Economical Christmas Dishes from 1916

Christmas 1916 was beset with food shortages, bad news from the front and the worst weather for over 30 years. Rationing wasn’t brought until December 2017 but there were growing shortages on the domestic front, as bread and meal prices increased sharply on the previous year – the consequence of German naval action. Many families couldn’t afford what they had previous years and had to make the best of what was available.

The recipes below are from the Peterborough Standard, 16 December 1916. There are links to more detailed alternatives where available.


  • 2oz=57 grams
  • 1/2 lb=227 grams
  • 1lb= 453 grams


Specially constructed for the “Peterborough Standard” by Helen Bryant

The cost of living, owing to the war, has so considerably increased that it is only with difficulty one can make ends meet. Mothers of families find this particularly hard, as yet as Christmas approaches they feel that they cannot let the little ones forgo the usual Christmas puddings and pies. Well, happily, in spite of the need for economy, there are few homes where the children of all ages will not be able to have their seasonable goodies as usual. If they are not quite so expensive and are rather less rich than previous years it will perhaps be all the better for the health of the consumers. The Christmas dishes given in this article will be found to be very economical.


An excellent Christmas pudding without eggs can be made with:

  • 1lb of sultana raisins
  • 1lb of Valencia raisins
  • 1lb currants
  • 2oz lemon peel
  • 2oz orange peel
  • 2oz citron peel
  • 1lb sugar
  • 1lb chopped suet
  • 1lb bread
  • 1lb flour
  • 1lb apples
  • One teaspoonful of allspice
  • One wineglassful of rum or brandy
  • As much milk as required.

Boil the milk and bread together, fork it well and remove all hard bits, and leave it till it’s cold. Stone the raisins, cut finely the candied peel and apples, and all the other ingredients, and mix them thoroughly with the bread. Lastly, stir in the spirit. Put the mixture in the basins and steam it for at least eight hours. This quantity makes three large puddings.

Eggless Christmas Pudding


Some housewives this year will not go to the expense of making mince pies, especially where there are a lot of little mouths to feed. In lieu of the customary pies, the tarts, for which a recipe is given, may be made.

Take 1lb of currants, six cooking apples, 1/2 lb Demerara sugar, a little grated nutmeg and a little cinnamon and as much pastry as required. Wash the currants, then put them in a saucepan with sufficient water to cover and simmer gently over heat for about an hour. The currents swell and become very tender. Peel and core the apples, cook with the sugar and spices till they become a nice pulp, then mix with the currants. Line a number of patty pans with pastry, set in a tablespoonful of the mixture and bake in a moderate oven. They may be covered with pastry the same for mince pies if preferred. The children will like these, and really they taste very much like mince pies.

Christmas apple tarts


Nearly all children are fond of biscuits and especially will they like Christmas biscuits as here detailed. Ingredients:

  • 1lb sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2lb butter
  • 1/2lb blanched almonds, finely chopped
  • A teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • A little finely-cut candied peel
  • two teaspoons of baking powder
  • the grated rind and juice of one lemon
  • flour

Beat the eggs until stiff. Mix all the other ingredients together adding enough flour to form these ingredients into a paste and blend in the eggs. Roll out to half an inch thickness and cut into fancy shapes and bake to a golden brown. Decorate to taste.

Christmas Biscuits


Many families this year will not partake of a turkey as they have in previous years. Here is a good substitute. From your butchers purchase three pounds of tender steak. The other ingredients necessary are half a stale loaf, four good-size onions, six sage leaves, 2oz suet, a little milk, pepper and salt to taste and a little cayenne.

Chop the onions up very small, mince the sage leaves, crumble the bread, chop the suet and mix these ingredients into a stuffing, savouring with pepper and salt to taste. Mix with a little milk till the right consistency. Now take the steak, sew up three sides, fill with stuffing, sew up the fourth, cover with greased paper roast in the oven, basting well as for a turkey. Take off the paper half an hour after the steak has been in, continue basting until nicely brown. Serve with bread sauce or cranberry sauce and also serve a tureen of nice gravy.  This makes a truly delicious Christmas dish.

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