Catering staff are getting ready to serve up Christmas dinner to hospital patients – preparing a whopping 200kg of Brussels sprouts and 1,000 litres of lentil soup.
They will be serving up turkey, potatoes, Christmas pudding and stuffing for 5,382 patients across Glasgow on Xmas day – as well as a massive 2,000 pigs in blankets.
Staff at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s cook and freeze production unit, based at the Inverclyde Royal Hospital in Greenock, start planning for the spread in October.
Production bosses said the food is fresh and dismissed the bad reputation of hospital food as ‘nonsense’.
They cater for all the hospitals in Glasgow, from the Royal Hospital for Sick Children to smaller community hospitals.
Once dishes are cooked, they are decanted into smaller portion packs and blast frozen, using specialised equipment – including huge freezers which cost £500,000 each.
The meals are then stored in the freezer holding area before being packed and sent to hospitals.
Kate Murray, NHSGGC’s head of catering, said: “The food is taken to the wards on special trolleys which means it can be warmed up as close to the patient as possible.
“If you were cooking it in a hospital kitchen, it would be cold by the time it reached the ward.
“Hospitals have got bigger and bigger, with many buildings spread over huge sites, so the idea of each one having its own kitchen just doesn’t work.
“The biggest challenge today is catering for special diets.
“Planning for our Christmas meals starts in October.
“This year, we will be serving 5,382 Christmas Day dinners to children and adults in hospital.
“The service covers all the Glasgow hospitals, and all those in the health board area, from big ones like the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, to smaller community hospitals.”
Michael McCall, head of the production unit, has been in the job for 40 years and is fed up of hospital food having a bad reputation.
He said each recipe is measured precisely with all the ingredient weighed out to ensure each meal has the proper nutritional value.
Meats are browned, roasted or baked in giant ovens with no deep fat fryers on site.
Michael said: “It is annoying.
“There is a lot of nonsense spoken about hospital food, that it’s not good quality.
“But we know the hard work that goes in to preparing and cooking this food.
“We use 100 per cent Scottish beef, each supplier has to meet strict standards.
“We even went to see the fish company we use in action, and got to talk to the trawlermen bringing in the haddock we use in our dishes.
“We don’t have an abundance of food in the freezers – everything is as fresh as we can possibly have it.
“Every recipe is measured precisely and each ingredient weighed out to ensure each meal has the proper nutritional value.
“We work with strategy dietitians to develop the recipes.”
Margaret Valenti, administration manager said: “One of our main aims at the moment is sustainability and working with suppliers to tackle how we reduce plastics.
“Food is such an important part of a patient’s recovery, we want to get it right.
“We’re proud to play a part in that.”