Culinary superstar Jamie Oliver has praised chutney created by youngsters at their school, which is being sold at a Welsh centre of excellence.
Pupils at Ysgol San Sior in Llandudno turned windfall apples from the school orchard into the no-cook chutney and sent a jar to the cooking wizard to try.
He tweeted that it was “beautiful” and the school has now been named School of the Month on his Kitchen Garden food education website.
The enterprising Ysgol San Sior youngsters have sold dozens of jars of the chutney – made to a secret recipe of head teacher Ian Keith Jones – at Bodnant Welsh Food Centre in the Conwy Valley, and are now planning to make more to meet demand.
Bodnant’s farm shop also stocks eggs produced by rare breed hens tended by pupils at the school – a box of the multi-coloured eggs has winged its way to Jamie Oliver along with a copy of a cookbook penned by the youngsters.
Head teacher Mr Jones said: “The chutney recipe was one I was given years ago when I worked at a butterfly centre in Anglesey, and I make it each year. The best thing is that it doesn’t involve cooking, as the ingredients sit in their own juices.
“The children collected apples from the school orchard, and we bought a few more, as well as new jars and lids. The other ingredients are onions, sultanas, dates, ginger and brown sugar.
“The chutney was made by a group of children aged nine to 11, and they had great fun without realising they were learning a lot about maths and literacy – weighing and measuring ingredients and then watching the changes take place.
“We took advice from the Food Standards Agency about hygiene and labelling to make sure we had everything right.
“We sold our first batch at a school fair and realised how popular they were, so we made more and took it along to Bodnant, and they went very well. We’ll be making some more because so many people have asked to buy a jar. This time, the children will be showing other pupils how to make the chutney, so they all learn new skills.
“We are the first school in Wales to join Jamie’s Kitchen Garden education project, which includes online resources for teaching staff to help children learn how to grow food and to cook nutritious meals.
“We were delighted when Jamie sent us a message on Twitter saying he thought the chutney was beautiful, and added a kiss – for the children that really made a difference.”
The profits from the chutney and egg sales at Bodnant are ploughed back into the school’s educational budget.
Bodnant Welsh Food Centre managing director Chris Morton said: “We aim to showcase the best of Welsh produce – and this is one of the best chutneys I’ve tasted, and certainly ranks alongside the others that we stock on a regular basis.
“The school’s eggs continue to be very popular so our customers knew that they could expect the chutney to be excellent quality as well.
“Getting children to understand about how food is produced, and what is involved from the field through to kitchen and finally to the shop, is really important.
“Mr Jones is to be congratulated in his approach to education and nutrition – I look forward to seeing him and children back at Bodnant’s farm shop with their next batch of chutney.”
Among the children at Bodnant encouraging shoppers to sample the chutney was 11-year-old Year Six pupil Nel Pethig from Colwyn Bay
Nel said: “I really enjoyed it at Bodnant today and when they told me I was coming here I was very happy. I feel proud.”
Fellow Year Six pupil Ieuan Lancaster, aged ten, from Llandudno, said: “I enjoyed making the chutney. It was a lot of fun to make it and cut up the onions, and it tastes really nice. I’m really excited about Jamie Oliver tweeting about us because he is a big star.”
Bodnant Welsh Food centre at Furnace Farm, Tal-y-cafn, in the Conwy valley, has its own dairy making cheese and ice cream, plus an on-site bakery and butchery, with award-winning pies. There’s also a wine store and tea rooms plus the Hayloft restaurant and farmhouse accommodation. More details at www.bodnant-welshfood.co.uk or call 01492 651100