Two pieces of coconut shell. Now on, students of Karthika Thirunal Government Vocational and Higher Secondary School in the city have promised themselves to pack this ‘out of school' item in their school bags.

An otherwise useless material at home, these coconut shells would soon go straight into their school's brand new steam kitchen as fuel. In will go the shells into the steam boiling unit and out will come delicious ‘idlis' and ‘sambhar.'

Their old school kitchen has been given a complete makeover. The newly installed steam kitchen unit was unveiled by T.N. Seema, MP, at a function organised on the Government Teachers Training Institute campus here on Thursday. The Rs.4,06,481unit was set up under the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme for 2012-13.

“The school authorities informed me of the need for a fuel-efficient unit and a healthy cooking technique in the school. The project was completed in less than 15 days and it will ease the work of the teachers and kitchen maids,” said Ms. Seema.

The school provides breakfast and lunch to more than 1,000 students a day.

The unit is supported by a water boiler having 180 litre capacity and is normally set at 10 point scale temperature which can sufficiently produce the required steam for all the units to work simultaneously.

There are provisions for attaching additional units. Separate safety walls and outlets for excess steam have been fixed, said P. Manivel, who is in charge of training the staff.

A heaven for them

Standing amidst the whistling milk boiler and the steaming ‘puttukutti', K. Bhamini was all smiles. She has been working in the kitchen for the past 20 years. “With the new kitchen in place we no more have to walk down and carry woods as fuel and we won't have to toil hard for a long time as food can be prepared in minutes. This kitchen is a heaven,” she said.

Heaven it is for Ms. Bhamini and her co-workers who could now make as many as 200 idilis in just six minutes and prepare 20 kg of cooked rice in half an hour.

Apart from this, units for making various curries, boiled milk and other items for breakfast and lunch could be prepared in a matter of minutes with the help of this unit. “For a plate of idlis and piping hot sambhar, I am ready to bring two pieces of coconut shell,” said E. Sulfath, an eighth standard student, as she joined her friends to check out the new kitchen.