Wartime Múesli

Dr. Bircher-Benner was a marvelous healer, and one of his strongest beliefs was in the value of raw food in these days when so much that we eat is processed and refined and treated to such an extent that it loses much that is essential to us. He cured a great deal of disease by the practical application of his beliefs.

One of his most popular dishes is Muesli. Anyone who has never tried this may think that they could not possibly eat anything containing raw oatmeal and the whole apple,
including the core. They should, however, try it before condemning it, as Múesli is a delicious dish, even when modified to suit wartime shortages. The pips, skin and
cores of apples contain valuable health salts, otherwise lost. If grated properly, the skin, etc., of the apple is not at all apparent. The raw oatmeal helps to produce a
creamy consistency of a palatable nature.

To Prepare Múesli (enough for one person)

1 tablespoon best quality rolled oats soaked overnight in
3 tablespoons cold water
1 large apple (or 2 small ones)
1 teaspoon honey, or black treacle, .or sweetened condensed milk
1 dessertspoon sieved blackcurrant purée, or raw blackberry juice, or other raw juice, or bottled lemon juice
1 dessertspoon chopped nuts, if available
I dessertspoon chopped figs, prunes or raisins
1 tablespoon top milk, if available, or just plain milk
Just before serving, grate the apple into the soaked oats, skin, pips and core. (The apple should be first wiped, and any damaged parts or marks cut out, particularly noting if the core is damaged). Stir in the honey and raisins, put in a fruit saucer, pour top milk over, put
blackcurrant purée on top, and sprinkle nuts over it.
It is generally preferred, with flavourings so scarce, not to use both black treacle and sieved blackcurrants on the same day, e.g., if black treacle is used, then flavour with
bottled lemon juice; while, if blackcurrant purée is available, sweeten with condensed milk.

The Icing on the Cake

If you made the Wartime Christmas Cake here is a recipe from 1942 to cover it with “marzipan”, note the use of our old friend the potato. No real icing, sugar was rationed.

Wartime Marzipan Paste

4 tablespoons mashed potato
1 teaspoon white of egg
1 tablespoon sugar
Few drops of almond essence

Mix all ingredients well together. Spread top of cake while still hot with honey or a little blackberry jelly, press marzipan out to size of cake, put on top and press into shape. Pinch up round the edges and score with a fork.
Put back into oven and brown up. While still hot sprinkle a circle of grated chocolate in the centre.

Spinach and Popeye


Popeye joined the American Navy in 1941 and fought through until 1945. His uniform was shown in all white during his war service. His secret weapon was tinned spinach. Voiced by Jack Mercer, Popeye along with his girlfriend, the fickle Olive Oly and his nemesis Brutus was a favorite in the cinema and later on television.

Many assumed that spinach was chosen for its high iron content but it was actually for the Vitamin A that it was selected.

In memory of Popeye and friends here are some spinach recipes from the 1942 cookbook.

Spinach (Creamed)

2lb. spinach (or perpetual spinach beet)
½oz nut fat
1 tablespoon wholewheat flour

Pick over spinach and wash thoroughly. If spinach or beet is used, the thick stalks and mid-rib are best removed. They can be cooked separately.
Put 1oz nut fat in bottom of pan, put spinach on top (add no water), tuck greaseproof paper closely down on top, put on lid and cook gently until tender, stirring occasionally (10-15 minutes).
Melt 1oz nut fat, stir in one tablespoon wholewheat flour and cook gently, then add stock from spinach, and boil up, gently stirring all the time. If there is not enough stock, a little milk should be added. Stir chopped spinach into sauce and serve on a hot dish immediately.

Spinach and Oatmeal

2lb spinach
1 tablespoon Quick Quaker Oats
½oz cooking fat

Prepare spinach and chop up. Put fat in bottom of saucepan, then add spinach, sprinkling the oatmeal through it. Cover closely and cook gently for 20 minutes, stirring or shaking at intervals.

Hot Potato

The humble potato formed the backbone of the British diet during the war years, here are a couple of recipes from the 1942 cookbook.

We have acquired a booklet issued by the Potato Marketing Board from 1940  and we will be putting these recipes on-line soon.

Potatoes (baked)
4 large old potatoes
Salad oil or cooking fat
Scrub potatoes very thoroughly. Cut out eyes (as these collect earth) and any damaged parts. Brush with olive oil, place in a baking tin and bake for about one hour (depending on size of potatoes) in moderate oven. When soft, roll in a cloth in the hands and burst skin to let out steam.
Serve with Parsley Butter.

Parsley Butter
2 oz. margarine
2 tablespoons finely-minced parsley

Work parsley into margarine, without melting it. Form into pats and serve with baked potatoes or cooked carrots, etc.

Potatoes (Baked 2)
6 or more medium-sized potatoes
1 oz. margarine
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons water
Celery or onion salt

Scrub the potatoes, brush with melted fat, roll in breadcrumbs  put into casserole with two tablespoons water.
Sprinkle with celery salt. Bake for 1½ hours or less according to size of potatoes. New potatoes may be used.

Return Date

Date Tart or Date and Carrot Tart

1lb stoned dates (or 1lb dates and ½ cup sieved steamed carrots)
2 dessertspoons Bourneville cocoa
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
whole-wheat pastry

Chop up dates and place in basin with 1oz hot water. Line a greased sandwich tin with thin whole-wheat pastry (Recipe below). Now mash up dates to a soft cream, stir in cocoa and vanilla essence, and mix well. Fill pastry casing with mixture, and place a cover of pastry on top. Pinch edges of pastry together, make a cross in the top of the pie, and bake in a fairly quick oven for about three-quarters of an hour. Instead of the cocoa and vanilla essence, the filling may be flavoured with lemon juice substitute.

Whole-wheat Pastry

½lb. whole-wheat flour
4oz cooking fat

Rub fat lightly into the flour and add cold water to make into a stiff dough. Roll out lightly, handling  as little as possible


A lot of the recipes from the 1942 recipe book use Yeastrel which is no longer manufactured.

Yestrel advertisement

Yeastrel “The Vitamin B Savoury” first appeared sometime in the early 1930’s and was a yeast extract produced by a firm in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh Scotland. It was claimed to be a rich source of vitamin B and was used as a food supplement during the war being sold through health food stores.

Production continued until sometime in the mid 1960’s. The product was still being advertised in 1962/63.

The nearest equivalent we have today is Vegemite™ which is produced by Craft Foods in Australia although it widely available in the United Kingdom. Yeastrel may have been less salty then Vegemite™ so if you are using this as a substitute you may need to use less than the recipe amount.

I you remember this product and can add to this information, please get in touch.

Looking for a Date?

Toasted Date Sandwiches

Ever wondered what happened to those boxes of dates that used to appear at Christmas, famously called “Eat Me”. You know the ones, packed in thin wooden boxes complete with a quaint wooden fork, that used to hang around on the sideboard until Easter. Well they are still available, alas the box is now plastic. Some might say that applies to the contents but that would be unkind. This recipe is from the 1942 book.

2 slices wholewheat bread
2 oz. stoned dates

Toast the bread, and while still hot, slit in half. Spread each cut side with margarine. Chop up the dates and spread evenly over, then put the other half back on top, so that the sandwich has the two toasted sides outwards. May be put in the oven to keep hot if liked. Delicious also with cheese or other sweet or savoury fillings.