Food rationing began on the 8th January 1940, with bacon, butter and sugar the first to be listed. By 1942 many other foodstuffs, including meat and dairy, were also being rationed. At this time, the typical weekly food ration included 4 oz of bacon or ham, plus around 1 shilling and 2 pence worth of other meat, which amounted to around two chops.
The Grow Your Own campaign encouraged people to breed chickens and rabbits at home for food. Keeping chickens provided the family with more eggs (strictly limited on ration) but no meat, until a bird reached the end of its laying life. Some hunted rabbits on common land or in the countryside, but needed to be careful not to stray into poaching on land owned by others.
A surprising number of vegetarian recipes can be found in World War Two pamphlets, with meals including bean pie and lentil rissoles. In addition, The Ministry of Food encouraged people to try imports of both whale meat and horse meat, but neither fitted well with British sensibilities.
A more popular alternative came in the form of tinned meats, first corned beef and then SPAM. Both could be used either hot or cold, for a filling sandwich or as part of a salad, even cooked into dishes like fritters or hash. Cooks certainly had plenty of time to adapt their favourite recipes as meat remained on ration until 1954, fourteen years after rationing was first introduced.
For more information on food rationing visit our previous blog, or try our 1940’s inspired corned beef hash recipe below.
Corned Beef Hash
Ingredients (serves 2)
1 tin of corned beef
1 medium onion
200g of leftover boiled potatoes
1tsp tomato purée
To serve (if available) – baked beans and an egg for frying
Finely chop the onion before cutting the corned beef and leftover potatoes into bite size pieces.
Fry the onion until soft and slightly translucent in a large pan, before gradually adding the corned beef and potatoes. Squeeze in the tomato puree. Keep the hash moving carefully around the pan to ensure that all of the ingredients are thoroughly warmed and a little browned around the edges.
Divide the hash between two plates, serve with a portion of baked beans and top with a fried egg for a filling winter meal.