Tag Archives: home hints

Chickens and How to Use Them: Day 3 – Inadvertant Broccoli Soup

In which the Wartime Housewife makes Broccoli Soup out of what she can find in the larder.

Broccoli Soup 05.08.09My plan for ‘Chicken – Day 3’ was to give you a recipe for my acclaimed Celery and Apple Soup, a lovely refreshing and bodily cleansing summer soup.  However, I had not taken into account the guerrilla style tactics employed by The Boys in pursuit of a midnight feast.  I suppose I should be glowing with pride that the things that went missing from the larder were the celery, the last carrot, the apples, the last of the cheese and a packet of oatcakes. 

Realistically, of course, they know that that there are nine levels of Hell reserved for those who take The Last Flapjacks, and the prospect of spending the rest of the summer holiday in the icy darkness of Level 9, with nothing but demons with pointy teeth for company has clearly made an impression.

Consequently, I was forced into level nine of the larder, fridge and freezer to scavenge what I could to make supper.  This, of course, is what the Wartime Housewife is all about, being able to produce a nutritious meal out of nothing.  The scouring began.  I found an onion (always a good start), one stick of celery and a bag of frozen broccoli.  Let the soup begin!


1 large saucepan
Chopping board
1 stick blender

1 onion – chopped
1 good knob of butter with a little splash of oil
1 stick of celery – chopped
1 x 1kg bag of frozen broccoli
1 pint chicken or vegetable stock
1 heaped tspn dried parsley
1 pinch nutmeg
¼ pint of full fat milk (or 1/8 pint cream if you have it)

Melt the butter and oil in the pan on a moderate heat
Add the onion and celery and cooked until translucent
Add the broccoli and toss about in the butter.
Add the stock and parsley and cook until the broccoli is soft
Add the nutmeg and the milk and blend until smooth.
Season to taste.

Now wasn’t that easy?  And completely scrumptious.


Filed under Food, Recipes, Storecupboard


Flapjacks 01.08.09These are the stickiest, most delicious flapjacks you will ever eat.  They are also quite rich so I would only advise small pieces (ha ha).  The recipe below is for a standard flapjack but you can add sunflower seeds, chocolate drops, pine nuts, raisins, nuts or anything you like to ring the changes.  Add them with the oats if you do this.


1 x large saucepan
1 x 7″ x 11″ (18cm x 28cm) baking tin
1 x cooling rack (the insert from a grill pan will do if you don’t have one)

1 x 12″ square flat baking sheet if you have one to catch the drips and save you having to clean your oven!


9oz  (250g)  butter
6 tablespoons golden syrup
9oz (250g) dark brown sugar
12 oz (360g) rolled oats
1 pinch salt


1.     Preheat the oven to 180oC / gas mark 5 / 360oF

2.     Melt the butter in the saucepan on a moderate heat

3.     Add the golden syrup and stir in

4.     Add the dark brown sugar and stir until they are all dissolved     together.

5.     Add the oats and salt and stir until completely combined.

6.     Pour the mixture into the baking tin

7.     If you have a baking sheet put the tin on it to catch any drips

8.     Place the tins in the centre of the oven and bake for 25 minutes

Check that it is forming a golden brown crust all over, if not give it another 5 minutes

Remember that as you are using dark sugar, the flapjacks will be darker than shop bought

9.     Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes

10.   Cut into 12 square in the tin then leave until completely cool

11.   Remove from the tin and try not to eat them all at once

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Filed under Food, Recipes

Conversion Tables

Scales 31.07.09The Wartime Housewife has obviously never felt the need to succumb to the evils of metrication but she would be failing in her duty if she refused to acknowledge the measuring needs of our cousins in Europe and America.  In my recipes I will put quantities in both Imperial and metric but you are on your own if you want to dally with cups.  Some of you may not even own a set of scales (as indeed was the case for some poor souls in the War) but don’t let this put you off.  I will include a method of measurement without scales at the bottom and to be quite honest, I sometimes think this  approach can encourage one to be more creative and ‘freeform’ with food which can only have exciting results.

When we are trying to save the pennies, old recipe books can be an excellent place to look for economical dishes; Wartime recipes were often unusual but really did provide nutrition and use cheap ingredients, and the portion sizes would be of considerable benefit to those of us with a few pounds to lose, as that fascinating television programme ‘Supersizers Eat…’ clearly demonstrated.  Scrubbing floors helps burn it off as well, although I draw the line at boiling my unmentionables in a copper!


1/2oz 15g 225 ¼ 110
1oz 30g 250 ½ 120
2oz 60g 275 1 140
3oz 90g 300 2 150
4oz (1/4 lb) 120g 325 3 160
5oz 150g 350 4 175
6oz 180g 375 5 190
8oz (1/2 lb) 240g 400 6 200
12oz (3/4 lb) 360g 425 7 220
16oz (1 lb) 480g 450 8 230
    475 9 240
    500 10 260
IMPERIAL METRIC US CUPS Quantities in recipes are usually given in one or all three measures.  Follow ONLY ONE set of measures and on no account mix them up
1/2floz 15ml 1tbsp (level)
1floz 30ml 1/8 cup
2floz 60ml ¼ cup
3floz 90ml 3/8 cup
4floz 125ml ½ cup  
5floz (1/4 pint) 150ml 2/3 cup 1 UK pint = 20floz                          1 US pint = 16floz                  1 litre = 33floz (1 US quart)
6floz 175ml ¾ cup
8floz 250ml 1 cup (1/2 pint)
10floz (1/2 pint) 300ml 1 ¼ cups  
12floz 375ml 1 ½ cups oz = ounce                                           fl   = fluid                                             g   = gram                                           ml = millilitre                                 qt  = quart                                          lb  = pound                                          tsp = teaspoon                                    tbsp = tablespoon
16floz 500ml 2 cups (1 US pint)
20floz (1 pint) 600ml 2 ½ cups
1 ½ pints 900ml 3 ¾ cups
1 ¾ pints 1 litre 1 qt (4 cups)
2 pints (1qt) 1 ¼ litres 1 ¼ quarts
2 1/3 pints 1 ½ litres 3 US pints
3 ¼ pints 2 litres 2 quarts


1 gently rounded tbsp flour                    = 1 ounce
1 level tbsp sugar                                         = ½ ounce
1 tbsp jam,golden syrup or honey       = 2 ounces
½ pint glass of flour                                  = 4-5 ounces
½ pint glass sugar                                      = 8 ounces (1/2 pound)

A piece of butter, lard or margarine                                                                           about the size of a small egg                   = 2 ounces

7 tbsp liquid                                                  = ¼ pint


Filed under Household Hints

Presents: incorporating the courteous and judicious use of lists

Presents 1 - 30.07.09 There was a programme on the excellent Radio 4 this morning, in which the presenter discussed the ethics of the growing trend for making lists of the presents one wants for birthdays and Christmas.  I immediately pricked up my ears, as my family have done this for years.  The reason that we started is because we all live apart, we all have very different tastes and, most importantly, we don’t want to waste our money on fripperies that may have no use.  Some of the best presents the Wartime Housewife has ever had have been a glorious set of chisels (in their own box with little covers for the blades) and a cordless screwdriver, but I know that, on receipt of such a gift, many of my female friends would have been on the ‘phone to the family solicitor within the half hour. 

In times of austerity, however, the courteous use of a list is invaluable both to the giver and the recipient.  It is so hard to know what will be useful and appreciated and whilst one should be grateful for any gift, it’s sometimes hard to put on a delighted expression in the face of some ill-conceived monstrosity.   I was once given this handbag …. let’s just say a drag queen in Hackney was delighted to find it on ebay and we’ll say no more about it

Small electrical appliances, such as hand mixers, toasters, kettles etc frequently only last a year or two these days and on a restricted budget, an unexpected £15 or £20 can be hard to find, but the items are very hard to do without.  Books, CD’s and DVD’s bring so much pleasure to our lives and  are undoubtedly a treat but people who don’t live with you are highly unlikely to know what you do or don’t have, or even what your taste might be.  Following the Wartime Housewife’s creed that we should always attempt to repair before we replace, even simple tools can be expensive to buy and there are some lovely basic tool kits for men and women which would make super gifts, whose benefits would last for years.  Cosmetics and cleansing products are a regular expense and always seem to run out at once.  If there is a particular brand of lipstick for example, that you like and can’t quite justify buying for yourself, again it is a gift that could last a whole year. 

If your family and close friends are not in the habit of list writing and you feel it would be beneficial, I would suggest approaching it like this.  As a birthday or Christmas approaches simply tell people that, as we are all having to pull our horns in, you would like to make sure that any gift you buy for them is what they truly need and would be helpful or a treat.  Maybe suggest a rough budget at Christmas time and stick to it.  Christmas in particular can be such an appalling orgy of consumption that I feel it would be rather nice to change the focus from profligate gift giving to a more thoughtful celebration of what we truly have.  The key here is courtesy.  Never present someone with a list unless it has first been discussed or requested.  Keep the list to a reasonable length – too many items are overwhelming and frankly a little greedy – and don’t include anything that is hideously expensive unless it is appropriate to do so.

The other big consideration is whether you give everyone the same list; if you do this, you need to make sure that everyone is communicating with each other in order to avoid getting three sets of chisels or four copies of ‘The Best of the Andrews Sisters’ CD (the modern e-mail system is so handy for this).  One major benefit of the list is the potential for ‘Joint Presents’ and this is particularly useful for children whose accoutrements get ever more expensive.  For my birthday this year I asked my sister and mother to club together and buy me a year’s membership of English Heritage.  This has given me and the boys a whole year of free entertainment which will have the knock-on effect that we will do far more fun and educational things together on a regular basis.  The National Trust also offers excellent value.  My other sister paid for me to have my hair done at my favourite salon which was a lovely treat and gave me tremendous boost.

Do not be afraid of The List.  Simply approach it with courtesy and sensitivity and it will result in less consumption, more appreciation of what you have and significantly more space in the cupboard under the stairs.


Filed under Behaviour and Etiquette, Christmas

Soup Beautiful Sooooop

Soup 1

Soup is a wonderful thing.  Not only is it cheap and nutritious but you can make soup out of almost anything and it can be a marvellous way of using up left-overs.  It is also an excellent and sneaky method of concealing vegetables that your children claim not to like.  My younger son resolutely refuses to eat peppers but hide red peppers in a red coloured soup and he will invariably have a second bowlful.  Served with nice bread and perhaps a bit of cheese, a pot of soup will feed a family comfortably, fill you up more than you might think and cost next to nothing.  Also, the great thing about soup is that you can get away with vegetables that are a  little older.  If you shop at the end of the day or first thing on Monday morning, there are often fantastic bargains to be had in the reduced sections.  At the weekend I bought a 3lb bag of carrots for 20p, a bag of onions for 30p and some mixed peppers for 30p.  Together with some lentils, a pot of Lentil, Carrot and Red Pepper Soup cost about 50p and provided me and boys with a hearty supper two nights running.  Any remainder can be put in tubs and stored in the freezer (taking care to label the tubs so you know what you’re eating later).  Plastic Chinese takeaway tubs make perfect portion containers.  It also means that when you’re feeling too tired to cook, you always have a nourishing meal in the freezer which can be ready in a few minutes without resorting to something you might regret.

The basic ingredients for soup are stock, a little oil or butter, an onion and whatever else you want to put in.  It really is as simple as that.  I would recommend making your own stock when possible but Chicken or vegetable Oxo cubes do the job just as well and can always be kept in the cupboard (see future blogs for basic essential storecupboard ingredients). A stick blender is also your friend here and a basic one can be bought from Argos and elsewhere for as little as £4.89.  The great thing about soup is that you can make it how YOU like it – thick or thin, plain or spicy according to taste. 

Lentil, Carrot & Red Pepper  Soup

 This soup is packed full of Vitamin C and protein, so good for everyone!

1 onion – finely chopped *
1 tablespoon of oil *
1 knob of butter *
(4oz) 120g red lentils – cooked as per instructions on the packet *
2 large carrots – finely sliced
1 red pepper – finely sliced
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes *
1 pint stock (approx) – vegetable or chicken *
1 heaped teaspoon of dried parsley *
1 flat teaspoon of coriander powder *
Salt and pepper to taste *

Put the oil and butter into a large pan on a moderate heat (oil stops the butter from burning).  When melted, add the onion and cook for five minutes or until translucent.  Add the carrots, pepper and tomatoes, then add the cooked lentils.  Add the stock a bit at a time, stirring as you do it.  Add the parsley and coriander.  Cook on a low simmer for about 20 minutes or until the carrots are completely soft.  Blend to a puree with your stick blender.  If you need a little extra stock to make it thinner, then pour it in a bit at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.  Season to taste.

Serve with tasty bread and perhaps a nice bit of cheddar

* Denotes compulsory store cupboard ingredients.  I will expand on this in a future blog.

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Filed under Food, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes, Storecupboard, Uncategorized



It may surprise you to know that the Wartime Housewife is the owner of a very modern handbag which I bought on a marvellous Intraweb shop called Ebay.  I was looking for something capacious and black when my eye was caught by the description “Black Goth Emo Punk Rubber Studded Bag”.  As you can imagine I was immediately intrigued and, having viewed the item in detail and found the price to be utterly agreeable, I bought it at once.  I was rather thrilled by its somewhat subversive appearance but it is both a handbag and a shoulder bag and, being made of rubber, is wipe-clean.  How practical!

However, there is a drawback.  Being soft and squashy and bigger at the bottom, but with no outside pockets, it is possible to lose smaller items in the corners and it can take hours of unattractive rummaging to find one’s keys, a laundry ticket or a lipstick.  An elderly friend resolved this for me in a most practical way.  She has a small, zipped purse which she keeps in her handbag into which she puts the small and most frequently needed items, which can then be easily and quickly retrieved.  Hers is a rather tasteful designer bag which comes with a matching purse, but one can buy a simple zipped pencil case like the one in the picture for £1 or less which does just as well.  I suffer from asthma and my inhaler is now kept clean and quickly accessible at all times.  Now convenience need no longer be sacrificed to style!

Post post note:  Make sure that the inner bag that you chose is of a different colour to the lining of your handbag, otherwise you’re no better off.


Filed under Decorative, fashion, Household Hints

A Cheap Day Out on a Rainy Day

Hurricane Jigsaw 27.07.09The school holidays are always a challenge when you have lively children, and although the older ones should be able to entertain themselves at least some of the time, we all need a bit of fresh air to run off energy and clear our heads.

Today the weather was very changeable but, as rain is not actually dangerous, we donned our wellies and macs and set off for Borough Hill, an  Iron Age hill fort run by Leicester County Council and, importantly, free.  There is nothing there but stunning views, cows and sheep and plenty of trees to climb, and we spent a glorious hour running around, getting stuck in rabbit holes and throwing dried sheep poo at each other (although perhaps I should draw a discreet veil over that.  Do make sure to wash your hands after throwing sheep poo…).

However, huge black clouds soon rolled in and we pulled up our hoods and ran back to the car.  It was now lunchtime and the boys needed feeding.  Eating out can often be more expensive than the trip itself and I would normally take a modest picnic on a walk – nothing exotic, sandwiches, crisps or raisins, fruit, a home made flapkack or a Penguin and fruit juice decanted into re-used soft drink bottles are perfectly adequate and healthy.  But today was clearly not an al fresco opportunity.   Everyone must explore their own environment to find  good cheap places to eat, but as a starting point, I would recommend investigating your local garden centres.  Many of them have excellent, cheap snacks and often children’s lunch boxes for as little as £2 which nearly always have a little puzzle book or game.  Although we all know of certain fast food chains that offer similar value, one should always support local business first, or our towns and villages will wither away.  We found a delightful garden centre on our way home which not only offered delicious food but also had gift shops, clothing, books and a play area.  I enjoyed oohing and aahing over plants for my impending garden and they had a super time in the play area.

It was now absolutely torrenting with rain so we agreed that we would go home and do something together.  Like most of you, I have an extremely busy life and, sadly, have little opportunity to spend as much time as I would like with my children. It was therefore  a real pleasure for us all to sit down with a jigsaw puzzle, intermittently arguing about who’d lost the pieces, enduring The Cat tormenting us by relentlessly sitting in the middle of the half finished puzzle and finally relinquishing the last piece to my elder son who could then claim that he’d done the lot.

I live in a country village, but I have lived in the city and I know that amenities vary greatly.   Most areas have parks or somewhere to walk and you’d be amazed at where you can get to on a bus.  Council or Tourist Information offices have great information about days out and how to get there, so make the most of them.

Would you like to try my recipe for the stickiest flapjacks in existence?  Then you must keep visiting The Wartime Housewife dear Bloggers, who knows what you might find!


Filed under Children, Outdoor Activities

Sorting Out the Garden

In which The Wartime Housewife Pots - 26.7.09explains the cheap way
of clearing weeds with old carpet and growing plants from seed.

We have recently moved into a little cottage, tucked away behind the church in a small village near Market Harborough.  As you know, moving is a horrid business and it takes some time to get everything straight in the house and garden.

The garden is rather small and contains nothing but weeds, and it’s going to take some time and planning to make it a place for me and The Boys to enjoy.  So having consulted many garden books (your local library may well have a super range of gardening books to help you) I decided to clear the weeds and plant some seeds ready for next Spring.  This need not be a costly business.

I bought some very cheap seed trays and seeds from Wilkinson’s to get me started and planted them with the flowers I would need in the Spring.  But these seeds will need potting on and I don’t want to spend money on pots, so my next trip was down to the local tip where I found a huge lot of pots, both plastic and terracotta.  I also found some elderly hanging baskets which, after a little attention, will be perfect.  I came home with nearly 50 assorted pots and three hanging baskets for £3.  Incidentally, old cut up jumpers lined with plastic bags with a few tiny holes in make super liners for baskets.

My next problem was how to clear the weeds ready to re-structure the garden in the Spring.  There is a very simple, if unconventional, way to do this.  Carpet.  Cut down the bigger weeds  and then start inspecting all the skips one increasingly sees at the side of the road.  Many contain large pieces of old carpet which can be laid on the ground, depriving the weeds of light and air.  Always ask permission of the skip-ee out of courtesy, although they will probably be delighted to free up some space in their expensive skip!  In the winter, the carpet should be removed and the soil dug over ready for planting and landscaping.

I will let you know how I get on!

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Filed under Make it yourself, Plants, The Garden, Tips, Skips and Scavenging