Everyone has a culinary short-cut up their chef whites. Or knows someone who does. Mine is to dis-obey the all-in-one microwavable method for the perfect white sauce and stick to the timely process of milk and butter roux plus lots of whisking of milk in pan. In the long-run it can save crucial minutes after third attempt of electronic version leaves me in a puddle of full-fat. Note to self: must try harder.
I’ve long been interested in how other women ‘get on’ in their domestic palaces. It started aged about 11 when I got a dressing down from my parents for always having my nose in a magazine on visit to Grandma’s house. The weekly glossy in question was Bella, and I’d go straight to the hint and tips section to digest that week’s bemusing tick-list of home improvements as sent in by their readers. The Eileens who pimped up their old yoghurt pots as a pen-holders and the Sandras who swore that a layer of chicken fat could double up as an excellent body moisturizer…ok, I exaggerate, but these women were a very real source of fascination for me.
So, it was during the research of The Vintage Teatime, that I’ve been only too happy to soak up the chapters on ‘Culinary’ or ‘Cookery’ Hints which were a mainstay of self-published cook books by the WI over the last sixty years. Less yoghurt pots – more time-saving ways with potatoes, milk, eggs and pretty much all cupboard staples available to the home-cook in her respective decade. Here’s the best of the bunch…
- CABBAGE To prevent cabbage boiling over, add a small piece of dripping or lard. Adds good flavour, too.
- CAKE tins. When buying new cake or meat tins, run them inside out with a little lard, then put into a cool oven for an hour or two. This prevents rust and cakes will turn out without sticking.
- EGGS you’re doing the separating thing and you drop some shell. Rescue little shards with a large piece of egg shell which acts as a magnet cum lifeguard.
- PANCAKES and Yorkshire puds get even tastier with 2ozs of butter thrown into the batter before cooking.
- PEARS are much improved by being cooked in a little lemonade rather than water. Think Nigella and her cola ham.
- MINT for your summer mojitos can be chopped much more quickly and finely with a pinch or two of sugar in the mix.
- ORANGE peel dried and hung up in a paper bag can be used as an excellent flavouring stewed with dried fruit.
- REVIVE a drooping lettuce by standing its roots in a little water to which 2 tsps water has been added.
- THICKENING Put flour in a jar and bake in a slow oven until it just starts to change colour. When cool this can be stored and used for thickening sauces and gravies as it won’t turn lumpy upon adding to hot liquids. What a relief – that’s the white sauce sorted.
Taken from The Herefordshire WI Cookery Book, 500 Jolly Good Things (published by the Oxfordshire Federation of WIs) and the Yorkshire WI Recipe Book.