Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tea, British Army, 1945

     No serious discussion of British Army food could be considered complete without tea. There were four meals per day: breakfast (morning), dinner (noon), supper (evening), and "tea", a light meal normally served around 4:00 PM. Tea would be served 2-3 times daily, usually at breakfast and during afternoon tea.
In 1933, the British Army authorized a daily ration of 2 pounds of loose tea per 100 men. 

     This is how the British Army brewed “a nice cuppa tea”. In the first half of the 20th century the majority of tea supplied to the British Army came from India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The quality of tea was, and remains, critical. In order to ensure that we have reproduced an acceptable brew, use a good quality loose black tea such as Assam, Ceylon, or Darjeeling. Please be aware that teabags quite often contain lower quality teas. While a metal container is not optimal for brewing tea, British Army tea was commonly prepared in metal “tea buckets” or in insulated containers of 6 gallon capacity.
     Muslin bags could be used to hold the loosely packed tea leaves while brewing, after which they were removed and squeezed fairly dry. They were then emptied, rinsed in cold water and dried thoroughly. A muslin bag or a mesh tea ball may be used, but do not pack the tea tightly. Alternately, the tea may be brewed with loose tea and then strained off into another container for serving.
     The brewing container is referred to here as the “tea bucket”, but any food-safe metal or ceramic (preferred) container will do.

Yield: 4 servings of one British pint (20 Imperial fluid ounces=19.2 US fluid ounces=570 ml).

U.S.                 Metric             Ingredients    
½ oz                15g                  tea
72 fl oz            2.15 l               water
4.5 fl oz           135 ml             milk
2 oz                 60 g                 sugar

1.      Store tea in a container covered with a tight-fitting lid.
2.      Rinse out the tea buckets with boiling water prior to use. This preheats the buckets and ensures cleanliness.
3.      Place the tea into the tea buckets and as soon as the water reaches a boil, fill with boiling water.
4.      Set the tea buckets in a warm place and let brew for 8 to 10 minutes; wait for it!
5.      Strain the tea (if using loose tea) or remove the bag or filter.
6.      Add sugar and milk, and then serve immediately.

1.      Water must be at the boiling point when poured over the dry tea.
2.      Do not let the water remain boiling for an extended period of time.
3.      Tea must be loose, not packed tightly into the muslin bag or mesh tea strainer.
4.      Do not add the sugar and milk until after the tea has finished brewing.
5.      The sugar may be mixed with a little brewed tea to form syrup and then added to the tea.

El Rancho Stew, US Army, 1941

     El Rancho Stew first appeared as a US Army recipe in 1917. It could be categorized as an early Tex-Mex recipe, but its true origins are obscure. El Rancho stew may have originated as a derivative of the army’s “Spanish Beef” recipe, but it also bears some similarity to Caldo Gallego. A thick soup or stew from Galicia in northwestern Spain, variations of Caldo Gallego may include carrots, turnips, greens and potatoes.
     The only difference between the 1917 and the 1941 versions of El Rancho Stew is that red chilies, cumin, and oregano (added to taste) were replaced by chili powder. Therefore, this version of the El Rancho stew recipe could be found in use from 1917 through 1944. The current version (2003) of the US Armed Forces recipe for El Rancho stew bears only a superficial resemblance to its ancestor, having dropped the tomatoes, chilies, turnips and cabbage, and added frozen peas. On the other hand, it is interesting to note that in the  1941 version "any kind of fresh meat and any vegetables" could be used.
Yield: 4 servings

U.S.                             Metric                         Ingredients
20 oz                           545 g                           meat (beef, pork or veal), fresh, without bone and                                                                             
                                                                       with little fat, cut in about 1½-inch cubes
10 oz                           275 g                           potatoes, cut into large pieces
2.6 fl oz                       75 ml                           tomatoes, canned, crushed
6.4 oz                          180 g                           tomatoes, fresh
3.2 oz                          90 g                             carrots, quartered lengthwise
4.5 oz                          130 g                           turnips, sliced across grain
4.5 oz                          130 g                           cabbage, cut in eighths
3.2 oz                          90 g                             onions, small whole
0.08 oz/1tsp                 2.25 g                          chili powder

1.      Place the meat, turnips, carrots, and tomatoes in a large pan of cold water.
2.      The liquid should cover all the solids by about an inch (2.5 cm).
3.      Simmer until the meat is tender and then add the remaining vegetables.
4.      Season with salt and chili powder, and simmer until the vegetables are done.
5.      All ingredients should be thoroughly cooked but not broken into pieces.
6.      The stew is improved by a bunch of parsley chopped fine and added just before serving; a few sprigs of parsley may be used for garnishing.
7.      Serve hot with the vegetables whole, if possible.
8.      Any kind of fresh meat and any vegetables may be used in this stew.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Chicken Stew with Dumplings, US Army, 1928-1943

An  American classic, chicken stew with dumplings is quite simple to prepare and a great "comfort food". The US Army's recipe for chicken stew changed considerably with the 1944 version. In August, 1944 the US Army published the first edition of TM 10-412 Army Recipes, which contained the recipes formerly found in TM 10-405, The Army Cook. Although superseded, earlier manuals and recipes were still in use until the end of World War 2.

U.S.                             Metric                       Ingredients
40 oz                           680 g                          chicken
48 fl oz                        1400 ml                       water
4 fl oz                          120 ml                         flour
4 fl oz                          120 ml                         water
to taste                        to taste                         salt
to taste                        to taste                         pepper

Yield: 4 servings

1.      Place the chicken in a pot and cover with cold water.
2.      Simmer until tender, remove the chicken and pull the meat from the bones.
3.      Thicken the broth with a flour batter made from the 4 fl oz flour and 4 fl oz water.
4.      Return the chicken meat to the broth.
5.      Season to taste with salt and pepper.
6.      Add the dumplings and allow to cook for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the dumplings.

(Optional: sprinkle with chopped parsley as a garnish)  

Dumplings, US Army, 1941

U.S.                             Metric                       Ingredients
6 oz                             165 g                           flour
0.5 oz                          15 g                             fat
1 tbsp                          3.5 g                            baking powder
1 tsp                            3.5 g                            salt
4 fl oz                          120 ml                         water

1.      Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.
2.      Mix the fat into the flour and add enough water to make a soft dough.
3.      Roll out on a floured surface to about ¼ inch (½ cm) thickness.
4.      Cut into strips about 1 inch by 3 inches (2.5 cm by 7.5 cm) or cut with a biscuit cutter.
5.      Drop the dough into gently boiling chicken broth or chicken stew to cook.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stocks and Broths

     Stock, meat broth, bone broth, meat stock, broth: the terminology varies, but what, exactly, is stock? What is broth? How are they made? What’s the difference? The answer is: it depends who you ask, and from which historical period. The basic answer is that stocks and broths are the basis of many soups, stews, sauces and gravies. The ingredients and methodology differ somewhat. In their most basic form, stocks and broths are created from bones, meat, vegetables, or a combination of these, and water. The ingredients are simmered until the flavor has been extracted into the water.

     Unlike today’s supermarket cuts of boneless beef, through the end of WW2 and beyond, most cuts of meat were delivered to military cooks “bone in”. After trimming the meat, the bones and any remaining meat scraps would be thrown into the stock pot with cold water.* The temperature would be brought to a simmer and maintained for the required time. Scum and fat would be skimmed. The meat and bones would be removed and the stock utilized for soups, stews, sauces and gravies, or cooled for later use. In most military cuisine up to the end of World War 2, the skimmed fat would be saved for other culinary uses.
The chart below lists the ingredients for basic stocks or broths in several armies. It is by no means all-inclusive, and is meant only to give a few examples of the variances. I will post some stock and broth recipes in the near future.

Country          Year                Type               Cook                  Ingredients
France             1906                Bone                As needed       bones, thyme, laurel, parsley, celery, onion                          
                                                                                                     studded with 5-6 cloves 
Germany         1940-1945       Bone                As needed       Bones, vegetables or edible vegetable waste:
                                                                                                     cabbage stalks and leaves, celery or 
                                                                                                     onion trimmings, etc.                                         
Great Britain   1914                Meat                4-5 hours         beef or mutton bones, trimmed**

Italy                 1930-1945       Meat                110-130 min.   cut meat into 1-1.5 kg pieces; split the 
                                                                        (frozen meat;    bones. 9-10 g salt per liter of water, add 
                                                                        less for fresh)  meat after water is boiling, cook until al dente,  
                                                                                                   remove meat; add onions, carrots, parsley,
                                                                                                   and tomato.                                                          

 United States  1896-1927       Beef                6 hours             beef or mutton bones, water*
                        1928-1942       Beef                4-5 hours           1 qt water per 1 lb beef bones & meat, 
                                                                                                    water; crack the bones and cut the meat into 
                                                                                                     small pieces.
                        1946                Meat                6 hours              1 qt water per 1 lb bones, sawn to 6” length 
                                                                                                     or less meat cut into 1” pieces, vegetables
                        1946                Chicken           2 hours              chicken, "a few vegetables", seasoning
The US Army recipe for stock in 1942 stipulated beef bones and water to cover. That’s it.

* A notable exception to this is the Italian recipe for broth (brodo).
**no amount specified

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Potage Jackson, Canadian Army 1957

Potage Jackson

     Searching for a dish that was uniquely Canadian, I found this recipe with a somewhat unusual name in a Canadian Army Recipe Book. My further research on the origin of Potage Jackson turned up nothing. (Perhaps a Canadian reader or someone familiar with this recipe could contribute some input?)
     What I find attractive about this dish is its utter simplicity, and I found this soup to be quite tasty. Potage Jackson is an easily prepared soup: once the vegetables are prepared, they're added to stock, simmered for an hour and pureed. I prefer to use an immersion blender ("stick blender") to puree it right in the pot. A carafe-type blender or a ricer would work just as well. 
     With the passage of time, many armies expanded the variety of their menus beyond one-pot meals or a meal composed simply of a meat and a starch dish. Rather than being the basis of a meal, soups were more commonly prepared as a first course, preceding the entree. The Canadian Army manual recommended using soups to get a meal "off to a good start". Thick soups, such as this, would accompany a lighter meal. 

Potage Jackson Ingredients

Yield: 4 eight ounce servings

US                               Metric                        Ingredients
4 oz                             120 g                           onions
2 oz                             60 g                             celery
2 oz                             60g                              carrots
1 oz                             30 g                             turnips
8 oz                             230 g                           potatoes
2 fl oz                          60 ml                           canned peas
2 fl oz                          60 ml                           canned corn
10 fl oz                        300 ml                          stock
5 fl oz                          150 ml                          canned tomatoes
1 tsp                             5 ml                             salt


1.      Cut the onions, celery, carrots, turnips, and potatoes into ¼ dice or smaller.
2.      Heat the stock; add all vegetables.
3.      Bring to a simmer and cook for one hour.
4.      Puree the soup.
5.      Add the tomatoes and salt. Cook for 10 minutes.

Garnish with chopped parsley or celery tops, or chopped crisp bacon.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Algerian Beef, French Army, 1940

Algerian Beef (Merga Beef or Rouquette Beef), French Army, 1940
(Boeuf a l’Algérienne (Boeuf en Merga ou Rouquette de Boeuf))

     Algerian Beef is a dish of stewed beef, flavored with onion, garlic, tomato and herbs. It was listed under blanquette recipes, the explanation being that although it is not a light-colored meat in a white sauce (as in blanquette de veau), the mode of preparation and the end result are the same: a meat stewed in an aromatic broth and served with a thickened sauce.
     As a side note, most recipes in later editions of the French Army cookbook remained unchanged through the 1962 editions. For those interested in historical accuracy or for re-enactors, the 1940 recipes could be used at least through the 1960s.

Yield: 4 servings                     Cooking time: 3 hours

U.S.                            Metric                        Ingredients
16 oz*                         450 g                           beef
1 oz                             20 g                             onions
1 clove                         4 g                               garlic
1 tbsp (finely chopped) 4 g                               parsley, fresh
½ tsp                           4 g                               coarse salt
to taste                         to taste                         pepper
one                              one                               bouquet garni**
1.5 oz                          40 g                              tomato paste
.65 oz/4 tsp                  10 g                              flour
8 fl oz                          240 ml                          water

1.      Bone and trim the beef, cut into pieces of approximately 2 ounces/50-60 grams each; two pieces per serving.
2.      Finely chop the garlic, onion and parsley.
3.      Make a thin paste with the flour and cold water.
4.      Into a pot, add the water, salt, pepper, garlic and onion. Bring to a boil.
5.      Put the meat and return to boil. Add tomato paste and bouquet garni, cover the pot, reduce heat and simmer for three hours.
NOTE: Never stir blanquettes during the time when the meat is cooking. It may be stirred in the last 15 minutes, as the meat will be considered cooked at that time.
6.      Fifteen minutes before the cooking is done, examine the product and:
a) degrease only if there is really too much fat
      b) thicken with more flour if needed
      c) taste and adjust the seasoning (salt and pepper).
7.   Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.

* 16 oz/450 g beef after trimming and deboning
**Bouquet garni: herbs tied together or wrapped in a piece of leek and tied with twine,
and added to stocks, soups or stews. It typically consists of a sprig of fresh thyme, parsley stems, and a bay leaf.