Tomato and Potato Pie Recipe in Cheese Sauce (1940 Style)
Based On a 1940s Wartime Recipe for Cheese, Tomato and Potato Loaf
As my main hobby is genealogy I love to appreciate how my ancestors lived, one way being to recreate recipes of their day; in this case the sort of food experienced by my grandparents subjected to food rationing of the 1940s during the 2nd world war.
Except as a vegetarian I often have to adapt the recipes to my palate e.g. use margarine instead of lard (animal fat) etc., which undoubtedly does change the flavour and texture of the original dish but nevertheless can still often produce a tasty and invariably more healthy variant to the dish.
The recipe is meant to be served with salad and to serve four. We didn't have salad to hand so I used baked beans instead and it served two. Perhaps we have bigger appetites these days although for two it was surprisingly filling;
I used half the potato and half the cheese that I would normally use for a cheese and potato pie topped with tomato yet it was as filling and therefore a much healthier menu. Serving for four might leave your guests a little hungry afterwards unless they have small appetites or its part of a two or three course meal.
- Potatoes - 1Ib (450grms)
- Tomatoes - 12oz (350gms)
- 1 oz (25gms) margarine
- 1 oz (25gms) flour
- 7.5 fl oz (225ml) milk
- 3 oz (75gms) of grated cheese
The original wartime recipe included breadcrumbs and was called a bake rather than pie. I've adapted this recipe to make it a vegetarian dish e.g. substituting margarine for lard. The original recipe was meant to be served with salad but for a tasty meal it goes equally as well with baked beans.
- Peel the potatoes and boil until cooked but not too soft to slice; drain and then wait to cool. Once cooled a little cut into thick slices e.g. 1/5 inch (10 mm).
- While waiting for the potatoes to cool so that you can slice them prepare the tomatoes and cheese sauce.
- Slice the tomatoes e.g. inch (6mm).
- Make the cheese sauce by melting the margarine in a saucepan, and when melted add the flour quickly followed by the milk to prevent the flour from congealing with the margarine. Whisk or briskly stir until the sauce comes to the boil and thickens. Take the sauce from the heat and add the cheese; gently mix in until all the cheese is melted.
- Place a third of the potato slices on the bottom of the casserole, pour a third of the sauce on top into which half the sliced tomatoes are laid.
- Place another third of the potatoes to the top in a layer, pour in the remaining cheese sauce and spread evenly before adding the remaining sliced tomatoes in a layer. Then top with a layer of the remaining sliced potatoes.
- Melt some margarine and gently brush over the top of the pie to give it a good glazing when cooked.
- Bake the tomato and potato pie in a pre-heated oven at 180C (gas marked 4) for about 40 minutes or until golden brown.
- Serve immediately with salad or baked beans.
Most people when boiling potatoes add salt, I don't because of the health hazards of too much salt in our diet; see my hub article on the subject of salt for further information on this topic and then decide for yourself.
In 3 or Optionally 4 Stages
The original recipe says 30 minutes preparation time, I would suggest a little longer unless you have asbestos hands in that once the potatoes are cooked you're meant to slice them so you may wish to let them cool a little first before slicing them.
The three to four stages of preparation being:-
- Cheese Sauce
- Breadcrumbs (Optional)
Stage 1. Potatoes
Initial Preparation and Cooking
The original recipe says use 1Ib (450gms) of New Potatoes. I had New Potatoes to hand but I think using New Potatoes in a pie is such a waste; I'd much rather use them at their best in a menu e.g. just boiled and served whole with a knob of butter (margarine) with vegetables and vegetarian gravy.
I think the idea of using New Potatoes is that they are the right size for this recipe e.g. small. However I used ordinary potatoes, peeled and boiled. Normally I wouldn't peel the potatoes for a potato pie but for this recipe I don't think it would work as well if they weren't peeled. As it happened the potatoes to hand were quite small anyway but if they weren't halving and optionally quartering them (if very large) would still work.
- Peel 1Ib (450grms) potatoes
- Boil until cooked but not too soft to slice
- While you're waiting for the potatoes to cool prepare the tomatoes and cheese sauce and optionally the breadcrumbs.
- Once the potatoes have cooled a little so that you can handle them cut them into thick slices. The original recipe suggested 1/3 inch (8mm) slices but I would suggest anywhere between inch and inch (6mm and 12mm).
Stage 2. Tomatoes (Preparation)
Thickly slice 12oz (350gms) of tomatoes. The original recipe suggested inch (12mm) slices; I would suggest slices between inch and inch (6mm and 12mm).
- You can slice the tomatoes by hand using a sharp knife although I prefer to use a ‘tomato slicer’. The one we use is ok but takes a bit of a knack to push and then pull the tomato through the blades as you use it in a sawing motion; or use it like a saw on a cheeseboard. The Zyliss Easy Slice Tomato Slicer looks a lot easier to use, so I am tempted to buy one at some point.
Stage 3. Cheese Sauce (Preparation)
Any cheese sauce will do but the one in the recipe requires:-
- 1oz (25gms) margarine
- 1oz (25gms) flour
- 7.5 fl oz (225ml) milk or milk and vegetable stock
- 3oz (75gms) of grated cheese
The method proposed is to melt the margarine in a saucepan, add the flour then the milk and whisk (or stir) as the sauce comes to the boil and thickens. Take the sauce from the heat, add the cheese and gently mix in until the cheese is melted.
I used semi-skimmed milk which worked fine but optionally using full milk would make the cheese sauce creamier. Any hard cheese is fine; I used cheddar cheese in this recipe and for additional flavour (when adding the cheese) sprinkled a little Parmesan into the sauce mix. Optionally, you can also add a pinch of your favourite spices and or herbs to the final cheese sauce mix for additional flavouring, but don't overdo it the cheese sauce tastes good on its own.
Stage 4. Breadcrumbs (Optional)
I begrudge paying for breadcrumbs when you can make your own quickly and easily for nothing. Don't use stale bread and fresh bread (without drying out in the oven) is too soft. Crusts, which a lot of people don't like, are ideal and you can mix your bread e.g. wholemeal and white together; so nothing goes to waste.
For this recipe 1oz (25gms) is recommended, equivalent to half a slice of bread. For this recipe I took half a slice of crust, toasted it to make it nice and crisp, broke it up into small pieces and ground it up to a fine constituency in a grinder.
Once ground you can add your favourite dried herbs and spices for additional flavouring and apparently these breadcrumbs can be kept in the fridge for up to six months although I've never tried it so any feedback on this from anyone who makes and keep their own breadcrumbs would be appreciated.
Experimentally I greased the sides of the casserole dish with margarine as instructed, tipped in the breadcrumbs and swirled them around so that they stuck to the margarine; it worked fine but it was such a thin layer that I don't see what the point is and in future I'll not bother with this stage of preparation.
Cooking and Serving
This is the easiest phase of the operation (when everything comes together) and apart from the delight in making a good cheese sauce, successfully making breadcrumbs and of course the final act of eating and enjoying the fruits of your labour, the more rewarding phase.
- Place a third of the potato slices on the bottom of the casserole.
- Pour a third of the sauce on top of the potatoes.
- Layer half the sliced tomatoes on top.
- Use another third of the potatoes to add another layer.
- Pour in the remaining cheese sauce and spread across the top.
- Layer the remaining sliced tomatoes on top of the cheese sauces.
- Add the remaining sliced potatoes on top.
- Melt a little margarine and gently brush across the top to give a good glazing when cooked.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C (gas marked 4). The original recipe suggests 30-35 minutes, I think this is too short I would recommend nearer to 45 minutes; which is how long I baked the pie for.
- Serve with salad or baked beans and enjoy; or you may have your own serving suggestions in which case I'd be interested to hear them.
What's in the Name?
Adaptation of an Old Recipe
I like easy options, sometimes a recipe will make something complex, when with a little innovation you can make it much easier and quicker and still very rewarding. I adapted this recipe idea from the original in a book 'Cooking for Victory' which I was given as a gift recently, but searching Google found the original recipe has been coped across the web widely; so I can only conclude that it is a popular recipe and certainly my variant was very tasty and filling.
The original recipe is called a loaf, not sure why because it's nothing like a loaf except that the casserole dish is greased with margarine and then sprinkled with 1oz (25gms) of breadcrumbs which sticks to the margarine. I don't think this is necessary and I can't see that it serves any useful purpose; nevertheless I had a go at making my own breadcrumbs for the experiment, and it worked, although I think it's superfluous and in future not include it.
The original also suggested placing margarine paper across the top of the pie when baking; I've never heard of margarine paper and looking on the net there's little reference to it other than in wartime recipes. However in my adaption I spread a thin layer of soft margarine across the top of the pie with a fork which worked well but I think in future it would be easier to slightly melt the margarine and brush it on.