Apart from the strict but necessary food rationing policies implemented in Britain during WWII by the Ministry of Food, a campaign was started to actively involve society in a food-safety strategy to ease food shortages by transforming gardens and public parks into allotment fields or “Victory Gardens” and plant highly nutritious vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, peas, onions, cabbages and Brussels sprouts.
“Digging for victory” became so much more than a propaganda slogan, it really meant a life insurance for many struggling families who against all odds remained strong and fought their own fight from the “home front” by ensuring a permanent supply of fresh vegetables all year round.
To prevent food wasting and to educate families -specially housewives -to prepare nutritious meals, the Ministry of Food broadcasted educative radio spots, implemented workshops and many leaflets containing recipes were distributed nationwide to make the most of each available food.
Doctor Carrot and Potato Pete were two cartoon characters created to popularize the consumption of these vegetables, starring on BBC radio broadcasts, posters for the “Dig for victory!” campaign, and were often included in recipe leaflets.
Amongst the many wartime recipes, a quite popular one –maybe not for its memorable flavor but for its valuable nutritious content- was “Skilly”. A simple but hearty soup made with either grated parsnip or carrots, onions, garlic and oatmeal. A sort of enriched savoury porridge if you like. The perfect hearthy soup for a cold rainy day.
I first came across this recipe when I watched the “The Supersizes go Wartime” a historical reality series starred by Sue Perkins @sueperkins and Giles Coren @gilescoren with the guest appearance of Chef Allegra McEvedy @AllegraMcEvedy .
To make skilly soup you will need:
- 1 cup of grated carrots or parsnip
- 1 tbsp of butter
- ¾ cup of rolled oats
- 2 cloves of garlic. Chopped
- ¼ onion. Chopped
- 1lt of vegetable or chicken stock
- Salt and pepper
In a deep pot sauté the onions, after 4 minutes add the grated carrots and garlic, stir constantly for about 5 minutes. Lower the flame and add the oats, stock, salt and pepper, stir well and let to simmer for 20 minutes or until the carrots are cooked and the oats have puffed up and thicken the soup. Serve hot.