This week brings an embarrassment of riches: new civil freedoms (open air swimming, sports, and park bevs with up to five mates, yay!). Easter’s four day weekend is almost here, and before that, we get a guest appearance from The Actual Sun. Can you believe it? Is that… serotonin, we’re feeling?
With restaurants still shuttered, the downside to this heady combination is spending more time indoors, prepping a meal fancy enough to finally celebrate the joy of it all. Gorgeous evening in the garden toasting hopes for a better year ahead – extremely exciting. Hours of prep and washing up – not so much.
As The Handbook readers will know, great food’s kept us going through the pandemic. We’ve shared recipes to try at home, online cookery classes, and a raft of posh delivery services – the latter prime for fuss-free Easter feasting.
Great food’s kept us going through the pandemic...
This week, we’re reviewing the José Pizarro Finish At Home Easter Menu, promising a restaurant-quality tapas lunch with most of the prep done for you.
What is it?
Lauded as the Godfather of Spanish cooking in the UK, José is determined to help tapas fans cook lots of delicious dishes all at once, stress-free.
Can they deliver to me?
Yes, they deliver nationwide! Easter menu orders must be made by the 1st April.
What’s in the box?
For £75, the Easter menu includes the following:
– Croquetas de mushroom (mushroom croquetas)
– Tortilla de gambas & romesco sauce (a prawn tortilla)
– Huevos a la flamenco (baked eggs)
– Bacalao a la llauna (cod)
– Espinacas a la Catalana (steamed spinach).
This is followed by the main event: a whole Castilian leg of suckling Lamb, roasted with Piquillo pepper.
To finish, you get buñuelos de viento, AKA cute little puff pastries affectionately known as ‘Nun’s farts’. Tastier than they sound.
Sounds great… What will I need?
– A single egg, to crack into the Huevos a la flamenco
– A good carving knife for the lamb. We like Opinel meat and poultry knives, plus their table knives are fab too
– A small tortilla pan is handy, if you have one
– A cocktail to sip while you keep an eye on everything – we were grateful for delicious pre-mixed MOTH Negronis to calm our cooking nerves
– A fabulous bottle of red wine. Laithwaite’s never lets us down
– You might like to serve this up with some fresh breads, olive oil and balsamic vinegar – we like Picualia and Giuseppe Giusti
I’m ready, Talk me through it…
Unpacked into the fridge, the box’s contents will keep for a few days after delivery – so you’ve got lots of flexibility as to when you should cook your feast. Each individual element is hand labeled and dated, which is a lovely touch. With your ingredients you’ll find a recipe card, which offers step-by-step guidance on how to cook each dish.
Some are as simple as placing the pre-sauced and seasoned ingredients onto a tray and baking, as with the Bacalao a la llauna. Others are a little more hands-on, like frying the mushroom croquetas for three to eight minutes, keeping an eye on them so as not to burn the crispy coating. The most complex element is getting the lamb just right – take a large saucepan and boil in the bag for ten minutes, before browning it off in the oven.
Most of the proper cooking is done for you, so each part of the process is very simple (add pre-mixed raisin and garlic to the spinach and wilt for a few minutes, heat up the lamb gravy in a small saucepan, and so on). The only worry is about getting the timings right, so everything hits the table piping hot. Of course, if you prefer, you can serve just one or two dishes at a time, dashing back to the kitchen after each – this is your restaurant now (and it’s a great excuse to fetch more wine). It’s fun and ceremonial to carve the lamb at the table – the meat really does fall off the bone.
For us though, the stand out dish was the humble baked egg - the highest quality chorizo and oils adding supreme depth of flavour to twice-cooked vegetables...
What I wish I’d known beforehand…
What the recipe card doesn’t do is list which order it’s best to cook the dishes in. Seasoned chefs used to juggling oven shelves and hob space will find this a doddle, but those a little newer to the feasting game (particularly tapas, where there are multiple elements at play) may feel a bit daunted.
We found it useful to read through the entire recipe card a couple of times before cooking, making a note of how long each dish would take (about 30 minutes in total for the lamb, about eight minutes for the cod, and so on). Between two people, we divided up prep for each dish, serving up about 40 minutes after unpacking. Divide and conquer (or safety in numbers!).
The best bit…
Each ingredient is of the highest quality, as one might expect from one of the most famed chefs on London’s restaurant scene. Garlic and raisin flavours burst through the steamed spinach, and a generous helping of Piquillo peppers is fiery red and juicy, elevating the crispy fat of the tender lamb.
For us though, the stand out dish was the humble baked egg – the highest quality chorizo and oils adding supreme depth of flavour to twice-cooked vegetables. Flavour-wise, each and every dish sings – it’s a total joy to experience properly delicious, inventive dishes as you might in a restaurant setting. And all without hours of prep time? A triumph!