Last day dinners

Last day of school and I wonder who is happier, teachers or children? This afternoon there was a leavers’ assembly in our local primary school, I know because they had all their windows open and we had all ours open too. We could hear the concert, we could hear the headmistress, we could hear the guest speaker and later we could hear the happy and excited children rushing out of school and maybe the happy and excited teachers rushing to the pub!

My mother-in-law was in charge of a school kitchen and on the last day of term a special lunch was served. I wonder if this – which i found in her school dinner cook book – was on the menu. Dating from the 1950’s…

Spaghetti Bolognese (serves 100)

  • 12 ½lbs minced beef, mutton or lamb
  • 2½lbs minced onion
  • 5 lbs minced carrot
  • 1 ½lbs tomato purée
  • ¾ lb flour for thickening
  • seasoning
  • 2 ½lbs grated cheese
  • finely chopped parsley
  • 3½ lbs spaghetti
  1. fry the meat until brown, add fat if necessary
  2. add the onion, then the carrot, fry and season well
  3. add the tomato purée and sufficient water to cover
  4. when all is cooked and the thickening and dish up
  5. serve the spaghetti separately, cooked till just tender in boiling salted water, drained and sprinkled with parsley
  6. serve cheese separately

These days lamb and mutton would be far too expensive to have as a school dinner. Interesting that in the 50’s tomato purée was in a school kitchen, and the nice touch of garnishing with the parsley which has been finely chopped. Spaghetti, is not boiled to death, but cooked until just tender.

Maybe for ‘pudding the children would have chocolate Swiss roll – not bought in, but made in the kitchen by the school cooks.

  • Chocolate Swiss roll (serves 48)
  • 1 lb 11 oz flour
  • 3 oz cocoa
  • 1 lb 8 oz caster sugar
  • 1¼ pints liquid egg – or 15 eggs (approx)
  • vanilla essence
  • 1½ oz baking powder
  • 10 oz tepid water
  • jam and or cream
  1. grease very thoroughly and dust with flour or line with kitchen paper 6, 16 x 10 inch tins
  2. sieve flour, cocoa and baking powder
  3. whisk eggs, 18 drops of vanilla essence and sugar until very thick
  4. add tepid water to eggs and whisk lightly
  5. fold in flour
  6. spread onto prepared tins and bake in a hot oven for about 9 mins
  7. turn onto a cloth (peel off paper if used)
  8. spread quickly with jam and roll up at once, or roll up while hot and unroll and fill with cream later when cool

The skills of school cooks were considerable – I’ve tried making Swiss rolls and it’s not easy! I don’t know if the cream was actual dairy cream or if the cooks made mock cream, dried milk cream or marshmallow cream for which there are recipes in the book. I didn’t have school dinners in the 50’s so i don’t know! There was also tinned cream which we had as children, so maybe school canteens had big tins of it..

I wonder if as an end of term treat, some children had toffee apples… here is a recipe in the school kitchen cook book for 100 of the glistening, golden beauties!

Toffee apples

  • 100 apples (6 to the lb)
  • 3 lb granulated sugar
  • 3 lb golden syrup
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 100 wooden skewers
  1. dissolve the sugar slowly in the syrup then bring to the boil
  2. boil until the toffee will set to a soft ball when  a little is dropped into cold water
  3. add the cream of tartar
  4. cut the apples in half, clean and dry and mount on skewers
  5. dip the apples quickly into the toffee and allow to dry off. keep the apples separate, and if possible use on the day they are made

I’m sure the children would be delighted with all of that, and well-satisfied i hope they would give the teachers an easy last afternoon!

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