Saturday 29 May 2021

Dirty Bones meal kit at home - Plateaway review

We’ve eaten quite a lot of takeaways during the pandemic, but not because we couldn’t get out to our favourite restaurants – since becoming parents over three years ago we have barely been out to eat more than a handful of times! Instead, ordering in food was either something we did at the end of a particularly tiring day of working and entertaining a toddler, or because we felt like we needed a treat of some kind. I was getting a bit fed up of our same old, same old choices, particularly when it came to actually celebrating a special occasion.

For Valentine’s Day we had a lovely delivery from a local restaurant, Spaghetti Tree, but for my birthday recently I wanted to do something else. I have seen a few websites that allow you to order meal kits from restaurants if you live too far away to get a takeaway- you do have to cook it yourself but they provide all the ingredients and instructions. That sounded quite fun so for my birthday I had a look at Plateaway to find something my husband and I would both like - which immediately ruled out quite a lot! I decided to go for burgers out of curiosity - cooking burgers at home is never as good as eating them in restaurants or indeed takeaway/ delivery from the likes of Five Guys. I’ve often wondered even if you get a good quality beef patty surely what makes these meals delicious is the way they are cooked or even the way the burgers are assembled - so this was my opportunity to find out!

I went for the ‘Mac Daddy kit’ from a restaurant called Dirty Bones - they have a site in London’ Shoreditch though I’ve never eaten there before. I selected the option I wanted from Plateaway - kit to serve two for £19 - and entered the delivery date I wanted. I went for the day before my birthday as the meal kits do have to be used within a day or two but as the delivery time is not guaranteed I thought it best to get it the day before- though it came around 11.30am.

Plateaway lists everything you get inside the box on its website so you know before you order exactly what you are getting. In this kit there were burger patties, American cheese slices, brioche buns, a pouch of macaroni cheese and a pouch of pulled pork in barbecue sauce. The latter were both already cooked and prepared and just needed reheating. The kit doesn’t come with fries so you will need to supply cook those yourself.

There was a card inside the pack with detailed instructions, though it was very straightforward and really only involved frying the burgers and heating the Mac and cheese and pulled pork in small pans. The instructions also include how to assemble the burger.

And is ordering a burger from Plateaway worth it? A resounding yes from me. The burger was juicy, the mac and cheese creamy and the pulled pork tangy, all working together to give the taste of something I would happily have ordered in a restaurant.

But is it worth cooking something from Plateaway or a restaurant meal kit yourself? First of all, let’s look at the cost. This was £19 for two people - so £9.50 per burger - plus a £4.95 delivery charge. At Dirty Bones restaurant the Mac Daddy burger is £12 - so you save £2.50 by cooking it yourself or if you count the delivery cost it’s basically the same as eating in the restaurant (though you would have to factor in the cost of getting to the restaurant unless you lived in walking distance, and a tip). It is cheaper than ordering a takeaway - we seem to spend about £40 when we order from Five Guys for instance though that includes fries and drinks. It’s worth knowing that you can also get the cook at home meal kits direct from the Dirty Bones website. They charge £28 instead of £19 for the Mac Daddy kit but that includes delivery and also two portions of fries with their special blend of onion and garlic salt.

Ultimately the draw of getting a restaurant meal kit to cook at home is if you want to eat food from a particular restaurant and live too far to either go there (or are avoiding travel/eating out still due to covid; we were in lockdown when we ordered this but even now haven’t started going into London again) or live too far away to get an actual takeaway delivered. For that reason- and because the food was delicious even though I cooked it myself - I would definitely order again!

Thursday 13 May 2021

Handmade Eid Mubarak card

Eid Mubarak! Today is Eid-al-Fitr, a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims that marks the end of the Ramadan month of fasting. During Ramadan, most Muslims (aside from those who are exempt for reasons including illness and old age) fast from dawn until sunset, then break their fast each night with a meal known as 'iftar'. Sharing iftar with others is an important practice for many Muslim families, and it must have been particularly difficult this year and last when Ramadan and Eid took place in lockdown. This year the restrictions aren't quite so strict but still prevent families and large groups of friends from getting together.

One of our neighbours is a Muslim family who have kindly shared iftar meals with us and with others in our street, bringing a tray of food to our door. We've had a delicious chicken biryani and a sweet rice dish called zarda, which I'd never tasted before, and can recommend! I thought I had taken a photo of it but unfortunately can't find it now.

Today on Eid, I gave them a card I had made, wishing the family Eid Mubarak which means 'Blessed Eid' - the traditional greeting you would offer. I have to admit this was a last minute card so was made very quickly, but I'm quite pleased with it, and I hope they were too!

The crescent moon is an important symbol of Eid and often found on greetings cards - Eid begins at the first sight of the new crescent moon. I have a paper pad of galaxy-themed pages from Hobbycraft and cut out a crescent moon from a piece of paper with a starry night sky design. I added some mini blue and silver gems and sequins and the words 'Eid Mubarak' in silver letters; I thought the glitter effect worked really well with the theme of the card.

Next year I think I might bake something for my neighbours at Eid!

Wednesday 5 May 2021

How to make an Amazon parcel cake

We fall squarely in the camp of ‘how on earth did people manage before Amazon Prime?’. A combination of not wanting to go to shops during lockdown, working full time and not really wanting to spend my free time trawling the high street and a toddler who often needs stuff at short notice means we probably get more Amazon parcels than most. Then there is the fact that my husband actually works for a branch of the company so it’s not far from the truth to say that his bank statement looks quite funny.... money comes in from Amazon... money goes out to Amazon!
So when it came to his birthday there was really only one cake I was ever going to make. I'd seen a few pictures on the internet of cakes that look exactly like Amazon parcels, complete with shipping labels - which are all edible. The cake itself looked fairly simple, but the question was, where do you get edible Amazon labels to go on cakes?

It turns out that these are actually made of icing sheets, printed using edible ink. You can buy your own icing printer and edible ink and they aren't quite as expensive as I imagined - they seem to start at around £200. Which is a lot, but not prohibitively expensive if you were going to use it a lot. However, I knew I wasn't going to get much use out of one so couldn't justify buying one, and instead found someone selling what I needed on Etsy.

When I bought this in March I could only find one UK seller on Etsy making these, but now there seem to be quite a few, and I've found the same thing on Ebay as well. I paid £9 which was quite a bit for a cake decoration but I was happy to pay it for something this unique!
Making the cake itself is relatively easy - you need a square or rectangular cake tin, some roll-out fondant icing, some food colouring and that's about it - as well as your cake and icing ingredients.

My husband loves chocolate cake so I browsed the internet for a recipe that looked nice - I didn't want to use any of the really fudgy chocolate cake recipes I've made before that use a lot of melted chocolate in the cake batter, as our three-year-old daughter would be eating it too. So I wanted it to be delicious but not too rich, and used this recipe from Charlotte's Lively Kitchen, which was really good.
If you don't have a rectangular cake tin you can bake two square cakes and join them together, but you might have a bit of a dip in the icing where there is a join.
To cover the cake I mixed some fondant icing with a little gel paste in teddy bear brown. You can buy ready made icing by Renshaw in this colour but it's cheaper to add your own colour to white icing, at least if you will be using gel colours regularly (they tend to last a long time). I think the shade looks very similar to Amazon packaging!
As well as filling the cake with chocolate buttercream I spread a thin layer over the top and around the sides, then rolled out the fondant to cover it. All I then had to do was add the labels.

They came on an A4 sheet with instructions that said if I had difficulty in peeling the icing off the backing (which I did - it was impossible) to put the sheet in the oven at a particular temperature, and it would harden and come off the backing sheet easily. It worked perfectly, and I only needed to moisten the fondant on the cake a little to get the labels to stick. I was able to get them personalised, with my husband's name and birthday date.
My icing isn't perfect - I live in envy of people who can make perfectly sharp corners - but from a distance this looked very realistic, and my husband thought it was brilliant as he hadn't seen these cakes before!