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Mrs Carter’s wartime pies

ww2_cooking_breakfastAs it is National Pie Week, I thought it would be fun to offer you some Second World War pie recipes.

These are all the kind of pies that Mrs Carter, one my Lavender Road series characters who runs the local café, would have created. (See especially LONDON CALLING for the cooking competition in which she gains notoriety by inadvertently setting Wandsworth Town Hall on fire!)

On the whole wartime recipes are healthy as they contain little fat and sugar. Of course they also contain very little meat due to the rigours of wartime rationing, but wartime cooks worked wonders in compensating for shortages. So feel free to improvise with the recipes below. Mrs Carter found that a handful of stinging nettles, dandelions added a certain amount of excitement to her cooking.

‘With so little in the shops,’ she said, ‘I started looking around for other nourishing things I could use. And when I discovered that my tortoise was partial to dandelions, daisies and stinging nettles, I thought, well, if they are good enough for Monty, they are probably good enough for me. So I tried them last week and I’m still here to tell the tale.’

Distracted by the audience’s chuckle of amusement, Mrs Carter unthinkingly delved into a bag to draw out the edible weeds she had mentioned. But she had forgotten about the stinging nettles. As soon as her fingers closed on the vicious leaves, it felt as though her entire hand had caught fire. With a shriek of shock and pain, she jerked her arm out of the bag and rushed over to the sink, scattering stinging nettles, dandelions and daisy leaves in her wake.

meatMy first recipe is Mrs Carter’s Meat and Veg Pie (a meatier version of the famous Woolton Pie – introduced by the so-named Minister of Food to encourage nutritional thrift in the kitchen.)

All the following recipes serve 4.

 

Mrs Carter’s Meat and Veg Pie

  • 1 tin of spam or other tinned meat, or small chunks of fresh meat if available
  • 1lb potatoes
  • 1lb parsnips
  • 1lb carrots
  • 1lb cauliflower
  • 6 radishes
  • A sprinkle of chopped spring onions (if available)
  • Dandelions/ stinging nettles/ or other edible weeds
  • 2 teaspoons of Marmite/Bovril
  • One tablespoon of porridge oats
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley (fresh or dried)

For the pastry: (Or if you want to cheat – use Jus-roll)

  • 6oz wholemeal flour
  • 6oz cooked mashed potato
  • 3oz fat (Margarine or lard)
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  • Chop the vegetables into small chunks.
  • Fry briefly with the meat.
  • Then place in saucepan with two cups of water and bring to boil.
  • Add the Marmite and oats, season and cook until tender.
  • Place mixture in ovenproof dish and sprinkle with parsley

For the pastry:

  • Mix the flour with salt and baking powder and rub in the fat.
  • Mix in the mashed potato to form a dough. Knead to combine, add some water if necessary.
  • Roll out on floured board (or, in Mrs Carter’s case, an old roof tile) to form a covering and lay over filling. Brush with milk (if available)
  • Place in oven at 190C for 40 mins until topping is nice and brown.

 

Mrs Carter’s Cottage pie

  • 1 lb minced beef (or any minced meat or poultry you can get your hands on)
  • 3 large potatoes
  • 2 oz cheese (if available)
  • herbs (rosemary/sage/thyme)
  • 3 cups rich beef stock/Bovril/marmite/Bisto
  • Finely chopped carrots and onion (if available)
  • Edible garden weeds (chopped finely)
  • Small amount of butter/marg
  • salt and pepper
  • Generous splash of Worcestershire sauce

Method:

  • Fry the mince to brown
  • Add the carrot and onion
  • Add salt and pepper and herbs
  • Add the stock, bring to boil, then simmer for 15 minutes until sauce is nice and thick then place in deep ovenproof dish
  • Meanwhile cook potatoes in salted hot water until tender.
  • Drain and mash with butter or margarine, add plenty of salt and pepper and a dash of milk to soften
  • Spread mashed potato over meat filling
  • Sprinkle with 2 oz of grated cheese
  • Place in oven for 30 minutes at 190C

 

Mrs Carter’s Tomato and potato loaf

  • 1 lb cooked new potatoes
  • 12 oz tomatoes
  • Tablespoon flour
  • Half a pint milk (or reconstituted milk powder)
  • Knob of butter/marg
  • 4 oz grated cheese (more if available)

Method:

  • Make cheese sauce: Melt butter in small pan, add flour and stir until smooth. Cook briefly until bubbling then take off heat, and slowly add milk and cheese stirring all the time until smooth then add dried herbs.
  • Cut potatoes into quarter inch slices
  • Cut the tomatoes into slices
  • Grease a deep ovenproof dish
  • Build pie with layers of potatoes, cheese sauce, tomatoes, in that order, finishing with top layer of potato
  • Top with grated cheese
  • Bake at 170C for 45 minutes until brown

 

Mrs Carter’s Leek and Lentil Pie

  • 2 cups dried lentils
  • 4 cups stock/ Marmite/Bovril
  • 6 chopped leeks
  • Garden herbs/edible weeds
  • Mashed potato
  • Corn-flour or flour
  • Extra salt/pepper/dried herbs
  • Slice of  butter/margarine

Method:

  • Rinse the lentils then place with leaks into a pan. Cover with the stock, put on lid and cook on a slow heat until tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
  • Melt margarine and add corn flour to make thickener then stir into to the lentil mix.
  • Put into a greased ovenproof dish then cover with mashed potato.
  • Bake at 190C for 40 mins until nicely brown

 

And now for desert:

Mrs Carter’s Almond fruit flan

As there was a general lack of fresh fruit on the shelves, carrot was often used as a substitute.

  • 1 lb small carrots finely grated
  • A few drops almond essence
  • 5 tablespoons of jam or marmalade (or stewed fruit if available)
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 8oz short crust pastry/oatmeal pastry/ (made as in recipes above, or cheat with Jus-roll)

Method:

  • Roll out pastry
  • Grease a flan dish or pie dish and line with pastry
  • Bake empty at 180C for 20 minutes until golden brown
  • Meanwhile put grated carrots, jam, water and almond essence into a saucepan
  • Bring to a boil and simmer gently stirring all the time for around 20 minutes until nice and thick
  • Pour into the cooked flan case and return to oven for 5 minutes
  • Serve with custard (if available)

I very much hope you will try some of these recipes out, although I’m not sure if I would use them to impress any gourmet dinner party guests! Nevertheless they all make a tasty mid week supper, so do let me know how you get on! And while you are cooking, spare a thought for those wartime cooks like Mrs Carter who had to spend six or more years in very primitive kitchens, in the most adverse circumstances, rustling up tasty meals with the most meagre of ingredients.

Wartime kitchen

 

Helen Carey’s next novel, VICTORY GIRLS, will be published on the 18th of April.

 

 

 

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VICTORY GIRLS

churchill ve dayToday is an exciting day for me because my publishers are announcing the title of my next novel.

It will be called VICTORY GIRLS.

VICTORY GIRLS will be the final book in my Second World War Lavender Road series.

The series started with the outbreak of war on the 3rd of September 1939 and, six books and a million words later, I have brought it to what I hope is a suitably celebratory close, at the end of VICTORY GIRLS, on VE Day, the 8th of May 1945.

I won’t give away the VICTORY GIRLS’ storyline here, but, suffice it to say, like its predecessors, it contains a good wartime ration of excitement, history, love and adventure, all combined with a light sprinkling of humour!

VICTORY GIRLS will be published in April next year (2018), and it is heartening (to me at least!) that interest in the Second World War seems to be stronger than ever.

You only need to look at current blockbuster film releases to see that. The recent film ALLIED with Brad Pitt had a massive budget (even though sadly it didn’t receive quite the success and publicity it deserved due to his marital breakup). And now we have two more huge films to look forward to, CHURCHILL and DUNKIRK.

Dunkirk featured in the first book of my series, LAVENDER ROAD itself, when one of the characters, at huge personal risk, takes his small river boat over the English Channel to help rescue the encircled British troops from the French coast.

Winston Churchill, always present in the background of the Lavender Road books, makes his first actual appearance in LONDON CALLING, as he lies ill with pneumonia in Tunisia at the end of 1943. He also figures in the upcoming VICTORY GIRLS, both at the Rhine Crossings, and in the VE celebrations.

Having covered almost the entire war in my six novels, I can imagine how Churchill (and everyone else) felt when peace in Europe was finally declared. In an odd way I feel as though I have vicariously lived through it all too! Not just Dunkirk, the Blitz, and subsequent relentless bombing of London, but also the trauma of evacuation, the fear for friends and loved ones, SOE operations in France, the sinking of the French fleet in Toulon harbour, torpedo attacks in the Mediterranean, the Sicily landings, POW camps, D Day, V1 and V2 rocket attacks, not to mention the day to day privations of rationing, shortages, love and loss, and the constant presence of danger.

But of course it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The aspect of my research that I found most amazing was the extraordinary courage, resilience, acceptance of adversity and gritty humour that people showed, people of all nationalities, and from all walks of life. And that’s what I have tried to show throughout the series, that when the chips are down people do what they have to do to survive, to cope, and to to overcome. I think we must all hope that some of the same attitudes of strength, tolerance and resilience will prevail today in our current troubled times.

 

 

Helen’s most recent novel, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, (Lavender Road Book 5) is now out in Hardback (UK) and eBook (UK AND USA). It will be published as a paperback on 19th October 2017.

Serendipity

serendipityOne of the wonderful things about writing novels is that serendipity often lends a helping hand.

When I was starting to write my first book, LAVENDER ROAD, my car had broken down and I bumped into a wonderful local lady, Laura Boorman, at a bus stop on Clapham Common. Inevitably the bus was late, and we fell into conversation. It turned out Laura had lived in London right through the war years. She was a mine of information, and many of her memories crop up in the Lavender Road books.

A couple of days later the garage owner introduced me to an actor who in turn put me in touch with the lovely Mary Moreland who had been a celebrated concert artiste in the 30’s and 40’s. Much of Jen Carter’s turbulent career in SOME SUNNY DAY and the other books is based on Mary’s experiences.

Just as I was beginning to think about the SOE angle for ON A WING AND A PRAYER I was invited to an uncle’s birthday party at the Special Forces Club in Knightsbridge. There, I not only discovered the tragic staircase of pictures of agents killed during the war, which was a salutary reminder of the incredible dangers those men and women put themselves in for the sake of their country, but I also found information about certain young female agents and was therefore able to base Helen de Burrell’s adventures much more on reality than invention.

While I was researching the early development of penicillin for LONDON CALLING, I discovered by chance that an old family friend, Antony Jefferson, had been a medical student at the time (1942) and actually visited the laboratory in Oxford where Professor Florey and his small team were attempting to create a therapeutic drug. Things were so short in those days that they had to resort to using bedpans to grow the cultures in as they simply couldn’t find any other suitable receptacles. Antony had also survived a torpedo attach in mid Atlantic. Some of my readers will recall Jen and Molly’s dramatic escape from their sinking troopship in the Mediterranean, all based on Antony’s experiences!

I had already begun writing my most recent Lavender Road book, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, and was trying to find useful details about the women’s services during the war years, when I asked Eirian Short (a famous local embroiderer) for some advice on a tapestry I had recently inherited, only to discover that Eirian had joined the ATS in 1942 and remembered every detail! Although I should add that Eirian’s military service history was exemplary, and my character Louise Rutherford’s various high jinks are entirely her own!

Now, as I draw to the end of writing Book 6 (as yet unnamed) I’m glad to report that the same kind of thing has happened again. I won’t tell you exactly what because I don’t want to give the story away yet, but suffice it to say that serendipity has once again played a part, and for that I am profoundly grateful!

 

 

Helen Carey’s latest novel, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, was published by Headline on 6 April 2017 and is now available at your local Amazon store.

Uk editions combo 2          US Editions combo

Being shortlisted

I am late posting about this, as the news was announced last week, but I wanted to let you know that my latest novel LONDON CALLING has been shortlisted for this year’s RoNA Awards. london-calling-high-qual

rona_logo

The RoNA Awards, sponsored by Goldsboro Books, are the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s annual awards for excellence. There are several categories. LONDON CALLING, set in the Second World War, is in the category: Historical Romance.

The prize-giving event is taking place in the Gladstone Library, in Whitehall, London on 13th March. (Tickets are £65 each so I am expecting it to be a glittering party! Luckily my publishers, Headline, are treating me to my ticket!)

It is a real honour to have been shortlisted and a lovely vote of confidence from the Industry. Years ago I was shortlisted really nice that LONDON CALLING has been picked up for this award.

Many of my friends and readers know that I took a long break from writing to nurse my mother through Alzheimer’s. Eventually, after eight years, as her condition deteriorated, we had to get full time care, and it was then that I began writing again. Sadly my mother died last year, but she knew that I had finished LONDON CALLING, and would have been delighted to know about it being shortlisted for the award.

Next week am off on a trip to France to do a little bit of research form my next book, the sixth in the Lavender Road series. But I will be back in London in time for the Awards ceremony. I am not expecting to win as there are obviously lots of great books on the shortlist, but I am expecting to enjoy the canapés and bubbly!

 

London Calling is now available in paperback or ebook

Helen’s next novel THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET comes out 6th April 2017.

Win! Win! Win!

As you may know my latest Lavender Road novel, LONDON CALLING, came out in paperback last week.

london-calling-high-qualSet right in the middle of the Second World War, LONDON CALLING follows the lives of a number of people living in street in London.

Lavender Road is a perfectly ordinary south London street. But in wartime ordinary people find themselves doing extraordinary things, and now, in LONDON CALLING, actress Jen Carter  and nurse Molly Coogan are about to take on their biggest challenge yet.

*To celebrate the paperback publication, my publishers, Headline, are offering 10 free copies of LONDON CALLING.*

All you have to do to be in with a chance is pop over to my /helencareybooks facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/helencareybooks and write a brief comment under the competition post about why you would like to win a copy.

GOOD LUCK and HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

For more info on LONDON CALLING or to look at my other books, visit my books page above, or my website, or Amazon

 

LONDON CALLING

Stop press!

My latest novel LONDON CALLING comes out in paperback in the UK, Europe and Commonwealth next week. I have just received my advance copies and they are looking good!

london-calling-high-qual

London Calling is set in the middle of the Second World War. It follows the lives of a number of people who live in one perfectly ordinary south London Street. But in wartime ordinary people find themselves having to do extraordinary things. And nurse Molly Coogan and actress Jen Carter are about to take on their biggest challenge yet.

 

LONDON CALLING is already out on Kindle, and in Hardback, and as an Audio version too, read by Annie Aldington.

But now it is in paperback, and it joins the three earlier books with the new branding that my new publishers Headline have given them.

lav rd headline  some sunny day final  on a wing and a prayer 5

I have just recorded a tiny video about my research, showing some of the books I used – you can find that at my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/helencareybooks/

Those of you who have read and enjoyed (and hopefully reviewed!) my earlier Lavender Road books will be glad to know that the next in the series THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET will be published in 2017. And is already on pre-order at Amazon.

Find more information about my books at my book page (see above), or at http://helencareybooks.co.uk

Enjoy!

 

 

 

WW2 in pictures

babies in shelter

Underground maternity unit – note babies on shelf!

During my research for my second world war Lavender Road novels I’ve come across some extraordinary photos. I sometimes share these on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, but I realised I haven’t shared many of them with my Blog readers yet.

Some of them relate directly to my novels, some of them don’t. But they all give a flavour of that incredible time when people (and animals) in Britain were struggling to survive under extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances.

Here are just a few …

 

war carrots on sticks

Tough times for children too

 

farringdon market V1

Keep calm and carry on

 

bombed library

Keep reading ….

 

ats with princess

Do you recognise the ATS girl centre back (the only one sitting on a chair)? Yes, it’s Princess Elizabeth – our current Queen!

 

balham tube station bus

The Balham Bomb, 1940

 

wvs rifle practise

WVS rifle drill

 

eton ww2

Eton rifle drill!

 

untitled

Nurses disembarking in Normandy soon after D’Day

 

wartime pet

Battersea Dogs Home trying to rehouse dogs orphaned in the bombing

 

dog and soldiers

Awww!

 

This is just a small selection – more to follow in due course …

 

 

Helen Carey’s new novel LONDON CALLING is now available at Amazon and in all good bookshops.

Nineteen years later …

london calling final 3[1]Nineteen years ago my novel ON A WING AND A PRAYER was published. It was the third book in my LAVENDER ROAD series about the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the residents of one London street during the second world war.

That novel ended with one of the main characters, Helen de Burrel, having been injured in the battle for Toulon harbour in France in 1942, escaping the advancing Germans on a French submarine.

And there she has been, stuck on a French submarine, for nineteen years!

But now she is finally about to be liberated (like France ultimately was,) because on Thursday (25th February) , LONDON CALLING, the next novel in the series, is coming out!

And no, before you ask, it didn’t take me nineteen years to write it! For various reasons, after finishing ON A WING AND A PRAYER, I moved on to other things, (not least living on a boat in the Caribbean for while,) painting, getting married, and teaching creative writing at various universities. And then, for the last ten years, caring for my mother who was beginning to suffer with Alzheimer’s.

But then the digital revolution happened. And when the previous Lavender Road books became popular again as Kindle books, both in the UK and in the USA, I decided the moment had come to write another in the series.

LONDON CALLING is the result. My literary agent loved it, and a wonderful deal with Headline Books quickly followed. Not only are Headline publishing LONDON CALLING on Thursday, but over the next few months they will be republishing all my earlier Lavender Road novels as well. They have also commissioned me to write two more (one of which is already finished, and will come out in 2017).

My mother sadly died this year, so she won’t see the publication of LONDON CALLING, but I know she would be happy that I have gone back to writing, because she loved my Lavender Road books, and also loved reminiscing about her wartime experience as a nurse.

Some of the things she told me appear in LONDON CALLING, which opens in December 1942. As well as picking up on the stories of my other favourite residents of Lavender Road, it also follows the story of Molly Coogan, a young trainee nurse, who longs to escape both the oppressive discipline of the Wilhelmina hospital in south London and an ill-advised infatuation for an unobtainable man. But when Molly’s wish comes true and she finds herself on a troopship on the way to North Africa, she soon realises she has jumped out of the frying pan into a very dangerous fire …

LONDON CALLING is now available for pre-order at Amazon.  CLICK HERE for more details.

WARTIME CHRISTMAS

Snoopy xmas cardThis is just a quick message to wish a Happy Christmas to all my lovely blog followers.

I can’t believe another year has nearly gone by. It’s been an up and down year for me. I signed my new amazing book contract with Headline Books in the early part of the year. Then almost immediately after that my mother died. We had looked after her for eleven years so it was a terrible sadness for us, and left a big hole in our lives.

It took me a while to be able to get back to writing, but now I’m glad to report that my latest contracted novel, the fifth in my LAVENDER ROAD series, is coming along well.

And once again I can’t help comparing what life was like at Christmas in London during the war years.

In 1942 there were very few fresh turkeys or chickens to be had for love, money, or food coupons! And of course there were no frozen ones either. In my next novel, LONDON CALLING, which is being published in February, one of my characters preserves a gifted turkey in salt ready for Christmas Day!

The best most people could manage for their festive lunch was a chicken and dumpling pie. Sugar, suet and dried fruit was in short supply too, so Christmas puddings were either very small or non existent.

Toy shops were pretty much bare of everything and fathers found themselves making toys and/or dolls from salvaged bits and pieces. One old lady I spoke to told me of a treasured necklace she had been given by her fiancé made from cherry stones!

Crackers and paper hats were often made out of newspaper, and if you fancied a tipple, the likelihood was that your local pub would have asked you to bring your own glass!

The British government wanted people to give each other War Bond savings vouchers as gifts and the Red Cross encouraged people to ‘Adopt a Prisoner of War’ (rather in the same way as people sponsor endangered wild animals nowadays!)

This year, in the UK alone, millions have already been spent on gifts for pets. In 1942 it was illegal even to put breadcrumbs out for the birds.

So there you go – enjoy the festivities, and remember to relish your freedom, your food and your gifts – and don’t forget to raise a glass to all the stalwart souls (like my characters in LAVENDER ROAD) of 1939 – 1945 who made it possible!!

 

*Helen Carey’s new novel LONDON CALLING will be published by Headline on 25th February 2016. It is now available for pre-order on Amazon.*

Remembrance

poppy planesLast year I had terrible trouble with my poppy. The first one’s stalk broke within ten minutes. I replaced it with a stick-on one which disappeared before I had even got home. The third one fell to bits as I put on my coat after lunch in a tapas bar. As I scrabbled under the tables to retrieve the various bits, the red flower, the flimsy leaf and the black centre button, I heard someone mutter, ‘Why do you bother?’

Straightening up I glanced at him wondering whether he meant why did I bother rescue the poppy pieces, or why did I bother wear one at all. I was tempted to say that I bothered because, whatever the rights and wrongs of it, young men like him had died fighting in wars. But my friends were waiting at the door and I didn’t want to get into a big discussion (and judging by the look of him it wouldn’t have been a fruitful discussion anyway). So I just smiled apologetically and left. Later of course I wished I had said something.

Several years ago we spent a week in Sicily with some friends. Before setting off we happened to visit my elderly aunt who reminded me that her brother Basil (my uncle) had died during the invasion of Sicily in 1943 and was buried in Siracusa.  ‘It would be so lovely if you could go and put some flowers on his grave,’ she said and we promised that we would if we could.

Unfortunately when we arrived in Sicily we discovered that we were staying right at the other end of the island. ‘It’s too far,’ we said to each other. ‘It would take hours to drive all over there.’ And we tried to settle down to enjoy the holiday.

But we felt guilty – after all my uncle had sacrificed his life and we wouldn’t sacrifice one day of our holiday. So we decided to go.

It took us seven hours solid driving to get from from Capo San Vito to Siracusa. (Sicily is somewhat. bigger than it looks on the map.)

We arrived at about 3 in the afternoon, bought two bunches of flowers and made our war to the cemetery.

We were unprepared for the emotion that hit us. Lines and lines of small white headstones, each engraved with a young man’s name. We found my uncle’s grave quite easily, it was in the front row. Capt Basil Beazley, 29 years old.

The glider assault had been a disaster. They were launched from too far out to sea and the winds were too strong. Most landed in the water, some even crashed into Mount Etna. Many, like my uncle died soon after landing attempting to defend positions with inadequate support.  Military planning at its worst. Those young men must have known their chances were slim, but they did it anyway.

Seven hours later we arrived back at the villa in the pitch dark. For some reason I wasn’t on the car insurance so my husband had had to drive the whole way. Did you have a good day?’ Our friends asked as we staggered in.

We looked at each other. ‘Oh yes,’ I said. ‘We drove for seven hours, cried for twenty minutes and then drove seven hours back again.’ But it was worth it.

We had picked up some pebbles and a bit of dry earth from the grave and when we gave these to my aunt a few weeks later she cried too. ‘I still miss him so much,’ she said.

That’s why I rescued my poppy.

It was this experience that made me write LONDON CALLING, my next novel, which will be published by Headline in February next year. Catch up on the series at http://viewBook.at/B0066DLQGM

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