Frugality has been a keyword in my kitchen during lockdown – buying whatever ingredients have been available in the shops and making the most of them.
But a chap grows weary of plain and repetitive food and craves something out of the ordinary.
The ways of conjuring up a satisfying meal from tinned cannelloni beans and tinned tomatoes before boredom and flatulence kick in are not without limit.
There are only a small number of ways in which a limp, yellowing cauliflower can be rendered interesting.
Which is why a Peels on Wheels delivery was so welcome.
It’s a lockdown venture run by Hampton in Arden hotel Hampton Manor whose chefs in its Michelin-starred Peels restaurant each week create a different three-course meal to assemble at home.
They kindly sent me a hamper, this one featuring an Indian-inspired menu.
Preparing the meal was easy.
The components arrived in various pots and boxes and then it was simply a case of warming through those things that needed heating and assembling them on a plate in as attractive a manner as a ham-fisted oaf like me can manage.
This proved to be a dinner that wasn’t just excellent by “takeaway” standards, but would have been impressive in a restaurant.
It’s the work of a talented chef who understands flavours, textures, colours and balance and has the skill and imagination to transfer that understanding to a format that allows his food to shine in a non-professional setting.
Spicing throughout was perfect – layers of those warming, sweet Indian spices which the occasional spike of heat.
First came cubes of vibrant, soft, sweet and earthy beetroot with a perky ginger, coriander and beetroot salad, a luscious buttermilk dressing and crisp shards of poppadom.
Next was a slow-cooked slice of lamb, delicately spiced, in a light but flavoursome jus.
Alongside were deftly curried lentils, saag aloo, crisp onions and a sweet and sour carrot salad that added sharpness to the dish.
This was a refined and satisfying dish.
Dessert, too, hit the target.
Pannacotta had perfect wobble, its creaminess enhanced by background notes of cardamon.
Tropical fruits added freshness, a gorgeous passionfruit caramel brought richness and puffed rice gave texture and intriguing notes of fennel.
This was a dinner that would have delighted me were we not locked down.
Peels on Wheels also offers the opportunity to order wines to accompany the dishes. They’re supplied by the local natural and organic wine merchant Wine Freedom.
Evolution – a white blend from Oregon – offered tropical fruits and an off-dryness that complemented the starter beautifully.
Bravo – an artisan Chilean wine made with the unfairly neglected pais grape – had gentle, pure fruit flavours that worked well with the lamb.
Peels on Wheels provides a welcome treat during these difficult days.
Go to www.peelstothepeople.co.uk for full information about this and other lockdown ventures run by Hampton Mnor.
The boxes sell out quickly so order well ahead. Veggie options are available.
Peels are extending further into Birmingham with their deliveries.
Hampton Manor delivers a meal to someone vulnerable every time a customers buys a PoW meal.
They also do an free box for an NHS hero each week, chosen from stories that customers have sent in.