Helen Peacocke takes a look at a republished cookery book written by the PM’s personal chef

It is such an ordinary little collection of recipes that if it wasn’t for the dishes with French names that weave their way through the pages, you might be forgiven for assuming it’s by Mrs Beeton.

Not so. Churchill’s Cookbook, by Georgina Landemare (published by The Imperial War Museums, £9.99.) has an exceptional provenance.

It was written and compiled by the woman who cooked for the Churchill family from the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, retiring 15 years later.

On entering their household she declared that this would be her war work, as indeed it was.

Apart from cooking lunch and dinner, she prepared his breakfast every morning and never went to bed until he had finished his last whisky.

As Churchill once said when asked what he liked to eat: “I am easily satisfied, I only like the best.”

Despite the war rations, Georgina, who had been married to Paul Landemare, the French chef at the Ritz Hotel, provided just that.

Like everyone else the Churchill family were required to use a ration book, but they were lucky, their Chartwell home with its large estate and farm supplied them with eggs, milk, cream, chicken, pork, fruit and vegetables, most of which were out of reach to ordinary folk.

Churchill was also able to gorge on pheasant, venison, hare and grouse: his ration book, which was registered at the Army & Navy Stores, is now displayed at Chartwell.

Although Churchill was aware of the ration book restrictions, when shown a plate of everyday rations permitted to the average adult, he mumbled that it was “not a bad meal” and was shocked to learn that he was being shown the basic rations for a whole week, rather than a day.

Faced with an abundance of produce from the farm, Georgina was able to provide with the dishes he desired, and thanks to gifts from grateful friends treats such as shellfish, lobster and Stilton were available too.

He did not like thick creamy soups, preferring a consommé, and if that was not available, a hot Bovril. He thoroughly enjoyed jugged hare, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and roast chicken. Tinned mandarin orange slices were also among his favourites.

What Churchill did not like to eat, and foods that Georgina avoided serving at his table, were stews and hotpots, Chinese food, tripe and marmalade.

She was an intuitive cook, seldom writing anything down. Obviously this made the creating of her cookbook difficult. Apparently she had never seen the names of the French dishes that her husband taught her to cook written down.

When her book first came out in 1958, thanks to the encouragement of Lady Clementine Churchill, it was published as Recipes from No 10, and became a best seller and then a much valued collector’s item.

Churchill’s Cookbook, is a newly- published collection of Churchill’s personal cook’s recipes, released to mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day, the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death, 75th anniversary of him becoming Prime Minister and the 75th anniversary of Churchill’s finest hour.

The 250 recipes it contains are deceptively easy to cook, many of which suggest echoes of classics originally listed by Mrs Beeton.

Georgina Landemare’s granddaughter Edwina Brocklesby said: “It was the pride in working for Mr Churchill and the closeness and affection towards Mrs Churchill that stood out most vividly.

“Nan was her confidante on their daily morning get-togethers when menus were discussed. There was the occasional anecdote, but overall she was so, so loyal and proud of her role, the well-established need for confidentiality within his personal staff was evident.”

The way Georgina compiled a recipe may lead some to ponder on some of the instructions that have been included. She gives no clues for instance on the actual temperature of a, slow, medium or cool oven. Obviously for intuitive cooks such as her, such temperatures are just known. She knew what she meant by suggesting the oven should be not so hot and must have presumed we would too.

Of course her instructions on how long to beat or stir a mix were written for her time. Today we can beat up things up in a matter of minutes, whereas she was laboriously beating ingredients by hand or with a wooden spoon.

We can only guess what she means by bare ½ ounce of yeast, though weighing out ingredients according to the equivalent weight of an egg is easy to understand.

Despite the many challenges, stresses and strains in working for Churchill, Georgina remained an ardent and faithful supporter and a lifelong friend of the Churchill family.

After giving his rousing speech to the crowds at Whitehall on VE night, Churchill turned to his loyal cook and told her that he could not have managed through the war without her. Maybe he also reminded her that the stomach governs the world.