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The Scoop

Food and nutrition blog

Save the bees!

June 2022

In Year 7 we have been talking about the importance of bees for food production. And it’s not all about honey! Did you know that bees pollinate over 66% of the world's crop species and contribute to one third of the food we eat?

Bee numbers are in decline

Due to the climate crisis, bees are waking up earlier after hibernating for the winter to find the flowers they need for food haven't yet bloomed. Flowering time, which relies on exposure to light, is less affected by climate change. This creates a mismatch that can leaves bees short of food early in spring. With natural landscapes being replaced by towns and cities, bees have fewer places to live. Roads and buildings also separate land that bees are used to travelling between, so they can’t mix between species and areas in the same way. Bees are also under threat from chemicals; some fertilisers to help crops to grow can be harmful to insects like bees.

Humans have been exploiting honeybees for thousands of years. 

A cave painting in Spain thought to be 8,000 years old depicts a human gathering honey from a ladder. Traces of beeswax on pottery also suggest that early farmers kept bees 9,000 years ago. Honey has also been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. Did you know that in its lifetime a bee will produce only one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey!

Honey fraud?!

British beekeepers are calling for a requirement on supermarkets and other retailers to label cheap honey imports from China and other nations with the country of origin after claims that part of the global supply is bulked out with sugar syrup. Supermarkets say every jar of honey is “100% pure” and can be traced back to the beekeeper, but there is no requirement to identify the countries of origin of honey blended from more than one country. About a third of the UK’s honey imports come from China, but it almost never appears on the label of supermarket jars as the country of origin. 

How can we encourage bees in our gardens? 

The best way is to plant flowers! Bees love traditional cottage garden flowers and native wildflowers, like primrose, buddleia, and marigolds. Planting bee-friendly plants like heather and daisies and red clover on balconies, terraces, and in gardens can help. Other things you can do are:

  • Leaving sections of the garden wild and letting the grass grow long gives the bees a place to shelter
  • Create a bee hotel for your garden's bee population
  • Leaving a small fish with pebbles and shallow water in it can help if a bee is thirsty
  • There are also special bricks which bees can even live in
  • Don't use pesticides as they are really harmful to bees
  • Buy honey and other hive products from your nearest local beekeeper


A good night's sleep

February 2022

There is more and more evidence that a good night’s sleep is linked to better health outcomes, but did you know there is now a link between poor sleep and obesity?

Year 7’s have been studying the health behaviour of students at St Helen and St Katharine, with some groups investigated whether their friends are getting a good night’s sleep. Key findings were:

  • Most Year 7’s felt they didn’t get enough sleep.
  • The reason they found it hard to get a good night’s sleep was staying up too late either doing homework or spending time on screens.

Whilst this might not seem particularly harmful, it is in our early years that we set up healthy habits for later life. The NHS advises that 9 hours sleep is required for 12 year olds, while 8 hours sleep is the minimum required from 13-18 years. 

There is evidence from a recent study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine that hunger hormones make people feel less hungry after a good night’s sleep – in contrast to people who are highly sleep deprived, who have previously been found to feel more hungry: “Changes in brain regions that regulate appetite or reward centres in the brain that make you eat less could also play a role, while circadian [body clock] factors may also affect appetite.”

When we are overtired, we tend to replace the energy we lack due to sleep deprivation for more fatty or sugary foods and tiredness makes us feel less full. Tiredness also makes it difficult to think as clearly and can mean that we might not choose the best options. 

Some useful tips to get a better night’s sleep:

  • Try to get to bed at the same time every night if you can.
  • Set up a calming routine before bed such as having a bath then reading or listening to relaxing music.
  • Put your phone away in the kitchen or out of reach overnight so you are not tempted to respond to messages.
  • Have a wholesome snack about an hour before bed so you are not hungry, but don’t eat too much just before bed.
  • Regular daily exercise will help you sleep.
  • Don’t drink tea, coffee or caffeinated drinks in the evening.

For further information:

Food and climate change #COP26

9 November 2021

“The food we grow, rear, process, transport, package, eat and waste has huge implications for climate change. Food contributes to around 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions. These gases are released into the atmosphere when we air freight avocados, when forests are cut down to make land for livestock, when cows emit methane, when we drive our car to the supermarket, when oil is used to make plastic packaging and when 30% of the food we waste is left to rot.

World leaders need to invest in decarbonisation and greener energy, but what we do at home also makes a difference. Whether we start relying less on meat or dairy, or shop wisely to reduce food miles and food waste, we can all play our part. It is not always straight forward; for instance if everyone in the country drove their cars to local farm shops to buy apples it might cause more carbon emissions than buying a crate of apples shipped from New Zealand! That’s why it is important to keep up with the latest science and think about how you or your family could reduce your eco footprint when it comes to food.”

Brigid Alpers - Head of Food and Nutrition 

Waste not, want not.

Year 9 have been coming up with ways to reduce food waste at home and in school. We used some stale croissants to make a bread and butter pudding and leftover vegetables to make spiced sweet potato soup with a dash of coconut cream. In western countries such as the UK, we waste a shocking 30% of all food that is produced. That food rots and causes methane gas, but you also have to count the greenhouse gases produced when the food was grown, reared, manufactured and transported. It is up to all of us to try to reduce food waste.

Spring in Food and Nutrition

21 April 2021

Students have enjoyed being back in the Food and Nutrition room cooking together and sharing their successes. Whilst students continued to cook at home during lockdown, they have really enjoyed being able to learn from each other and benefit from the one to one help in the classroom.

Year 9 have been discussing the origins of street food (from oysters in Roman London to fried fish and pickled whelks in the Victorian times) and the modern day street markets 'revolution' in eating. They have cooked a Sri Lankan dish called ‘Kottu Roti’, a spicy mixture of vegetables, chicken and diced paratha (a buttery flatbread), and this week baked Pastéis de Nata (Portuguese custard tarts).


Year 8 have been virtually travelling around the world, cooking Tortilla (Spanish omelette) and crêpes.


Year 7 have been learning how raising agents work, and cooking either cheese or sweet scones.


Garden to Table Club have been enjoying seeing their vegetable seeds sprout and grow and we are looking forward to some warm days in the greenhouse. Strawberries have been planted in the vegetable trug, and we have used Mrs Alpers’ home grown rhubarb to make rhubarb and ginger cordial. Students also enjoyed making their own raspberry lemonade with last year’s frozen raspberries.

Home cooking

29 January 2021

Here we are in our second spell of Remote St Helen’s, and it has been great to see many students getting off screens in Food and Nutrition lessons and cooking at home. Year 7 students have been baking bread, Year 8s have been cooking dishes from a country of their choice, and Year 9s have been using local, seasonal foods in their dishes. Here are a few highlights from January 2021.

Focaccia - Tilly (7J)                                         Rainbow cake - Bethany (8K)                Free form fruit pie - Lucy (9K)


Chakchouka - Ceci (8L)                                     Cinnamon buns - Lucy (8L)                            Sushi - Angela (8J)


Gardening keeps us up-beet!

23 November

Last week in Garden to Table club we made pesto using our very own greenhouse rocket, spinach and basil. We also had fun making our own pasta shapes to go with the pesto. Marta in Year 7 explains why she enjoys growing her own vegetables:

'I think that growing a garden can be enjoyable and useful. For starters you know all the sources of your fruit and veg ensuring that no unwanted chemicals can interfere with your diet. It can also be a fun activity to do with your family and to spend some time away from screens. When cooking it can give a real personality to your food. We grow many varieties of veg in our garden such as: runner beans, carrots, tomatoes, Portuguese cabbage, and many pumpkins. This year we grew something special, in Portuguese it is called gila which is a kind of melon used to make jam.'

Greenhouse success!

3 November

Despite the feeling that everything else is shutting down for the winter, we are pleased to report some growing success in our new greenhouse. Mrs Stubley’s Vietnamese coriander is thriving, just in time for Year 8 to explore some new flavours in their ‘Cultural Cuisine’ project. Mrs Stubley recommends a few finely chopped leaves perk up a salad.












We have spinach, rocket, carrots, onions and peas continuing to grow despite some fierce October weather. Garden to Table Club is making use of Mrs Alpers’ remaining apples to prepare these bonfire night Catherine Wheels. Perhaps you’d like to try these at home?

Toffee Apple Catherine Wheels for Bonfire Night


1 x 320/375g roll ready-made puff pastry

1 egg, lightly whisked*

50g caster sugar

5ml (1/2tsp) ground cinnamon*

1 apple

4 tsp salted caramel or dulce de leche*




  • Unroll the puff pastry on to a surface which has been dusted with flour.
  • Using a ruler as a guide, cut the pastry into 4-6 even squares.
  • Cut a small diagonal slit, of even lengths, into the corners of each square.
  • Place the squares onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
  • Brush the pastry with the egg.
  • Place a small teaspoon of caramel in the centre, topped with grated apple.
  • Mix together the caster sugar and the cinnamon and sprinkle over the apple and the rest of the pastry.
  • Beginning at one corner, fold one half of the pastry down at the slit.
  • Repeat on the remaining three corners, folding the pastry down to form a wheel.
  • Repeat on the remaining squares.
  • Bake the wheels in an oven preheated to 190°C for 20 minutes or until the wheels are puffed and golden.


Mrs Alpers

Garden to Table Club

21 September

Lockdown saw British gardens at their finest. We planted seedlings and tended to vegetables, helped by one of the warmest, sunniest springs on record. Whilst we could not use our new department greenhouse last term, some of our students were learning how to grow vegetables at home. Over the Easter holidays, we built two raised beds in our garden, and while not everything was ready before the summer holidays began, I managed to create some lovely dishes using the courgettes and Swiss chard, which were the first successes in the new garden.

September has meant that, finally (and somewhat optimistically) our Garden to Table club has begun and we have already planted out some autumn salad, onions, carrots, cabbage seeds and peas. The Indian summer might not last, so we are coming up with eco-friendly ways to keep the greenhouse toasty warm over winter. Our first project is to start composting our fruit and vegetable waste in a compost bin, which should raise the internal temperature. We will keep you posted!

Mrs Alpers


Global food

6 February

Year 8 enjoyed cooking and presenting food from other cultures at the end of their food and nutrition course. They prepared some really interesting dishes, such as gyoza and mochi (Japan), Korean noodles, sushi, Dutch and Austrian pancakes, matcha cupcakes, Indian sweets (‘gulab jamun’), Lithuanian potato cakes and Spaetzle (a German pasta). Here are some of the highlights.

Managing disasters

14 January 2020

Year 9 were ‘off timetable’ on Friday for a day of disaster management, where geography and the creative subjects challenged students in new ways. In food and nutrition students were asked to work in pairs to create a range of dishes without the use of any recipes, and with a 'mystery tray' of ingredients. Past cooking experience definitely helped but every dish was edible (!) and students enjoyed tasting the various concoctions. Gnocchi made from scratch was a culinary highlight, as were the lemon drizzle and raspberry hearts. One pair made an amazing breakfast dish of potato rosti, homemade baked beans and egg baked inside bacon. Here are some photos of the experience.

Have a very Green Christmas!

4 December

In Year 7 and 8 we have been discussing Christmas and its impact on the environment. Food waste and the abundance of packaging are two areas to be aware of as we enter the Christmas season.

The food we eat also has a cost to the environment, from the energy we use to grow, rear, process and transport the food to the packaging and disposal of food waste.

Last year it is estimated that the UK threw away:

  • 263,000 turkeys
  • 7.5 million mince pies
  • 740,000 slices of Christmas pudding
  • 17.2 million Brussels sprouts
  • 11.9 million carrots
  • 11.3 million roast potatoes

You might not be responsible for buying in the food for Christmas dinner, but perhaps you can mention this to your parents and help them plan for a low-waste Christmas dinner? Or you can find some recipes for using up leftover Christmas food. Leftover vegetables can be turned into soup or ‘bubble and squeak’. Leftover turkey can be used up to 48 hours after eating and made into a curry, a pie or even tacos.

What about packaging?

  • The waste from plastic wrapping at Christmas weighs the same as 3.3 million penguins.
  • The UK uses 300,000 tonnes of card packaging at Christmas - the equivalent weight of 2 million reindeer.

Unfortunately a lot of Christmas waste can’t be recycled, eg foil paper or wrapping paper with sellotape. Food packaging can be minimised by the use of net bags when buying unpackaged fruits and vegetables and some supermarkets are now offering ‘fill your own’ dried goods.

I would love to know if you or your family managed to make some changes to your Christmas shopping and eating this year which benefitted the environment. Perhaps you hired a Christmas tree? You chose locally produced gifts and food? You experimented with some vegetarian recipes? You made handmade gifts?


Here are two recipes for using Christmas leftovers:

Leftover Turkey Bubble and Squeak (adapted from a Joe Wicks recipe)

This serves one, so just multiply by the number of people. You can used raw potato, parsnip or sprouts instead of cooked, but you need to grate them then squeeze out any excess moisture.


1 medium roast parsnip or leftover cooked carrot

1 medium roast potato

Handful Brussels sprouts or peas

1 egg

1 rosemary sprig, leaves picked and chopped finely

1 garlic clove, crushed

100g cooked turkey

2 tbsp leftover gravy

1 Tbsp oil or butter

Cranberry sauce, to serve


In a bowl, mash the vegetables with a fork (you might need to chop the sprouts separately). Crack in the egg. Mix and season, then add your rosemary and garlic.

Shape the mixture into three rösti patties, equal in thickness. Slice the leftover turkey breast. Put it in a pan with the gravy on a low heat and simmer until the turkey is warm. Heat the oil or butter in a separate frying pan. Cook the röstis for 3 mins each side until golden brown, then put them on a plate, layer with the sliced turkey and add a dollop of cranberry sauce on top.

Korean Turkey and Rice pot (BBC Food)


500ml/ 18 fl oz hot chicken stock

250g/ 9oz long grain rice

300g/ 11oz cooked turkey, diced

250g/ 9oz baby spinach

2 carrots, shredded

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 tsp toasted sesame seed

2 tbsp vegetable oil

4 eggs

2 tbsp thick chilli sauce


Pour the chicken stock into a large pan and bring to the boil. Add the rice and turkey, bring back to the boil and simmer for 12-15 mins until the stock has been absorbed and rice is tender.

Meanwhile, put the spinach in a colander and pour over a kettle of hot water to lightly wilt. Keep the spinach and carrots separate, but dress both with the sesame oil and seeds.

Cover the cooked rice with a lid and leave to sit for a couple of mins. Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a non-stick pan set over a high heat. Fry eggs so the white crisps up nicely round the edges.

Spoon the rice into large bowls and arrange the spinach and carrots on top. Finish each with a fried egg and a dollop of chilli sauce. Serve immediately.

Halloween 2019!

31 October

Some fun and freakish treats from Hayward House today! Here are the links to the recipes:

Ghostly meringues

Halloween cookies

'Mummy' Brie

Calling all home cooks!

30 September

Thank you to Mary in Year 5 for sending me a photo of these fantastic marbled biscuits she made at home last weekend. Over the year I will be posting photos and recipes from keen home cooks (as well as recipes from clubs and competitions). Please email me at if you would like to contribute to the food blog. It could be an article, a recipe or a photograph,

Mrs Alpers




What did you find in the holidays?

16 September

I managed to find some lovely food on my trip back to my homeland, New Zealand, such as the famous ‘steak and cheddar pie’, greenshell mussels, whitebait fritters, hokey pokey ice-cream, teppanyaki and 'poke' bowls (a bit like sushi bowls).

However, the most memorable thing I ate was in Singapore. I finally tried the 'stinky fruit’, the durian, which is banned in buses, trains and hotels throughout the country. They are grown in Malaysia but are all over food markets in Singapore. You really can’t escape the smell, which is a bit like overripe mango mixed with the aroma of a blocked drain. To eat a durian you should wear protective gloves, unless you want your hands to smell for days afterwards.

Now to the taste…… It was….er….strong! A little like mango, garlic, chives and custard mixed together. Fragrant to the point of sickening really. I wasn’t a fan. My children audibly so. My husband braved two or three helpings of the thick and cloying flesh surrounding the durian seed. Less terrifying was the mangosteen. It looks like a white satsuma encased in a hard purple shell, and tasted a little like grapes.

I hope I can encourage you to share your food stories, recipes and photographs this year. Any student from any year group is welcome, just email me at

Mrs Alpers

Healthy Eating Week

14 June

This week is the British Nutrition Foundation’s ‘Healthy Eating Week’, which is a dedicated week in the year to encourage organisations across the UK (including workplaces, universities, and schools) to focus on healthy eating, drinking and physical activity.

At the heart of BNF Healthy Eating Week are five health challenges:

  • Have breakfast
  • Have 5+ A DAY
  • Drink plenty
  • Get active
  • Sleep well

Breakfast helps get the day off to a good start by providing some of the energy and nutrients the body needs for good health (e.g. starchy carbohydrates, fibre, B vitamins, calcium and iron). It is also a great opportunity to get at least one of your 5 A DAY and having breakfast, particularly one which includes protein, may help you to stave off hunger and reduce snacking on less healthy foods.

Have at least five portions of vegetables and fruit every day – choose a variety!

It is important to have at least 5 A DAY as vegetables and fruit provide a range of different vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (e.g. polyphenols) needed for health, as well as fibre which is important for the digestive system and can help reduce the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. Variety is key, as each type of vegetable or fruit provides different amounts and combinations of nutrients.

Have at least 6-8 unsweetened drinks every day – water is the best choice. The body is about 60% water and this is needed for many different functions, such as regulating body temperature. We are constantly losing water through our skin when we sweat, our lungs when we breathe and when we go to the loo, so it is important to drink plenty throughout the day to avoid dehydration. Mild dehydration can make it difficult to concentrate and cause headaches and tiredness.

What counts?

In the UK, it is recommended that we have 6-8 drinks every day, in addition to any water provided by food. The exact amount of fluid an individual needs will depend on many factors including age, activity levels and the weather. The following are all healthier drink options:

  • water (this is the best option for a regular drink)
  • lower fat milks
  • unsweetened beverages (e.g. tea, coffee, sugar-free drinks)

If you find water boring, try adding a sprig of mint and lime or cucumber to your water bottle. A few frozen berries will turn it into ‘fruity water’, which is much better than sugary squash or juice. Ice cubes help too.

What about fruit/vegetable juices and smoothies?

100% fruit/vegetable juices and smoothies should be limited to no more than a combined maximum of 150ml a day as they contain free sugars. Drinks that contain free sugars (other examples include soft drinks, sweetened milk drinks,

energy and sports drinks) contribute to calorie intake and increase the risk of tooth decay if consumed regularly.

Drinks and dental health:

  • Fizzy drinks are the largest single source of sugar consumption for children aged 11-18 in the UK, and they provide an average of 29% of daily sugar intake, so switching to healthier alternatives is a must.
  • Sugar-free fizz is still bad for teeth: The fizz in sugar-free drinks is still acidic, and can cause tooth erosion, so it's much better to switch to tooth-friendly alternatives like water, milk, or a small serving of watered-down fruit juice (but this is best consumed with a meal, to avoid the erosive acidity of the fruit juice).

Get active every day - move more! Physical activity is beneficial because it can help you to maintain energy balance, improve heart health and strengthen muscles and bones,  improve sleep, relieve stress and lift mood.

It can be difficult to maintain enthusiasm for physical activity on rainy days such as today, so try some behavioural psychology for a minute! Come up with some intentions which you can write down, or repeat out loud to yourself. An example would be: 'When I feel tired I just need to remember that going for a run will make me feel stronger and more energetic' or 'I can still go for a run/walk if it’s raining because I have a waterproof jacket and I’ll soon warm up.' Research has shown that by having these words to hand will help motivate you when the weather is bad or when you feel tired.

Benefits of 150 minutes moderate physical activity per week (source: NHS)

  • up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
  • up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer
  • up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer
  • a 30% lower risk of early death
  • up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis
  • up to a 68% lower risk of hip fracture
  • a 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults)
  • up to a 30% lower risk of depression
  • up to a 30% lower risk of dementia

Get the sleep you need every night. A healthy lifestyle includes getting enough good quality sleep. Regular lack of sleep can affect your health, making you more vulnerable to colds and infections and is linked to serious health conditions such as obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and may also lead to depression and anxiety. Sleep is also important for cognitive skills such as communicating well, memory and creative thinking.

If you want to improve your sleep, you could try:

  • establishing a regular routine for going to bed and waking up;
  • avoiding heavy meals, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol late at night;
  • making your bedroom ‘sleep friendly’ – a dark, quiet and cool environment will make it easier to sleep;
  • turning off all devices at least 1 hour before bedtime and keeping technology (e.g. TVs, tablets and smartphones) out of the bedroom;
  • being physically active in the day

Can getting enough sleep help me maintain a healthy bodyweight?

Not getting enough sleep has been linked to a higher intake of calories, eating more snacks and snacking on less healthy foods. Being sleep deprived can also change levels of hormones involved in appetite, making us feel hungrier. These factors can increase the chance of weight gain, which could lead to obesity.

When you’re tired, you’re more likely to snack! Make sure you choose healthier snack options. We should all be aiming for 30g fibre per day. You might want to try:

  • A bowl of fruit salad (2.1g fibre)
  • 3 handfuls of homemade baked vegetable crisps
  • 3 handfuls of plain popcorn sprinkled with chilli powder (1.9g fibre)
  • A small handful of nuts and seeds (1.2g fibre)
  • 3 rice cakes spread with a tablespoon of nut butter (no added salt or sugar) (2.7g fibre)
  • A crumpet with low-fat spread (1.6g fibre)
  • A small, low-fat fruit yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons of reduced fat hummus and vegetable crudités (6.6g fibre)

An evening of Mediterranean street food and antipasti

6 June

It was the turn of teaching and support staff to don their aprons and get cooking in the Food and Nutrition room on a warm evening in late May. After a short demonstration by myself, our keen cooks prepared and presented an appetizing array of dishes from Italy, Turkey and Spain. It was a fun evening, enhanced by wine pairing by Tim Bailey and a chance for staff to switch off from exam marking and enjoy good food and company.

We hope you enjoy some of the recipes and photographs!

Mrs Alpers












(Makes 10 medium or 16 small arancini)

  • 800ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 250g arborio rice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Very generous pinch of saffron
  • 50g parmesan or vegetarian alternative, grated
  • 150g mozzarella, chopped into small chunks
  • Fillings of your choice (eg sundried tomato, basil, ham)
  • 1 egg
  • 170g plain flour
  • 500g dried breadcrumbs
  • Vegetable oil, if frying. Olive oil spray if baking.


If you are using leftover risotto, skip this step. Otherwise, bring the stock to the boil in a medium pan, then tip in the rice, salt and saffron. Bring back up to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer on a medium heat until the stock has been absorbed. Stir in the grated parmesan and season to taste, then leave to cool completely, preferably in the fridge – you can spread it out on a tray to hasten this if necessary.

Stir the mozzarella into the cool rice and check the seasoning. Roll a tablespoonful between wet palms to form a ball of your chosen size. Poke a hole in the middle and spoon your filling in, then plug the hole with extra rice. Repeat until all the rice is used up.

Beat together the egg, flour and enough water to make a thick batter (about 175ml), and season. Put the breadcrumbs on to a plate.

Deep fry: Heat the oil in a deep pan, no more than a third full, to 170C, or until a breadcrumb sizzles on contact. As it is heating, dip each rice ball into the batter to coat, then into the breadcrumbs, heaping them on top until it is well covered. Cook in batches until golden brown, making sure the oil comes back up to temperature between batches, and drain on kitchen towel. Sprinkle with a little salt while still warm and serve hot or cold.

Oven bake: Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Place arancini on baking tray lined with parchment. Use an olive oil spray to coat the arancini and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.


  • Buffalo mozzarella
  • Mint leaves
  • Parma ham or prosciutto
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar


Quarter a fig (you could also use peaches or melon), pinch apart a little buffalo mozzarella, take a mint leaf then wrap a slice of Parma ham or prosciutto around everything and stab together on forks or cocktail sticks. Finish by drizzling over a little extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar if you like.



  • 5 red peppers, quartered and de-seeded (or a jar of roasted peppers)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp thyme leaves
  • ¾ tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 60g walnut halves, lightly roasted and roughly chopped
  • Salt


  • 100ml olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, skin on and lightly crushed
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 2x400g tins butterbeans, drained and rinsed


Pre-heat oven to 220deg fan.

Mix peppers and oil and spread out on a large parchment-lined baking tray. Roast for 15 minutes and then add garlic. Continue to roast for another 15 minutes until the skin of the peppers is soft and starting to blacken.

Place the peppers in a food processor, along with the garlic, thyme leaves, paprika, chilli flakes, vinegar, walnuts and ½ tsp salt. Blitz to form a rough paste and set aside.

To make the mash, place oil in saucepan on medium heat. Add garlic clove and thyme sprigs and fry very gently for 2-3 minutes until the garlic begins to caramelise. Discard the garlic and set the sprigs of thyme aside, along with 2 tsp of the oil. Pour the remaining oil into a food processor with the butterbeans, 1 Tbsp water and ½ tsp salt. Blitz until smooth, adding a little more water if you need to. Spread out on a large platter or a few plates, creating a natural rim around the edge, and spoon the red pepper sauce into the centre. Top with the crispy thyme sprigs and their oil.

Anzac biscuits

24 April

Anzac Day, 25 April, is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, commemorating Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. It was originally conceived to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who served in the Gallipoli Campaign in the First World War.

The Anzac biscuit is a sweet oat biscuit made using rolled oats, flour, coconut, sugar, butter, golden syrup, baking soda and boiling water. Supposedly, the biscuits were sent by wives and women's groups to soldiers abroad because the biscuits lasted for a long time, due to the high sugar content. However, some food historians argue that they were really only eaten at fetes and other public events such as parades, where they were sold to raise money to support the war effort. At the time they were often called 'soldier's biscuits', sold to fundraise for New Zealand troops in the war.

Here is the recipe being baked by Year 7 and 8 students this week in food and nutrition lessons.


85g porridge oats

85g desiccated coconut

100g plain flour

100g caster sugar

100g butter

1 tbsp golden syrup

3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda


Heat oven to 180 C/fan 160 C/Gas 4. Put the oats, coconut, flour and sugar in a bowl. Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the golden syrup. Add the bicarbonate of soda to 2 tbsp boiling water, then stir into the golden syrup and butter mixture.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the butter and golden syrup mixture. Stir gently to incorporate the dry ingredients.

Put dessert spoonsful of the mixture on to baking parchment on baking sheets, about 2.5cm/1in apart to allow room for spreading. Bake in batches for 8-10 minutes until golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Designing menus using local ingredients

27 March

The landlocked county of Oxfordshire has been providing inspiration for Year 9 students who have been designing menus based around local foods. Whilst seafood has been off the menu, other interesting ingredients have been discovered. These include local honey, cheeses, berries, chilli jam, rapeseed oil, rhubarb, asparagus, smoked trout, lamb and even kid goat! We have sourced herbs from the school gardens, eggs from home, cheeses and honey from local farm shops and nearer the summer berries, salad leaves and fresh peas will be available locally.

We hope you enjoy the photographs of some of our experimentation. Niamh and Aoife designed a sorrel sorbet with honey poached rhubarb, mini meringues and berries. Emily and Kate used smoked trout and asparagus in their summery tart.  Freya and Lil made their own pastry to construct their beetroot and goats’ cheese tart, followed by lavender and raspberry mousse with lavender shortbread. Pippa and Annabel chose a vegetarian main course: a spiral vegetable tart with chill jam. 


Sports and Spanish

5 March

We have had a fun (and very busy!) week in food and nutrition, with two cooking sessions for our Spanish exchange students and a session on ‘healthy snacks for sport’ with our sports scholars.

On Friday our Spanish visitors were introduced to the great British scone, whipping up a batch in 30 minutes and experimenting with their placement of cream and jam (deciding that the Cornish method of jam then cream made the most sense).

On Monday our sports scholars learned how to save money by producing their own energy-fuelled sports snacks. From cherry and apricot fruit nuggets to a breakfast super-shake, they all agreed that they will go home and try some of the recipes. A shop-bought energy ball costs around £1.75 whilst a home-made version is less than quarter of the cost. We also discussed how to select a healthy plate of food at lunch and Mrs Alpers showed some photographs of a well-proportioned plate, following the Eatwell Guide. Scroll down to find the recipes. We couldn’t prepare the bliss-balls at school (because they contain nuts) but you could try them at home. They are a great source of protein, unsaturated fats, fibre, calcium and Vitamin E.

No-bake orange, date and coconut bliss balls

They are quite energy dense so one or two would be sufficient to give you some energy for a sports match. These are great to keep in the freezer and they only take about 10 minutes to defrost. If you don’t have measuring cups, you can use a measuring jug. 250ml is 1 cup.


  • 2/3 cup almonds
  • 2/3 cup medjool or other soft dates, pitted
  • 4 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup coconut threads or dessicated coconut
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
  • 4 tbsp macadamia or walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 oranges, zested and juiced (about 1/4 cup)
  • To dust: cocoa powder or finely chopped pistachio nuts, sesame seeds or coconut


  • Place all ingredients except cocoa powder (or other coating of choice) in a food processor and blend until a chunky paste forms.
  • Roll into small balls, about 3cm in diameter.
  • Roll in cocoa, pistachios, sesame seeds or coconut if desired.
  • Store in an airtight container where they will keep for several days, or freeze.

Breakfast super shake


  • 100ml full-fat milk
  • 2 tbsp natural yogurt
  • 1 banana
  • 150 frozen fruits of the forest
  • 50g blueberries – can be frozen
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp goji berries
  • 1 tsp mixed seeds
  • 1 tsp honey


Put the ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy.

Dried fruit energy nuggets


  • 50g soft dried apricot
  • 100g soft dried date
  • 50g dried cherry
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seed


Whizz apricots with dates and cherries in a food processor until very finely chopped. Tip into a bowl and use your hands to work in coconut oil. Shape the mix into walnut-sized balls. Then roll in sesame seeds. Store in an airtight container until you need a quick energy fix.

Dark chocolate, banana and rye muffins

These are low in added sugar. To make them taste sweeter make sure the bananas are ripe.


  • 50ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 150g rye flour
  • 100g spelt flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 80 ml maple syrup
  • 3 medium or 2 large ripe bananas, mashed
  • 50g dark chocolate, roughly chopped


  • Heat oven to 180 degrees (centigrade). Put 12 muffin cases in a muffin tin.
  • In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients except the chocolate. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, coconut milk and maple syrup, then stir in the bananas. Pour the wet ingredients onto the dry and stir to combine. Add the chocolate, then spoon into the prepared cases.
  • Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until cooked.
  • These will keep for 3-4 days in an airtight container or freeze for up to 3 months.

Homemade cliff bars (no bake)


  • 11/4 cups rice crispies
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried fruit (eg raisins, dried cranberries etc)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup local honey
  • 1/2 cup tahini paste
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, optional


  • Combine the rice cereal, oats, flaxseed meal, dried fruit and seeds in a large bowl.
  • Combine the honey and tahini paste in a small bowl and heat in a microwave-safe bowl for 30-60 seconds until melted. Stir in vanilla and pour over the dry ingredients in the large bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until everything is coated.
  • Press mixture firmly into and 8-inch square pan, cool and then chill for at least 30 minutes to help it set.
  • Cut into 12 bars, wrap in cling film and keep refrigerated.


Chocolate chip cookie: replace the dried fruit with chocolate chips or cacao nibs.

Pumpkin-cranberry: use chopped cranberries for the dried fruit and pumpkin seeds.

Bacon is not a vegetable

28 February

Learning how to cook and knowing how to achieve a healthy, balanced diet will be invaluable as a skill to carry forward when you leave school. Whilst women were freed from their apron strings decades ago, today’s reality is that many of us are putting our health in the hands of large food producing corporations and it’s not doing us or the environment a lot of good.

In a short but focused series of practical lessons Lower Sixth have the opportunity to have a taste of life as a student and learn to cook healthily on a budget, avoiding years of pot noodles and frozen pizzas. The handbook that they take with them provides a short guide to independent living and nutrition, for the time when the school lunches and the family meals are a thing of the past. There is also a handy page of top tips for students, generously offered by the teaching staff.

Mrs Alpers

Top tips for students from St Helen’s staff:

My nephew is managing on a budget in London. He has ‘chicken’ weeks and 'mince' weeks. For chicken, he roasts a whole chicken – the largest reasonably priced one he can find – then uses the cold meat over a couple of days in a variety of dishes. For mince, he cooks a huge bolognaise mix with lots of tiny chopped veggies added then turns that into cottage pie, chilli, burritos etc during the week. Mrs Stringer

Remember that herbs and spices elevate the simplest of meals. Ditto condiments – Worcester sauce, mayo, mint sauce, pesto, tabasco. Cut herbs can be kept in the freezer till you need them. Buy seasonal fruit and veg. Don't do a food shop when you're hungry. Stay hydrated. When in doubt – improvise. Mr Verjee

As important as buying cheap food is not wasting the food you have. Some items go off quickly and before you know it, you’re throwing them away. Stock your cupboard with items that will not go off – pasta, rice, potato, tins of beans, anchovies. Other things that last ages are chorizo, eggs and cheese. Get good at some simple recipes using these, such as: puttanesca, bean and chorizo stew, baked potato, omelettes. But don’t forget the importance of fresh nutrition. Mr Odell

If you have a local bakery, go in just before closing time and ask if they are giving away (or selling cheaply) any bread or other foods. You might strike up a regular deal! Togarashi seasoning (a Japanese blend of spices, seaweed and sesame seeds) makes rice, noodles, vegetables etc super tasty. Use lentils or chickpeas in curries, chillies, pasta sauces – they are really cheap and good for you! Learn how to make a proper Italian tomato sauce, which you can then use as a base for so many dishes, such as tuna pasta, puttanesca pasta, as a pizza sauce, a sauce for meatballs, a base for a bean and sausage stew etc. Mrs Alpers

[If you have a blender] Use frozen spinach cubes in smoothies to act as ice cubes; more affordable than fresh spinach, packed full of nutrients, and won’t impact on the flavour of your smoothie! No scurvy for you. For a tasty and affordable snack: cheapest supermarket brand noodles plus a crumbled stock cube (ie Oxo vegetable stock) is a delicious but not necessarily nutritious bite. Buy punnets of grapes when they’re on offer/reduced and put them in the freezer: when you need a little something sweet but you have run out of chocolate Hobnobs you can munch on some frozen grapes. It’s like having bite-size portions of sorbet! Miss Stephenson

Clubbing together with friends for occasional Sunday roast, lots of healthy veg and if each person brings one thing, actually not too expensive and fun and sociable!! Mrs Scott-Malden

Use quorn or soya mince to make spaghetti bolognese. Lower in fat and much cheaper than meat! Mrs Homan

Wine doesn’t count as one of your five a day! Marmite makes everything taste good. Don’t throw away squidgy veg, put it in a soup. Adding chilli powder hides a multitude of sins. Mrs Washer

Porridge becomes your friend. Chickpea curry – so versatile. Don’t rely on meat. Eggs are great.  Cook en mass at the weekend eg veg chilli, and portion up for freezing or refrigerating. Frozen fish and chicken are much cheaper than fresh. (Frozen fish needs to be cooked from frozen; frozen chicken needs to be defrosted in a fridge the day or night before you need it). St Helen's Old Girls at Birmingham

If you are able to plan your menu a few days ahead and then shop for it you will end up with a much healthier range of foods and fewer takeaways which are expensive on a student budget and perhaps not as nutritionally beneficial. Mrs Bedford

Think about what you’re going to eat across the week before you go shopping, it saves money and reduces the number of times you have to shop in a week. Buy/take some herbs/sauces to uni so you can add different flavours to bland dishes like pasta. Mrs Stubley

Avoid getting take-away unless you really need to. Go to the reduced section of the local supermarket at about 5 p.m. in the evening. Make big portions and freeze them. Make a meal plan for the week. Buy own-brand products where possible. Mme Probert

Buying a whole chicken then roasting it and having the leftovers for the next few days is better value and means you can afford a better class of chicken than just buying breasts etc. Batch cooking is your friend if you have access to freezer space. Don't buy lunches out, make a sandwich instead. In a shared house, taking it in turns to cook for everybody is much more sociable than everyone cooking for themselves and means you get to improve your cooking skills no end. Don’t go to Waitrose!! Mrs Watson

Get a whiteboard planner divided into the days of the week and plan every day's meal before you do the weekly shop. Then you can buy exactly what you need for meal cooking and never have a panic because the only thing on offer for dinner is cheese or cereal! I use mine religiously, and I buy less chocolate... Ms Thompson

Why learn to cook?

11 February

Here are eight reasons why cooking is an essential life skill for everyone:

  • Cooking our own food from scratch is closely linked with better health outcomes such as a lower risk of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • Home cooked food contains less sugar, fat, salt, additives and preservatives than industrially produced food.
  • Cooking provides opportunities for socialising and shared meals where we learn to listen, take turns and eat more mindfully than if we were eating on the go.
  • It is better for the environment because we are limiting the amount of packaging and industrial waste.
  • It’s fun, sociable and a creative outlet.
  • It is much less expensive to cook meals from scratch.
  • It gives you independence and confidence if you don’t have to rely on others or corporations to provide you with a basic human need.

Mrs Alpers learning how to cook pasta in Italy.
You're never too old (or young) to learn!













Pollen, M. (2013). Cooked.
Wolfson, J. and Bleich, S. (2014). Is cooking at home associated with better diet quality or weight-loss intention? Public Health Nutrition, 18(08), pp.1397-1406.

The Meringue Challenge

29 January

Improving food presentation skills was the focus of last week’s Year 9 lessons. Students were given a few meringues, a selection of fruit, some chocolate and some double cream to present as creatively and expertly as they could in the time given. This is all in preparation for the Create and Cook competition which kicks off this spring. As the Year 9 menus develop we will post recipes and photos on this blog post. We hope you enjoy the photos of the meringue challenge!

Mrs Alpers

Happy new year!

17 January 2019

Year 8 have continued to research and prepare recipes from around the world. From Greece to Cyprus to Lebanon and as far away as China, students have been bringing in an interesting array of ingredients to prepare authentic versions of sweet dishes. We hope you enjoy some of the photographs of their work. We have included a delicious recipe for Melomakarona from Greece which was ably prepared by Megan and Grace. It involves baking small spiced and orange-scented cookies, which are then dipped in a honey syrup and left to cool.

Year 9 are currently researching which foods are grown and produced in Oxfordshire. They will then be creating exciting menus based on locally sourced produce, similar to the way chefs develop their menus around the best seasonal ingredients. Recipes and photographs will follow next month.

Mrs Alpers

Melomakarona recipe

(You need to use cup measurements where 250ml = 1 cup).

This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so you could halve it.

For the cookies:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup brandy (or whiskey)
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • ¼ cup orange juice

For the syrup:

  • 1 cup honey
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup water

For the garnish:

  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon


  • Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). In a bowl combine flour, baking powder and baking soda. Mix well together.
  • In a separate bowl combine oil, sugar, brandy, orange juice and orange rind. Incorporate mixture into the flour. It should be easy to knead.
  • Knead lightly. Get a heaped dessert spoon full of the dough and roll it into an oval shape (it should be thick, 2-3cm high). Place on a greased baking tray and put it in the oven for 20 minutes or until light brown.
  • To make the syrup combine the sugar, water and honey in a saucepan and boil for five minutes. Take it off the heat and allow to cool.
  • Dip the cookies in the syrup and then place on a serving plate. Then put them in a large, shallow (but not too shallow) serving bowl and pour the remaining syrup in over the top so it collects at the bottom and the cookies bathe in the golden honey syrup (eat the ones at the bottom first). Garnish with chopped walnuts and cinnamon.