WHEN telly chef Tom Kerridge was growing up, the door to his family home was always open – with a warm meal on offer to those who needed it.
No matter how hard up his single mum Jackie was, she would always make food stretch so no one went hungry.
Michelin-starred chef Tom, 49, said: “We lived close to the park and our house was like an open house.
“All of the other kids on the estate would hang out there. Everyone was very welcome to come in.
“On Sundays my mum would make a sausage meat traybake, with lots of veggies. I’d come back from rugby training with one or two mates whose parents were in a very similar situation where they couldn’t afford much, and I’d go, ‘Rob’s having lunch’, or ‘Mark’s having lunch’.
“She was always fully prepared and there was never a case of her saying no.”
Inspired by his mum and the food she shared with his neighbours, Tom has created a Christmas lunch for just £2.47 — the same price as an average school dinner in the UK.
He has put together his festive feast to highlight the shocking statistic that 800,000 children are missing out on free school meals, despite being classed as living in poverty.
He said: “Christmas is a stark reminder to look after each other, and it shouldn’t be just over the festive period, it should be all the time.”
Tom, who lives in Marlow, Bucks with his wife Beth Cullen and their son Acey, seven, is among a number of campaigners who want people to write to the Government to expand the free school meals eligibility.
He believes it should include those on Universal Credit as one way to support families who are struggling during the cost-of-living crisis.
The campaign is in partnership with charity The Food Foundation and supported by Bloomsbury Publishing.
Tom said: “These children are our future. There needs to be an investment in these youngsters. If they do get a free school meal, it’s most likely going to be the only hot meal that child might eat that day. It might be the only meal that child will eat that day.”
As a youngster, Tom grew up on council estates in and around Gloucester. His parents divorced when he was 11 and his dad, who had multiple sclerosis, died when Tom was 18.
His mum, now 78, had two jobs — as a secretary during the day and washer-up in a pub in the evening — so Tom would often have to cook for himself and younger brother Sam.
He said: “In the Eighties, we were called latchkey kids. You were given a key and when you got home you cooked tea, which is basically what I did.”
He admits it is only now, as a dad himself, that he realises just how much his mum must have struggled to make ends meet.
Tom said: “As kids you don’t understand quite how hard it must have been. But as an adult with your own children, you can imagine how difficult that must be for her as a single parent to two sons that were constantly growing and eating.”
At Christmas, the Kerridges would often have a Bernard Matthews turkey roast as their dinner.
Tom was 18 when he got his first job, as a pot washer in a kitchen, and he immediately fell in love with the industry.
He now owns two pubs and has become one of the nation’s favourite chefs.
But despite his huge success, he has remained grounded and has remembered his mum’s early lessons.
He said: “I’ve been taught from an early age to have a very strong social conscience and try to make sure that my moral compass is in the correct place. That sense of hospitality comes from my mum, of always trying to look after people, your community, your society.”
Tom’s Christmas dinner includes a tasty turkey meatloaf traybake with stuffing, roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, sprouts and savoy cabbage topped with a rich gravy.
For less than a tenner, it can feed four people.
But it can stretch to six, with plenty of leftovers for Boxing Day.
Tom said: “It’s not a whole roast turkey because we’re just not going to be able to do that for four people for under a tenner.
“But what we have managed to do is get a lovely amount of turkey mince and sausage meat, putting it together, seasoning it and baking it, very similar to a meatloaf.
“It ends up being this lovely joint that reminds me very much of my childhood growing up.”
TOM’S XMAS TURKEY MEATLOAF TRAYBAKE (Serves 4-6)
- 500g turkey leg mince
- 400g sausage meat
- 85g sage and onion stuffing
- 100ml vegetable oil
- 300g potatoes, peeled and cut into halves or quarters (ensure all are a similar size)
- 4 large carrots, peeled, topped, tailed and halved
- 1 small savoy cabbage, cut into quarters
- 3 parsnips, tailed and halved if large, smaller ones keep whole
- 300g sprouts, halved
- 200ml water
- 4 tbsp gravy granules
- Salt, pepper and oil
METHOD: In a large bowl, add the turkey mince, sausage meat and stuffing, with a good pinch of salt and pepper.
With your hands, mix and work into a large ball.
Shape the ball into a log, roll up tightly in clingfilm and pop into the fridge for an hour or so (can be made the day before if you are feeling organised).
Peel the potatoes, carrots and parsnips and cut as instructed in the ingredients list.
Place the potatoes, carrots and parsnips in a saucepan of water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for five minutes.
Strain and place in a large roasting tray, leaving space for the cabbage and turkey meatloaf.
Remove the clingfilm from the turkey meatloaf.
Place the cabbage wedges in the gap in the roasting tray and place the turkey meatloaf on top.
As the vegetables and turkey meatloaf cook, the cabbage will soften underneath.
Now drizzle the veggies and turkey meatloaf with vegetable oil and pop into a pre-heated oven at 185C to roast for 40 minutes.
After 40 minutes add the sprouts to the tray and pop back into the oven for another 35-40 minutes.
Once the turkey meatloaf and veggies are cooked, remove from the oven, cover with tin foil and allow to rest for ten minutes.
Meanwhile, boil 200ml of water in a saucepan and stir in the gravy granules.
Reduce to a simmer until the gravy thickens and looks ready.
To serve, divide the vegetables between four plates and slice the turkey meatloaf into big wedges.
Add these to the plates and ladle over the gravy.
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