Nothing brings patch families together as quickly as sharing food or drinks and often recipes are passed over the fences and pushed through letterboxes. Our culinary queen AJ Sharp has been exploring the world of military recipes passed around families and, in some cases, shared through generations…

My friend Eleanor Carlisle, who lived with her husband and young family on a patch in Scotland, was frequently asked to share her child-friendly biscuit recipe.

As a result, we all kept a small round of low sugar biscuit dough in the fridge ready to be rolled out and turned into shapes at a moment’s notice.

Here’s what you’ll need…

  • 85g margarine
  • 55g brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 banana
  • 450g plain flour
  • 60ml of maple syrup or honey
  • Flavourings – either a few drops of vanilla or 1tsp ginger or 2tsp cinnamon

Method: Beat together margarine, sugar, egg, syrup and a flavouring of choice. Combine the flour until a dough is formed. Chill for at least an hour. Roll out and cut shapes with cookie cutters. Place on a well-greased sheet and bake at 190 degrees for 8-10 mins. Perfect for impatient toddlers.

Pass it on

Shuna Colquhoun remembers various traditions such as Hermann friendship cakes being passed around the patch in Inverness. These work like a sweetened sourdough starter which you have to keep alive for ten days before baking and passing it on.

“The Hermann cake lasted a while,” she says. “But no matter where we’ve lived, recipes using locally grown fruit are frequently shared, be that jams, jellies or anything with alcohol!

“Really it’s the knowledge of where to forage that is key.”

Shuna remembers pausing whilst packing up one of her quarters to draw a map of the best local spots to harvest berries and blackberries for an incoming family. Such ingredients are key to making sloe gin, for which you need:

  • 500g of sloe berries (works just as well with damsons, cherries or blackberries)
  • 300g of sugar
  • 1 litre of gin

Method: Rinse the sloes, remove any twiggy parts and bung it all in a Kilner jar. Shake well once a day for the first week, then leave it for at least three months, turning the jar once a week or whenever you remember. Sieve out the fruit and drink it one year after making.

Waste not, want not!

And before discarding those flavoursome sloes, why not try out Shuna’s boozy chocolate berries? You will need:

  • 500g discarded berries from sloe gin making
  • 250g of dark chocolate

Method: Once you’ve made your sloe or damson gin, pour a bottle of sherry over the discarded fruit and let the berries sit in it for a month. Then strain it again. Chop up and scatter the berries on that magic black non-stick paper and pour over melted dark chocolate and put it in the fridge to set. Then cut and store in Tupperware. Eat within a month.

Favourite foods

My fondest experiences of food on the patch have been barbecues, curry nights and bring-a-course-and-come-in-your-slippers-dinner-parties! What are yours? Tweet us @ArmyandYou or @AJSharpFoodie using #friendshiprecipes

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