The Grain Chain

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Not so horrible histories…

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Following on from the history of baking feature in our last blog, we thought you might like to find out more about the early history of bread. It might not be anywhere near as exciting as horrible histories of course…but we reckon it’s definitely getting there!


Most people could be forgiven for thinking that history was driven by great scientists and ambitious people, but if you look closer, you’ll find that many of our inventions were actually driven by food availability, production and delivery. In other words, bread! Many kings and queens throughout history put a strong emphasis on feeding the people – they knew that the more hungry their populations were, the more insecure their rule over them was.

 bread egypt

In prehistoric times, cereal was ground between two stones to make a coarse flour like substance. This would have been moulded into course, flat cakes and cooked on an open fire. At around the same time in Egypt where their civilisation was more advanced, bread was commonplace. Paintings on the walls of tombs depict bread being offered to the gods. It is likely that all of these breads were leavened because the water in the Nile contains the same strain of yeast that is used in baking today!


Elsewhere the leavening of bread was beginning to become more common.  Initially this is thought to have come about by accident – the natural environment contains yeast in the air and a paste of flour and water will begin to ferment if left for a couple of hours. Some sourdough breads to this day are still made using this method.


So have cereals always been grown and milled in Britain? The answer is no. The Romans brought wheat, oats and rye over to Britain along with many of their bread making techniques. However, this new found skill of baking didn’t last long once the Romans left and during the Dark Ages, the process was very hit and miss.

 wheat harvesting 1800s

By the Middle Ages however, people had begun to use horses for ploughing. The watermill and windmill were invented and society began to get itself more organised. The loaves produced during this time were normally huge, around 4.5kg and were expected to feed a family for a week.


In Tudor times, for the poor, bread was made from a mixture of grains whilst peasant bread was made from peas and beans. Meanwhile the rich were acquiring a liking for white bread.  White bread was considered superior for two reasons, it was expensive and it implied prestige. The church used a white bread called Pandemain as the sacramental bread and people took this to mean better.


Bread in England continued to be made of mixed grains until well into the Victorian era. Imported wheat became plentiful and was milled in the ports for distribution to the growing urban population. Most breads after this time were made solely using the wheat grain.


What happens now? How is bread made?


Resources on cover the entire process from growing the crops, to harvesting, milling and baking.


For age specific resources, click on the following links:


Growing and harvesting – age 5 to 7, 7 to 11, 11 to 14 and 14-16


Milling - age 5 to 7, 7 to 11, 11 to 14 and 14-16


Baking – age 5 to 7, 7 to 11, 11 to 14 and 14-16

Ready, steady…bake!

Friday, October 15th, 2010

victoria spongeIt’s National Baking Week from 18 to 24 October so why not get your mixing bowls and spoons ready, your aprons on and get your class baking!


Most of us may remember baking with our parents or grandparents and impatiently waiting for the final products to cool so that we could ice and decorate them. Or the overwhelming sense of happiness we felt when presented with a large birthday cake, complete with candles to be blown out and wishes to be made. Maybe it’s this nostalgia and familiarity which has seen baking rise in popularity throughout the recession with 28% of home cooks now baking their favourite childhood treats at least once a week.


Of course, the word “baking” conjures up images of cakes, biscuits and buns but lots of tasty main meals can also be baked. Our recipe for tuna pasta bake makes a great main course for children to try in the classroom. You could reduce the fat content by using skimmed milk instead of semi skimmed milk and an olive or vegetable based spread instead of butter. You could also increase the vitamin and fibre content by adding more vegetables.


Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a sweet treat now and again – in fact the team are quite partial to a wedge of our delicious honey cake with our cuppas. It’ll go down really well in your staff room… and just as well with your class when they give it a go!


Baking links for lesson planning


We have ready-made lesson plans focussed on baking and we’ve highlighted them under the relevant age groups below so you can head directly to the relevant section… leaving you with more time to sit down, relax and eat that cake you’ve just baked!


If baking with children aged 5 to 7 sounds just too messy for first thing on a Monday morning, why not challenge them to virtually become the baker instead!step6


Can your class of 7 to 11 year olds complete the Freddy Flourbags challenge? This interactive quiz will not only encourage them to think about baking, but the whole of the grain chain too!


Teach your 11 to 14 class about the science behind baking.


For 14 to 16 year olds, why not encourage them to learn more about the industrial baking process


Do you know…about the history of baking?


In ancient history, the first evidence of baking occurred when humans picked wild grass grains, soaked them in water and mashed the mixture into a paste. The paste was cooked by pouring it onto a flat, hot rock, resulting in a very primitive flat bread.


Around 2500 B.C., records show that the Egyptians baked bread, through a process which they may have learnt from the Babylonians.


Baking flourished in the Roman Empire. In about 300 B.C., the pastry cook became an occupation for Romans (known as the pastillarium). Around 1 A.D., it is thought that there were more than three hundred pastry chefs in Rome.


Eventually, because of what was happening in Rome, the art of baking became known throughout Europe, and eventually spread to the eastern parts of Asia.

Happy Harvest!

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

 apple muffinsMake the most of British Food Fortnight!

It’s British Food fortnight between 20 September and 3 October. Why not make the most of Britain’s fantastic seasonal produce by trying out some of our recipes? They are graded according to their difficulty and can easily be done in the classroom or at home.

You could try our recipe for apple muffins

You could always add some wild blackberries to the recipe as these are readily available in hedgerows across the UK. After some careful washing they’ll be ready to use and of course… they’re free! You may want to remind children never to pick and eat any berries without an adult present or without being 100% sure that they are edible.

Did you know… there are over 1200 native apples for eating, cooking, as well as for cider and apple juice making and crab apples for pickling. Despite this, most growers concentrate on a few commercially proven varieties.

Alternatively, if you are after a savoury, or main meal option, then why not try making our veggie crumble ? You could substitute the suggested vegetables for more seasonal British varieties. These include broccoli, carrots, courgette, leeks and peppers. Why not introduce more exotic vegetables that children may not have tried before such as pumpkin, butternut squash and aubergine?

Harvest is over

Most of our farmers have now harvested their wheat, which gives you the perfect opportunity to explain to your class what happens next. We have ready-made resources aimed at different age groups which teach children about how the grain is harvested, milled and baked. These include worksheets, information sheets, interactive whiteboard activities, quizzes, games and videos!

We’ve collated a few here that you might want to try out but there is lots more on the website so why not have a browse!

For 5 to 7 year olds:

Worksheet about what happens to grain from field to fork

For 7 to 11 year olds:

• An interactive whiteboard activity introducing the grain chain

For 11 to 14 year olds:

Find out what happens after the harvest

For 14 to 16 year olds:

Find out about every aspect of the Grain Chain

And the winners are…

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

The UK’s most inspiring food technology teachers receive their awards

demoOur Inspire! Competition finalists attended an awards ceremony at Kensington Roof Gardens on Friday 25 June where, not only were they presented with their trophies but they were also treated to an Interactive baking demonstration by celebrity baker, Paul Hollywood. One lucky student, who came as his teacher’s guest, got the chance to participate!

Our six teachers waited nervously to find out whether they had won the winner’s prize of £1500 on top of their £300 finalists award. Only one could receive the grand prize… and we are delighted to announce that Simon Ferguson from Hitchin Girls School was the lucky winner.

Simon has only been teaching food technology for one year, but he wowed the Grain Chain judges with his “floury fairground” lesson plan which bought together flour, food and all the fun of the fairground.

Inspire! competition winners at Kensington Roof Gardens. Overall      winner, Simon Ferguson from Hitchin Girls School with celebrity  baker,     Paul Hollywood 25.6.10Students were invited to jump on the “teacup ride” to investigate different breakfasts, and to test themselves on the “white water raft”, where they experimented with gluten. The “dodgems” activity challenged students to drive forward a healthy flour based snack for a child. The scheme ended with the “waltzer” activity which saw students evaluate their work. If you would like to see Simon’s entry, plus the exciting and inspiring lesson plans from our other finalists, we will be uploading them onto soon. Alternatively, if you have any useful tips or ideas that other teachers could benefit from, then please send them across to the Grain Chain team at

Summer holidays are coming up…

We reckon you’ll want to put your feet up for the first few weeks of the summer holiday so we’re taking a break from blogging throughout July. However, if you are really keen then don’t forget that you can still follow us through Twitter at or on Facebook at!/pages/Grain-Chain/111828768858694. Our blogs will be back at the start of August to help you get underway with lesson planning for your new class.

The whole country has gone sports mad!

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Whether you like tennis, cricket, horse racing or football, there’s a sport for everyone in June. This blog links food and fun to produce exciting lesson plans and ideas.

Plan a World Cup themed lesson

It seems like the whole world has gone football crazy, so why not treat your class to a food technology lesson with a world cup theme.

pic blog 21 june

You could use our breakfast poster, which you can get your hands on by emailing, to   teach children about the different breakfasts that are eaten around the world.

Explain that England Captain, Steven Gerrard and the lads, will most likely be eating a South African breakfast of porridge, cereal, eggs or fruit- perfect for giving them enough energy to take on the world!

England coach, Fabio Capello on the other hand may still favour his traditional Italian breakfast of coffee with milk and a bread roll with butter, jam or fruit marmalade.

If you are a food technology teacher looking for some fun practical ideas, why not cook popular flour or bread based meals that people like to eat in some of the World Cup countries? You could try creating an Italian pizza using our recipe for pizza dough which can be found at the following link Simply create a basic Margherita (cheese and tomato) pizza, chop some cherry tomatoes in half or use chopped red peppers instead and place onto the pizza in the shape of a cross to create the England Flag.

Alternatively you could make a Swiss fondu (a pot of melted cheese in which diners dip pieces of bread) or Mexican flour tortillas, which you could use to make fajitas. For something a bit more exotic, you could try baking Ghanaian gari biscuits or Slovenian potica (nut bread).

Wicked Wimbledon!

If football isn’t your thing, and you prefer something a bit more leisurely, then the Wimbledon Tennis Championships have just kicked off. It’s a typically British affair, where strawberries and cream, picnics with soggy cheese and tomato sandwiches, rain and of course, Cliff Richard, all come into the public eye again. So this fortnight, why not focus your food technology lessons around traditional English picnic food – soggy sandwiches not included!

Designing a sandwich using pre-sliced wrapped loaves makes a fun activity for younger children or alternatively, older children may enjoy the challenge of baking their own bread, then using that to make their sandwich recipe. Our “Super Sandwich” worksheet which is aimed at children aged five to seven, can be found by clicking the following link  Furthermore, it’s in a Microsoft Word format, which can be edited to suit the age and ability range of your class.

Did you know?

  • Sliced bread was first introduced into the UK in the 1930s.
  • Bread provides useful amounts of carbohydrates, B vitamins, protein and calcium. White flour is fortified with calcium, iron, thiamin and niacin. So despite some claims in the media, bread is really good for you – it’s the spreads and fillings which can increase the calories and fat content.

Inspire! competition winners

Monday, June 7th, 2010

And the Inspire! winners are…

We were really pleased with the quality of the entries that we received from entrants of our Inspire! competition. It was great to see so many inspiring entries in such a range of media and from across the whole of the UK including the Channel Islands. However, our finalists are…

  • Ralph Allen School in Bath (England)
  • Ysgol uwchradd caergybi in Holyhead (Wales)
  • Hitchin Girls School in Hertfordshire (England)
  • Braeview Academy in Dundee (Scotland)
  • St Louise’s Comprehensive College in Belfast (Northern Island)
  • Le Murier School in Guernsey (Channel Islands)

All are in with the chance of winning £1500 for their school. To find out who wins, be sure to come back to this page.

Join us on Twitter!

The Grain Chain is now on Twitter. Follow us at for even more news and daily updates.

We want to hear your thoughts about our website

What do you particularly like about our website? Is there anything that you think we could improve? What would you like to see more of? We want to hear your thoughts and ideas on our discussion forum at We’d also like to work more closely with teachers in the future. If you would like to take part in any workshops, focus groups or surveys then email us at

Food baffles children

A studtractory by the British Trust of Conservation Volunteers has shown that this generation of children do not know how their food grows or where their food comes from. Eight out of ten adults worry about how little children know about their food. It means that many children are growing up not knowing what is in the foods that they are eating- which is a shame as bread is not only really tasty but also really healthy and a great source of many different vitamins and minerals.

Under all of the age group sections on our website, we have resources including information sheets, videos and interactive whiteboard activities to teach children about how grain is grown and made into bread. We also have bread making recipes in our recipe section which you could use to create a follow up lesson:

The half term is nearly here…

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

The upcoming break is the perfect time to plan your lessons for the new term but you don’t need to miss out on a social life to prepare them. Our ready-made lesson plans are split into age groups and focus on key areas of the curriculum. We even have interactive whiteboard activities and quizzes to help get your class involved. We also have ready-made worksheets in a Microsoft Word format – which means that you can change them to suit your the ability of your class. All of these resources can be found in the teachers’ section of our website,

Top Tip!

Be sure to check this section at the beginning of July, as we’ll be adding even more lesson plans which have been tried and tested by teachers across the UK.

Another worrying trend…

We have all heard about the worrying childhood obesity trends, which indicate that by 2015, one in ten children in the UK will be obese. But have you heard about the latest rise in  childgirl on scaleshood dieting and eating disorders? A survey of 32,000 ten to fifteen year olds by the Schools Health Education Unit revealed that teenage girls regularly skip up to two meals a  day with breakfast and lunch being the most commonly missed. Healthy eating at any age is important, but especially throughout the childhood and teenage years as young bodies are still developing. With this in mind, we have created an interactive podcast about healthy eating and the importance of eating a balanced diet for you to use in the classroom. You can find this by clicking on the following link

Join us on Facebook

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

The Grain Chain is now on Facebook and we’d like you to join us

For even more updates, news, useful links and teaching ideas, join us at our Facebook page We’d also love to find out what you think of the Grain Chain website – you can post your comments or questions on our discussion forum and one of the Grain Chain team will get back to you. Feel free to send the link to your colleagues – with all the useful lesson plans and tips on the website we’re sure they’ll thank you for it!

British Sandwich Week

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

It’s Brisandwich3tish Sandwich Week

British Sandwich Week (May 9-15th) presents a great opportunity to celebrate one of Britain’s best loved and versatile foods – the sandwich. Since being uncovered and named by the 4th Earl of Sandwich in 1762, the Great British Sandwich has become common place at lunchtimes in homes, offices, schools, and shops all over Britain. Unlike so many other foods today, the average sandwich is wholesome, healthy and ideally suited to today’s busy lifestyles where people want foods that are convenient to carry and easy to eat.

Top tip!

Children perform better at school when they eat a substantial breakfast and a healthy, balanced lunch. Lunchboxes should contain foods from the following four food groups:

- Starchy carbohydrates such as bread, or pasta. A sandwich is ideal as not only will it give children energy but bread also contains essential vitamins and minerals such as calcium, B vitamins and iron.

- Fruit and vegetables. Favourites include bananas, grapes and easy peel satsumas. Raw vegetable sticks or cherry tomatoes are normally welcomed.

- Protein. Try adding chicken or cheese to a sandwich with lots of salad.

- Dairy. A small fruit based yoghurt or a bite sized piece of cheese works well.

Rather than provide children with fizzy drinks or sugary juices, give them a bottle of water. It is essential for keeping both body and brain hydrated.  Alternatively a glass of milk is one of the most nutritious choices available and is a good source of essential nutrients including calcium and vitamin D which play a key part in building and maintaining strong bones and teeth.

Did you know…?

- The first recorded sandwich was made by the famous rabbi, Hillel the Elder, who lived during the 1st century BC.

- Sliced bread was introduced into the UK in the mid 1930’s.

- Sandwiches account for up to 50% of the bread we eat.

- Over 30% of all sandwiches sold have chicken as a filling. The British Sandwich Association estimates that the amount of chicken used in a year is 20,550 tonnes.

- Over 62% of the population buy a sandwich at least once a year.

- The most expensive place to buy a sandwich is London - £1.83 versus a national average of £1.66.

Inspire! competition update

Friday, April 30th, 2010

An additional star studded prize for the winner!

With only days to go before the closing date of the Inspire! competition, we can confirm that yet another fantastic prize has been added for the overall winner.  Not only will the winning teacher get a cheque for £1500 for their school, but in addition to this Paul Hollywood, celebrity baker has agreed to visit the winning school to take part in a baking masterclass.  If you are lucky enough to win, Paul will talk to pupils about how he became interested in baking and students will get the chance to ask him questions and will learn how to whip up some tasty and healthy flour based snacks. To find out more about the competition and to enter, visit

To find out more about Paul Hollywood and his artisan bakery, take a look at