Luxury fine dining home meal kit from Adam Handling.
If I had to choose my eight Desert Island Dishes, Adam Handling’s chicken butter would easily win a place on my list. So it was with gathering excitement that I looked forward to trying out HAME, the Adam Handling at-home meal kit. Chicken butter is on every menu on the HAME website with good reason. It has legions of fans all happily clogging up their arteries. It is to butter what chicken is to soup – good for the soul.
Having trialled a growing number of home meal kits I can safely say that HAME is for those who enjoy a challenge in the kitchen and who like to knock the woolie socks off their nearest and dearest who are still allowed indoors to share our tables. Even though I am a confident home cook, I admit to a sharp intake of breath when I realised that I would actually have to bake and fry the iconic cheese doughnuts and then fill them with a pipette. Fortunately, I have eaten these divine mouthfuls on several occasions, so I knew what I was aiming for. I popped on the very stylish Adam Handling apron included in the box and got cooking.
HAME – the Scottish word for home – has a number of options for diners to choose from. There is a Sunday lunch package with a whole truffle-stuffed roast chicken – even reading that aloud quickens my pulse – a Dine In Style menu which I review below, and a Who are you trying to impress menu which, as the name suggests, will impress you and the lucky person who shares the meal.
Adam sent a card along with the recipes in which he explains having risen to the challenge of a home delivery service when fine dining does not travel easily. Fortunately, he has found a way to do so and a taste of the restaurant experience will be especially welcome for those who live too far away to enjoy his London restaurants. For those who reside within reach, I can only encourage making a booking. From the food to the service, an evening with Adam Handling and his staff is a memorable outing.
The Dine in Style menu from Adam Handling HAME opens with Chicken butter and sourdough. The butter with its chicken skin is so lovely, it should be selling in Selfridges. I popped the rolls into a hot oven and after 8 minutes baking time they were ready to be slathered with the butter and sprinkled with nibs of chicken skin. It is simply fabulous.
My rendition of the cheese doughnuts is a perfect example of why I enjoy eating in restaurants while relaxing in the hands of the professionals. Adam had sent all the necessary ingredients along with a recipe card. He demonstrated each step clearly on a well-filmed video, I watched it twice before setting out on my mission to replicate this wonderful creation. And yet. I am to dough what some people are to plants – one look and the leaves droop. It is the reason I don’t go near pastry making or bread baking or anything that involves dough. As soon as I attempted to roll the dough into the sausage shape required, I knew I was in trouble. The dough just didn’t comply. It could feel that my hands were too tense, too unconfident to even shape dough with a wonderfully fermented aroma into a roll. I weighed out 20 g pieces cut from my excuse for a sausage and managed to manhandle them into rough balls.
By now I knew that the end result would be heavy as the dough was overworked. Let us just say that while I achieved the taste with the fabulously cheesy sauce and an avalanche of parmesan – Adam has a video if you want to learn to make a stonkingly good one – my balls certainly lacked the requisite texture. Mine were fried bread rolls not doughnuts, crunchy on the outside.
I was more in my comfort zone with the other dishes. Recipe cards set out the steps and a QR code on each card enabled me to watch Adam cooking the dish. To be honest, it was so relaxing watching him cook that I could happily have sat all day in Adam’s kitchen. The components for each dish are packed separately in sealed pouches. Everything is fully compostable as no plastic is used.
Lobster, tagliatelle, tomato, basil was as lovely a pasta dish as the ingredients might suggest. A homemade tagliatelle had a minute in boiling water before joining a quite marvellous shellfish bisque which had a swirl in a pan along with halved, cherry tomatoes. The al dente pasta joined the sauce briefly along with the lobster meat and large basil leaves. The end result was colourful – yellow tagliatelle with red and yellow tomatoes, pink lobster and green basil. The sauce was wonderfully rich with a back note of warming chilli and the pepperiness of the basil. The portions were generous and the best part of eating at home is that I got to lick the bowl clean.
At this point in proceedings, we were comfortably full and decided to leave the rest of the meal until lunch the next day. I like this aspect of home meal kits. Many of those I have tried thus far have portions too generous for me and I often split the meal in two. Seated in restaurants, the multi-course dinner usually has smaller portions but even then, I often struggle by the time the dessert is served.
Lamb shoulder on a bed of couscous with courgette and feta salad was a perfect lunch to cook on a Saturday when there was frost on the ground and a bottle of wine breathing on the sideboard. All the hard work had been done, the meat already slow-cooked and simply requiring 45 minutes in a low oven. In the meantime, the paper-thin slices of courgette marinated in a vibrantly lemony oil before being mixed gently with cubes of feta and a punnet of herbs and spring onions. The couscous was already cooked and mixed with a colourful medley of red peppers, orange-yellow dried apricots and green herbs. The meat sat atop the couscous and the lamb confit from the hot oven tray was poured over the meat, the juices running down into the couscous below. I just loved the lamb granola which playfully contains rice krispies mixed in with the hazelnuts and other ingredients. It was both crunchy and tasty, an excellent textural balance for the lamb which was almost beyond tender. The courgette salad was a welcome burst of freshness and an important foil to the richness of the meat. Once again portions were so generous that it could have fed 4 people.
While we ate the meat course, the tarte tatin was happily baking. HAME supplies everything in easy to use packages and even, for this dish, a reusable container. In the pan was a caramel sauce. All I had to do was artfully arrange the quartered apples standing straight in a circular pattern. I followed the video closely. After the pastry was placed on top with an egg wash to finish, the pan went onto the hob briefly so that the caramel could bubble up and start to cook the apples. Then into the oven. Adam suggests allowing the dish to sit for 15 minutes after it comes out of the oven. A brilliant suggestion is also to gently pour off the excess caramel from the pan into a jug so that it can be reapplied later. No longer will I burn my arm when the hot caramel gushes out as I flip the tarte onto a plate.
HAME supplies a generous sachet of caramel sauce to pour over the top of the tarte tatin and it melted seductively over the apples. Next time I might keep this in a jug to pass around at the table as the addition of the caramel sauce made the dish too sweet for my taste. That said my dinner guest thought the level of sweetness just right. The custard was beautiful – speckled with vanilla and well balanced. I took Adam’s advice and used it cold, overheating would result in sweet, scrambled egg. I like the combination of a warm dessert with a colder sauce. This dessert could easily serve 4 or even 6 people.
HAME is deservedly popular and thousands of dishes have found their way into happy diners’ homes since lockdown began. I am pleased to read that Adam intends to continue with HAME even when lockdown ends and will expand it further. Menus for Christmas and New year are online and open for orders. Cocktails and wine pairing are also available to further enhance the restaurant experience. The choice of menus provides different pricing options with the Sunday lunch available for £130 for 2 people, The Dine in Style at £200 (with the vegetarian alternative at £110) and the Who are you trying to impress, which includes a bottle of Own Label English sparkling wine for £305.
Don’t fancy cooking at home? Adam has two restaurants in London which we highly recommend. Frog by Adam Handling in Covent Garden is an excellent central London restaurant with a quirky basement bar too. Or if you are in Chelsea or Knightsbridge, try Adam Handling Chelsea (about halfway between Sloane Square and Knightsbridge) for an elegant meal or afternoon tea.