Spikey not Spicy Mexican food

What do you know about Mexican food? You probably know about tacos, quesadillas, salsa, etc. How about cactus steak… any takers? It’s a very common veg in Mexico grills, they knock off the spikey bits first and grill the cactus paddle; tastes a little like green beans. Serve with meat or salsa in a pancake, slap some guacamole in for good measure.

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Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all

I have written a lovely article in the Families Chiltern magazine about school dinners – go check it out www.familieschiltern.co.uk

This half term in the schools Cookies runs clubs in we will be looking at children’s school lunches from around the globe and how they compare to their lunches in our schools. We will also be looking at ‘Weird and Wonderful Foods’ from around the world. For example, what is Birds Nest Soup?  Does it really contain a nest? Would you swap your snack foods for another country’s idea of a heavenly snack? Could you be tempted to eat a chocolate covered ant or crunch into a fried grasshopper? Or munch your way through a bag of delicious chicken feet? What’s yuk and what is yummy depends on where you live and what you are used to eating. Psst…. don’t worry grown up’s, I won’t be force feeding your children these types of snacks (not unless they really want to try them!)

Christmas is coming…

Looking forward to our Christmas cooking clubs – going to be really busy as we’re just about fully booked! As well as art and craft activity there’ll be music, fun and games…oh and of course some Christmas cooking…we’ll be making:

Lebkuchen

Chocolate box

Christmas cake decorating

Honey gingerbread

Stollen (child friendly)

Christmas pudding

Autumn Spice

Looking forward to creating some spicy dishes with the children over the next couple of weeks. As well as mixing up some yummy dishes we’ll be finding out a bit more about some familiar and exotic spices. For instance did you know:

  • Chinese Fice Spice is not named not after the number of ingredients but after the five flavors (sour, bitter, salty, sweet and pungent).
  • The name clove comes from the Latin word clavus, meaning nail., and once dried it does look like one. It’s actually the dried flower bud and it’s a rather lovely looking flower…

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  • Although it’s one of the most common flavourings we know Vanilla is actually the second most expensive spice after saffron.

Fantastic Dinner Ladies!

Having spent some time with these lovely ladies I learned a lot from them. They really care about the children they are cooking for and want to create something tasty so that the children will enjoy and get the maximum benefit nutritionally and in the taste department. At CPS a lot of them are mothers or grandmothers and this caring, motherly instinct comes through in their everyday cooking in school. And the same as every mother they try to ensure that the children have a good balanced meal, including eating up all their veg! This ethos of happy and healthy eating runs through the very heart of Chesham Prep school enhanced by the passionate beliefs of the Headmaster and his wife Isobel Davies and including the teachers who try their very best to have a positive attitude with food. To create a more positive view of food it is very important as adults that we ourselves do not use negative words associated when talking to children about food.   

Doing something different:

 sd7sd10For Speech day all the staff were involved in a different creative style of cooking and it was interesting to see this side of their abilities coming out and a sense of pride and achievement that they evidently felt with these goodies they helped to create. 

  Comments from parents:

“The food on Speech Day was simply fantastic. So beautifully presented and it tasted like something from a restaurant. It really added to the sense of occasion and was utterly delicious.” Rachael Mathews

“2014 Speech Day at Chesham Prep was very significant for us, as it was our last.  Our youngest had finally outgrown her prep school and was heading off to secondary school.  So it was a beautiful and emotional morning with many prizes given and heartfelt speeches made. It was so lovely to wander into the hall afterwards, to see such a wonderful display of culinary delights awaiting us. The catering team had obviously put a lot of effort into the presentation of the mouth-watering canapes, which we could easily access due to the clever layout.  We were treated to handy mouth size savouries – chicken, beef, prawn, salmon, and vegetarian, on blinis. They were all appreciated very enthusiastically and we parents were very impressed.  We could see that a lot of thought and care had gone into making our delicious refreshments.

Thank you.”  Julie Carden

“The canapes at parents day were a feast for the eyes as well as the tummy. Such a change from sandwiches. A tasty variety and the dessert plates were a real treat for a sweet nut like me. Thanks for all the hard work.” Sharon Lewin

“The food was completely amazing at Chesham Prep’s speech day this year. Michele and her team really treated us all with so many wonderful dishes which were beautifully presented and of such a deliciously high standard. I lost count of how many times I went back for more sushi – not to mention the chocolates!” Jakki Harriman-Matthews

Working hard on the preparation

Working hard on the preparation

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Flower displays and edible flowers by Valerie Bland

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Back to School Breakfast

Here we go, back to it! Maybe like my daughter you can’t wait to get back to school to see your mates or perhaps for some who are starting new school there is a little apprehension. And for parents they also may be worrying about how they are going to settle in or maybe you are desperate to get back into a routine? Whichever it is I wish you ‘Happy School Days’.  What with children and adults alike now be recommended to have 7 – 10 fruit and veg a day it is difficult to keep an eye on them while at school and the best we can do is make sure the meals we are involved in are full of the stuff. So here are a few Back to School Breakfast ideas for you to try:

Pancakes and wraps for Breakfast: make the mix and stick it in the fridge overnight or make them up the night before. Easy to buy in the shops buckwheat pancakes (slow releasing carbs), thick American pancakes or sophisticated thins. Fill these with mixed berries, Greek yoghurt and honey or blackberry and apple puree, banana and honey. Banana and bacon sounds weird but is very delicious.

Seeded wraps: easy and readily available in the shops – poached or scrambled egg with smoked salmon and fresh spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes.

Baked beans on brown toast! Might sound odd but they are a great sauce of protein and fibre

Cereals are often full of refined sugars these days but some have less than others. Check out the others and get them into the habit of adding some fruit on top.

Traffic light scramble: 4 eggs, chopped toms (or good quality tinned), chopped up parsley served on Rye bread

Fruit salad, topped with Greek yoghurt

Homemade Smoothie:  2 handful of fruit (banana, kiwi, melon, plums, raspberries…whatever you like) 2 x Greek yoghurt and add milk to get the right consistency. You can replace the yoghurt with soya, almond or coconut milk if you prefer. If you haven’t got time to make it there are some good readymade brands out there. Serve with thick toasted brown seeded bread, or bagels, fruit bread, oat cakes with peanut butter. The combinations are endless.

Sleeping with Lobsters

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Most young children wake up snuggled to their favourite teddy but Valentis (chef extraordinaire) woke up surrounded by lobsters. Why? Because Valentis’s father is a fisherman and at the age of six he would take Valentis in his boat fishing with him.  As Valentis slept in his hammock his father was busy catching lobsters. The noise of the clapping lobsters used to work well as an alarm clock to wake him up! I think I will stick to the traditional way of waking with an alarm clock and a very kind husband’s lovely coffee.

To prepare a lobster for cooking: when I was training as a young commis chef we were taught to use a sharp knife to dig straight into the lobsters head right between the eyes killing it instantly. For me this appears to be a far more humane way, others prefer to immerse them in boiling water. 

Cooking lobster at Valentis’s grill bar: You can cook lobster in many different ways; in Halki they do a wonderful lobster spaghetti where all of the lobster, including the shell, is used to produce a most delicious flavoured sauce which soaks into the spaghetti making a most sumptuous, flavoursome meal. However I prefer mine grilled and at Valentis’s grill my lobster was cooked beautifully. The Greeks say that the meat in the lobster’s head is the sweetest. My lobster was also full of beautiful pink roe which tastes most delicious, a sweet delicate flavour, with a smooth light texture. The lobster was served with a sauce in a separate bowl of lemon and olive oil with oregano . Now lobster is one of my most favourite foods to eat and this was the best lobster I had tasted in 15 years. It was fresh Halki lobster, not brought in from another island, and was like a fresh fruit handpicked from a tree, ready and ripe to eat. It was truly divine and a thing of (unusual!) beauty to look at.  

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