Elizabeth David’s Kraft Dinner


Serve with fresh, thinly sliced foreign muck.  Very “more-ish”!

[From Mrs. David’s unpublished masterpiece of culinary scholarship, “Hard, Crusty Pie-Hole, Kippers for Tea, and Knock Me Up at Ten For A Bit Of Alright:  Pissed As A Newt in the English Kitchen, 1542 – 1964”]

MRS. DAVID:    “I first came across the already-legendary yet elusive Kraft Dinner when I was keeping house in Tunisia with Gerald and his unusual young friend, Bunny S—.   At the time, I believe just after one or other of the wars, though which one I can’t quite recall, was it the Boers?  Really?  —

“At any rate, English cooks had just mastered the boiling of water, though the marriage of this technique with the hours-long reduction of leafy or root vegetables to yield a teaspoon of grey, sodden pulp had yet to be perfected; tomatoes, or “foreign muck” as we called them, were such a rarity they were passed from home to home as a prestige
decorative centerpiece; and bacon, when it could be got, had no culinary application at all, being mainly used in the North Country for lining miners’ work boots and as a much-coveted winter substitute for children’s undergarments.

“As for those delicious little South African pineapples, so firm and sweet, you may as well have asked for moon dust! Or a telephone line!  In short, the vibrant hues of KD were as a blitz to our culinary blackout. (And thanks to Bunny for that memorable image.  One of many!)

Elizabeth David's

“… Vats of wine taken as they do on the continent, straight from the bottle, saves the washing up. Jolly super!”

“The following recipe, which I have based mainly on Mrs. Kemble’s authoritative manuscript in the Ashmolean — usually translated as  “A Spoonful of the True KD”— produces a thick, glossy, even unctuous sauce;  the leftovers make a particularly fine luncheon, tossed with a fistful of rocket and a nice can of tunny fish in oil.

“Did I say tunny fish?  Jolly super!  Tunny fish!  Tunny tunny tunny!

“Finish the meal with spotted dick, or one of those delicious little South Africans, so dark, firm and sweet, just arrived at Piccadilly Circus, at 3s 5d the quarter hour, which amounts to the same thing.”

The recipe:  A Spoonful of the True KD

1.  Roast a saddle of lamb in the usual way.

2.  For the KD. Some swear by top of the milk, but to get the consistency known as “monks’ emission”, only true, clotted Devonshire cream¹ will do.

¹ (Speaking of which, they had a couple of dear little hand-blown bottles of clotted cream last week at Fortnum’s, £15 each;   I thought to take one on account, but I daresay they have changed their policies and – My! but those gentlemen in the waistcoats can run!  And not a day under eighty, either of them, just fancy!)

3.  An Aga cooker makes quick work of this, taking only 14 hours from time of its first ignition with damp 2 x 4’s, which always remind me of Gerald for some reason.

4.  Tunny fish?  Tunny tunny tunny tunny!


Tunny tunny tunny!  Tunny?

5.  A fistful of rocket makes a particularly fine… oh, I did?

6.  Turn on the oven to Gas Mark 3, as you’ll want to heat water for the bath at some point.

Serves 1.

Wine:  Most definitely!  Vats and vats of wine, and jolly super, too!  I take it as they do on  the continent, straight from the bottle, saves the washing up; though Bunny, witty to the last, was of the opinion that incontinent might be the more apt term considering my alcohol intake.  Such a fresh, incisive perspective, shared so generously despite his Cheyne-Stokes breathing — !

Dear, dear Bunny, sorely missed all round and Gerald’s taken it awfully hard, such a jolly great pity about the botulism, bolt from the blue, simply can’t imagine how it happened.

{With thanks to Robert Fitzpatrick.  Not for the recipe, for last Thursday afternoon.  A suite at Claridge’s, too, utter utter blissikins! – your little marmoset, E.D.}