Last Updated on March 1, 2021 by Fiona Maclean
Red Letter Day brings you Banquist – the perfect Mother’s Day Gift
Looking for something special for your Mum this Mother’s Day? Red Letter Days have a whole range of options and I was delighted to be given the chance to review a Three Course Meal with Wine at Home Dining Experience from Banquist with Jitin Joshi, the chef who helped Benares and Gymkhana to win their Michelin stars. I’ve already enjoyed a number of rather good home meal kits, loving the sauces and slow cooking that the chefs had done in their professional kitchens, leaving me with the simple task of finishing off the cooking in my domestic setting. Banquist, however, is not offering this type of home meal kit or pre-cooked dishes ready to reheat. It is offering a top-class chef teaching home cooks to use the raw ingredients you receive in a refrigerated box and helping you turn it into dinner. The perfect gift for someone who is a keen home cook and wants to learn to get better. Unlike a cookalong, where the chef is live on the screen while you cook ‘together’ with other participants, Banquist provides a pre-recorded video that you follow while the chef teaches you how to create the three-course meal s/he has devised, so you have the flexibility to make your meal at a time and pace that suits you. The chefs change regularly, and my event had a menu that combined Indian flavours with French and Italian tradition, including mackerel, rack of lamb and date pudding.
A few days ahead of the ingredients being delivered, I received an email from Banquist that made me worry that I had bitten off more than I had time to chew. Meals of this quality take time to prepare. On the day, I would need to set aside 150 minutes to prep and cook. While most of the ingredients would be supplied, items like butter, egg, milk and caster sugar would need to be supplied by me.
The email instructed me to click on the accompanying video when it was time to cook. I am relieved that I chose to watch the hour-long video in advance. This made me realise that if I followed instructions and started cooking from scratch on the day, I would have ended up somewhat stressed. The class starts with a fair bit of prep before the first course is cooked. Then there is a brief fadeout after which Joshi returns and says ‘hope you enjoyed your starter’. At this point he starts cooking the main course, which included preparing stock for the polenta, making confit of fennel and cooking the lamb rack and polenta. At home, I am both the chef, host and guest and I felt hesitant about being in the kitchen cooking for another half an hour (all going smoothly) after I had served the starter. After the main course, I would return to the kitchen to start making a caramel sauce for the steamed date pudding. It gave me an appreciation for just how much work goes into preparing the meals we enjoy in restaurants and reminded me why, when I cater at home, I always choose a starter and dessert that can be made the day before.
Having watched the video through I decided to prep the sauces, relishes and marinades the night before. I also made the confit of fennel (to reheat the next day), baked the nut clusters for the dessert and cooked the Napoli sauce for the main course. A masterclass in one’s own kitchen is not only a class, it is also meant to be a meal that has to be eaten in real-time. It is lovely watching a professional put together a top-quality meal with sauces, relishes and marinades in a few hours, but doing it myself involved a lot of washing up along the way as I do not have enough pans and pots, chopping boards and chef’s knives to use without cleaning in between tasks. All this adds time to the cooking and further delays the eating.
A Banquist masterclass will make a great gift for the person who enjoys putting aside several hours of cooking on a weekend. Banquist is ideal for a couple who can cook together and are happy to take the time to prep, cook and eat in stages. In my case, it took so long for the meat to cook in my domestic oven that my husband became bored with waiting for the main course and went to do some gardening. Not quite what I had hoped for during lunch–a–Deux.
How was the food? The starter was Cornish mackerel, fresh curry leaf marinade, Kashmiri tomato and samphire chutney – I enjoyed making the cherry tomato chutney/salad with samphire and coriander, it was so refreshing that I will stash the recipe away for further use. I couldn’t get the right consistency for the spicy marinade as my blender was not as proficient as Joshi’s Nutribullet. The mackerel, which Joshi cooked beautifully, fell apart in my pan – I needed him in my kitchen to assess whether my pan was too hot or too tepid. While I tried to imitate his professional flip of the fish, I failed at this task and the mackerel landed up in bits rather than a lovely looking fillet. I served it with a large garnish of samphire lest it looked like the cat’s lunch.
The main course was utterly delicious and looked very professional thanks to Joshi’s careful explanations. 14 day-aged Cumbrian rack of lamb, confit baby fennel, creamy polenta and Napoli sauce would have strained my nerves had I not prepped the night before as there were too many components for me to cope with at once. My polenta was as smooth as can be, the Napoli sauce was another recipe I will remake soon. The rack of lamb took double the time to cook as it did in Joshi’s oven but eventually was on the rare side of pink which is how I like it. The paired wine – Zolla, Primitivo di Manduria was well chosen, its acidity and minerality being perfect with lamb.
Dessert was date pudding, sticky toffee sauce, almond and sesame crisp. The date pudding, which was thankfully already baked, was invigorated by the sticky toffee sauce that I was rather proud of having created. The video showed this part off very well. Joshi said that he likes to serve this with vanilla ice cream which we could use if we like. I would have liked, but unfortunately had none in my freezer. I would have ordered some in had I known.
Banquist provides a masterclass with a top-class chef. The founders, Jonny and Seb, suggest that ‘everybody should be able to cook Michelin Star food’. Perhaps this is somewhat optimistic with an online class. Unlike the home meal kit from top chefs where one is guaranteed fabulous sauces and perfectly cooked ingredients, the Banquist meal relies on how capable the home cook is to replicate the chef’s instructions. It certainly teaches new skills and recipes and is best aimed at those who enjoy a culinary challenge. If that’s your mum – or perhaps better still if you fancy cooking this as a treat for your mum or perhaps with your mum, then this is a great option.
For more Mother’s Day and gifting options from Red Letter Days check their site. It’s worth noting that all vouchers can be exchanged so if you’ve overestimated your mum’s desire to be the next Masterchef, she can always swap the voucher for sky diving, a spa day or even a restaurant lunch!
The Three Course Meal with Wine at Home Dining Experience for Two from Banquist costs £99 from Red Letter Days.
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