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The Old Malthouse | Mill Lane | Box | Wiltshire | SN13 8PN

Think Outside the Bowl



18 October was the day of allmanhall’s inaugural Think Outside the Bowl workshop. Guest Head Chef Liam Finnegan of The Castle in Taunton (recently awarded 6* in The Good Food Guide) headed up the cooking demonstration, with allmanhall’s experienced Chef and Caterer Rupert Lynch acting as Sous Chef.


Across breakfast and brunch ideas, bread making, on-the-go lunch options, hospitality & displaying options and pickling, brining and curing techniques – Think Outside the Bowl featured live cooking demonstrations (consumed throughout the day by those attending) from start to finish. With catering challenges such as budget, time and resource constraints in mind, the workshop aimed to offer inspiration and innovation.

The event was attended by Chefs and Caterers from school/education catering environments and there was no shortage of audience participation on the day. Whether it was through attendees assisting in food preparation or asking questions and adding individual perspectives, the workshop was interactive and inclusive throughout.

“The event offered a lot of inspiration without any element of the chefs ‘showing off’. The ideas are nice and simple and not out of anyone’s reach. There was a great dynamic between the two chefs who clearly get along well and Hayden’s anecdotes and storytelling also added a lot to the narrative.”  - Vicky Ridley, Swanbourne House School






Session 1: breakfast/brunch concepts

With more of us moving away from traditional breakfast patterns to either on-the-go lunch or a later combined breakfast and lunch (brunch), this session catered to these shifting trends.

The first dish of the day was Huevos Rancheros, a popular Mexican breakfast dish, traditionally consisting of a tortilla based topped with fried egg and spicy tomato. For the Think Outside the Bowl version, a mildly spiced tomato sauce was prepared in advance and finished off with eggs, which were cracked into wells in the sauce, where they were cooked until the whites were firm and the yolk was still runny*.

Huevos Rancheros - key points/learnings:

  • The tomato base in the recipe used is suitable for other tomato dishes such as pasta dishes
  • This dish is quick and easy (but has the ‘wow effect’ as a breakfast dish) if preparation is managed well; cook the tomato base in advance and simply do the final preparation on the day
  • The dish is versatile and can be adapted and experimented with, e.g. through altering the spice level
  • Huevos Rancheros can be served on their own (tomato sauce with eggs) or topped with refried beans, sour cream, fresh herbs or salsa




The second dish of the day was a fruit and quinoa porridge – a different take on one of the nation’s staple breakfast options. Often labelled a ‘superfood’, quinoa is a high protein, low carbohydrate grain (whose seeds are used in cooking) suitable for gluten-free cooking. When asked if they thought their pupils would be open to quinoa porridge, the attendees were unsure. Different – coarser – in texture, quinoa porridge is significantly different from the smooth, gloopy porridge many of us love.

Fruit and quinoa porridge – key points/learnings:

  • The dish can be made sweeter without any use of refined sugar – add vanilla essence to the quinoa during cooking for a fragrant flavour note.
  • The porridge lends itself to a variety of toppings, including granola (for added crunch), nuts, dried and fresh fruits or, indeed, different yogurts
  • Unsure if the different texture will be a success first time? Try a phased approach, gradually adding more cooking quinoa to regular porridge every time



The final breakfast/brunch concept covered in the morning session was a trio of breakfast wraps – ideal as a Grab and Go option. The chefs demonstrated how quickly a bit of avocado, smashed and seasoned with lemon, salt and pepper can act as a healthy and versatile base in a breakfast wrap. Using Vitamin C powder (ascorbic acid) is a trick of the trade often used in professional kitchens to stop avocado from browning. The three versions of this breakfast wrap cooked were:

  • Avocado with bacon and Sriracha mayonnaise
  • Avocado with fried halloumi and fresh tomatoes
  • Lettuce, ham hock, pickled red cabbage and Sriracha mayonnaise



Session 2: bread making



The biggest restriction when it comes to baking your own bread in school catering environments is time. Cooking bread from scratch, although something that can be perfected over time, does take time and dedication – particularly when working with ferments and sourdoughs. In this session, Liam Finnegan demonstrated his fool-proof recipe for Irish soda bread as well as batch-cooking of white and brown sourdough bloomers. There was a particular interest in gluten-free baking (not demonstrated on the day but discussed in great detail). A talking point on the day was the different between fresh and dried yeast

Bread making – key points/learnings:

  • Soda bread is possibly the easiest and quickest bread to make – adding whole caraway seeds on top adds an aniseed element that goes well with fish dishes
  • Gluten-free baking is one of the toughest things to get right due to the challenge of creating elasticity in the bread (usually provided by stretching gluten)
  • When working with fresh yeast, a general rule of thumb is to use twice as much fresh yeast as the amount of dried yeast in the recipe
  • If making both brown and white bread, start with the brown version. Brown bread needs to prove longer due to the presence of grains and strands in the flour
  • Because bread making takes time, it may be worth exploring a balance. For example, in a school catering environment, baking the accompanying bread for one dish a day – the soup course for example – creates a real talking point



As a beautiful smell of baked soda bread fills the kitchen – the toasted oats on top of one batch giving off a nutty aroma, it is time to start preparing for lunch.

Session 3: lunch concepts – buffet and grab and go adaptations


Quinoa was used a second time on the day for the first of three superfood salads of the session – an avocado, quinoa, pesto and feta salad. The second salad prepared was a mackerel, beetroot and horseradish salad. The final salad of the session was a turkey breast salad with watercress, pickle and pomegranate seeds.

Superfood salad preparation – key points/learning

  • Each salad works well as a buffet-style salad, displayed in large bowls/dishes or as a portioned ‘grab and go’ offering in a take-away bowl
  • ‘Layer’ the salad for added depth of flavour – assemble components separately and combine at the end
  • Combine savoury, acidic and sweet flavour notes for the ideal flavour balance
  • Salads work best as a main meal when there are several textures present
  • A growing number of professional chefs are using seaweed extract as a natural stabiliser in salad dressing – pioneered by, you guessed it, Heston Blumenthal


In addition to salads, the lunch session provided inspiration for grab and go sandwich/burger concepts.



The final element of the lunch session was centred around accompaniments, with kimchi (Korean spicy pickled cabbage) and Crayfish Skagen (a Danish-inspired take on the traditional prawn cocktail).

And on that note, it was time for lunch!


Session 4 – function food and food presentation

Pickling and brining have become popular techniques in British cooking, with a lot of inspiration coming from Scandinavian countries.


Because both pickling and brining were techniques used in a lot of the recipes, a session on techniques kicked off the afternoon on function food. Pickling is a great way of using up fresh produce and preparing for the long term.


The final element of the day was centred around function and hospitality food and how a single dish’s core element can be adapted into different dishes to fit all four seasons of the year. The session was divided into a starter, fish, main and dessert course, each of which (with the exception of the dessert) was presented in four ways.



Concluding thoughts


After a long day of cooking and watching (some chefs explained that they were so used to being the ones cooking that watching and being stationary most of the day was a stark contrast to what they are used to), it was time to divide the left-overs, distribute goody bags and say goodbye for the day.

*Please note that as of October 2017, the Food Standard Agency has revised its guidance on eating running yolks from UK eggs following a new study. Eggs carrying the British Lion mark (accounting for more than 90% of eggs in the UK) are considered safe to eat cooked with a runny yolk, even by high-risk groups.  




Interested in attending future food innovation workshops? Enquire at



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The Old Malthouse | Mill Lane | Box | Wiltshire | SN13 8PN