Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Big Yellow Cook Book

The Big Yellow Cook Book

 When I was a small child a man called at our door, he was selling a cook book. This was no ordinary cook book, it had every recipe ever invented, and was the most comprehensive cook book ever made. I believe it was later sold as 3 separate cook books.
This was sometime around 1964/65, and it was £25. The average weekly wage at the time was £11-£16, so it was very expensive, and had to be bought on HP! My Mother and Father were death against HP, and never bought anything on HP unless it was absolutely necessary. The only other household item I remember them buying on HP was a fridge.
It is called “Good Housekeeping Cookery Compendium”, and was published by The National Magazine Co. Ltd. It was first printed in 1952, and the edition we bought was published in 1964. It has 640 pages packed with recipes from the most basic “how to boil an egg”, to the most elaborate wedding cakes.
It is full of pictures, and full colour plates, the cover is mad yellow, and from it first came into the house we called it “The Big Yellow Cook Book”.

My Mother was never a woman given to spending money recklessly, she really must have wanted that cook book to put my father in so much debt at the time. When she died last year (June 2010) the receipt for the cook book was in her “important papers” pile. She really must have felt that the book would have to pay for itself. When she bought it she was a stay at home housewife. She then got a job as a junior cook, and worked her way up to Head Cook, she made extra money making wedding cakes. As the years rolled on, she acquired many cook books, but the Big Yellow Cook Book was used for decades. 

Mum was Head Cook at Aloha, head 
offices of Tyrone Brick in Dungannon
My Mum had a big heart, and she just loved nurturing and looking after people, she just loved cooking, and having people round to eat, she could easily set a fantastic three course meal for 16 people on the table. In her last few years it pained her that she was not fit to entertain the way she used to. At the time of her death my Son was living with her, and all his friends have fond memories of the smell of bread and buns baking every time they called.

The Big Yellow Cook Book
About ten years ago I borrowed it, and kinda forgot to give it back, so I am now the proud keeper of the Big Yellow Cook Book, and I use it on a very regular basis. I thought I would use this blog to share my favourite recipes from it.

Mum on the left, with her best friend Kathleen
And a cake they made for the Women's Institute
The Big Yellow Cook Book not only paid for itself, it inspired her to take up work that meant our family lived like kings, we took for granted all the amazing home made breads, cakes and meals. Until the day she died there was always a wee fruit loaf, wheaten bread or something cooking in the oven. The day before she died men put in a new front door, even though they were being well paid, and tipped, Mum seen men coming to the house as an excuse to make something extra special to feed them, and she made them meringues, topped with fresh cream and strawberries.
I am going to use this blog to share my favourite recipes from The Big Yellow Cook Book, and I will start today with the recipe for cheese scones.

8oz (200 grams) plain flour (I use organic)

2 level teaspoons of cream of tartar
1 level teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
2oz margarine (50 grams) (I use Stork or organic butter)
2-3 oz (50-60 grams) of finely grated cheese (I use organic cheddar)
Salt & Pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
¼ pint of milk (approx)
Beaten egg or milk to glaze

Pre-heat oven 450 oF; gas mark 8
Sieve flour Bicarb of soda and Cream of tartar, and rub in fat.
(I don’t bother sieving and they taste just fine)
Mix in grated cheese, mustard, salt and pepper.
Add milk to make a soft dough.
Turn unto a floured board, and roll out to ¾ on an inch thick.
The recipe says to form into a round and cut into triangles, or cook whole in the round, but I use a scone cutter.
Glaze with beaten egg (free range) or milk, place on a greased baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes.
Cool on a wire cooling rack, serve with butter and water cress.

My own tips, after glazing with the egg, I might top with flax, poppy, sesame or linseed. A little sprinkle of paprika is nice also. I have served them with salad, honey, cheese, smoked salmon and various other things.
Experiment and enjoy. Should you have any left the day after cooking, (unlikely)  they are lovely toasted and served with honey.


  1. Thank you for this, it took me back to when my Mum did all the cooking. In the 1950's she signed up to Stork Margarine and every so often received fantastic recipe booklets free of charge! Most were basic but good wholesome traditional recipes with economy in mind. I've still got them. I think ex-wartime nutritionists must have written them as the recipes were very similar to wartime ones.

    Your childhood sounds similar to mine - we never had much money but made a little go far.

    I've still got Mum's recipes from when my parent's were married in 1945.

    My mum taught me and my older sister to cook. In the 1960's, when I was at school boy's didn't cook. Mum said "One day you may be on your own and I'm going to make sure you won't strve." She taught me how to cook and it comes second nature to me.

    How right she was, I'm now on my own and rarely, if ever, have convenience food and always cook myself a meal from scratch. She also taught me economy and how to shop - skills that come in useful now that money is tight.

    Other tips I've picked up along the way such as: did you know you can cook noodles in a vacuum flask! It saves electricity and time and you don't have to stand over a hot plate. I work from home and this method is very handy.

    The green outer leaves from a collie-flower are usually thrown away but I save and wash them then liquidize them. They can be used as the basis of a stock, mixed with beans or meat to make burgers or used in soup. Scrubbed potato peelings make excellent crisps when fried in a little oil.

    My parents recently passed on and I dearly miss them. My Mum must have had a sixth sense that I would one day be on my own.

    Thanks again for an excellent article, it brought back a lot of memories. Britain was such a different place in the 1960's. I personally believe the late 1960's early 1970's was the best time.

    I was born in 1956 and was in my early teens at that time. Fashions, music and comedy was good and above all we were optimistic - that was before Soviet subversion, political correctness, poofterism, mind control and the NWO took hold and destroyed it along with our culture.

  2. Thank you for that, these days girls cannot cook the most basic things never mind boys! Here in the UK cookery was taken off the school curriculum, so we now have a whole generation of young people dependent on the big supermarket chains for food!
    I have one son...HE CAN COOK! I made sure of it! I went into nursing in 1979, at the time I was quite horrified that the male students from near by Queens University were all mad looking a "nurse" girlfriend, as they had all left home not knowing how to boil an egg, they needed a girlfriend in order to eat! How crazy is that!
    I still have some of my Mums old Stork recipe booklets, I dont really use them, but the pics are so cool, everything was in brilliant Technicolor lol


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