Allegra McEvedy MBE.
Cooking up a New Menu with Allegra McEvedy
A selection of recipes for the new school year from Compass Group UK&I business, Chartwells, have been created with CBBC celebrity Chef and Leon co-founder, Allegra McEvedy MBE.
As part of the new menu, pupils will be treated to Chef Allegra’s Takeover Tuesdays – with a focus on offering fun and exciting dishes, introducing new flavours and foods. These will include ‘Oodles of Noodles’, based on a veggie Pad Thai recipe with sweetheart cabbage and edamame; a Mexican inspired ‘Poco Loco’ lasagne, using wholemeal tortillas, beans, squash and a little chicken; and BBQ Beans and Cornbread, which is loaded with pulses and hidden veg.
Launching in September, the menus will have 25 per cent of Primary school mains as plant forward recipes, with a focus on health, nutrition, taste, as well as sustainability.
Meat Free Mondays were introduced across Chartwells several years ago and have been popular with both pupils and parents. Meat dishes remain on the menus and continue to play an important part in providing children with choice and nutrients. However, there are also one or two vegetarian options available every day, enabling children to choose what they wish to eat. School favourites remain, such as bolognaise, fish and chips and a mid-week roast dinner. Over time, ingredients will be adapted to increase the vegetable content within the dishes.
Additionally, more vegetables have been added into dessert recipes. Over 50% of desserts in the Primary recipe book contain fruit and/or vegetables. All desserts on the Primary school menu meet PHE 20% sugar reduction targets and include fruit, oats, wholegrain flour whenever possible within the recipes, meaning the focus is not just on plant forward but on nutritious and sustainable diets as a whole. Examples include: A secret brownie, containing sweet potato, beetroot, carrot; a chocolate slice contains 50% courgette by weight – both made with cocoa and no chocolate; as well as a carrot and pineapple slice.
The menu development follows Chartwells’ commitment to trial all meals with the young people it serves and last year the organisation asked thousands of primary school pupils and their parents what they wanted to see on the menus. This work is now continuing with the new iteration of its offer, with all findings reflected in the food served and dishes being run by over 1000 children, until they receive a resounding “Thumbs Up”.
Allegra McEvedy comments: "I’m fanatical about how and what children eat: it’s vital that they eat yummy and nutritious school lunches to feed their bodies and minds. Part of our job is also to broaden their horizons, introducing tasty food that’s good for them in a non-scary way, alongside their usual favourites. This menu delivers on all that across the board."
Nicky Martin, Head of Nutrition - Compass Group UK & Ireland, adds: "We’re excited to be rolling out these new nutritious dishes to the children that we serve. It’s been great to partner with Allegra, whose expertise and enthusiasm for great food can be seen in the dishes that have been created. The introduction of Takeover Tuesdays will also further encourage children to try different foods, that we are sure they will love. We have enjoyed doing taste testing with the children, who have provided the new dishes with a resounding thumbs up.
"Increasing plant forward options on our menus provides another way to introduce children to more vegetables, important for both their health as well as the planet."
The group recently launched its commitment to reach Climate Net Zero by 2030, alongside Our Climate Promise and Roadmap to Net Zero, which provide detail on the strategy to create a sustainable food system, including plans to source more local and seasonal ingredients from regenerative agriculture, and has announced plans to achieve a 40 per cent switch from animal proteins by 2030.
Chartwells works with around 2,000 schools across the UK.