How to Bring Bonfire Night to Life in the School Canteen

When coming up with tasty menu ideas, school caterers in the UK face a few important culinary hurdles. Firstly, any meal ideas need to adhere to guidelines in order to make sure that they’re healthy, wholesome, and satisfy the nutritional needs of pupils. As well as this, any recipes need to be easy to prepare with no fuss, and affordable to produce.

Just as importantly, any meals need to be appealing to students, standing out on the menu as something they’d like to try (and try again!) With this in mind, holidays and seasonal occasions like Bonfire Night can provide a great opportunity for school caterers to test out new recipes, resurrect old favourites in new guises, and have a little fun with the canteen menu. 

To help you get started, here at McCain we’ve put together some simple school meal suggestions to try out this Bonfire Night. Not only do these ideas satisfy guidelines, prep requirements and appetites, they could also give your canteen a new lease of life. Don’t let the seasonal focus put you off, as these recipes and suggestions meet catering requirements at any time of year.

Combine tried and tested classics

One of the easiest ways to provide guaranteed Bonfire Night crowd-pleasers is to simply mix and match well-loved seasonal classics. When you think of food at Bonfire Night, a few dishes probably spring to mind; pie and peas, sausages rolls, baked potatoes and toffee apples.

Whilst toffee apples can’t be served as a main course, we’ve used the other Bonfire Night standards – pork, potatoes, peas and pies - to create our one pot “Guy Pie” below. By taking ingredients from these classic dishes to make a new recipe, you can create a seasonal dish that you know will satisfy costs, time, and prep requirements, whilst potentially encourage uptake on a meal that students will feel they already know and love.

“Guy Pie”

Serves 20 

Ingredients

1 tbsp. sunflower oil

400g onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

400g tinned chopped tomatoes

500ml low salt beef stock

20g tomato puree

200g mushrooms, chopped

200g carrots, diced

200g peas, diced

2 tsps. sage, chopped

1kg pork and leek sausages, crumbled

1.5 kg McCain Simply Mash

100g cheddar cheese, grated

Instructions

1. Heat the oil, then gently fry the onion and diced carrot until soft. 

2. Add in the garlic and sausages, and cook until well browned.

3. Add in the mushrooms and peas, and cook for around 2 minutes. 

4. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, beef stock and sage, stir well, and then bring to the boil. 

5. Meanwhile, make the McCain Simply Mash according to instructions. 

6. Take the filling mixture off the heat, and transfer into an oven proof dish. 

7. Top with the McCain Chef Solutions Simply Mash and grated cheese, and bake at 200 °C/ Gas Mark 7 for around 40 minutes, until golden.

8. Serve with more peas and gravy.

Go for a seasonal colour palate

A great way to come up with Bonfire Night meals is to create recipes that simply look the part. The best way to do this is to go for a seasonal colour palate, with rusty oranges and fiery reds conjuring up piles of autumnal leaves, and bonfires that light up the night sky.

We’ve used these colours to create our warming red pepper and tomato firecracker soup below; it’s as great sipped watching fireworks overhead as it is as a filling school canteen meal. However, you don’t have to go the whole way and create new meals around these colours; why not try simply serving our deep orange sweet potato fries as a simple way to bring the colour of the bonfire to school meals.

Firecracker Soup

Makes 12 (250g) primary portions, or 10 (300g) secondary portions.

Ingredients

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1350g McCain Our Chef Solutions Potato Slices

1 vegetable stock cube

900ml water

600g tinned chopped tomatoes

400g red pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tsp. chopped basil

Instructions

1. Make the stock with the stock cube and water, and bring to a rolling boil.

2. Add the McCain Simply Potato Slices to the stock, and cook for around 20 minutes, until they resemble a puree.

3. Meanwhile, fry the onion, red pepper, and garlic in the vegetable oil in a separate pan until soft, then add the chopped tomatoes and simmer.

4. When the potatoes are soft, add in the chopped tomatoes, and onion, red pepper, and garlic.

5. Stir through the basil, then blend until smooth. 

6. Serve with a crusty roll as part of a hearty and fiery Bonfire school lunch.

Try out fiery flavours

For our last tip, we’re looking to the heat of the bonfire to provide inspiration for school meal flavours. Recently at McCain, we’ve taken a look at school lunches around the world to provide caterers with some international menu ideas. As us Brits aren’t world renowned for our use of chilli and heat in cooking, we’ll need to head to some locations with slightly more fiery reputations. 

Our first stop is Mexico, where the chilli pepper is king. Whilst already a school canteen classic, Chili con Carne is the perfect way to bring the heat of the bonfire and the flavours of Mexican cooking to the table; why not try our one pot meal Chili Wedge Bake for a twist on the traditional favourite?

Using Chili peppers isn’t the only way to bring the fire into the kitchen either, as our next destination shows. Paprika is an incredibly popular addition in recipes throughout central Europe, giving a smoky undertone to many dishes. Try adding a teaspoon or two to stews, soups or pies, to bring a hint of the bonfire to meals without the scorching heat.

If you want to find out how McCain Foodservice can help bring the school canteen to life all year round, get in contact today.