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Who doesn’t groan internally at the culinary expectations surrounding Valentine’s Day? The silent lines of duos trying to be performatively romantic while eating out are enough to put anyone off their steak and chips, as are the high restaurant prices.
But slaving away in front of a hot stove to prepare a feast at home can end up making romance the last thing on your mind. So why not let your favorite chef or restaurant do all the prep and take the credit this year?
Here are the best delivery meal kits offering a restaurant-style three-course menu for two for an unforgettable Valentine’s Day…
IDEAL FOR MEALS
Indulge, £65 per person for three courses, plus canapé, bread and petit fours (indulgedining.co.uk)
Tasty: Salt Baked Celeriac Entree from Indulge Dining
START: Carrot, radish, buttermilk and dill.
MAJOR: Celeriac, turnip and leek with Montgomery cheddar sauce.
DESSERT: Vanilla cheesecake with apples and crystallized ginger.
TIME TO COOK: 30 minutes.
Andy Bowler set up Indulge Dining during lockdown after years working in top Michelin restaurants including Gordon Ramsay’s Petrus.
I chose the vegetarian kit, although both the vegetarian and meat menus start with a mushroom wafer canapé, topped with pickled enoki mushrooms and a wild garlic and mushroom cream that tasted exquisite and only required assembly.
The same goes for the starters: the traditional carrots with radishes, buttermilk and dill oil were already prepared and only needed one plate.
The plate looked pretty with the addition of micro sprouts and flowers in their own separate container, with a damp cloth to keep them fresh.
I then reheated the salted baked celeriac in the oven for eight minutes, while I heated the turnip puree and Montgomery cheddar cheese sauce in separate saucepans.
The finished dish was delicate, with a good bite and reminded me of one I had eaten at a two Michelin star restaurant.
Dinner ended with citrus tart petit fours: a small box of crispy puff pastry into which I placed bergamot cream, finished with small grapefruit wedges and candied lemon zest. Perfect for food lovers.4.5/5
LOBSTER AND FRIED POTATOES
Price, £74.95 (coteathome.co.uk)
Côte lobster with onion soup as a starter
START: Cheese soufflé or French onion soup.
MAJOR: Lobster Thermidor, French fries, peas.
DESSERT: Tarte au citron or almond financier.
TIME TO COOK: 25 minutes.
This is one of three Valentine’s Day kits from the restaurant chain’s Cote at Home division.
The cheese soufflé, made with cheddar and camembert, comes with plenty of grated Comte and a packet of leek and cheese sauce to serve while it reheats for 20 minutes in the oven. There’s no need to worry about it not rising, but it sinks quickly, so eat it right away.
The highlight of the meal was that it was delicious, with a nice spicy kick of cheese and lots of sauce.
But the lobster, although admirably sourced from East Anglia, was a bit woolly. I would have liked a sweeter, more succulent meat and the Thermidor sauce was quite thin and dull in flavor. Reheat it in the oven, pour the sauce into a tray provided, along with some good chips, which could do with a little more browning. We also reheated the French peas, with spring onions and, surprisingly, no bacon, in a frying pan with the supplied butter with good results.
Unfortunately, the lemon tart was a disappointment, with soggy pastry and a lemon curd-like filling.
But despite the main course, it seemed worth the cost – lobster would easily cost more than this in a restaurant. 3/5
FLAVOR OF SPAIN
José Pizarro by Dishpatch, £99 (dishpatch.co.uk)
José Pizarro Castilian suckling lamb leg with crispy potatoes and yogurt aioli
START: Escalivada of roasted red pepper and gordal olives on coca bread.
MAJOR: Castilian suckling lamb leg with crispy potatoes and yogurt aioli, plus Little Gem lettuce with lemon vinaigrette.
DESSERT: Three milks.
TIME TO COOK: 30 minutes.
José Pizarro is a favorite of Britain’s Spanish food scene with seven restaurants to his name.
The Catalan escalivada (roasted eggplant, tomatoes and peppers), served at room temperature, was magnificent and topped with plump Gordal olives. It didn’t look spectacular, but the taste was authentic.
The leg of lamb with potatoes was impressively tasty. The lamb sauce was added in the last five minutes of cooking to make the dish exceptionally succulent, and the lemon dressing was fantastic. It took me 30 minutes to prepare and reheat without any complicated juggling; just have some extra virgin olive oil on hand. The tres leches, a light cake dessert, lacked the wow factor, but it was restaurant food with minimal effort. Awesome. 4/5
Murano Coffee for Dishpatch, £110 (dishpatch.co.uk)
Murano Valentine’s Menu by Angela Hartnett
START: Cannellini bean and pancetta bruschetta.
MAJOR: Florentine steak with baked gnocchi, pumpkin and cavolo nero.
DESSERT: Chocolate cake with olive oil and pistachio cream.
TIME TO COOK: 35 minutes.
Known for her sophisticated yet simple Italian-inspired cuisine, Angela Hartnett is the chef and patron of the Michelin-starred Murano, as well as three Café Murano breweries.
Although the cannellini bean starter sounded a little simple, it actually had a nice, earthy flavor and was easy to prepare.
The pumpkin gnocchi and cavolo nero were exceptional, requiring only a topping of pangrattato (breadcrumbs and herbs) before being reheated in the oven. A little more complicated, the superlative steak required searing on both sides, before finishing in the oven. Served with a potent ready-made green sauce and an arugula salad (dressed lightly, as suggested), it was a memorable dinner.
The chocolate and olive oil cake was sensational with the pistachio chantilly. The only objection? We wanted more! 5/5