Restaurant meal kits are becoming more popular by the day, as even the most enthusiastic home cooks begin to feel a hint of fatigue kicking in.
We’re running out of ideas for store cupboard suppers and freezer feasts. Having to keep thinking of new things to cook, battling the supermarket for jars of unusual herbs you’ll probably only use a couple of times, and the never ending cycle of washing up – it’s a bit exhausting, isn’t it? This is why we went to restaurants.
Ah, restaurants. The simple joy of someone bringing you a meal better than anything you could do yourself at home. The taste of something that might have taken hours or even days of prep, and the thrill of seeing all those clever, creative culinary techniques and processes on a beautifully presented plate.
But now, as well as sharing their recipes and tips with us, some chefs are back in the kitchen trying to help us eat restaurant quality food using top ingredients and suppliers – but in our own homes.
Meal kits, boxes of mainly ready prepared dishes that just require simple cooking, heating or assembly, are rapidly becoming one of the highlights of our lockdown week. We’ve loved trying out kits from local restaurants as diverse as Wood Manchester, Northern Soul, YaoYao Ramen, and Adam Reid’s Great British Menu.
Now, Gary Usher has launched Elite Bistros at Home – and it means you can get some of the most popular menu items from the Northern restaurants delivered to your door. Missing Hispi’s braised featherblade of beef or Kala’s sweet, spicy Yorkshire parkin? Not any more.
Now you can recreate the bistro experience at home, with dishes such as octopus with sunflower seed puree (£7) or lamb rump with Wye Valley asparagus (£19) prepared by the chefs ready for you to finish at home. You can even order wine and beer alongside it.
The menu goes live on Friday mornings (and so far seems to sell out almost straight away, so you have to be quick), with nationwide delivery the following Friday. Everything is packaged in a cool bag to be used within 48 hours – so you have all weekend to have a go.
Everything you need for each dish is laid out very clearly, with ingredients in individual bags (all recyclable). Each dish has a recipe card, telling you exactly what’s in it and offering step-by-step instructions. Plus a big colour photo of how the finished dish should look, which definitely takes some of the stress out of plating up.
It helps to read through all the recipes cards before you start, so you can see how long each dish takes and what equipment you might need. From what we tried, it couldn’t be easier or clearer – and Gary has even posted some videos on Instagram with tips.
We chose some of the dishes we’re missing the most, starting with smoked belly bacon with sauce gribiche, broad bean and lemon oil dressing (£5). The cooking part is straightforward: start the bacon sizzling in a pan, then finish off in the oven for just three minutes.
Three minutes is ample time, it turns out, to dress the sachet of emerald-like green beans with lemon oil and freshly chopped flat parsley. The sauce gribiche – like a mayonnaise with hard boiled eggs, cornichons, capers and herbs – is all ready prepared in a little tub. Plating up couldn’t be simpler.
The dish is an absolute cracker. The bacon is perfectly smoky and salty with meltingly soft fat, the sauce creamy yet sharp, and the lemony broad beans adding freshness to the plate. Talk about minimal effort and maximum reward.
Then it’s time for probably the most famous of Elite’s dishes: braised featherblade of beef with truffle creamed potato, glazed carrot and red wine sauce (£17).
Again, it’s all very easy to follow. You just drop the beef, carrot and red wine sauce in a pan of simmering water in their bags, then finish the featherblade in a frying pan with one of the sauces to make a sticky glaze. The mash just needs heating and stirring.
It all sounds very basic, but that’s because all the hard work has been done by the professional chefs in advance.
The beef has already been slowly braised until it’s so sigh-inducingly tender you could eat it with a spoon. The mash is already infused with a heady hit of truffle. The red wine sauce has already been lovingly reduced by the professionals for maximum flavour.
Even the side dishes of fine beans with spiced Vadouvan butter and sunflower seeds, and purple carrots with smoked garlic honey, chilli and puffed rice (both £3), don’t require anything too complicated from us. But they taste extraordinary.
And what Elite experience would be complete without the famous Yorkshire parkin, with salted butterscotch sauce and clotted cream (£5)?
This one is perhaps the easiest of the lot – just microwave the parkin, and heat the sweet, sticky sauce in a pan. Top with clotted cream. See if you can eat it without a massive grin.
You get to feel like a chef for the evening, but really, these dishes don’t require much skill from us at home. Which means, even if you’re on kitchen duty, you get to relax and enjoy the food. And that’s what a restaurant experience is all about.
The washing up, though? Yeah, I’m afraid you still have to do that bit. But after a meal this good, you don’t really mind.
Elite Bistros at Home menus go live on Friday mornings, with delivery the following Friday. Nationwide delivery is £12.95.