Fiona Simon, Head of Conference and Catering Services at Trinity Hall, said: "The Dining Hall is usually the epicentre of College life, with meal times offering students the opportunity to meet and socialise, develop their network of friends and share ideas and experiences. Although College is working differently during the pandemic, Formal Hall is such a significant collegiate experience, a tradition that dates back hundreds of years, we didn't want our students to miss it, particularly in this, the 670th anniversary year of the founding of Trinity Hall. The challenge facing our brilliant kitchen team was to create the same quality of food usually enjoyed in the Dining Hall but one that our students could take away, re-heat and plate up at home. The evening also gave our students a break from their studies, the chance to dress up in their gowns (as they would for traditional Formal Hall in the Dining Hall) and the opportunity to come together with their household to dine in style. We've had such a fantastic response from our students that we're planning a series of 'Formal Hall at Home' dinners in the run up to the Christmas holidays."
The delicious three-course menu created by Trinity Hall's talented chefs included: a starter of spiced pumpkin soup with toasted pumpkin seeds, served with cheese and caramelised red onion soda bread; a main course of lemon and thyme stuffed ballotine of chicken (or vegetarian option of smoked cheddar, wild mushroom and chestnut wellington) served with potato gratin, braised red cabbage, curly kale, celeriac purée and madeira jus; and, a salted caramel panna cotta for dessert.
A great deal of planning and preparation went into this new dining experience, as Derek Shannon, Head Chef at Trinity Hall, explained: “‘Formal Hall at Home’ posed a number of challenges for the kitchen team. Our menus always aim to include the best seasonal produce with a focus on the provenance and sustainability of ingredients. In addition to this, we wanted to create an affordable 3-course menu which could easily and safely be re-heated at home. We also had to think carefully about the most suitable sustainable packaging, how well the food would travel and how easy it would be for the students to plate up at home. I'd like to thank our kitchen team for all their hard work behind-the-scenes in helping to make the evening such a success. While we wait for our students to be able to return to eat in the Dining Hall, we're delighted to offer them this lockdown-friendly alternative in the meantime."
Among the students who dressed up in their traditional gowns and participated over the weekend were veterinary student Meytar Ronel and her housemates. Meytar said: "Having a formal dinner in Hall with friends is such a key part of studying at Cambridge. While that isn’t possible at the moment, my housemates and I were so glad that we could still enjoy a delicious meal made by Trinity Hall while being together, and having a respite from the usual hard work of a Cambridge term! This was a brilliant idea, and we had a lot of fun at our ‘Formal Hall at Home’, so thank you Trinity Hall!”
Zoology student Aime Rankin also participated with her housemate, PhD student Nic Gauriot. Aime said: "It was really wonderful to have a special formal meal during lockdown and a great excuse to get our glad rags on. My hat goes off to the kitchen staff – the food was absolutely delicious!"