At last the sun is giving us some genuine warmth, as spring finally arrives. The sagacious school caterer, however, is already looking at the season ahead. Planning your menus several months in advance – while building in flexibility, of course – helps with budgeting and overall organisation.
And perhaps this year more than most, getting the most from your budget is really going to count. With so much of our country’s food grown abroad, the weak pound is being felt across the catering industry. Add in the poor weather on the continent which led to shortages of certain crops, the uncertainty Brexit is creating over workers in the domestic agriculture and food production sectors, and it’s surely never been more important to plan the produce you buy according to the boom periods of each season.
With that in mind, here’s a list of the fruit and veg coming into season between May and August. There’s plenty to choose from, and you should find most of it available extremely locally. Now, some of these items might have met resistance from kids in your schools, but we think that when you get creative with cooking, there’s almost no limit to what children will eat and enjoy.
Summer seasonal vegetables
Summer seasonal fruits
We’ve also brought you some simple recipe ideas to try out, for a little variation to your menus.
Brocolli and sage pasta
Quick, easy, delicious and nutritious. Get your pasta going first. Four minutes before it’ll be perfect, add trimmed broccoli strips, cut to around 5cm in length. You could also consider adding some finely cut green beans. Alongside, heat some rapeseed oil in a frying pan and add finely chopped onions or shallots and garlic. Cook this little lot on low until everything goes golden. Throw in a couple of handfuls of sage leaves – you may also want to try other herbs – and give the pan a couple more minutes on the heat. Drain your pasta thoroughly, then mix the contents of each pan together well. A little cheese on top goes down a treat.
You’re not just stuck with moussaka or ratatouille – and if grilled aubergine isn’t getting the take-up you’d hope for, try this tasty Mediterranean dish. Slice aubergines lengthways and brush with rapeseed oil. Lay them out on a baking try and bake at around 220 centigrade for up to 20 minutes, turning them at the mid-point. Wilt some spinach in a colander and squeeze out the water. Add ricotta and seasoning and turn it all over together to create a creamy mix. A spoonful of mix goes on top of each aubergine slice, which you’ll then parcel up and place in an ovenproof dish. Pour over a tomato-based sauce, a light layer of breadcrumbs or perhaps cheese, and bake for another 20 minutes. We’re hungry just thinking about it.
If the summer pudding isn’t a staple in your kitchen, it’s time to bring it back. Four fantastic fruits to fill the system with antioxidants. Per pud, you’ll want around 300g of raspberries, 220g of blackberries, 100g of redcurrants and 400g of strawberries. Wash them all well, then put all the fruit except the strawberries in a large pan with up to 140g of caster sugar and a few tablespoons of water. Heat for three minutes and then add the strawberries. Cook for a couple of minutes and then drain the juice off.
Line a pudding basin with two layers of cling film – leaving enough overhanging the rim to enclose the whole bowl. Slice up some brioche – to a thickness of about 1cm – and line the bottom and sides of the bowl. Make it a pretty perfect fit, then remove the slices and soak them in the juice you strained off. Line the bowl with the soaked brioche, then tip in the fruit. Finally, create a base/lid with more soaked brioche and feel free to pour on any excess juice. Seal the lid with the overhanging cling film and add a weighted plate to keep it tight. A few hours setting in the fridge and you should be good to go.
What are the summer winners with your schools? Old-school classics or something rather more adventurous? Feel free to send us your ideas at: firstname.lastname@example.org