Of the 110 pupils who attend Fukasawa Mill Nursery School in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward, nine have food allergies, from the "big three" of flour, eggs and milk, to nuts and kiwi.
At the nursery school, the kitchen staff chooses the ingredients and recipes carefully so that everyone can eat the same school lunch as much as possible.
When the nursery school opened two years ago, children with allergies sat in separate seats and ate different lunches that were free of allergens so that they did not end up eating their classmates’ meals. Tomoko Ikeda, a nutritionist who took her post at Fukasawa Mill last year, saw them and thought they may feel excluded.
So Ikeda and her colleagues talked with the nursery teachers and began working on menus that could be served to everyone, such as the "potato baked with cream" instead of gratin that contains flour and milk.
"Okara," or fresh tofu refuse, was roasted to replace breadcrumbs, and the potato was baked crisply after a cream sauce made of soy milk was poured on it.
In March, all the children enjoyed the same meal on 13 of the 21 days when school lunches were served. In April, Ikeda and her colleagues are making meals fit for everyone every time in the hope that the newcomers will look forward to lunchtime.
Yet even on days when the same menu is served, children with allergies are given trays in different colors so that they will become aware that they "must be careful to protect their own lives."
This week’s recipe is curry without flour that may be contained in commercially prepared curry roux. Rice powder is used instead to thicken the sauce.
When they serve the rice in the shape of a cute cat, no child asks for a smaller serving. The carrot and potato are diced or turned into a paste to avoid bulkiness and create an image of the cat taking a bath.
(Serves two adults and two children)
2 "go" (1 go is about 180 ml) rice
240 grams ground pork
120 grams ground chicken
1 large onion
1 clove garlic
1.5 Tbsp salad oil
360 cc chicken broth
Seasoning A (7.2 gram curry powder, 90 cc ketchup, 40 cc soy sauce, 180 cc thick Worcester-type sauce)
If preferred, 2 Tbsp rice powder, bit of dry laver (nori) and thin deep-fried tofu (abura-age) for garnish
Rinse rice and cook. Finely dice onion and carrot. Grate garlic.
Peel potato, cut into appropriate size and steam. Turn into paste using food processor or other means.
Heat oil in pot and add ground pork and chicken, onion, carrot and garlic and stir-fry. When meat changes color, add chicken broth and simmer.
When vegetables are cooked, add Seasoning A and cook further. When flavors have blended, add potato paste to thicken sauce. For more thickness, add rice powder mixed with some water.
Place shaped rice on dish and gently pour in curry. Garnish with dry laver and deep-fried tofu if preferred.
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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Watashi no Ryori column