Although around 5,000 new cookbooks are published in the UK every year and the popularity of TV cookery programmes shows no signs of abating, research reveals that the average mother relies on nine different meals to feed her family.  
Researchers found that hectic lifestyles, fussy children and parents who work long hours,  all serve to deter experimentation in the  kitchen, especially when any new dish is greeted 
with studied indifference, or even worse, outright rejection. 
Frankly, as someone whose stunning culinary repertoire encompasses just five main meals, I’m just really surprised that anyone achieves as many as nine!  In fact, adding a further four recipes to my own personal mix would severely strain both my patience and imagination, so I am in complete awe of care home chefs and their catering teams who probably have to produce at least nine different meals at every single sitting!  How on earth do they do it?  
This is what apetito and Care England sought to discover when they collaborated to produce their recent research report, Nourishing Lives: A New Era of Dining in Care Homes, a free copy of which can be downloaded from the apetito website. It covers all aspects of care catering and provides a fascinating snapshot of all the myriad challenges that care caterers face. Amazingly though, and despite all of the various hurdles, it reveals that as well as ensuring that every resident receives a meal tailored to suit their specific needs, care caterers are also working hard to further enhance every aspect of the dining experience. Some of the report’s findings are detailed in the Big Read on pages 14-17, which includes a summary from Professor Martin Green, OBE, the CEO of Care England.
One of the chefs who regularly goes the extra mile is Dhiraj Amin, whose fusion of Asian and British cuisine is going down a storm with the residents at the Sherrell House Care Home, who since Amin’s tenure as head chef, have rediscovered their appetites. You can read all about his journey from Mumbai to Chigwell, via The Ivy, on pages 28-31.
One of Amin’s great successes is his use of sweet and spicy sauces to make tasty vegetable dishes, which are rapidly becoming the star of every show, thus helping to boost the variety of foods that residents are consuming. In our feature Stocking Up on pages 42-43, we weigh the benefits of making delicious stocks, sauces and gravies from scratch, against the obvious convenience of buying ready-made, especially now that many suppliers are offering free-from products that can be used universally.
There’s no doubt that such short-cuts can be a real boon when catering for residents’ with different food allergies and intolerances, which can be a really time-consuming process that poses particular problems for busy kitchens. For useful suggestions and tips as to how this can be successfully mitigated and managed, turn to The Invisible Enemy on pages 24-27.
Of course, one of the ways to help maximise food safety and eliminate cross-contamination of food stuffs is by achieving and maintaining a spotlessly clean kitchen. In Spick and Span, on pages 38-41, various suppliers discuss how to organise, schedule and record an effective cleaning regime.
Refrigeration plays an important part in maintaining food safety too and thus an appropriate fridge set-up is a pre-requisite in every kitchen. However, due to its 24/7 operation, the fridge is probably the most costly kitchen appliance to run. To learn more about the latest energy-saving features turn to The Big Chill on pages 32-34.
Last but not least, I have to mention the forthcoming Care Home Catering Forum, which will take place on 5th June at Farmers and Fletchers Hall in London’s Barbican, which will be focusing on all of things-nutrition related. The event will feature a full line-up of brilliant speakers and a dedicated exhibition where some of the industry’s leading suppliers will be introducing their latest innovations and services. 
In addition, delegates will have lots of opportunities to network and catch up with industry friends and colleagues. For a tantalising foretaste of all the good things to come, turn to the event preview on pages 18-23. And if you still need to book your ticket visit: without delay.
It’s going to be a wonderful and thoroughly worthwhile day and I am looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible there!
Val Hirst