For a printable copy of this week's Takeaway menu, please click here
Tales from the Locked Down Kitchen
As I am writing this, we are coming to the end of a quite different year here at the club. One nobody could have ever imagined way back last February.
As the events unfolded, it became clear the way the club had operated in the past was no longer a feasible option to us, so with most of the staff furloughed, the house committee, Lyn and myself got together to come up with a plan to maintain a level of Club activity, through a catering service available for the membership.
Out of this came our first takeaway service. We had no idea of how successful it would be or how the logistical side of the operation would run. It was gratifying to see this new initiative prove extremely popular, to the point that the kitchen was producing more meals per week than it had done in the previous few years.
Coming up with the first meals was a bit hit and miss to start with. This had not been tried before, new territory for us. We resolved that the main criteria for all the meals then and since, after reheating at home, would see members enjoying a meal as close to one they would get in the club. Good quality club classics with the odd special now and again. Our formula proved a success with our members.
As you can imagine, I do not have the same resources or equipment available to me as do the big restaurant and supermarket chains. Yes, they can provide a far greater variety and volume that I could ever achieve, and at a lower price. What many do not do, and we aim to provide, is small batch home cooked meals that are made from scratch with good wholesome ingredients, no additives, flavourings or colourings, just local fresh produce.
My priority is to make every dish from scratch. Five days before hand, I would normally start to make the basic stocks required, from fresh bones, be it beef, lamb chicken or fish. These take 48 hours to produce and are subsequently a basis for the main dishes.
Initially, the intention was to provide everything fresh, that could be kept refrigerated for a week. As time went on, I introduced frozen meals, both to extend the shelf life and also to give me scope to introduce a greater variety of menu choices.
As you know, Mario sends out the menus with the NCT ready for the following week. My challenge is to plan the cooking and production process to bring all the meals together, along with the vegetables, potatoes and any side dishes, ready for collection every Monday by 12pm.
So, the routine goes like this: over the weekends the fresh vegetables arrive, along with the meat and fish, and are cooked on mass and chilled. Monday mornings the cold dishes are portioned up and individually vacuum packed, labelled and dated, ready for Lyn to fulfil orders through the week, picking out the main meals and side dishes, bagging them up, ready for collection in the allotted time slots.
The takeaway service also includes hot meals for members to either collect or have delivered, Wednesday to Friday. They are the ever popular hot fish and chips, various pies, roast dinners, and on occasion, a "Chef's special" is available.
More recently, oven bake meals in trays, like lasagne, fish bakes, salmon en croute etc. have been added to the menus.
I hope I have given you a little insight into how those meals arrive with you. Clearly, I cannot tailor every meal to each individual member, so I try to aim for the "Goldilocks" approach, with the meals "just right". ( I am aware of the feedback, that portions might be a little bit too much for some, but rather that way round!)
Writing a takeaway menu just after Christmas has been one of my most difficult tasks, considering what we may have just consumed. So, in keeping with the criteria, I have tried to create a menu of dishes based upon your preferences. My inspiration for the first menu came from meals that other countries around the world eat at this time of year, but keeping them a bit lighter for those who are feeling the strain of the festive period.
As well as these sous vide choices, hot meals will be available, and for the first time, a small selection of desserts. These will have to be frozen because of the production time and shelf life of the dishes, but like the main courses they are all made in house with fresh ingredients.
It just leaves me to wish you all a happy new year.
I hope you will continue to enjoy the meals provided. Stay safe and I look forward to serving you back in the club restaurant soon.