Saturday, July 23, 2011

Weekend Cooking #12: Victory through Vegetables: Woolton Pie

In her memoir, Time to Be In Earnest, P. D. James wrote:
“And I remember – which of my generation can’t? – the particular culinary horrors of war: Woolton pie, composed of vegetables and sausage meat more crumb than sausage, and brown Windsor soup which tasted of gravy browning. (pg 42)

This seems to have been the general consensus of opinion of people who lived through the war and remember eating this gastronomic nightmare.

Woolton Pie was the creation of the maître-chef at the famous Savoy Hotel, François Latry, in accordance to Britain’s austerity measures. It was named for Frederick Marquis, First Earl of Woolton, or more commonly, Lord Woolton, who served as Churchill’s Minister of Food during the war. The pie was a 100% vegetable pie, and must have been quite hard for many of the meat-pie loving Britons to swallow (and what could be better than a nice steak and Stilton Cornish pasty?)

But Woolton Pie served a good purpose during the war. It was healthy, easy to make and, it and its namesake, provided plenty of fodder for jokes and cartoons:

Here, then, is a copy of the original recipe as it appeared in the London Times on April 26, 1941 (also available at the World Carrot Museum):

(NB a Swede, for those like myself who don’t know, is a turnip.)

Besides being the force behind the creation of Woolton Pie, Lord Woolton did much to encourage people to grow their own vegetables to help ease the dire food situation. He also began a morning radio program called Kitchen Front, which provided people with ration-approved recipes and, thanks to him, we the cartoon characters Potato Pete and Dr. Carrot became quite popular:

Luckily, Britons are very good at gardening as a rule and enjoyed to it, so promoting the virtues of a victory garden as a vital part of the war effort wasn’t a hard job. Even young children could get in on the action:

In 1941, Lord Woolton told the British people that:
‘This is a food war. Every extra row of vegetables in allotments saves shipping… the battle on the kitchen front cannot be won without help from the kitchen garden.”
Some people really took Lord Woolton’s words to heart and created kitchen gardens in bomb craters, like this one in London:

(Photo Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

I made Woolton Pie once and with lots of spices; it was kind of like a vegetable Shepherd’s pie, because I used mash instead of potato crust. It looked something like this from The Big World:

and it was pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.
Lord Woolton had a dreadful job to do, but he met the challenge with stoicism and humor.  I think he probably made all his listeners feel like wartime heroes with his final words on every radio broadcast:
"Carry on, Fighters on the Kitchen Front, you are doing a great job"


Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post at Beth Fish Reads


  1. My only trouble with the Brits and their vegetables...they cook the taste and color right out of them. At least they do in Cornwall! Very informative post!

  2. There is a World Carrot Museum?
    Great post! My family would love that pie, they love potatoes and vegetables.

  3. Dr Carrot and Potato Pete are too funny. Thanks for explaining a Swede -- I haven't heard turnips called that. I always love your interesting and informative posts.

  4. What an interesting post-thank you for stopping by. A World Carrot Museum-hmmm.our fair actually had a veggie museum which was quite interesting.

  5. I enjoyed reading this post -- I had never heard of Lord Woolton before. I have an interesting cookbook that tells all about how Americans cooked during the "ration days" of WWII called In Grandma's Kitchen.

  6. Thanks for all your comments, I really appreciate them and am glad you find them informative.
    Charlotte, I didn't find Dr. Carrot scary, but maybe a little creepy - probably because I don't like carrots.
    The Carrot Musuem is an online museum but well worth a visit, and covers much more than WW II. You can find it at
    It was one of my favorite finds this year.

    You might find this exhibit at the National Archives interesting. and Thais for the post-- I know what I'm making for dinner tomorrow night! Now to find some swedes...

  8. A while ago, I wrote about a book called We'll Eat Again:

    it featured a lot of oats. :<)

  9. It's funny that today more and more people are pushing to eat veggies as a healthy alternative to having meat every day/meal.

    Of course, if they'd stop messing around with the meat it would be healthier.

  10. Enjoyed the post. Thanks for visiting and commenting on my story! Donna

  11. Thanks, Karen and Nan, for your recommendations. I will definitely look into them.
    Glad you like this, Donna and I completely agree with you, ManOfLaBook, about the veggies and meat.