Pancake Day in wartime Northern Ireland

7th March 2018

Pancake Tuesday is a great opportunity to tuck into a tasty treat. Even during World War Two with rationing in effect, it was possible to enjoy pancakes.

Pancake Tuesday is a day enjoyed by many people across the world. But, in the years during and after World War Two, tucking into pancakes was not as simple as it is today.

From September 1939, products were strictly rationed across the UK starting with petrol. From 8th January 1940, the government rationed bacon, butter, and sugar. Successive schemes went on to control meat, tea, jam, biscuits, cereal, cheese, eggs, lard, milk, and fruit.

The make do and mend lifestyle was one that people became accustomed to and it was still possible to enjoy a treat from time to time.

Weekly rations allowed one fresh egg per person. Transport of eggs was difficult. They took up a lot of space on merchant ships and were a very fragile cargo. The British Government bought in dried egg powder from the United States of America to make up for the lack of fresh product.

Dried eggs came in a tin can and contained the powder from around a dozen eggs.

This dried egg mixture is pure fresh egg with no additions, and nothing but the moisture taken away. It is pure egg, spray dried. Eggs are a very highly concentrated form of food. They contain first-class body-building material. They also help us to resist colds and other infection because of their high protective properties. Eggs are easily digested, and for this reason are especially good for children and invalids.

The Ministry of Food leaflet No. 11

Dried Eggs and Fresh Eggs

Imperial War Museum Photo: V 113 (Part of the Ministry Of Food Second World War Official Collection). A dozen fresh eggs and one tin of dried eggs. The tin of dried eggs contains the same food value of a dozen eggs, even after the shell and water having been removed. Dried eggs were promoted as an alternative that saved shipping space.

Custard Powder Pancakes

The recipe for custard powder pancakes uses flour, eggs, salt, and a little oil as well as Birds custard. The powder was a wartime treat under rationing and some of the old packaging and advertising has since become almost iconic.

These pancakes are simple to make, much like today’s more familiar recipes. The ingredients will make around ten pancakes, which you can serve with a little sugar and lemon juice or a spoonful of jam.

Custard powder pancake recipe from The Walking Theatre Company.

Shopping during World War Two

Imperial War Museum Photo: D 2374 (Part of the Ministry Of Information Second World War Official Collection). A well-stocked grocer's shop offers products to a typical British housewife during World War Two. Many of the items on show are egg-free variants or products that require no eggs to make.

Vegan Eggless Pancakes

Today, vegan recipes are increasingly popular. With wartime rationing in full effect during the 1940s, many of the recipes we have from the time are meat and egg free.

This recipe for eggless pancakes makes four pancakes. It is a different way to make pancakes and does not use the dried egg powder that became synonymous with rationing. Preparing these tasty treats is no different to any pancakes you can make and you can enjoy them GI style with a little golden syrup.

Eggless vegan pancake recipe from The 1940s Experiment.

World War Two Sausages

Imperial War Museum Photo: A 1666 (Part of the Admiralty Official Collection). WRNS at work at a Royal Navy barracks in 1940 produce food for the troops. One day's output here could total 18,000 sausages.

Sausage Pancakes

Pancakes are not only a sweet treat and can be had as a savoury snack too. Stores across the United Kingdom enforced strict rationing policies on meat. Northern Ireland, however, with its agricultural background found it easier to produce meat and dairy products.

Tasty pancakes with sausage make for a great hearty breakfast before tending the farm. We encourage you to think more about the food you eat and where it comes from. As you tuck into Pancake Tuesday treats, imagine how difficult life in the kitchen was under rationing.

Sausage pancake recipe from All That Women Want [Link Removed].

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