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Halal menu adds pinch of spice to city finances

School dinners prepared in Glasgow could soon be enjoyed by airline passengers and North Sea roughnecks, as the cash-strapped city council is forced to maximise its income. The catering department also aims to curry favour with hospital patients, the elderly and students by offering meals made by a halal chef.

Glasgow currently buys 18,000 meals from Bradford City Council's cook-freeze centre at a cost of Pounds 23,500. But following complaints about the authenticity, taste and variety of the dishes a special kitchen unit has been set up in John Street Secondary in Glasgow to provide curries and vegetarian dishes.

David Parry, head of catering and cleaning services, says: "The original idea was to satisfy our own internal markets of schools, nurseries, social work establishments, homes for the elderly and children's homes." The market will now be extended to VIP functions and non-ethnic schools as well as in-flight airline catering and offshore oil companies.

The council hopes to boost production of special meals to 60,000 a year, to cover Pounds 12,000 of extra costs at John Street.

The John Street kitchens have been divided in two to provide separate areas for the preparation of halal and vegetarian dishes.

Mr Parry says: "The method of production is very important. Utensils and cookware used in the preparation of halal food can only be used for that purpose and has to be washed in a separate sink. The chef who produces halal food cannot be involved in preparing the vegetarian meals."

In the first year of operation the catering department hope to boost the number of special meals from 18,000 to 30,000.

"Once we get up and running hopefully we will get up to 60,000 meals a year," Mr Parry says. "There is a big market out there which is untapped and is not satisfied. We know there are Muslims who feel they are not being catered for correctly."

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