Meal Box Review: There’s a touch of magic to this food

Tiller + Grain weekend box is a minimum amount of work for a remarkable meal

Weekend Box at Tiller+ Grain, Frederick Street South, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Weekend Box at Tiller+ Grain, Frederick Street South, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

A confession. My Ottolenghi cookbooks are not splattered. I know, they should be. I have made his aubergine with buttermilk sauce, sprinkled over the jewelled pomegranate seeds, and lashed out a million fattoush and tabbouleh renditions, but I’ve just never got around to the 100-ingredient salads that were once the prerequisite for a friends-over-to-dinner bash. Remember those?

It’s not a case of “life is too short to stuff a mushroom” – toiling over labourious dishes can give me an obscene amount of pleasure – I’m just a bit of a slacker when it comes to vegetables.

It is so much nicer when someone does all the hard work for you. As I assemble the salad that comes with the Tiller + Grain weekend box – dress the leaves and fennel with the lemon and oil dressing, season with salt to taste, add blood oranges, toss together, and pile on a plate – I am tempted to reach for my Aimsir tweezers to artfully place the fronds of chervil on top, before adding the earthy note of three to five drops of thyme oil.

Apart from having no idea where I might find chervil, one of my favourite herbs, the lemon dressing is so transportingly beautiful – made, I would imagine, from preserved lemons – it splashes droplets of sunshine onto the crisp chicory, radicchio, and shaved fennel.

Like a typical Ottolenghi salad, this is detailed with layers of flavour. Which should be no surprise. Clair Dowling, who opened Tiller + Grain in Dublin’s South Frederick Street two years ago, previously worked for both Yotam Ottolenghi and Skye Gyngall. Her weekend boxes, which range from €25-€35 per person, depending on what’s on the menu, are designed as a family-style dinner. Basically, there’s a little bit of assembling, you bring everything to the table, and sit down and enjoy it.

We have a veritable feast, which as well as the bitter leaf salad includes focaccia, a nutty, brick orange romesco dip, warm freekeh with pickled pumpkin and tarragon; and hake, which has been cooked en papillote and served with a herbed Kalamata olive dressing.

Clair Dowling chef and ownerTiller+ Grain. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times
Clair Dowling chef and ownerTiller+ Grain. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

En papillote is a wonderful, almost foolproof way to cook fish. Here it is already wrapped in an opaque envelope, and you add some fennel oil, before cooking it in the oven. There’s a nice little tad-dah moment when you cut open the paper to plate it. The aromatics of the lemon and slices of ginger add to the flavour of the fish, which is fresh and simple, and melds with the Mediterranean puddle of smoky, fruity Kalamata dressing on the plate.

The nutty freekeh works beautifully as a side dish, all Moroccan spice with cumin, raisins and tarragon, and a nice punch of acidity from the sizable chunks of pickled pumpkin. This food is substantial, warming and very convivial.

Dessert is a dainty chocolate and blood orange fondant tart which has been warmed through for 10 minutes. It is absolutely stunning. Rose Panseby, the Ballymaloe-trained pastry chef at Tiller + Grain is clearly very skilled. As I break the delicate chocolate pastry with a spoon, a stream of fondant flows onto my plate. The crispness of the fragile pastry, the richness of molten chocolate with blood orange, the chime of a crystallised mint leaf and a quenelle of house made crème fraiche makes for a spectacular dessert.

This is a very clever kit. There is so little to do to get a remarkable meal on the table. So much work has been done in advance, but with a light hand. It is only in the eating that the technique and layers of flavour are revealed. The menu changes weekly, so it could be fish one week, slow cooked lamb shank another. As an added bonus, all the packaging is either compostable or recyclable.

Dinner for two was €50.

Where does it come from: 23 South Frederick Street, Dublin; tillerandgrain.ie
THE VERDICT: 8.5/10 Magical flavours with a light touch
Difficulty factor: Very little to do and really clear instructions
Food provenance: Impeccably sourced ingredients, organic, wild, and higher-welfare
Vegetarian options: Not generally on the Weekend Box, but available on Deliveroo takeaway menu
Delivery: Click and collect on Friday and Saturday.

THREE TO TRY

Kinara
Clontarf, Malahide, Ranelagh, Dublin; click and collect; Thursday to Sunday; kinara.ie
An extensive à la carte menu is available, priced 15 per cent less than dine-in prices. Starters include malai tikka, roasted chicken in a garlic, ginger and turmeric yoghurt dressing, €8.90. Mains include nehari gosht, beef in a spicy curry sauce, €19.99 and jalfrezi jhinga, jumbo prawns, €19.50. Vegetarian options available. Check website for WhatsApp numbers to order.

Ripasso Restaurant and Wine Bar
Co Wicklow; click and collect; Wednesday to Sunday; €2.50 delivery Friday and Saturday, south Dublin and Bray area; ripasso.ie
Dinner boxes, €60 for two, are available Friday to Sunday once pre-ordered on Wednesday. The three course menu is posted on the website on Sundays, and has included calamari and nduja in lemon and parsley to start; mains of beef saltimbocca alla Romana and tiramisu for dessert. Operates as a takeaway Wednesday to Sunday.

 L’Atitude 51
Cork city; order via Instagram or Facebook; collect Friday; Instagram @latitudefiftyone
Beverley Matthews’s €50 weekend take-out boxes use wine as the starting point. A recent box, based around a Tuscan wine, included ribollita (the traditional Tuscan bread and bean soup) schiacciata with rosemary (Tuscan focaccia), crostini with fegatino (chicken liver paté), malfatti with sage butter (spinach and ricotta dumplings), ricciarelli (almond and orange biscuits from Siena) and cantuccini.

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