Beyond the Takeaway – an Indian Feast at Home.
Gentle reader, I have a young friend who has far more faith in my cooking than I do. Her own favourite cuisine is Indian and she often comes with me when we are reviewing some of the Indian restaurants in London. Lockdown has brought a new challenge. How to entertain her with authentic Indian food without resorting to a takeaway or delivery service. She thought it would be an excellent idea if I cooked for her. I was rather less convinced. I do occasionally make an Indian dish or two, but to make something tasty involves finding all the right spices and fresh herbs. Right now trips to Brick Lane to go shopping are not high on my own agenda and in any case, there are better options. Mandira’s Kitchen creates award-winning Indian freezer meals, spice kits and chutneys which can be shipped anywhere in the UK.
Mandira herself learnt how to cook because, having moved to the UK, she missed the food of her home country. Based just outside Guildford her business now offers a range of meals alongside cookery lessons, spice tours and supper clubs. And, when we are not in lockdown, an event catering business. On the Mandira’s Kitchen website you’ll get some idea of the depth and thoughtfulness of her business. Yes, you can buy from a selection of freezer meals which are delivered ‘deep chilled’ ready for you to freeze yourself. Each one feeds two people but, open up what looks like a conventional two-person pack and you’ll find neat portions – so that you can mix and match dishes if you choose or even indulge in a dinner for one that isn’t just chicken tikka masala and rice!
I was offered the chance to review some of the offerings and selected a couple of freezer meal dishes along with chutney and some spices. My idea was to make a very simple prawn dish with yoghurt and spices, some rice and raita to complement the dishes that were coming pre-cooked.
The food arrived beautifully packaged in fully recyclable boxes and there were some extra crackers and naan. The lovely spice kit contained six blends of spices, perfect to pimp up my own efforts not just now but in the future. The gluten, nut and preservative-free spice mixes include a Garam Masala which I used in the raita, Chilli Masala, perfect to mix with yoghurt as a marinade for my prawns, Bombay Potato Masala which is just crying out to be used on one of those chilly winter evenings, an onion bhaji masala and a chicken/meat masala. Together with a little instruction booklet, I will feel happy to have another attempt at making a few of my own dishes.
A jar of Silent Pool gin and orange chutney was fragrant, tangy and utterly delicious. I could have eaten it by the spoonful.
I made up the prawn skewers and raita in advance, cooked a pot of rice and preheated the oven ready for the naan. Then all I needed to do was pop the dishes in the microwave while I griddled my prawn skewers. From frozen the dishes take 8 minutes for 2 – rather less if like me you are cooking them from chilled. In fact, another time I think I’d decant the food into serving dishes ahead of heating, simply because that would have saved having to remove the cellophane.
I was particularly thrilled to find dal makhani on the menu. It’s a mandatory order for me if I spot it when I’m dining out, mostly because I know it is simmered for hours, usually overnight and laced with cream and butter. The version from Mandira’s Kitchen didn’t disappoint, it was richly creamy with tender black lentils and a delicate spicing.
Kaju Dhania Murgh was a creamy delicate chicken dish laced with cashews, coconut and fresh coriander. As my companion remarked, this food was as good as anything we’ve eaten in a restaurant.
My own prawn skewers may not have been authentic, but we both really loved them and they were cooked in a few minutes. I made them by adding a teaspoon of chilli masala to half a small pot of greek yoghurt and the juice of half a lemon. I marinated the prawns for 30 minutes before cooking them on a griddle.
Raita was a great accompaniment to the meal, made with a pinch of garam masala, the other half of the pot of yoghurt, about half a cucumber grated and squeezed out, a big handful of torn then chopped mint leaves and a crushed clove of garlic all mixed together. We both particularly enjoyed the spiced cracker and soft pillowy naan which heated up beautifully in just 3 minutes. And then, of course, there was the chutney which just finished the dishes off perfectly.
We really loved all the food that we enjoyed and were impressed by the accompanying menu of options for future orders. There’s something for everyone – dairy-free and gluten-free options clearly marked – and sections for vegetarian and vegan dining. It all sounds wonderful and makes it very tempting to order a selection of dishes to keep in the freezer for those moments when I crave Indian food but don’t want to spend the day cooking and spicing things to perfection. As my dinner companion said, the food is a big step up from a takeaway or from the supermarket Indian meals – it is on a par with good restaurant food and, the advantage of everything being sent ready to cook is that it’s perfectly fresh with spicing that sings.
In addition to the meals we tried, Mandira’s Kitchen also has a collection only weekend menu which brings diners the kind of food that they could expect at one of the supper clubs. Menus include 3-course thalis and Indian barbecues which you can pick up on Friday afternoon or Saturday all day from their shop near Guildford. I only wish I lived a little closer. But the great thing is that most of the dishes are available UK wide. They are so freshly cooked that when I put in my initial order to arrive on Tuesday I got a phone call to explain that one of the dishes was still being cooked and to ask if I wanted delivery on the following day or a substitution! And, they are perfect for keeping on standby in your freezer for those ’emergency’ evenings when you want something special but you really don’t want to go out! With prices starting at £6.99 for two portions, they won’t break the bank either.
Find out more about Mandira’s Kitchen from their website – and let me know if you order and try some!
Looking for something different? We know that the Cinnamon Group are currently offering Feast at Home set menu for nationwide delivery. We haven’t had the chance to try yet. But, we’ve reviewed several of their London restaurants including the City Cinnamon Kitchen, the Battersea Power Station Cinnamon Kitchen and Cinnamon Club in Westminster and have never had a bad experience. So, we suspect this nationwide service will be excellent too.