“Mum, I’m not very excited about this meal,” my 11 year old son confided, when I told him I was making a WWII ration recipe for Lentil Sausages. I mustered a tone of enthusiasm to explain that today is the 100th birthday of the great food educator and cookery writer Marguerite Patten, and that people all over the world are cooking from her great oeuvre. And because it’s also British Sausage Week (to coincide with Bonfire Night tomorrow) and there’s a climate crisis in which meat plays a not insignificant role, I find myself especially interested in mock-meat kinds of meals.
So it was that earlier in the day I’d set out to join in on #Marguerite100, an international cook-along networked through social media and documented in this Storify.
I love so many of her books, but today The Victory Cookbook spoke to me with its chapter headings so revealing of British society of the WW2 years: Family Celebrations; Street Parties; Children’s Celebrations; Voluntary Services Celebrations; Celebrations in Cities and Towns — Factories, Shelters; and the Forces Victory representing cuisines local to the far-flung places where fighting men found themselves at the end of the war.
So this would be a meal befitting a celebration, something happy, something that wasn’t going to be darkened by any fact of rationing or meatlessness, and thus the revelation that the term “sausage” is more akin to the rabbit in Welsh Rarebit, or the game bird in Scotch Woodcock, evocative of a shape and the centrepiece on a plate more than anything flavour-resembling or textural.
(Things have changed in this regard. I’m loving this list of Vegan Meatballs for all the efforts to really get at a satisfying structural coherence and meaty texture.)
“As a member of the Food Advice Division in the Ministry of Food,” Marguerite writes,
“I had the opportunity to visit various factories and to talk to the workers during meal breaks about war-time recipes. Factory workers, both men and women, worked incredibly hard in day and night shifts, especially in armament and aircraft factories. Breaks in the work schedule, in the canteens or round tea trolleys of the factory floor, were cheerful interludes, usually with music as a form of relaxation. The days following VE and VJ Days must have been full of celebration in the canteens, and canteen cooks would certainly have done their best to embellish the standard menus. [This recipe has] been selected from standard factory canteen menus, though quantities have been reduced.”
The recipe (forgive me my hurry) in a photograph:
Working through it was fun because I realised a few things:
That the stock that comes from simmering red lentil and onions and lots of salt and pepper and fresh sage is delicious and a worthy broth in itself, which I will make again and vary into proper soups.
That it’s enjoyable to sieve bread crumbs from stale bread through a colander to harvest the finest ones, and that the thrift of using them is ever-satisfying:
That a pleasure of this disturbingly warm autumn (what happened to seasons?) is that the parsley is still abundantly growing:
And that whizzing it with a little olive oil was an easy way to extend the parsley flavour through the lentil and potato mashes.
Rolling the mixture into sausage shapes, and coating with breadcrumbs was actually a bit of a faff, because without much binder (or egg, because I was following her recipe and the egg, she states, is for coating) these “sausages” are really fragile.
So I pan-friend them, taking a lot of care really, then removed them to a baking sheet and the oven, where they sat on low heat for quite a while, and ended up what I might think of more as a vegetarian rissole. Not unbreakable though. Some looking better than others for the wear and tear.
But never mind.
I enjoyed serving these Lentil Sausages with lots of buttery boiled carrots and roasted kale and lacto-fermented Piccalilly (to be shared soon with fellow fermenters). No one complained.