Presentation really matters when it comes to tempting children and they should be encouraged to explore different tastes and textures, says Adrian Marks, Catering Manager at Kisharon Noé School.
With tempting dishes on the menu like vegetable pancake roll with sweet chilli sauce and noodles, and butternut squash, aubergine and red lentil sambar with cucumber raita and basmati rice, there is plenty of opportunity to educate young palates. At Chinese New Year the children were offered a selection of Chinese dishes, all for £3 – the cost of a school meal.
Adrian, Kitchen Assistant Judy Wise and Lunchtime Assistant Michaela Leach work to a four-week rotating menu in their brand new dairy kitchen.
As well as the main dish of the day, and fruit and vegetable snacks, Adrian and his team create gluten-free options and pureéd meals for children unable to eat solids.
He said: “There’s no difference at all between serving children with disabilities and mainstream. I make sure they all get a healthy meal, and one that fills them up for the afternoon.”
His food has won praise from Interim Headteacher Sharon Mullish, who says: “He is creating lovely food for the children.” The icing on the cake though is to become a ‘healthy school’, achieving recognition in the government’s schools’ awards scheme.
Adrian sources his own ingredients, using fresh wherever possible, and researches recipes, cooking mainly from scratch.
Families of children who were shielding at home received a food hamper delivered on the school bus with bread, eggs, fruit, vegetables and cans of tuna or baked beans, with a few bags of nosh as treats.
Government guidelines specify that school lunches must be nutritious and balanced with whole grains and plenty of fruit and vegetables. Keeping an eye on the guidelines, Adrian is introducing desserts, a course absent from the school menu until now. Healthy temptations include stewed fruit with custard, avocado chocolate cake, mixed fruit oat crumble and baked apples.
But, ironically, it isn’t sweet treats that have the children clamouring for more. That honour falls to nothing more sophisticated than the humble oven-baked potato chip.
Children’s favourite recipes
Falafel burgers – makes 8
2 tin chickpeas drained
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
Salt and pepper to taste
1 clove garlic
Handful fresh coriander chopped
Handful fresh flat parsley chopped
Flour/gluten free flour of your choice
1. Peel and roughly chop the onion and peel the garlic. Blend in a processor until smooth.
2. Add the chickpeas and dried herbs and blitz until smooth. Add the fresh parsley and coriander.
3. Add enough flour to make a stiff paste. If chickpea flour is your thickener of choice, use sparingly as it dries out the mixture.
4. Shape into circles approx. 4cm across by hand. The circles need to be approx. 2cm thick.
5. Place each burger on a sheet of greaseproof paper brushed with oil and allow to set in the fridge for 30 minutes.
6. Oven bake at 180 centigrade for about 10/12 minutes. They are soft so treat gently once cooked.
7. Place inside a pitta or burger roll and add hummus, sweet chilli sauce or lemon mayo. Serve with chips or potato wedges and Israeli salad.
Sausage Hot Pot – for 6
Meat or vegetarian sausages, allowing one or two per person
1 large onion
1 large carrot
2 large potato
1 stock cube
Dried herbs to your taste
1. Without peeling, (to increase fibre content), boil the potato or oven cook for about 30-40 minutes. It needs to be slightly firm but not too soft. Once cooled, slice into approx. 3mm thick rounds.
2. Peel and slice the onion.
3. Peel and slice the carrot and celeriac into matchstick-sized strips.
4. Put the onion in a lidded pot, and allow to cook gently for about 20 minutes until soft on a lowish heat.
5. Place the carrots and celeriac at the bottom of a deep ovenproof dish and cover with the onion. Sprinkle with the herbs and pepper.
6. Place the sausages on top of the carrot, celeriac and onion mixture. Cover with the potatoes in a neat pattern.
7. Take the stock cube and make up as indicated on the packet. Pour the liquid into the dish about halfway up. Place in a preheated oven at 170 centigrade for about 20 minutes if using vegetarian sausages or 25 -30 minutes for meat sausages. Brush a little olive oil on the potatoes, if you like.
8. You can place the dish under the grill for a few minutes to brown the potatoes.
Adrian’s tip: Why not use other vegetables, like butternut squash. Cut into strips and add with the carrots.
PHOTOS: Monica Costea