Great Missenden C of E Combined School joined MFM in 2010 but was eager for fresh ideas. And award-winning vegetarian chef Rachel Demuth was there to provide them, and to help show pupils that meals do not have to contain meat to be nutritious and filling.
The two workshops were for the pupils on the School Nutrition Action Group – a group of children, teachers, cooks, mid-day supervisors and a parent that join together to promote the Food For Life project, and communicate the cooking, growing, farming and food events to the school and wider community – and the school caterers, to inspire them to cook imaginative vegetarian options, rather than fall back on pasta or cheese-based staples.
The action group – 12 pupils aged between 7 and 11 – learned to cook Vietnamese Paper Rolls with Mango & Kiwi Salsa, and Spaghetti Vegetable Salad with Salsa Verde.
While caterers in many schools worry about wasting their budget on meat-free options that children simply do not eat, creative cuisine of this calibre can tempt pupils all week long, not just on a Meat Free Monday.
In their workshop the caterers learned how to make meals such as Date and Aubergine Tagine, Couscous with Fresh Herbs and Cumin & Coriander Yoghurt Dip – simple recipes that are easy to prepare for the school’s 300 pupils.
Ingredients for the two workshops were kindly donated by MFM supporter Ocado.
To inspire in pupils a passion for meat-free eating, Demuth said, “it is important for schools to serve more international recipes, using colourful vegetables and interesting spices. Be adventurous.”
She added that children would cook more if they were given the opportunity to experiment and take ownership of their food at school – something the Government ought to be funding.
School caterers could help, she said, by taking time to cook with pupils, to share recipes and tips that they can take home: “So it will be not the question, ‘What did you have for lunch today?’ It will be, ‘Look, I learned to make chickpea hummus and ate it for lunch and here’s the recipe so can we make it now…’.”