April 9, 2020

Cooking with World War II Rations – What I Learned

Cooking with World War II ration recipes – Main dish

Many of us are cooking from what we have in the pantry as we endeavor to keep trips to the grocery and other stores to a minimum. My ingredients are somewhat limited, and it occurred to me that my grandmother faced similar limitations during World War II. So for dinner last evening, I looked up a couple of recipes that reflected cooking during the food rations days of World War II.

One of the most-rationed food was meat, so meatless meal recipes were common. I chose “cheese and potato dumplings” as our meatless main dish. (The recipe follows the blog.)

Cheese and Potato Dumplings

I did not peel the 2 pounds of potatoes as suggested; the peel is where the nutrients are, and I don’t think my family would eat potato peel snacks as the recipe indicated.

Cooked and drained the potatoes

Added salt and pepper, and as the recipe suggested, thyme. I stirred in the grated sharp cheddar cheese and eggs. My eggs were thankfully fresh and not powdered, but in keeping with the ration spirit, they were local. This is the first time I’ve ever made mashed potatoes without milk and butter.

I formed the dumplings and then sprinkled the rest of the grated cheese on top.

I baked the dumplings for 20 minutes at 425 degrees F. They look pretty good!

My family likened the dumplings to cheesy mashed potatoes, which would have been less work. My daughter said they would have been better with bacon, but I pointed out bacon would negate the idea of meatless. She then commented that the dumplings needed stronger spice than thyme – garlic maybe.

My family decided that as a side dish, these were fine. They were not sold on the idea of the dumplings as the main dish. My husband said that if we were going to eat meatless, he’d prefer pinto beans and cornbread.

Cheese and potato dumplings

2 pounds of potatoes peeled (set aside the peel to bake in the oven for another delicious snack)
2 reconstituted dried eggs (or 2 fresh)
3 to 4 oz strong grated cheese
salt and pepper
dried herbs such as thyme (optional)


Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water
Set aside to drain in colander for 10 minutes
Mash potatoes, return to saucepan over low heat, add seasoning and herbs, mix well
Add eggs and half the cheese, mix well again and stir until potatoes firm up.
Once cooled a little form into 10 balls and roll in the remaining grated cheese
Place on greased baking tray and bake in a hot (220 degree C) oven for 20 minutes or so until browned and crusty.

Cheese and Potato Dumplings Recipe 


Apple Crumble

Another ingredient that was strictly rationed was sugar, so I was curious to see what a dessert ration recipe would be like. I chose apple crumble, which is something we eat today, so the comparison would be interesting. The recipe follows.

I didn’t peel the apples as the recipe suggested. What is it with peeling all the produce? The nutrients are in the peel!

I added the brown sugar by the “dessert spoon” and the cinnamon and let the apples cook until soft.

Which brings me to that “dessert spoon” measurement. Old recipes frequently use non-specific measurements, including “teacup” “spoonful” “mug,” which begs the question of how much, exactly? I figured a “dessert spoon” is what we call as teaspoon in our silverware set, so that’s what I used.

I sprinkled the topping on and thought that looked like a lot of flour. I baked the crumble for 30 minutes at 425 degrees F.

As I had thought, that is a lot of flour and the small amount of butter (two tablespoons) was not enough to make the crumble. Even with such a small amount of sugar – a total of four “dessert spoons,” the apple crumble was plenty sweet.


Apple Crumble

8 apples (2 per person)
4 dessert spoons brown sugar
2 oz margarine/butter
4 oz wholewheat flour
4 dessert spoons of white sugar
weeny pinch of salt


Peel and chop apples into thin slices
Place in saucepan, sprinkle a little water over, brown sugar and cinnamon
Simmer gently for 5 minutes
Drain a little and place in greased cooking dish
Mix together flour, salt and white sugar
Add in the margarine/butter in small pieces and rub together with fingertips until a breadcrumb look is achieved
Sprinkle over the softened apples
Place in over at 220 c for about 30 minutes

Apple Crumble Recipe



So what did I learn from my experimental World War II ration cooking?

Folks didn’t like peels in their food, but they apparently ate them separately as snacks, which my family thinks bizarre.

Presentation mattered; the substitute-meat cheese and potato dumplings would have been easier as cheesy mashed potatoes in a big pan but wouldn’t have looked as nice on the plate.

Measurements were somewhat different – the “dessert spoon” measurement is not exact. Also, the recipe measurements were British, and I learned that Brits like to bake in a hot oven. I would have baked both items at a lower temperature for more time, but I suppose this is preference and what I’m used to.

Finally, I learned that World War II ration cooking uses a lot of preparation and cooking dishes, so be prepared to wash!