Marguerite Patten dies: Cookery writer has passed away

The writer and broadcaster was 99 years old

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The Independent Online

Marguerite Patten, the cookery writer who taught austerity-hit Britain how to survive on baked Alaska and quiche, has died aged 99.

The queen of “scrimp and save”, who was the first British chef to find fame on television, helped to educate Britons on how to make the most of meagre rations during the Second World War.

The most prolific cookery writer ever, with more than 170 books to her name and worldwide sales of 17 million, Patten was awarded an OBE in 1991 and a CBE in 2010.

After a brief stint as an actress, she became a wartime adviser to the Ministry of Food, teaching families how to eat well during rationing. Her advice on how to feed a family with a can of Spam and a ration book proved invaluable to housewives.

Her wartime recipes included the creation of “mock duck” from cooking apples and sausage meat. She pushed the limits of rationing by encouraging such fare as potato floddies, pea-pod soup and eggless fruit cake.

Patten, who ran a food bureau at Harrods after her work at the ministry, brought such exotic dishes as baked Alaska and quiche to the British dining table after rationing was relaxed. Her repertoire also included crab gumbo thickened with okra and twice‑baked cheese soufflé. She was a regular contributor on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour from 1946 and made her final appearance in 2011, as well as presenting her own history of British cooking on the station. She also coined the phrase: “And here’s one I did earlier.”


Woman’s Hour host Jane Garvey tweeted: “Before everyone else there was Marguerite Patten. Really fond memories of @BBCWomansHour programme with her in 2009.”

Patten, who lived in Brighton, continued to contribute to  television and radio food programmes into her 90s. She suffered a stroke in 2011 and her family said she died “from an illness stoically borne”.

Patten made her first tel appearance in 1947,  years before Fanny Craddock graced screens. She became a regular on shows including Cookery Club, Food And Drink, Masterchef and Ready Steady Cook and was consulted by Jamie Oliver over his healthy school meals campaign.

Her cookery demonstration show was so popular that she sold out the London Palladium and toured around the world. However, she refused to describe herself as a celebrity chef, telling one interviewer: “I am not. To the day I die, I will be a home economist.”

An advocate of imparting “straightforward advice” in the kitchen, she had no time for modern culinary pretensions. “In terms of food today, the nation divides into three groups: those wedded to convenience foods, the gourmet lot who irritate me beyond words, and the middle ground which Delia Smith and I represent,” she once said.

Eggless fruit cake: Patten’s recipe

Cooking time: 1 and ¼ hours

Ingredients: 10oz self-raising flour with 3 teaspoons baking powder, 1 level teaspoon mixed spice, 1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, pinch of salt, 1/2 pint well-strained weak tea, 3oz margarine, 3oz sugar, 3oz dried fruit.

Method: Grease and flour a 7-inch cake tin. Sift flour, mixed spice, bicarbonate of soda and salt together. Pour tea into a saucepan, add margarine, sugar and dried fruit. Heat until the fat and sugar melt, then boil for 2-3 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, pour on to the flour mixture, beat well and spoon into the tin. Bake in the centre of a moderate oven for 1 ¼ hours.