Meal Box Review: This fabulous food is a holiday in a box

If you're dreaming of travelling abroad, this delicious dinner will take you there

Anna Del Conte and Marcella Hazan are my go-to writers on Italian food, so when I was looking for a recipe for caponata, it was to these much-loved pages I took my well-worn thumbs. I had arrived back from Sicily, with salted capers in my suitcase, and I wanted to replicate this simple but beautiful dish we had eaten when we stayed on the coast in Siracusa.

It was by no means the first time we’d had caponata, but it was special, waiting for us there with a few other homemade dishes, when we checked into our Airbnb. It was the unexpected generosity of our host which made this caponata taste like no other.

I am reminded of that moment when I tuck into caponata from the Host restaurant vegetarian meal kit. In Gastronomy of Italy, Del Conte describes it as aubergine in a sweet-and-sour sauce. It appears in many different variations across Sicily, and can be garnished with tiny boiled octopus, lobster or prawns, or could have bottarga grated over.

Here it comes with a ball of mozzarella, and I’ve followed the instructions to take them both out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving. The small pieces of room-temperature tomato, aubergine, onions and capers have the balance between sweetness and acidity that make this such a great dish, and it works well with the less assertive creaminess of the mozzarella.

As Host is all about the small dish sharing thing, we have another dish alongside this, cauliflower that has been charred on the grill, which I reheat and finish with a tahini dressing. It is gently spiced and tinged red from harissa, and some chickpeas and onion add further interest to the dish.

I had ordered the vegetarian dinner option for the cappellacci, not the caponata, as I had been disappointed that it wasn’t on the pork chop menu, which I’d had a few weeks previous. That too, is very good, and if you’re not a fan of pork, their Pigs On The Green pork chop with salsa verde and tender stem broccoli may well change your mind.

Anyone who has eaten in Host will understand my craving for their cappellacci. These little mouthfuls of deliciousness are shaped like medieval hats, the silky pasta filled with a mixture of sweet roasted pumpkin, with just a touch of nutmeg. For the cook-at-home thing, after three minutes at a rolling boil they are finished in a brown butter sauce. The nuttiness of the butter is given another little hit with the addition of a few walnuts, and a few wilted sage leaves add a slightly heady earthiness. These cappellacci are a thing of beauty, and I have since realised that they can be ordered on their own from the website, there’s no need to opt for a full dinner menu.

For main course, there’s a substantial piece of shiitake mushroom lasagne, which just needs reheating. It’s savoury and satisfying, and the black radish and red chicory salad lifts it nicely. It’s got loads of fresh, crunchy little bits – apples, almonds, pickled onions, and coriander, tossed in a mustard and citrus dressing.

Dessert is simple, maybe even a little inconsequential. It is a lemon posset topped with almond crumble and chunks of poached pear. It comes in a tub which is designed to be shared. So, a bit of stretching across the table with spoons is required.

Like everyone else, I am dreaming about holidays abroad. And it is so wonderful when food, like the dishes you get from Host, transport you. It may not always take me to Sicily, but it certainly takes me to Ranelagh, perched on one of the stools at the central high tables, with laughter and the hum of chat in the room. I’m hoping it won’t be too long till that’s a reality.

Dinner for two was €57.

Where does it come from: Host, 13 Ranelagh, Dublin, D06 V0C1; hostrestaurant.ie

Difficulty factor: A little work is involved

Food provenance: Listed for some items

Vegetarian options: A full dinner menu

Delivery: Menus go live on Sunday, click and collect Thursday to Saturday

The verdict: 8/10 Skilful cooking that tastes delicious

Three to Try

All Hail The Box
Dublin 2, Deliveroo and order in person, open Tuesday to Sunday

Jerk chicken has landed with a load of reggae sounds in the former Pablo Picante premises on Dawson Street. The €11.99 meal box packs two pieces of chicken, a fruity mango and scotch bonnet sauce, coconut rice and black beans, red cabbage slaw, and corn on the cob.

Silk Road Cafe
Dublin 12; Deliveroo and click and collect at Kimmage, Thursday to Saturday; silkroadcafe.ie

The variety of this well-priced range of Middle Eastern vegetarian and vegan food is impressive, with various hummus options, including beetroot, spinach and roast pepper; falafel, sumac cauliflower, stuffed vine leaves, tagine, moussaka, salads; and desserts like Palestinian donuts, Middle Eastern shortbreads stuffed with dates and nuts, and pear cake.

Fused Starter Sushi Kit
Online, click and collect, also Ardkeen and SuperValu, fusedbyfionauyema.com

If you've ever yearned to make sushi, this kit will get you started. It includes two sushi mats, Japanese rice, nori seaweed, chopped ginger and three Fused soy sauces. There are step-by-step instructions on the website on how to make different types of sushi and poke bowls.

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