A Cook’s Tour brings Bali to your table
A cocktail is always a great way to get an evening off to a good start even if the maitre d’ has just shown you to a table in your own kitchen. I sipped my Indonesian G&T while waiting for a cook-along to begin, a growing trend that has been given a boost by the lockdown. Like the cookalong, home delivery meal kits have also grown in popularity and this offering from A Cook’s Tour combines both.
A Cook’s Tour with Rocket is transporting culinary travellers around the globe one meal at a time. Book your space at your stove and have your wooden spoon ready for inspection. A Cook’s Tour combines a home meal kit along with a live-streamed video on YouTube during which the meal is cooked in a studio kitchen. The chef, Ryan, and the host, Charlie, chat about the food and the destination while the meal is prepared, and viewers can ask questions via a chat room. A Cook’s Tour has a subscription service which provides members with a fortnightly trip to different parts of the world and an accompanying cook-along to experience a taste of the cuisine. Each cook-along costs £60 for two people and subscribers can choose how many to join.
I tried the November destination – Temples of Balinese Cuisine. During the afternoon a food box was delivered to my door in which were the ingredients for the evenings cook-along. Unpacking the contents, I discovered all manner of containers filled with spice pastes, pickles, crackers, rice, chicken and even the mixers for a G&T along with edible flowers. A pamphlet included cooking instructions for all the dishes up ahead while a second pamphlet provided details about the G&T.
The cocktails served on A Cook’s Tour are provided by Drinksfusion, a creative drink design company which provides services for luxury events and has now transferred to online deliveries. Similarly, A Cook’s Tour has developed since lockdown by prestigious London caterer, Rocket. Director of Rocket and luxury events planner Charlie hosts the cook-along while Chef Ryan, a Masterchef-The Professionals semi-finalist, creates the menus.
The G&T provided a regional twist on the traditional drink using Bobby’s gin which is made from Indonesian botanicals. A homemade Bali shrub includes Chardonnay vinegar which is infused for a fortnight with mango, apricots and pineapple sweetened with Ling heather honey and balanced with green naval orange. It is seasoned with Batavia arrack and the mixer is Fever-Tree aromatic tonic. This was decorated with dehydrated pineapple and orange along with edible flowers which all looked so pretty. The cocktail was sweet and alcoholic as the best cocktails are and put me in a relaxed mood for some light cooking at the end of the working day.
The menu takes Balinese flavours and combines these with a contemporary twist, evident throughout the dishes.
We began with a dish of jungle crackers – shrimp and prawn crackers which Ryan had enjoyed while on honeymoon in the Bali jungle. Here they were served with three relishes – pickled pineapple, an unusual banana chutney and a cracking tamarind marmalade which was like smoky, tangy ketchup. Bottle this one, please!
Shrimp leaf tacos was a cinch to make. This dish is what I like about home-meal kits, the hard work of sauce making has all been done. The tacos came with a pot of grilled lime aioli (flavoured with some miso) and a pack of marinated, cooked shrimp. The leaves of a baby gem lettuce formed the shape of the taco. These were spread with the aioli and topped carefully with the shrimp. It was visually appealing, all green and pink, and very appetising with the sour tang of the grilled lime balancing the sweet shrimp.
Nasi goreng, we were told, is the national dish of Bali. Once again this was super easy to cook. The rice had not only been cooked but it had spent the requisite time drying out in a fridge overnight. This, chef Ryan informed viewers, is the key to good fried rice. The drying process ensures that the rice does not become sticky during frying. All I had to do was make a light omelette with the egg provided. This egg arrived nestled in such a sweet nest of a container that it seemed a shame to disturb it. Nonetheless, I cracked it into a pan – experienced cooks will know to add some fat to the pan first but perhaps the recipe sheet could indicate this – muddled the egg a little and then cooked it lightly before rolling it up and setting it aside. Then I tipped the gorgeously spiced nasi goreng paste into the pan followed by the rice. The egg roll was then cut into small pieces and added to the egg along with slices of cucumber pickled in rice wine. It was delicious. Chef Ryan told us he had made the spice paste with kecap manis which is a sweet soy sauce made with palm sugar. Addictive stuff. This his mixed with dried shrimp and tomato puree, onion and garlic.
The only fiddly bit came when trying to make the chicken satays. We were to cook two types of satay – one with mince and the other with chicken thigh fillet. The organic chicken was from HG Walter, a top-quality butcher many London foodies will already know. We’ve already reviewed the HG Walter meat boxes – you can order meat from them to be sent nationwide and they also have a shop in West London and supply a number of London restaurants. The chicken mince was combined with a spice mix, although mine did not seem to have the rich colour of that on the cook-along, nor the consistency. I bashed the lemongrass to create skewers – a good aromatic touch – but my chicken mix was too sloppy to be moulded onto the skewers and had to be carefully escorted into the hot pan. I had more success with the chicken fillets that were easy to thread onto the skewers. Although I used a large frying pan, I found it difficult to lay the chicken flat in the pan as the skewers got in the way and I eventually had to take the chicken off the skewers to ensure the chicken cooked through evenly. Chef Ryan had upgraded the usual peanut sauce served with satay by making his with barbecued almonds.
Portions for two people were good but something sweet to end the meal would have been nice. ‘No dessert?’ asked my husband, having grown a bit expectant from previous home-meal kits we have tried. Fortunately, I had ripe papaya in the fruit bowl so our taste of the tropics could continue just a little longer before coming back down to earth in rainy London.
Find out more about A Cooks Tour from their website. The boxes retail at £60 including delivery and are available nationwide.