All products on this page have been selected by our editorial team, however we may make commission on some products.
Every day, children in our schools come into the dining hall to find sharing platters on the tables for them to explore. Some days, this will be tender whole cauliflowers, roasted until golden in star anise, with a knife sticking out of them for the children to carve up themselves. On others, it might be earthy, garlicky falafel to dip into yogurt, or vegetable sushi rolls. Afterwards comes the hot main course – sometimes inspired by dishes from the restaurant experience of our head chefs (such as the ‘Edible Garden’ from Nopi that one of our chefs David made for his large secondary school in Hounslow), but just as often they come from the home cooking of our school kitchen teams.
We’ve had plenty of disasters. There was the lunch hour that our co-founder, Nicole, spent weeping over (and sweeping up) the 500 rejected portions of fresh mushroom tagliatelle she’d been making since 6am. But that doesn’t stop us being brave about our dishes, at least most of the time. We’ll add a kick of chilli or a fragrant note of lemongrass because we believe that kids deserve to be offered food every bit as delicious as the variety we adults get to make and eat.
Feeding kids every day is a rollercoaster. When a child picks up an asparagus spear and chomps the top off, or names a fresh herb, it’s exhilarating. When they tip a perfectly executed 24-hour-braised lamb into the bin, or reject lovingly debearded mussels (seriously, imagine making enough to feed 500) it’s crushing. But we come back the next day and do it all again. We’re dedicated to feeding kids. We know the risks and the rewards, and we love doing it.
Sometimes, a parent will ask for a recipe their child has mentioned. We’ve always tried to share whenever we can and yet receiving a piece of paper with notes and volumes to feed 500 isn’t all that helpful. That’s why we decided to collect some of our favourite – and most successful – recipes into a book. After all, why should the fun be limited to school? And we’ve also included family recipes from some of our greatest supporters in the food world, like Yotam Ottolenghi, Thomasina Miers, Anna Jones and Henry Dimbleby.
Cooking at home for our families is a different world to producing the large quantities of food needed for a school meal. But the spirit is just the same. A shared meal, made from fresh ingredients, does take time, and might not always be appreciated. However, it can also be the most rewarding, memorable and joyful thing you can do for, and enjoy with, your family. It’s definitely worth a try.
Inspired? Here Are Three Recipes To Try At Home…
Toni’s Jollof Rice With Pot-Roast Chicken
“When I arrived as chef at Gayhurst, the multicultural kitchen was battling to cook British food for a diverse school community. When I suggested the kitchen cook a menu from home, Toni, a school kitchen assistant, made her jollof rice and it went down a storm. It’s been on the menu ever since. To make the rice without chicken, simmer it on the hob in the sauce for 25 minutes.” – Nicole Pissani
Green Mac ’N’ Cheese
“Our trustee, Thomasina Miers, was ruminating the other day on how much she’d hated cauliflower cheese when she was little. Now, loving cauliflower, and loving cheese, she wonders why. Inspired, we set about creating the ultimate, veg-packed cheesy dinner in the form of this recipe. The sauce works brilliantly with cauliflower, too.”
This sauce also makes an excellent cauliflower cheese. Chop your cauliflower into florets and blanch in boiling, salted water for 3 minutes, then drain and sit in a colander to allow the water to steam off (letting it dry ensures you won’t end up with a watery dish). Tip the cauliflower into the baking dish, cover generously with the sauce and sprinkle with grated cheddar, then bake as per the macaroni and cheese instructions.
Nerissa’s Butternut Squash Cake
“This recipe is one we share with every school we work with. It was developed out of necessity but became a hit. I was at a school one day and we needed a cake ASAP for lunch. We like to get as much fruit or vegetables to our cakes as we can and I was hunting around for some to put in, when I remembered we were baking butternut squash whole in the oven for the next day. It was a lightbulb moment and what a tasty result.” – Nerissa Buckley, School Chef Trainer
DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at email@example.com.