New cook at home kits from Ceru
Restaurants have a lot of trouble with no-shows, where customers book a table but do not turn up. It must be difficult for restaurateurs now to discover that sometimes the customer has a no-show, a home meal kit that is ordered but not delivered. This was my first experience of Ceru and had I not been invited to review their newly launched cook-at-home kit, I might well have been annoyed that my dinner table remained stubbornly empty on a Friday night. As it was, Barry Hilton, founder of Ceru called me twice during the evening, concerned to find that I had not yet received the order. I appreciated his professionalism and the incident set me thinking about the logistics of this growing trend where partly cooked meals are being delivered not only across London but sometimes nationally. This leaves restaurateurs reliant on courier services that deliver these home-meal kits from central hubs. This is unlike a takeaway where a Deliveroo driver picks up the cooked meal and drops it at your door. My reflections made me realise how well functioning courier logistics are in the hospitality industry that has ensured that the growing number of home – meal kits I have reviewed since lockdown have all arrived on time.
All was well by lunchtime on Saturday when Barry arranged for a driver to deliver a Ceru cook-at-home kit to my home. Returning from a long walk, I found a box waiting patiently on my doorstep. It was packed with recyclable ice packs, keeping the contents cool and safe. On opening the box I was delighted to find a beautiful parcel. Usually, the home-meal kit arrives with the component parts packed together – sometimes in very fancy packaging as reflects the budget of the restaurant. Ceru wraps their kits in attractive satin silk cloths, a different design for each of the four meal-kits on offer. Two geometric designs are based on beautiful tiles of the Levant while the others are animal motifs. If you want to collect all four designs you can do so by ordering a selection of meal kits or buying them online from the restaurant. It is a lovely idea and very effective in setting the scene for the Levantine meal to come.
Ceru is situated in a side street in South Kensington not far from Museum Road which visitors to London will know for its wonderful collection of some of the UK’s finest museums including the V&A, The Natural History and The Science Museums. Ceru is an eatery that aims to share the flavours of the Levant, a geographical area spanning the Eastern Mediterranean as far as Turkey. The bricks and mortar restaurant offers a menu of mezze and grills (mostly gluten-free) while the home-meal kits provide a vegan option, slow-cooked lamb, beef fillet or chicken. I chose the chicken shish menu which feeds two people and can be prepared within 25 minutes. The preparation instructions were very easy to follow, well laid out and with precise timings provided for each individual item that was to be cooked. I found this most helpful in ensuring that all the components were ready to serve at the same time. This is important because this style of cooking works best when all the small plates are presented at once, leaving diners free to dip into each of the dishes prepared.
When we sat down to eat, the table looked most inviting with an array of dips and dishes. The Chicken Taouk (meaning chicken) is a very popular dish across the Levant, a skewer of chicken breast cubes marinated in paprika and lemon. It had to be pan-fried – I used a griddle pan to get the attractive markings on the meat – and then served them on skewers. It was quick and simple to cook and tasty too. It was served with a herby yoghurt which was really deliciously creamy. Alongside was a dish of Hamarra Dip, a brick coloured dip with which I am familiar from my love of Iranian cuisine. It is made with roasted red peppers, walnuts and pomegranate molasses and while I prefer it a bit chunky in texture, the Ceru dip had a good colour and balance between spiciness and the tart flavour of the pomegranate molasses.
I liked the polenta fries very much. Preparation involved a light dip in gluten-free flour and then eight minutes in hot oil and a few extra minutes in a hot oven. They emerged with a golden colour, a nice crunch and were rather moreish. I liked the hit of chilli as it mixed with the cooling mint yoghurt into which the polenta fries could be dipped.
Cauliflower has for many years now been elevated to celebrity vegetable status. It is served in restaurants up and down the land and home cooks too know their way around roasting the florets into a multitude of spicy delights. Ceru’s Spiced Cauliflower had a lovely turmeric hue and looked very appealing mixed with lemony olive oil, and garnished with chopped walnuts, sliced spring onions, chopped mint and pomegranate seeds.
Flatbreads are an important part of enjoying a Levantine meal, providing chewy ballast for the dips and sauces. Two small flatbreads were provided, just needing a trickle of olive oil and five minutes in a hot oven.
Two tiny pieces of baklava were provided by way of a sweet treat to end the meal. Baklava needs to be super fresh and is not the best traveller, this one being rather soggy.
At £40 for the chicken shish menu, portions looked to me on the small side, yet we were comfortably full after the meal.
The chicken shish menu is a family-friendly meal, just the kind one would hope to find after a long day on Museum Road. With the newly launched Ceru cook-at-home kits, we can all enjoy it at our own tables.