Saturday, 6th February 2021 – Banquist, Jitin Joshi
Banquist have been consistently good through the entirety of the lockdowns/pandemic stay at home sessions, with a number of excellent meals curated by some very well known, well-regarded chefs. The latest one was the work of Jitin Joshi, former executive chef of Gymkhana, a Michelin starred Indian restaurant in London – though obviously whether he still will be when this is all over is anyone’s guess. At present both chef and restaurant are doing at home packages of varying types and in various quantities and price ranges.
For now, though, he was also doing an at home for Banquist, complete with informative video, which is all the rage right now. We were looking forward to an interestingly spiced meal, with hopefully not too much effort required on my part. Apparently the menu “reflects a food philosophy that centres around colour and passion; he calls this Rogan Joshi”.
Anyway, enough of the philosophy. What was in the box? Well, three very tasty, and very easy to prepare courses. During the day I had done as much of the prep work as I could manage to get through, and had done a number of the steps that were listed as part of the final cooking, because I know what I’m doing and am more than capable of making a sensible, considered judgement on whether it will or will not affect the final dish. By the time dinner came around, I was well ahead with no risk of anything spoiling because I’d jumped the gun and gone off far too early.
There were a lot of ingredients, but the processes were all fairly simple. First job was to check everything was present and correct.
The starter was Cornish mackerel, with a fresh curry leaf marinade, and a Kashmiri tomato and samphire chutney. I had to do some work on the fish itself, but the rest was plain sailing, absurdly easy, and it was soon on the plate and looking good. The dish itself was very refreshing, with a zing from the marinade, and a salty taste of the sea from the samphire in the chutney.
The main required quite a lot of effort in comparison, the 14-day aged Cumbrian rack of lamb needing some trimming and the removal of four out of 6 of the bones. This was not something I’d done before, but I have confidence, and I have good knives, so I was happy to do it – it was much easier than you might think. I also had to trim the fat to make it even all over (this avoids the great MasterChef catastrophe of uncooked fat/badly undercooked meat). After all that was done, all I had to do was prepare the accompaniments.
The confit baby fennel was simple, as was the creamy polenta which was, thankfully, the instant version and not the stuff you have to stand and vigorously stir for half an hour in the hope that it might work. This was easy. The Napoli sauce took a little time, but will be well worth doing again on its own for use with pasta or something else suitable. This was made with an excellent tin of tomatoes, so unlike some of the sad, watery specimens you used to get when tinned tomatoes were something that the British didn’t take seriously. The result was fabulous, and the main course was possibly the best one we’ve had so far.
There are no photos of the date pudding, with sticky toffee sauce, almond and sesame crisp, though, because we didn’t get round to it until the Monday, and then I forgot to put the almond and sesame crisps on it!
The Banquist boxes always contain a bottle of wine, and this one was a mighty fine offering too, making me sorry I hadn’t bought an extra bottle of it. We had a full bottle of Zolla, Primitivo di Manduria from Puglia, an Italian wine that never disappoints, at least in my experience. The website talked of intense aromas of red cherries, blackberries and hints of spice and leather, and I won’t be arguing with that description.
For once, we’d also invested in the dessert wine, a Symphonie de Novembre by Henri Ramonteu, a half bottle from Jurançon, which is after all one of my favourite wine regions. I had to say yes to that. This was a particularly fine, late harvested version, and it was superb. Remarkably intense on the nose, a blend of exotic and citrus fruits, with notes of resin, spice and toast. It went brilliantly well with the date pudding.