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Vintage, or retro?

13 November 2015


I HAVE spent half of my life hoarding stuff, and the second half (so far) bemoaning this habit. But keep things for long enough, and they become “retro”, “vintage”, or even “antique”.

Rummaging through old magazines recently, I discovered a single-page leaflet from the Ministry of Food: a cookery calendar for September and October 1947. Since I’ve got blackberries in the freezer, and pumpkins can still be found, I tried Pumpkin and blackberries (for 4). I’m quoting it just as it appears:


4 level tablespoons syrup

4 tablespoons water

450g (1 lb) diced pumpkin

450g (1 lb) blackberries


Place the syrup and water in a pan and bring to the boil, stirring until the syrup is dissolved. Add the pumpkin and blackberries, cover the pan with a lid, and boil very gentle until tender, about 30 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

The Ministry of Food does not tell you what sort of sugar solution the syrup should be, but I guess that they would intend you to dissolve some sugar in some cold water, and bring it to the boil for a few minutes. I prefer to use Agave syrup or honey; so I simply stewed the fruit in a cupful of water, and then sweetened it to taste afterwards.

We also tend to cook fruit and veg more conservatively now; so I stew the diced pumpkin for about 20 minutes, and toss in the blackberries towards the end of the cooking. It makes a good change from the spiced-pumpkin filling for pumpkin pie.

Another recipe I will quote in full is for Blackberry tartlets (for 4):


175g (6 oz) shortcrust pastry

225g (8 oz) blackberries

1 level tablespoon flour

pinch of salt

3 level tablespoons sugar

pinch of grated nutmeg

pinch of cinnamon

½ teaspoon lemon essence


Divide the pastry in half, roll out thinly, cut into rounds, and line 12 patty tins. Mix the blackberries with the other ingredients. Put the mixture into the pastry cases, and cover with rounds of the remaining pastry. Bake in a hot oven for about 20 minutes.

I have searched the internet for suggestions about how to disembowel a pumpkin with ease. My ice-cream scoop is not up to the job; so my best recourse is to buy the smallest pumpkin possible, roast it whole, and then use the cooked flesh, separated from the seeds and skin. This is the easiest recipe I know for Pumpkin soup:


900g (2 lb) pumpkin

1 onion

30g (1 oz) butter

salt and pepper

1 litre (1¾ pt) of vegetable stock


Gently fry the onion in the butter until it is soft. Add the pumpkin and stock, and cook until the pumpkin is tender — if you use roasted pumpkin, this will not take long. Season to taste.

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