The post World War 2 kitchen

by Veronica

World War 2 ended in 1945, but rationing and food shortages continued. Housewives worked marvels with their modest rations to feed their families. Here's how!

Yet again a chance comment on my Traditional Cheshire food page, by the gentleman- genius Frank Beswick this time about Government cheese, prompted me to make a sideways step to look at a topic this time into WW2 ration food.

Rationing continued in Britain until 1954. This was later than almost anywhere else in the world. We often hear about war time food but I decided to have a look at post-war time UK food to make it a bit different.

Food was still rationed but surely there must have been a more relaxed atmosphere when family lives weren't in constant, imminent danger and many men had returned from the War in need of feeding.

I thought that looking at Post war ration food would give this a different perspective.
I included the famous UK war time recipe for Woolton Pie too though ! Where would the Brits have been without it?

Do you think people were nutritionally better fed in the 40's and 50's than they are today ?

post ww2 reality
post ww2 reality
Post ww2 kitchen
Post ww2 kitchen

In order to look at post WW2, I felt it would be  useful to look at WW2 UK food in order to compare and contrast. There was a huge use of vegetables.

Lord Woolton, the Minister of Food during WW2 produced this food recipe for his Woolton Pie to feed the Brits healthily. Nowadays it would be welcomed but at the time, the lack of meat was unpopular. The recipe was invented by  Francis Ladry, the chef of the Savoy hotel. There were many versions of this famous UK pie but they always used carrots. It was a  mixture of  vegetables, a sauce and a topping, which could be pastry or mashed potatoes.  


Traditional Woolton Pie


Take 1Ib each of diced potatoes, cauliflower, swedes and carrots;

Three or Four spring onions; One teaspoonful of vegetable extract and one teaspoonful of oatmeal.

 Cook all together for ten minutes with just enough water to cover.

Stir occasionally to prevent the mixture from sticking.

Allow to cool; put into a pie dish, sprinkle with chopped parsley and cover with a crust of potatoes or wholemeal pastry.

Bake in a moderate oven until the pastry is nicely brown and serve hot with brown gravy.

Woolton Pie
Woolton Pie

Government Cheddar cheese. Yuk

During WW2, the British government believed that as part of war economies, only a cheap cheddar cheese would be available. All milk produced that normally went to make many different kinds of cheeses, went instead to factories to make the cheddar that became known as Government Cheddar Cheese .
The decree banning the production of any cheese but Government Cheddar continued until the end of rationing in 1954. While Government Cheddar helped to get Britain through the war, it also wiped out many  farmhouse and local cheese businesses.  It took the local cheese producers years to recover and some never did.

Cheshire cheese
Cheshire cheese
local cheeses producers were hammered


dimensions info

40's and 50's food.


I decided to look at a few recipes from the late 40's and a few from the early 50's .

Many post war recipes had the phrase Americaine after them because America was a good friend to the UK during WW2 and after.

Herrings Americaine

1 oz margarine

1 chopped onion

2 tomatoes

2 ozs breadcrumbs

1 dried egg reconstituted


4 herrings


Cook the first 6 ingredients together in a pan to bind and make a stuffing.

Put inside the herrings. Cover with margarine wrapping papers and bake in the oven Elec 375F for 25 minutes.


Fuel cuts in the United KIngdom

1946 saw fuel cuts and there were severe frosts too which damaged the onion and other vegetable crops. The Brit housewives coped in their own way and this recipe appeared in 1946.  They made their meagre food rations go even further with little veg to be had. This recipe could be reheated or continue cooking later when there was power back on.


Beef and Prune hotpot

 4 ozs prunes soaked for 12 hours in water .

8 ozs  stewing beef cut into strips

stock cube

1 and a 1/2 pounds of thinly sliced potatoes




Strain the prunes and add stock cube to the water.

Layer the potatoes and onions, then the beef and prunes , then potatoes and onions in a casserole dish . Pour the liquid over and bake for 2 hours on 325F

1947 Whale meat

Whale meat was not rationed and the government were keen for people to try it. In tests most people couldn't distinguish between whalemeat and beef when herbs and seasoning were added.

This prompted the joke on the song "We'll meet again " which changed jokingly to "Whale meat again ".

dried bananas
dried bananas
oh nuts

1947 Using dried bananas

Dried bananas were readily available and would be soaked and used with lettuce in a salad or soaked and covered in a batter to turn into fritters.

This recipe appeared in 1947.

Banana and Rhubarb Compote

4 dried bananas thickly sliced

7 fl ozs water 2 tbsp. of honey

1lb rhubarb


soak the bananas for half an hour

Add to a pan with the chopped rhubarb and simmer for about ten minutes.

Serve hot or cold.

corned beef

corned beef
corned beef

1948 Dock Strike

The Armed Forces were called in to help deliver and distribute food when the dock workers went on strike in 1948,so, the British housewife made use of corned beef as meat rations were further hit.

Corned beef


Slice the corned beef, coat in batter and fry.


Do not slice the corned beef but brush with melted margarine and roast until hot.

1952 entertaining again

As certain foods came off rations and food became more plentiful again, people started to entertain again. Baking became more adventurous too. Note the egg here in this recipe is not dried!

This bizarrely named recipe appeared in 1952.

Chicken terrapin

1 hard boiled egg

1/2 oz of margarine

2 tsps. of flour

4 tbsps. milk


1 oz cooked rice

2 oz cooked chicken


Heat the butter, flour and milk to make a thick sauce.

Add the chopped egg and other ingredients and heat thoroughly

Place on triangles of toast.

Coronation of the queen
Coronation of the queen


Coronation chicken

Coronation chicken was invented for the Queen's coronation in 1953. It is a still a firm favourite today. It was a mixture of diced cooked chicken, curry powder, dried apricots, red wine and held together in a light mayonnaise mixture .


Derationing of fats and meats

Frying become a popular form of cooking when fats were de-rationed and were not considered a health hazard as they are today. Ration books were torn up . In June 1945, the meat markets opened early in anticipation of a rush at the butchers!


I want to pay a tribute to those remarkable women who managed to feed their families on very little and in many ways the families were better fed than in today's high fat, high sugar, fast food lifestyle which is contributing to the western world's obesity.


This WW2 recipe lasted long after the War . In fact my mother in law made it in the 1980'90's for my oldest son who had had an egg allergy.
  • 1 lb (455 g) of self-raising flour plus 1 tsp baking powder and baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • 4 ozs (115g) margarine
  • 4 ozs (115g) sugar
  • 3 saccharin tablets (1 dessertspoonful hot water )
  • 14 ozs (400g) currants, sultanas, peel
  • ½ pint milk
  • ¼ pint of water
  1. Sieve the flour, baking powder and baking soda together.
  2. Mix the flour mixture, condensed milk, melted butter, essence, and water and beat well.
  3. Pour the mixture into a greased and dusted 6 inch diameter round tin.
  4. Bake in a hot oven at 200 degrees C (400 degrees F) for 10 minutes.
  5. Then reduce the temperature to 150 degrees C (300 degree F) and bake for a further 10 minutes.
  6. The cake is ready when it leaves the sides of the tin and is springy to touch.
  7. When ready, take out from the oven and leave for 1 minute.
  8. Invert the tin over a rack and tap sharply to remove.
Updated: 04/20/2016, Veronica
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Veronica on 04/20/2016

Not at all. I love a challenge and this was very interesting. I get so many history requests and love searching through books and newspapers . The internet has take the joy out of looking things up in books I think. If I hear of something I shall let you know on this page.
Ty John

John Bartlett on 04/20/2016

Thanks for trying Veronica. I think I just misremembered after 70 years! Snoek was the word but I was wrong.

Veronica on 04/20/2016

I have found and added an eggless sponge cake recipe above

Veronica on 04/18/2016

John Bartlett
I have trawled through my resources, asked some of the older generation and looked through the newspaper archives ; nowhere can I find any reference to a slang or nick name for whale meat.

Maybe the term to which you refer was local to where you live or a family word.

frankbeswick on 04/18/2016

Macon was an attempted substitute for bacon that the government tried to promote .It was mutton smoked as bacon is. It never became popular.

Veronica on 04/18/2016

Sweet and sugar rationing ended in 1953.

Rock salmon is used for tinned cat food by some fproducers.

frankbeswick on 04/18/2016

My mother told me that the consensus was that whale meat tasted a bit oily. Eating barracuda as a staple is not a long term strategy as it is a top predator, and top predators tend to be fewer in number than prey species.

Other species might be eaten in a wartime diet, including ling and pollock. These are not often caught by trawling, as they are frequent rocky bottoms, which damage trawl nets.Big ling like wrecks and rocks at a thousand feet deep, and were not the kind of fish that could cater for a mass market. Dogfish used to be sold as rock salmon, even after the war. It is perfectly edible, but skinning it is hard on the hands, as the skin is like sandpaper

I was born in 1950 and so I experienced the end of rationing, though I remember nothing about it. Chocolate was one of the substances still rationed when I was an infant. I do recall that at a time when maltesers [small, round crispy chocolates] were available only to the British forces in Germany my uncle, a soldier with these British forces,sent me a box.

Veronica on 04/18/2016

The first thing I have found is that whale meat and barracuda went on sale in fish monger shops in January 1943. So there must have only been just over two years of whale meat during the war.

As yet I can find no slang or nickname for whale meat.

Veronica on 04/17/2016

NB to the community who may not know.

"pun with a skit "Whale meat again."" ......
was based on the WW2 song " We'll meet again"

frankbeswick on 04/17/2016

If there was a euphemism for whalemeat,it did not work, as people used to pun with a skit "Whale meat again."

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