Budget food 80s style, Part 4

Mandy, my lead in Public Battles, Private Wars, is a Yorkshire lass through and through, but she’s partial to this famous dish from across the border. Short of cash, Mandy cooks it for the families and pickets in the soup kitchens during the strike, often replacing the neck of lamb with much cheaper cuts.  Don’t tell anyone – but it tastes just as good! Try it with bacon, or left over scraps of beef. One last tip for budgeters everywhere: my Grandma used to add left over veg, like carrots and cabbage to pad it out.

hot potLancashire Hot Pot

You will need:

750g/1lb 8oz best end neck of lamb

2 lambs’ kidneys

500g/1lb of potatoes

250g/8ox of onions

Salt and Pepper

150ml/ ¼ pint stock or water

25g/1oz of melted butter

To prepare:

Cut the lamb into cutlet, removing surplus fat

Peel and core the kidneys. Cut into slices

Thinly slice potatoes and onions

Cover base of 1 to 1 ½ litre/2 to 3 pint casserole dish with some of the potato slices

Stand lamb on top

Cover with kidneys and onions

Sprinkle with salt and pepper

Arrange overlapping rings of rest of potatoes on top.

Pour in the stock water

Brush with butter

Cover the dish

Cook in the middle of a moderate oven (180 C/350 F or Gas Mark 4) for 1 ¼ hours

Remove the lid and cook for a further 30 minutes (till the tatties are golden brown)

Serves 4

8 shelled oysters may be added if you’re feeling flush.


Budget food 80s style, Part 3

During the year-long miners’ strike of 1984/85, many families suffered extreme hardship. Social security benefits were cut on the premise that miners were in receipt of strike pay. Like the government’s overarching policy on fossil fuel, this was a politically motivated decision, not an economic one. And it wasn’t true; the NUM pocket was almost empty, and were it not for fundraising efforts and soup kitchens many people, and children, would have gone hungry.

Offal is, and was, ridiculously cheap, with the added benefit of being packed full of protein, vitamins and all round goodness. Low in fat too. So in Public Battles, Private Wars Mandy and her team serve them up frequently. Here’s a recipe for those of you who, unlike me, are not of a squeamish or vegetarian disposition.

Devilled Kidneys (feeds four)

You will need:

4 pigs’ kidneys

2 level tablespoons of flour

Salt and pepper

50g/2oz of butter

1 medium-sized chopped onion

300ml or ½ pint of water

2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce

2 level teaspoons made mustard

2 teaspoon of tomato puree

1 level tablespoon of finely chopped parsley

4 slices of hot buttered toast

To prepare:

Skin and core the kidneys

Cut them into ½ cm or ¼ inch thick slices

Toss in flour seasoned with the salt and pepper

Melt butter in a saucepan, add the onion and fry till pale gold

Add kidneys and any remaining flour. Cook slowly for another 5 minutes, turning frequently

Combine the water with the Worcestershire sauce, mustard, puree and parsley and then pour into the pan

Cook slowly, stirring, till the mixture comes to the boil and thickens

Lower the heat and cover the pan. Simmer for 15 minutes

Serve on toast.


Budget food 80s style, Part 2

floddies!Okay, so I was going to share a Victoria sponge recipe next, but I changed my mind. Another old-fashioned food staple mentioned in Public Battles, Private Wars are FLODDIES. I am utterly useless in the kitchen, so perhaps not the best benchmark, but I’d not even heard of these before I wrote the novel. Cheap, easy to prepare (yes, as part of my research I made them) and brilliant for using up left-overs. And boy, are they delicious.


A way to use up a small amount of cold, cooked meat. You can also use chicken and turkey.

1 large potato peeled

1 medium onion peeled

1 beaten egg

25g/1 oz self-raising flour

75g/3oz bacon, finely chopped

A pinch of mixed herbs (optional)

Salt and pepper

Oil for frying

  1. Grate potato and onion into a basin
  2. Mix in the egg
  3. Add flour, chopped bacon, herbs and seasoning and mix well
  4. Heat oil in a heavy-based frying pan
  5. Fry tablespoons of the mixture, turning until golden brown both sides.


Food on a Budget – 80s style – and lots of CAKES!

blog 80s 002There are a number of themes in Public Battles, Private Wars, one of which is food. Mandy Walker, my lead, likes to cook and she loves to bake cakes. As a cook-the-basics-when-I-have-to (i.e. for the kids) and a non-baker, I had to do some research. Given that the novel is set against the backdrop of the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike, I needed to look at old cook books and those with budget recipes, as well as swankier dishes. Luckily for me, I work part-time in a school and one of the more experienced teachers is a keen baker, and a jolly fine one too. She kindly leant me some of the cookery books she used as a young wife and mother in the late 70s and 80s. Thank you, Julia Cook – and yes, that is her real name. You couldn’t make it up.

blog 80s 003It was such a joy to read (and feel) these plain but somehow beautiful, obviously very well loved, tomes. I believe it’s the love that makes them beautiful.  Public Battles, Private Wars is set in a fictional Yorkshire pit village so you can imagine my delight to discover that the Farmhouse Kitchen was based on a series broadcast by Yorkshire Television during the timeframe. The Dairy Book of Home Cookery was published by the now defunct Milk Marketing Board and, though we are much more cholesterol conscious these days, there are plenty of wonderful, non-dairy recipes in it. Over the coming months, I’m going to share some recipes of dishes and cakes mentioned in the novel. Have a go a baking some and let me know how you get on. I might just tell you how I fared when I attempted some.

I’ll start with a cake that is, for me at least, quintessentially Yorkshire: Parkin.

Parkin is a form of gingerbread, and Yorkshire Parkin is made using oats. Traditionally, it is eaten on Bonfire Night (November 5th and my son, Ginger1’s birthday) celebrating the famous failure of Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. Guy Fawkes was a Yorkshireman.


  • 8 oz/220g soft butter
  • 4 oz/110g soft, dark brown sugar
  • 2oz / 55g black treacle/molasses
  • 7oz / 200g golden syrup/ corn syrup
  • 5oz/ 120g medium oatmeal
  • 7 oz/ 200g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp milk


Heat the oven to 275°F/140°C/gas 1
  • Grease an 8″ x 8″/ 20cm x 20cm square cake tin.
  • In a large heavy-based saucepan  melt together the butter, sugar, treacle, golden syrup over a gentle heat. Do not allow the mixture to boil, you simply need to melt these together.
  • In a large, spacious, baking bowl stir together all the dry ingredients. Gradually add the melted butter mixture stirring to coat all the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  • Gradually, beat in the eggs a few tablespoons at a time. Finally add the milk and again stir well.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and cook for 1½ hours until firm and set and a dark golden brown.
  • Remove the parkin from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Once cool store the Parkin in an airtight tin for a minimum of 3 days if you can resist eating it, you can even leave it up to a week before eating and the flavors really develop and the mixture softens even further and become moist and sticky. The Parkin will keep up to two weeks in an airtight container.

Enjoy! Next time, one of Mandy’s favourites: Victoria Sponge