Tuesday 19 February 2013

Land Girls provide the ‘women power’

Hodsock Priory 
The snowdrops faced competition with a sudden snowfall on my second talk at Hodsock Priory but it didn’t deter the visitors who came shod in wellies and warm gear determined to see the wonderful display.
I’ve been talking about the Land Girls who worked at Hodsock Priory during World War 2. They slept in the old servants’ quarters of the old house and grew fruit and vegetables in the ornamental gardens. Across the country farmers ploughed up 2 million acres and needed ‘women power’ to work the land and feed the nation so the Women’s Land Army was created. The reality of the work proved rather different to the government propaganda as the Land Girls worked 50 hours a week and were paid 2/3rds of men’s wages. One visitor remembered the harsh winters in her home county of Hampshire and seeing Land Girls cutting cabbages out in the fields in the freezing weather. Often referred to as the ‘Forgotten Army’, Land Girls were finally honoured in 2007.
Visitors were intrigued by Grandma Abson's ‘Wartime Pudding’ recipe from periods of rationing. The campaign to ‘win the war on the kitchen front’ was about using food wisely and maximising gluts of produce in season. This is very relevant today. Just now it’s Rhubarb time so here's a reminder about some traditional Rhubarb recipes.  Rhubarb Crumble is a popular choice too. Here's how she prepared Rhubarb so it wasn't mushy. Grandma added ginger for that extra bit of spice!
Rhubarb Crumble
6-8 sticks of Rhubarb
 2 oz / 50g soft brown sugar
1 tsp ginger
Wash and cut the Rhubarb sticks into chunks. Place on a baking tray and sprinkle the sugar over them. Then cook in the oven (325F, Mark 3, 160C, 140C Fan Oven) for about 15 minutes until tender. Remove from the oven, place in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle the ginger on top of the Rhubarb. 
For the crumble
4oz /110g plain flour
4oz /110g porridge oats
4oz /110g butter
2 0z/ 50g demerara sugar
Turn the oven up to 350F, Mark 4, 180C , 160C Fan.Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the porridge oats and demerara sugar. Spread the crumble mixture over the Rhubarb and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for about 10 minutes before serving. 

Have you got a favourite Rhubarb recipe? 

Thursday 7 February 2013

It’s Snowdrops time

Here we are already in February and the first snowdrops are out in abundance to herald the coming of spring at Hodsock Priory. 
I’ve been doing talks at Hodsock about what traditional baking in the house was like and the visitors are keen to ask questions.  
Afternoon tea with sponge cakes cut into diamonds
Dorothy Spencer (nee Clay) was in service in the house until 1933 and she described her memories of life. On ‘Entertaining at Hodsock’ she said “Summer tea parties on the terrace were most popular …The menu was always the same : cucumber sandwiches, plain sponge cakes, cut into small squares or diamond portions, some with coffee icing, others with chocolate icing and there was homemade ice-cream. Best china was always used (with) small linen napkins and silver tea pots.” 
We had a little peek into the Hodsock family Cookery Book with some intriguing recipes collected from all over the world and a recipe from a book dated 1885 belonging to Emily, Marchioness of Headfort who was Barbara Buchanan's grandmother. 
Let me know if you have any intriguing family recipes.