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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


  • 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


  • 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)


  • 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


  • 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)


  • 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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