Miss Windsor excitedly presents her rather spiffing, yet terribly simple Great British wartime dish – Dig for Victory Veggie Asparagus Tart. A recreation of Irene Veal’s Vegetable Tart – page 198 - Recipes of the 1940’s.
I say it’s been quite a while since I’ve graced you with my presence, and for my lack of, please do accept my heartfelt apologies as I was “incommunicado” for the best part of last year due to my posting as “head cook” in a top-secret location along the Western Front. I was not quite the Forces Sweetheart, but most definitely thought of very fondly by the courageous and kindly gentlemen who sampled Miss Windsor’s exquisite wartime cuisine……instead, one was affectionately known as Queen of the Naafi!
Darlings, as I frantically wave my British flag and jump with glee, one is indeed cock-a-hoop! You see, on the 8th of May 1945, the war in Europe finally came to a halt – famously known as VE (Victory in Europe) Day, which Winston Churchill declared as a public holiday. Now zoom forward some 75 years, on Friday the 8th of May 2020 (to be precise), The Royal British Legion calls upon the nation to join forces and mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
Moving swiftly onto my recipe, as per Irene’s instructions, it is packed to the rafters with wartime staples such as Potato Pete and Doctor Carrot which were plentiful during wartime Great Britain. In fact, The UK Ministry of Food encouraged the good folks of Britain to substitute rationed goods for carrots instead, therefore, the Agricultural Ministry increased the commercial production of this marvellous culinary asset.
PHOTO CREDIT - CLICK HERE!
Notably, if one had exhausted their supply of homegrown potatoes, nurtured and harvested within the boundaries of one’s Dig for Victory allotment or back garden, it was reported that many folks ended up in a spot of bother. Trouble is, local greengrocers often had limited supplies of potatoes, and so were not too sympathetic towards your personal potato quandary.
Therefore, before entering a store, it was not unusual to be faced with a sign that read Regular Customers Only or if you were lucky, non-regular customers would be granted “one pound” of potatoes only – I say, barely enough to feed a large family!
PHOTO CREDIT - CLICK HERE!
On a more jolly note, the 75th anniversary of VE Day propelled Miss Windsor to push the “U-boat” out a little, and so tweaked Irene’s recipe to include the addition of asparagus (well, it is asparagus season!), blue cheese, spring onion, seasoned white sauce, and baked within a buttery, light and flaky shortcrust pastry case.
Darlings, now I must share with you a most remarkable occurrence, a gift, that Mother Nature bestowed upon Miss Windsor on the 21st April 2020 – which funnily enough, was on the very day that asparagus lovers celebrate National Asparagus Day!
One evening, as I pottered around my Dig for Victory vegetable patch, out of the corner of my eye I spied a small crop of asparagus – a miraculous moment, indeed! A sure sign from Mother Nature that one must recreate a British wartime recipe, with the inclusion of asparagus, to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
Darlings, when I delved deep into the history of Great British asparagus, I was delighted to learn that Battersea, London has a bit of an interesting past with this vegetable, an affinity one could say……During the late 1600s, St Mary’s Church was nestled within many acres of market gardens, in fact one almighty plot of 40 acres grew only asparagus – cor blimey!
PHOTO CREDIT - CLICK HERE
During the Victorian period, the Enclosure Act came into force, therefore, Battersea Fields were divided into allotments and rented to local residents. Then around 1846, in an attempt to eradicate the extracurricular activities of those who partook in illegal racing and gambling connected to the infamous Red House Tavern, a stonking 198 acres of Battersea Fields were turned into a royal park, which was opened by Queen Victoria – curtsy please – on the 31st March 1858.
At the start of the First World War, as an early Dig for Victory campaign, a proportion of the park reverted to allotment plots – one presumes asparagus became a common cultivation, once again. And of course, during the Second World War, Battersea Park witnessed the return of the Dig for Victory campaign, thus our trusty asparagus returned as a fighting commodity for the health of our nation.
Miss Windsor wholeheartedly dedicates her recipe to all persons who contributed towards the war effort – including Commonwealth and allied forces, civilians, evacuees, The Women’s Land Army, munition workers, and of course those who tended to their Dig for Victory allotments/gardens……the list goes on. Your dedication, bravery, loyalty to your country, selfless actions, and unfettered efforts, finally defeated Nazi Germany and put an end to the horrors of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.
I wish to pay particular thanks and homage to a couple of close family members who risked their lives for their country and fought to END the Second World War. Fortunately, my grandfather Lawrence Alfred Parfitt, who was a Royal Marine Commando, survived the war.
Tragically, on the 1st June 1940, at the tender age of 22 years old, my third cousin Stanley Ewart Thomas, a Sapper in the Royal Engineers (205 Field Coy) was killed in action by enemy air bombing on the beach of Dunkirk.
On a lighter note, now it’s all quiet on the Western Front, so to speak! you’re invited to join the gaiety and indulge in a slice Miss Windsor's "Dig for Victory" Veggie Asparagus Tart – it'll certainly give Lord Woolton’s Pie a run for its money!
Oh, and please note, in keeping with my theme of wartime Great Britain, all measurements are in "imperial" (including "metric" - for the modern day society) – my sincerest apologies for any inconvenience caused.
ALL PHOTOGRAPHY BY MISS WINDSOR - EXCEPT FOR GRANPA LARRY and COUSIN STANLEY.
MISS WINDSOR'S RECIPE:
Preparation time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves 6 guests
Short Crust Pastry
1 x 9 & 3/4 inch (24 cm) tart tin.
Shortcrust pastry – to bake blind.
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