply, cooks had learned to use beef dripping. My earliest memories are of a crock of dripping stored in the pantry. Mum used it whenever she roasted beef, to grease the dish, and to moisten the top of the joint. While the meat cooked, fat was rendered out of the meat, and collected in the bottom of the dish. We lifted out the meat, ready to carve, and the liquid fat was floating on top of the juices in the pan. Mum tipped this fat into the crock, where it solidified. Any meat juices sank below the solid dripping. Thus, we always had a supply of fat, in which to fry eggs, meat, and other dishes.

We used it sometimes to spread on bread instead of butter. To get the best-tasting bits, you dug your knife through the solid fat, into the tasty meat juices below. Spread that on toast, made over the open fire-box of the stove, sprinkle it with salt and pepper, and you had a great after-school snack.

Some recipes required dripping. One for pastry combined 1 cup of SR (Self Raising) flour with 2 tablespoons of dripping, then just moistened with milk to form a soft paste. This could be rolled out very thinly.

Cocoanut Biscuits: beat 2 tablespoons of good dripping with 1 half cup of sugar; add 1 egg, and 1 cup cocoanut. Sift in 1 cup SR flour.

Another alternative to use instead of butter was lard, the solidified fat produced when roasting pig meat. Sometimes lard is clarified to produce suet.

Here is a wartime baking recipe for ‘High Church Pudding’. 1 cup suet, 1 cup dark jam, 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda. Mix in half cup of milk. Steam 3 hours in a greased basin.

There was even a recipe ‘to make butter go further’, a new idea for me.

‘Take ¼ pound butter [c. 125 g] and ¼ pint [c. 150 ml] fresh milk. Heat milk to blood heat [no hotter]; add a little salt; have the butter slightly warmed but not melted; beat butter briskly, adding milk gradually until the butter will not absorb any more milk. Let stand a few minutes. Result ---half a pound of good butter.’

Some wartime baking recipes managed without butter or dripping. Here is a scone recipe, without either of them. Beat 1 egg lightly with 1 tablespoon sugar, add 2 cups of milk, then enough SR flour to make a soft dough – about 4 cups. Press out with hands, cut into shapes, and bake in a hot oven.

A dear friend who had lived through the war in England gave me her recipe for a teacake, which also managed without butter or dripping. I have made this many times, and my husband and children loved it. Here it is:

Alice’s Teacake:1pound mixed dried fruit [c. 500gm], soaked overnight in 1 cup of strong black tea. Next morning, add 1 cup sugar, 1 beaten egg, 2 cups of SR flour, and your own choice of spices. Bake in a slow oven for about an hour.

Not all of these recipes come from my CWA recipe books.

Cooks have always been inventive, and our mothers and grandmothers were no different. Faced with shortages, their wartime baking recipes solved problem, while still being healthy and tasty.

One neighbour was inventive when she ran out of meat to feed a group of workmen. Someone had recently shot an emu that had become tangled in a wire fence. Our friend took a drumstick, the biggest you can imagine, and minced the meat. That night the men ate well on her home-made rissoles. But her husband questioned the source of the meat, and she confessed. One worker went behind the shed to get rid of his meal as fast as he could!

Maybe I should have included that story in my memoir.

Barbara Randell

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