Post viral recovery can be a long haul. We seem to have lost the concept of convalescence, of the need to understand that full recovery from illness can take a period of time, that needs to be accepted and catered for in every sense. Helen Garlick searches her cookery book library for dishes to tempt and nourish invalids and convalescents…

The latest reference that I can find in my scores of cookery books is:

Howard and Maschler on Food 1987

“Many invalids have the tiresome habit of not wanting the meals you provide and then being overcome with hunger for a snack, a little something – an hour later. Hot and cold drinks are an essential part of an invalid diet. Almost all patients are better for as much liquid as you can get into them, and it is useful if some drinks are nourishing as well as enjoyable. For this reason properly made Beef Tea is a first consideration. It seems expensive and it takes time, but you can make a lot of it once and if necessary, freeze some and then heat as required. We also think that fresh Lemonade and Barley Water are a great boon, and so have included recipes for them. For a hot snack (or supper), poached soft roes on toast could be a winner as could a couple of steamed scallops. But all too often the need for a snack comes at an awkward moment and a sandwich is what is wanted…

Eggs as a hot snack have to be considered. If you can get a really fresh free range egg, boiling or coddling it is unbeatable… If you cant get an egg with real personality, then you will have to get good at omelettes, or scrambling.”

Soft Roes on Toast: Serves 1

½ teaspoon mustard powder
1oz/30g butter
4-6 ozs/125- 180 soft roes
1 slice wholemeal bread

Put the mustard and a little salt into a bowl with the butter and work it all into a  paste with a fork.  Melt the paste in a double saucepan to avoid browning the butter, then put the roes into a non stick pan and pour the melted butter over them. Cook gently for 8-10 minutes while you are toasting the bread.  When the roes are cooked, arrange them on the toast.

Sandwich Fillings

1. Honey and Oatmeal. Put a handful of oatmeal in baking dish and bake it in a moderate oven until pale brown. Butter thin slices of bred and spread with honey. Do get good honey, read the label carefully. Also it is easier and less messy for your recipient if you use the stiff honey rather then the kind that drips and oozes. Sprinkle toasted oatmeal on top of honey and add a second piece of buttered bread.

2. Cheese and sultana. Butter the bread. Grate mild Cheddar cheese coarsely and put on the bread with a scattering of sultanas. These sandwiches that became famous during the last war when they were served at the National Gallery in London at lunchtime concerts, are popular with children and very nourishing.

Beef Tea

1lb/500g lean beef – shin is good
1oz/30g butter
1 clove
I small onion

Cut the beef into small dice, and put into a saucepan with the butter, clove, onion and a little salt. Stir the meat over the heat until it produces a thin gravy. Then add a quart/1.1.litres of water and simmer for one hour, skimming off every particle of fat.
After cooking strain the liquid through a sieve and keep cool until required.
As the beef tea is needed for the patient, heat it through in a double saucepan. These quantities make about one pint/625 ml of good beef tea and heating in a double saucepan means that you don’t lose any of it by reduction.


Put 6 ice cubes, 1 whole lemon, 1 tablespoonful of cseter sugar and 1 pt/625 mil water into the liquidiser. Switch onto full for a slow count of ten. Strain. This makes excellent lemonade and is very little trouble to make.

Barley Water

2 oz/60gm pearl barley

Wash the barley in cold water, pout it into a saucepan with 1 pint of cold water and when it has boiled for about 15 minutes, strain off the water and add 2 quarts/ 2.3 litres of freshly boiling water. Boil until the liquid is reduced by half, strain it and it is ready. You can flavour it with a little lemon rind and sugar, or you can mix it with the lemonade described in the previous recipe. Barely water is very good for the kidneys.

Kitchen Essays by Agnes Jekyll (1922)

Agnes reflects, with her inimitable, enormous style:

“Ill health may be said to resemble greatness in that some are born to it, some achieve it, and some have it thrust upon them. The number of those who must live apart, eating the bread of exile, is no inconsiderable one………“

She comments that:

“Most of us have suffered temporary disablement from exasperating trays.”

She advises paying attention to assembling an attractive tray, furnished with items such as a:

“Hot water plate and cover, companion of those long drawn out meals of our nursery days” and “jugs constructed on thermos principles.” “Small food — warming trays, with jugs and toast racks, over a tiny spirit lamp will easily keep toast and coffee hot should its arrival be untimely or its consumption delayed. Remember that the whole tone of the day can be set into a happy major key instead of into a mournful minor one by the mere aspect of the breakfast tray. A cheerful cherry — glacé or fresh — will render irresistible the skilfully prepared and iced grapefruit on a hot day: a seedless orange halved and treated in the same way, beautified by green leaves of its own, or the nearest resembling foliage (even villa gardens can boast a laurustinas bush); a gay pottery saucer of thin slices of banana with brown sugar and cream, a slice of melon, a tiny bunch of grapes, summer fruits in their seasons, and the health giving apple accompanied by its ingenious little plated corer and wooden platter — all these may render nourishment welcome.”

“For the mid day meal serve as the principal “plat” a nicely cut and fried bread canapé some six inches by four inches and one inch thick, and onto this spread a thick layer of stoned and heated black plums at each corner. On this lay several delicately cut slices of pheasant or turkey roasted or braised and a little good gravy poured very hot over it… Even the familiar slice of roast mutton from the family joint would acquire additional merit if supplemented by a creamy layer of mashed turnips. And a nice little pile of capers, or a soubise sauce to add zest.”

“Tea time, the invalid’s happiest moment, might produce these little Quaker Oats Pyramids which can boast the four modern cardinal virtues of novelty, niceness, wholesomeness and economy –
Quaker Oats ½ lb,
butter 6 oz,
8 drops essence of almonds.
Oil the butter, mix the oats and sugar together. Form a well, into which pour the butter and essence. Mix lightly into heaped tablespoonfuls on a specially well greased baking sheet and put into a very slow oven for about ¾ hour. Do not remove from baking sheet til cold, else they crumble. The cakes should rise in little pyramids some 4 inches high from a base round as a claret glass rim. Half this quantity will make ten cakes, but as they don’t keep well, let nurse or nursery enjoy the surplus.”

Here are the recipes for Soft Roes on Toast, Beef Tea and Quaker Oats Pyramids in PDF Format.

Share on social media
Pin It