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School Dinners
School dinners - generations of British school children remember them with distaste! But were they really that bad? One former schoolboy shares his memories with us below.

School dinners - Yuk!   What memories, smells, tastes and gastronomic 'delights' are evoked by those words?   Picture a small boy in school blazer, tie askew, shorts and long unpulled up socks queuing to collect his tray of bangers and mash, roly-poly and custard, or toad-in -the hole, mashed potatoes and mushy peas, or shepherds pie and bakewell tart and custard, or fish fingers and chips, steamed pudding and custard.  Always custard!  Did the school canteen have a lake of that yellow, watery, liquid beneath the kitchen floors?   Did the dinner ladies, who stood in the steam behind the counter, spend all night peeling mountains of spuds before half mashing them so that they were more lumps than mash?  What shepherd had sold his grizzled, aged, superannuated sheep to the canteen to form the basic ingredient of his famous pie?  In that school-dining hall no Oliver Twist ever asked for more.

Perhaps distance lends enchantment?  Nostalgia for my youth when I could eat a horse and still not worry about that extra spare tyre around my tummy.  But sometimes I long for one of those well-tried recipes and who cares about calories anyway?

Shepherd's Pie

Take one shepherd, cut into small pieces, mince, cover with mashed potatoes and bake in the oven.

Perhaps not! Try this recipe instead...

Here is what you need.

  • Half a kilo of minced meat.  (Traditionally lamb, but you can use beef)
  • One large onion.
  • One large tomato.
  • One red pepper.
  • Half a kilo of potatoes.
  • Two tablespoons of cooking oil.
  • One beef, lamb or vegetable stock cube.
  • 50 grams of butter.
  • Salt and pepper.
  • One large oven casserole dish.
This is what to do.
  • Roughly chop the onion.
  • Heat the oil in the casserole dish.
  • Fry the onion until it is soft.
  • Remove from the heat.
  • Put aside in a separate dish.
  • Roughly chop the tomato and red pepper.
  • Gently cook the tomato and red pepper.
  • Remove from the heat.
  • Add the tomato and pepper to the onion.
  • Now fry the minced meat.
  • When it is cooked add the tomato and onion mixture.
  • Dissolve the stock cup in a cup of boiling water and add it to the mixture.
  • Gently simmer for half an hour
  • Peel the potatoes and cut them into small pieces and boil until soft.
  • Drain the water and add the butter.
  • Mash the potatoes.
  • Cover the meat with the mashed potato.
  • Cook in the oven at 200C for one hour until potatoes are browned on top.

Another old favourite is Toad-in-the-hole.  I do not know whether Poland has many toads and where you might find them, so it might be difficult to make this dish.  Maybe if too many people want this dish, toads will become an endangered species.

Ingredients for the batter

  • 250 grams of flour
  • 3 eggs
  • Up to half a litre of milk
  • Pinch of salt
Here is what you must do to make the batter.
  • Put the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl
  • Mix the flour and salt
  • Make a hole in the centre of the mixture.
  • Break the eggs into the hole.
  • Add a little milk.
  • Stir the ingredients into a batter.
  • Add more milk until the batter is creamy.
  • Put the mixture aside
Other ingredients.
  • 30 grams of pork fat.
  • Half a kilo of pork sausages.
Here is how you complete the dish.
  • Prick the sausages with a fork
  • Cook the sausages in the fat for about five minutes.
  • Pour the fat into a large roasting pan.
  • Pour on a thin layer of batter
  • Bake in the oven for 5 minutes at about 225 C.
  • Put the sausages on top of the cooked batter.
  • Cover the sausages with the rest of the batter
  • Bake in the oven for 35 minutes at 225 C until the batter has risen and is brown.
Serve immediately.

I have it on good authority that this was the favourite dish of Mr Toad of Toad Hall.

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