LOCAL food historian Helen Harding brings back memories of the sort of fare on offer as puddings as part of school dinners (or school lunches, depending on what part of the country you're from)

IT’S probably been one of the strangest Septembers most of us can remember in terms of returning to school.

You may remember how this time of year usually brought great excitement of meeting up after the long summer holidays with friends and making new ones and getting stuck back into learning your favourite subjects or being able to play on the sports team.

How strange then it must feel for our youngsters at the moment, having to navigate their way through Covid-affected timetables and corridors at what can already be a time of nervous excitement.

Worcester News:

Helen Harding dressed as a Roman cook during one of her demonstrations

I often give talks on this subject at visitor attractions or groups, and the fondest and greatest memory of all of your time at school is always about school dinners!

From lumpy mash to frogspawn tapioca being the worst to happy memories of fish and chip Friday, jam roly poly or even spotted dick and custard.

How many of you remember chocolate concrete served with either pink or green custard?

Also known as crunch to some, the chocolate concrete has been classed as a school dinner legend, especially during the 1970s.

Served as a pudding, it was a hard crunchy cookie.

So hard in fact, it was known to bend spoons if not eaten with care or skill.

You never know, you may have been fortunate to end up with two if your friends flew off the plate towards you! Do you remember this? Were you a lover or hater?

Do share your memories and if you fancy recreating this experience at home then here is a recipe for you to try.

Worcester News:

Chocolate Concrete

Makes: 1 tin

200g plain flour

200g granulated sugar

100g butter

50g cocoa powder


Prep: 10min Cook: 20min Ready in: 30min

Pre-heat the oven to 180C / Gas 4. In a mixing bowl, mix the flour, sugar and cocoa (do not use hot chocolate, you can taste the difference).

Melt the butter (I pop it into the microwave), then add it to the mixing bowl.

Using your fingers, mix it all together until it has a crumble consistency.

Grease your tin and pour the mixture into it. Pat the mixture down so it compacts. Place in the oven for 20 minutes.

When it comes out, sprinkle with a little sugar. Serve on its own (hot or cold) or with custard.


Only leave it to ‘rest’ if you want it hard. Some people like it still soft. It depends on your own taste.

Pink Custard

1 pint milk

1 packet pink blancmange mix

2 or 3 tbsp sugar to taste


In a heat-proof bowl empty the contents of the blancmange packet.

Add the sugar and two or three tbs from the pint of milk and mix to a paste.

Warm the remaining milk in a pan. Do not boil.

Pour a little of this milk on to the paste and give it a really good mix.

Pour this bright pink goo into the warmed milk and then bring to the boil.

Keep stirring then simmer for about a minute.

Serve with your chocolate concrete and enjoy.

• Helen Harding is a food historian with local education company, Discover History. 

Helen has a passion for the recreating the history of food and drink and likes nothing better than experimenting with historical recipes and bringing them back to life.

An avid collector of cook books, she is quite often seen at visitor attractions portraying a historic cook, performing on the main stage at a food festival, or giving talks to groups and societies.

Her work can be found at A Taste of yesterday on Facebook and on Twitter and Instagram at @tasteyesterday.