Aktar Islam At Home

It’s the final ever roast dinner review…of a roast dinner meal kit, that is, so I thought I’d go big. And what could be bigger than reviewing the Aktar Islam At Home roast dinner meal kit?

Whoa, scary Islamic name…how are the Islamophobes going to cope with reading the next 2,423 words of drivel?

Regular readers know that I like to mark occasions with something special, like when I celebrated roast dinner 100 with the saltiest ever roast dinner that was barely edible.

So I wanted to mark the last ever Sunday roast review that was not in a pub or restaurant (there won’t be another lockdown, right?) with something special. And the one roast dinner meal kit that has been on my lockdown to-do list for the longest, the one that has piqued my curiosity far more than all the others was Aktar Islam At Home – launched, I think, towards the end of the first lockdown (shortly before I declared that there wouldn’t be another lockdown…that it was politically impossible…aha).

Yet there was a really big reason why I’d got to the end of the third lockdown without ordering the Aktar Islam At Home roast dinner kit, and it isn’t what Katie Hopkins (it joyfully took a few seconds to remember her name) would hope would be my reasoning.

Quite simply, the meal kit is for 4 people. I am 1 person. 2 if I break lockdown rules and visit my sister – but I did actually follow the rules to the very last confused punctuation mark until a couple of weeks ago.

Big

I’ve actually done a bit of research on Aktar Islam. According to Wikipedia (how the fuck is there not a Wikipedia page about either me or this blog?), he’s a multiple award-winning Michelin starred chef (I won a donut eating competition once), he’s been on TV – and even won Gordon Ramsay’s The F-Word show (how do I not have a television series of my own?) – he also owns/runs two highly-respected restaurants in Birmingham, Opheem and Pulperia – Opheem is the first and only Michelin starred Indian restaurant outside of London. I own a small collection of Romanian minimal techno vinyls.

Also, he isn’t afraid to say what he thinks, he seemingly stumbled into a bit of a mini Twitterstorm over the price of Dishoom’s bacon naan kit, and delightfully is not afraid to hit back at TripAdvisor reviews – “Obviously you’ve gained your understanding of Indian cuisine from what seems like a very short repertoire of dishes cooked by your mum and what you’ve seen at your local curry house”. Boom!

So I was even more intrigued, partly the fact that he seems to know his food – but more importantly that he is not afraid to hit back at reviewers, “The problem I have with TripAdvisor, is that ignorant people can post what they like and proclaim it as fact.”.

Challenge accepted – though first I would need to find something to complain about…oh and try to persuade them to do a box for 1 or 2 people…yeah you’ve seen this before…go join Katie Hopkins if you don’t want to read any more of my drivel:

Good evening

Yes, I am a blogger. I bet you are delighted to read that yet another idiot with a blog is asking you for something.

But I don’t want a freebie. I actually buy my own food. I know…I’m some kind of weird, freaky blogging moron that used to vote Tory who doesn’t want a freebie. My mum still likes me though.

However, nobody else likes me and I live on my own. Oh, this is the part where I do want something.

So you do a roast dinner box for 4 people. I am 1 person. Perhaps 2 if my sister can be persuaded to cope with me. But I’m certainly not 4 people.

Is there any chance you could conjure up a roast box for 2 people for next weekend? I’m looking for the perfect last review before we are allowed back in pubs and restaurants…well…their gardens in the cold and snow…and I kind of like the look of your roast box.

Totally understand if the logistics don’t work for you…if you don’t ask you don’t get. And I stress that I do want to pay…I am not one of those types of people – I just don’t want a box for 4 people!

Thanks
Lord Gravy

It was the Saturday that I sent this e-mail, and I knew there was a bit of pressure on to get something ordered in time for the last ever roast dinner meal kit for the no turning back end of lockdown promised by a man who definitely wouldn’t lie to the British public.

Bigly

Tuesday came and still no response. I had two other options – The Lowry Hotel meal kit from Plateaway or Roast Kings. Both seemed like they would be decent and worth writing about.

Wednesday came – look this is a long and boring story, Katie Hopkins is waiting for you if you cannot be bothered with my drivel and might even have a spare line of ketamine if you ask her nicely…assuming you are white…and believe in Brexit.

So we decided to order from Roast Kings, but I ended up concentrating on work instead (obviously the most of the day is just one long holiday working from home and minions like me cannot wait to be forced back to the office via Pret after all of our time off) so didn’t find time to order – then received a response from Aktar’s operations director:

Hi Lord Gravy!

Thank you for your hilarious e-mail. In a world now dominated by people who’ve not had any human contact in 6 months and have mostly forgotten their sense of humour and general social etiquette, it made for a nice break from the usual queries we have been getting! It’s always good to service a former tory, for want of a better phrase, and I’ve spoken with Aktar and we will see what we can do on the sly this week if you’re still interested. We try to reduce as much waste as possible, so can’t say for sure until a little bit later today though.

Later today came and went.

Thursday arrived. It was too late to order from Roast Kings. Too late to order from Plateaway. Had I cocked up the last ever roast dinner meal kit before the irreversible end of lockdown promised by Boris “there will be no tariffs and no checks” Johnson?

Well, no, and you probably already know that otherwise I wouldn’t have written all of this. I guess I won’t be writing cliffhangers for Eastenders any time soon. By the end of Thursday, a roast dinner box was ready to send to me, though they couldn’t do it for less than 4 people and insisted on charging me £40.00 rather than the usual £65.00 – which makes me one of THOSE bloggers.

Bigger, digger…oh maybe stop there

A humungous amount of food arrived – far too much for even the suggested 4 people. Did I get special treatment? Possibly. Please do bear in mind during the rest of the review that they knew who I was. They knew I had a blog. I cannot promise that you will receive either the same quantity. You probably won’t get bonus empanadas like we did. You probably won’t get £25.00 off for telling them that you used to vote Tory.

Well you made through my drivel far enough to see the beef. Time for more drivel?

Yes it is. Guess what? The RMT trade union are on strike but not on strike, if you know what I mean, because going on strike without a ballot would be illegal. But every weekend there is suspiciously not enough controllers at the Hammersmith Control Room to look after the Metropolitan, Circle, District and Hammersmith lines – and co-incidentally there is an ongoing dispute about the “appalling working conditions” there (I’m kind of imagining some rat-infested dungeon where controllers get poked with hot iron rods every time a red signal needs changing – perhaps someone from the RMT could clarify).

So hence the Metropolitan line and other lines – or the parts of those lines under direction of the Hammersmith Control Room have been closed at times on a weekend due to “staff shortages” since February.

So the upshot of this is that every week in the coming weeks you will probably have to read more boring stories about my travels to roast dinners. This time, I got the Metropolitan line two stops, had a 20 minute walk, then got the Overground 12 stops, before being picked up at South Hampstead.

And then we cooked some beef. And bought some beers.

OK, OK, let’s talk roast dinners. I got 5 different tube trains on the way home. Did I mention how long I had to wait for the overground on the way there?

So there was way too much food to fit on our plates – I made the best attempt that I could but this also means that it was difficult to photograph – and I already have the handicap of been a pretty crap photographer.

There was a bit of work involved. The beef needed taking out 3 hours before – then searing on all sides before cooking in the oven for 10 minutes. Cabbage and gravy both needed warming up on the hob – everything else had time in the oven. Instructions were clear – and I appreciated the fact they were listed in chronological steps, “10 minutes later…do x”.

Go big or go home

Starting with the mound of carrots that we had – these were nice, but only nice – I don’t want to give too much away but they were overshadowed by everything else. Sliced, a bit of thyme but fairly innocuous otherwise.

Especially compared to the cabbage. Aktar Islam At Home provided the perfect example of why I like cabbage so much when it is done properly – here with leek too I thought (ignorant reviewer, perhaps), but notably with mustard and cream – this was a meal in its own right and was suitably gorgeous.

Then we had the cauliflower cheese which again was a mound – far too much for 4 people – large and tender chunks of cauliflower, thick creamy cream – perhaps not the strongest flavour of cheese, but on the flip side the truffle crumbs that I think we sprinkled on at some point (or I imagined so) gave an added complexity. Again, excellent.

We squeezed out 3 roast potatoes each and these were…yes…excellent. Crispy on the outside – if we had cooked them another 5 minutes then they would have been ever better, soft and fluffy on the inside, full of herby flavour. Excellent roast potatoes for the final ever roast dinner meal kit at ho…the…the…the what variant? FINAL EVER LOCKDOWN.

Well my photography just gets worse by the photo, but I think you can just about see how fabulous the roasties were.

Onto the Yorkshire pudding which was large, soft and fluffy on the bottom – as it should be, a little crispy on the outside – as it should be. Given this was made on Thursday, warmed up on the Saturday (don’t judge – I can drink more on a Saturday), and came close to perfection – there is even less excuse for pubs getting them wrong going forwards.

So the sirloin beef was riddled with herbs and tasted so throughout. Once we sliced it, it was notably rare after cooking for 15 minutes rather than the 10 proscribed minutes – I was comfortable but my dining accomplice not so, so we put the slices back in the oven for a minute or two. Predictably by now, this was really, really nice beef – easy to cut, top quality sirloin and full of herbtastic flavour. Though I shouldn’t have put my slices in the oven.

There was actually quite a decent amount of gravy – not enough for northerners like myself and my sister, but a decent amount – plus the rest of the food was tender and flavoursome enough that you could argue that it didn’t really need gravy. You’d still be a fucking wrong’un for suggesting it. But you could.

Not something I would argue of course, and we mocked up some granules-based guff to help finish off, but before we ran out this was again nice gravy – the red wine flavour more obvious than the bone marrow flavour, quite complex yet complimentary – not the star of the show, but working really well with everything.

Very good gravy doesn’t need to be the star – either wow me with the gravy, or make good gravy that allows everything else on the plate to dance – whichever way, I’m as happy as a northern tosser with a roast dinner blog in a swimming pool of gravy.

Big up to Aktar Islam At Home?

My sister afterwards said that it was better than Blacklock At Home. I had to think about it.

It wasn’t – but I had to read my review of Blacklock At Home again – this is bloody close to being as fabulous.

Excellent roasties, perfect yorkie, amazing cabbage – the best criticism I can think of is the regular discovery of bits of twig from the herbs. Is that really a criticism?

There is room for improvement – there always is in life – though one of the main improvements would be to be eating this at an actual restaurant – as a reminder, they have two restaurants and I think are opening a third, if you happen to end up in Birmingham – hell maybe you even live there already. I might get tickets to an England test match next year at Edgbaston just so I have the perfect excuse to go to one of Aktar’s restaurants. Yes, I am that impressed. Dad, are you reading? Yeah, my Dad does read this.

We all scored it between an 8.4 and 8.5 – I’m scoring it an 8.5, which makes it the second best roast dinner that I’ve had at home during lockdown – I’ve probably only had around 8 better roasts out of 157 in actual pubs/restaurants…it was that good.

Aktar Islam At Home absolutely has to go on your to-do list, especially if you’ve already done Blacklock At Home – as I’d like to hear how you compare it. They do curry boxes (I think a waiting list), a Biryani box, a Tandoori BBQ (which just sounds like a dream BBQ – please invite me and I’ll bring some ketamine for afters) and a meat box (which has an astounding amount of meat) also.

Our paths will cross again – ideally in restaurant format.

The big return

It’s 4 months since I was last in a pub. Well, actually it was 12 hours ago as I write, but you know what I mean. Actually, we can say that it 4 months since I was last in a pub having a roast dinner.

So I’m looking forward to the new golden age where every roast potato is crispy and fresh, every Yorkshire pudding is soft on the bottom, jus has been eradicated from every chef’s brain on a Sunday.

And all us ordinary folk that have seen how much venues have struggled over the last 13 months or so, will now always turn up for the tables that we have booked, or at least call them when we are “ill” and cannot get out of bed – definitely no multiple booking of tables at the same time in different venues and absolutely no more blagging of free food and stuff by every other nobhead with an Instagrim account.

Not to mention no more unfair slating of restaurants on TripAdvisor, nor any form of ignorant reviews. Well…

It is good to be back, isn’t it?

So obviously, I won’t be going for a roast dinner in London this Sunday. I’ll be back in two weeks. Aha.

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