I recently re-watched The Wartime Kitchen and Garden, and – as there is no legitimate way to acquire a permanent copy – I am slowly making transcripts of them. My episode 1 transcript is here.

Episode 2 transcript

00:56 [Joyce] It’s cold out there.
00:57 [Ruth Mott] Many down there this morning?
00:58 [Joyce] It’s packed.
01.00 [Ruth Mott] Is it? Must have got more rations than we’ve got, then.

01:04 [Peter Thoday] On Sunday January 8th 1940, rationing began. Butter, sugar and bacon were the first items controlled. Two months later, on March 11th, meat was added to the list. Unlike the earlier foodstuffs, it was rationed by price, not weight. The cheaper the cut, the more you got.

01:25 [Ruth Mott] You can put those away, then, when you’ve got your pinny tied up. I’ll look and see what meat you’ve brought.

01:30 [Peter Thoday] Ruth Mott unpacks the week’s ration of meat for herself and the evacuees billeted on her – Joyce and her small son Paul.

01:43 [Ruth Mott] This is a little bit of brisket, which I shall do up with vegetables and that, but you must remember that this stuff will probably shrink, so it’s not as much meat as it looks. So you’re trying to make as much of it as you can. So we’ve bought this [lamb breast] which I shall bone out and do differently tomorrow.

02:08 [Peter Thoday] Homegrown food was now vital. Garden advertisements were quick to link their products with the war effort. Cloches protect seedlings and bring on early crops. But assembling them requires nerves of steel from head gardener Harry Dodson, and his inexperienced Land Girl.

02:32 [Harry Dodson] Oh, Annie. I was coming for you. This is a nice job for a wet day, and I’d like you to just carry on assembling these after I’ve showed you how to do it. When you’ve put them together like that, just line them up with the palm of your hands. Otherwise when they’re put together, butted together, and then they’re pulled apart to tend to the plants another day, it’s liable to bust the ends of the pane.

03:03 [Harry Dodson] This goes on first, and it’s often forgotten. I often forget it, as many times as I’ve done it. Having got the two side panels together, then these two bottom panel hooks are put on, and it’s on these of course which depends all the stability. It’s an horrible noise when they’re bring put together, but don’t let that frighten you. This is the dodgy bit, getting this top panel on, and this is where you mustn’t get any nerves, otherwise you get fidgety and you quickly break a pane of glass. There you are, trim it up, it’s as simple as that. And it’s quite rigid when it’s put together properly like that.

03:52 [Film recording] “This is one kind of waist you can get round, but this kind of waste, and this, you want to watch out for and avoid. Think of ways to avoid waste. Food doesn’t grow in the shops, you know!

04:06 [Peter Thoday] Ruth now faces the challenge of turning breast of lamb into a tasty dish.

04:10 [Ruth Mott] I’m just going to take these little bones out here, because we’re going to put this in the saucepan today and try and do them cold and then egg and breadcrumb it ready for tomorrow, to make just a little change. And then we go along to this one. These used to cost you about tuppence in old money, years ago, but they’re more than that now. I shall save all these little bones, because I shall put them into the bottom of the saucepan, and a few over the top, to get all the flavour out that we can. And then the juice I shall also save, and make that into soup. You got to use everything, you see, you mustn’t throw anything away.

05:02 [Ruth Mott] Oh, it was very valuable during the war. I mean, it was something that you purchased cheaply, much cheaper than anything else, and of course it was cheap meat you were looking for because you were rationed by money.

05:20 [Ruth Mott] I’m just doing this [scoring] so that it makes a cut so that when it cooks… this will shrink a little… so it won’t all cockle up. I’ve got to fit it into the saucepan, so we shall have to fit the lamb to the saucepan. We’ve got a few bones in there at the moment, and then we can put the meat in on top of this, because if you keep that in the bottom you’ve got a little bolster, so when the water goes in it will cook in the steam, and it won’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan. And then we’ve got some more carrot and onion to go in, and parsley for flavour. And if you’ve got a bay leaf, or a little bit of thyme, or anything like that, you can have that in as well. Pepper and salt, anything that will give it a bit of taste. A drop of water; not too much, because we don’t want to drown it, because it should set, if left overnight with a little jelly in it. And that will want to cook for about an hour and a half, on a very low heat.

06:35 [Peter Thoday] To go with the lamb, Ruth has chosen something really filling.

06:40 [Ruth Mott] Are you nearly finished? You can do these leeks, then, for this leek pudding. I’d better show you what to do.

06:48 [Joyce] It’s not going to be difficult, is it?

06:49 [Ruth Mott] No. As difficult as you like to make it! So now we don’t want all this up here, so if we take this off about here. That piece can go over there. This you’ll have to take off quite low, because it’s getting quite late in the season for leeks at the moment. And then it’s into four, so we do them through again. Now they want to go into lengths of about an inch. I’ve got a Scotch inch, of course, they don’t always go quite straight.

07:42[Ruth Mott] So we’ll put those into there to be washed, and they’ll want a good wash, and I’ll leave you with this one, and the knife. Don’t cut your fingers off!

07:57 [Ruth Mott] Oh, I think everybody tried everything that came out.  I mean, you got your Kitchen Front that was broadcast every day, you got leaflets of different things – you always looked at them.

8:09 [Ruth Mott] Leek pudding, with potato and suet crust. From ‘Food Facts for the Kitchen Front’. So we want 8 ounces of self-raising flour.

8:35 [Peter Thoday] To save on the fat ration, the pastry’s made with flour, suet and potato.

8:48 [Ruth Mott] And then we’ll have 2 ounces suet.

9:06 [Ruth Mott] Now we’ve got 2 ounces grated potato. The potato will help save some of your fat ration towards something else – a bit of cake or something. It’s a very small fat ration, so we’re trying to eke it out by using potato. You can either use raw potato or mashed. And it should make quite a nice, light pastry.

9:49 [Ruth Mott] [Rolling out the pastry) This will just about fit the basin now, and if it doesn’t, we’ll make it. This is the idea of having the margarine in, you see, as it all helps hold it up.

10:11 [Ruth Mott] We’ve lifted enough water with these [leeks], to keep them moist. These will boil down when they’re inside, so you get quite a bit of crust around it, which helps fill you up in wartime. Plenty of suet crust. That’s right, that’s done now.

10:32 [Ruth Mott] A drop of water to seal the edge of this [pastry top] with. We’ll make that fit – that will fit by the time Ruth’s finished. And then we’ll have to put a little bit of greaseproof paper, or some old margarine paper – we don’t want the cloth too dirty because we don’t like washing dirty cloths. That’s it.

10:59 [Peter Thoday] In a garden the size of Chilton, with its four acres, compost heaps had to be constructed on the grand scale, if they were to maintain the fertility of the soil.

11:29 [Harry Dodson] We’re going to have a layer of this garden’s spent crop refuse at the moment, and we want a layer about 6 inches deep. And trod well firm, or as firm as we can get it, and then we’re going to put a layer of the straw on. As the heap’s being built, you must keep each layer well-trod down. And you must keep the sides like a wall. So you must put some really solid material around on the outside, and then build the middle in. But tread as near as you can to the outside of the heap all the time as you’re building up, because we want it – when it’s finished – like a box. We don’t want it to slip out one side, or slip out the other side, or the top to slip off and fall all over the show.

12:26 [Peter Thoday] It’s essential to wet thoroughly each layer, as dry vegetation won’t rot down. It’s then sprinkled with a handful of sulphate of ammonia, to supply extra nitrogen to speed up the process. If this was not available, the Ministry suggested using sewage sludge. The layers are dressed with lime. This neutralizes the natural acids which hinder decomposition.

12:26 [Harry Dodson] I think in due course, it will be a good heap. By July – another heap like that!

13:12 [Ruth Mott] I’m just going to cut this [lamb] into six little portions, then into the flour.

13:22 [Peter Thoday] The breast of lamb has been cooked for an hour and a half, and allowed to cool. Ruth now starts on the last stage.

13:29 [Ruth Mott] Pop it into the egg, which will stick on. You probably have to push it a little bit, because they don’t always dry out quite straight. Then into the breadcrumbs, and cover it up nicely. And that should make us a nice little crust when we’ve fried it.

13:57 [Ruth Mott] The fat we’re using today is some little bits of fat that I’ve collected up over the week, from different bits of meat and stuff that we’ve cooked, and we’ve got it all into a basin. We’ve rendered it down and stirred it all up to make it look alike, and we’re going to cook the lamb in it today, because we want to save as much of our fat ration as possible to do other things with.

14:23 [Ruth Mott] Joyce, would you like to come and take the pudding up, please?

14:26 [Joyce] Yes, coming! Something smells good.

14:30 [Ruth Mott] I think it will be alright. Mind your fingers, won’t you.

14:26 [Joyce] Well, I’ll use the cloth.

14:28 [Ruth Mott] Alright then. And I’ll dish straight up out of the pan.

14:52 [Ruth Mott] I’ll start putting some [lamb] out.

14:54 [Joyce] Plenty for me, please!

14:56 [Ruth Mott] Well, I don’t know about there being plenty. You’ll have to have what you’re given, like the children, and like it. I’ll put that little bit back on the stove. When you’ve had that, if you’re still hungry, you can have a little bit more.

15:24 [Ruth Mott] I rather like the leek pudding, because I think it’s something that you could use today really. You know, if you’ve got a nice lamb dish and you wanted to bump it up and make it seem a bit more, leek pudding would be an ideal thing to do it with.

15:47 [Radio plays] “This is the BBC Home Service. Here is a special news bulletin. Denmark has been invaded by German forces, and Norway is at war with Germany.”

15:59 [Peter Thoday] As the war edges closer, the beauty of the conservatory must be sacrificed. But Harry preserves some of this favourite glasshouse shrubs by planting them in nearby woodland.

16:13 [Harry Dodson] This afternoon, we’ve been planting some trees that have been used in the glasshouses for several years. But now the period we’re running into, I’m afraid, is not going to run to the labour of looking after them. It’s an economy run, which I’m afraid we’ve all got to face. But when you think of the collection that that was here – there was rhododendrons and azaleas and this sort of thing, the prunus, they’re quite able to look after themselves and they can come out here and in years to come somebody will still be able to cut bloom off them, but of course they won’t be able to force it, like we’ve done.

17:04 [Peter Thoday] Like the shrubs, people now had to learn how to fend for themselves. A growing shortage of eggs drove householders to keep hens in their back gardens. At her billet, Annie – helped by Joyce – takes delivery of six pullets. They’re Rhode Island Red cross White Wyandotte, and are at the point of lay.

17:33 [Joyce] Hey, Annie, there’s an egg in there!

17:34 [Annie] Is there?

17:39 [Peter Thoday] Backyard poultry keepers were advised to get their stock from reliable breeders. Established hatcheries saw business boom.

17:57 [Annie] Right then, Joyce. If you open the gate, then as soon as I get one, I’ll have to ask you to close it up quickly. Come on. Whoops! OK. There you go.

18:17 [Peter Thoday] When eggs were rationed, a year later, those who kept chickens had to give up their egg coupons before they could buy any poultry food.

18:26 [Peter Thoday] With April giving way to May, the news from Europe got bleaker. Winston Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, had long been waging war at sea. Now he warned of imminent danger on land.

18:39 [Recording of Winston Churchill] “It seems rather hard, when spring is caressing the land, and when – after the rigours of winter – our fields and woodlands are reviving, that all our thoughts must be turned and bent upon sterner war. Until today, this Saturday, nothing has happened on the sea or in the air, but more than a million German soldiers – including all their active divisions and armoured divisions – are drawn up, ready to attack at a few hours’ notice, all along the frontiers of Luxembourg, of Belgium and of Holland.

19:36 [Harry Dodson] Churchill was a grand gentleman, there was no doubt about it. And I think, in all honesty, he loved the war. But it’s a good thing he did, because – of course – he was our salvation, without a shadow of doubt.

19:42 [Peter Thoday] Days later, Hitler’s armies smashed their way across the frontiers of Belgium and France. In a series of lightening strikes, they broke through the Allied defences.

20:05 [Ruth Mott] Joyce! Hurry up, because Winnie’s going to be on the wireless in about a couple of minutes.

20:16 [Peter Thoday] At home, the crisis on the continent toppled the government of Neville Chamberlain. Winston Churchill now came to power, at the head of a national coalition government.

20:29 [Recording of Winston Churchill] “I speak to you, for the first time, as Prime Minister, in a solemn hour for the life of our country, of our Empire, of our Allies, and – above all – for the cause of freedom. A tremendous battle is raging in France, and Flanders. The Germans….”

20:53 [Ruth Mott] Oh, I think we all thought so much of Winston Churchill. He was a great, sort of morale-booster, and sometimes he didn’t always have pleasant things to tell you. So that, when he was going to broadcast, you didn’t really know what you were going to hear. But he’d always got a wonderful, uplift at the end of a speech, to make you feel good.

21:15 [Recording of Winston Churchill] “Arm yourselves, and be men of valour, and be in readiness for the conflict. For it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our alters. As the will of God as it is in heaven, even so let him do.

21:40 [Peter Thoday] The German advance forced the British army to retreat to the beaches of Dunkirk. A massive rescue operation brought many of the troops home, to a country facing the prospect of a long and bitter siege.

21:54 [Recording of Winston Churchill] “What General Weygand has called “The Battle of France” is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin.”

Final leek harvest
Leek line-up

If you fancy making that steamed leek pudding, here’s the recipe:

For the potato suet crust pastry:
8oz self-raising flour
2oz suet
2oz raw potato, grated

For the leek filling:
2-3 large leeks or 6 small – split, washed and cut into 1″ chunks
Salt and pepper

Make up the pastry and use 2/3 to line a pudding basin – leave the rest for a lid. Fill the basin with cut leeks, seasoning each layer – roll the lid, damp the edges and seal over the top. Cover with greaseproof paper and steam for 2 hours. It says ‘serve with a good brown gravy’.]