It’s not everyday that you audition a plate of food, judging whether the flavours sing and the tastes tapdance on the tongue. We don’t usually take eating quite so seriously, but when you’re considering outsourcing the most important meal of the year, a rigorous selection process is a must: nobody wants to be faced with a burnt roastie or flavourless carrot come December 25th.
This year, like many other families, our usual festive plans have been shelved and we’ll be spending Christmas Day at home with the kids but without the extended family to share the terrible cracker jokes. It’s made us think about the kind of Christmas Day that we’d like to have, and I’ve decided that I don’t want to spend it stressing about food. I love to cook, but at Christmas it can be all-consuming, leaving little time to think about or do anything else. This year I’m putting time with the kids first, playing games, watching Christmas movies and not worrying about producing an amazing meal that will be gone in 10 minutes (and largely rejected by the kids anyway).
We’d still love a delicious meal though – it is Christmas after all – just without the faff. So after a bit of research and some recommendations, we discovered that high end Yorkshire catering company, The Hog and Apple, are offering Christmas dinner at home this year. Having been really impressed by their food at Thor’s Tipi over the summer, we thought it would probably be a safe bet. But just to be sure, and because we quite fancied a Sunday dinner cooked by someone else, we ordered one of their Hog and Apple and Home Sunday roasts to give it a trial run.
The Hog and Apple at Home service couldn’t be simpler: choose from two or three courses (£20 and £25 per head respectively) and decide between delivery (up to 25 miles radius of York) or collection from The Pig & Pastry on Bishopthorpe Road or Escrick Business Park. We chose the two-course option and collected it from The Pig & Pastry on a Sunday morning, plenty of time before we planned to eat. As it turns out, however, all we needed was fifteen minutes to get it from foil dishes to plate. Thanks to clear instructions and pre-cooking, the promise of a hassle-free meal was delivered in spades, leaving us to relax and enjoy one of the best Sunday dinners we’ve had.
Fears of ‘spoiling our appetite’ for the main event means we don’t normally bother with starters, but the temptation of ham hock proved too much for Mr Viking. It’s one of his favourites and he wasn’t disappointed: the addition of pineapple chutney, celeriac remoulade and chive mayo elevated it to high end restaurant quality. Meanwhile, the bowl of spiced butternut squash proved too hard to resist and I polished off the lot, despite having promised myself that I wouldn’t fill myself up so soon.
One of the many benefits of Sunday lunch at home is that you can take things at your own pace, so after a little lull we warmed up the main courses. Most of the dishes had to be heated in the oven, with a couple of bits just needing a quick blast in the microwave. In just a quarter of an hour we were tucking into one of the best Sunday roasts we’ve had. We both chose the vegan main option, having heard great things about it and despite neither of us being vegan, and it was absolutely delicious. Miso cauliflower steak was the star of the show, surrounded by a moreish selection of imaginative vegetable sides: pea and broad bean smash, rosemary and garlic roast potatoes, broccoli cheese, braised sticky red cabbage and hassleback carrots (who knew that one carrot could taste so good?). Oh, and the all-important Yorkshire puddings of course.
To put together a plate of food with such a variety of flavour and texture would have taken us hours of shopping and prepping. To get it all on the table, hot, would be very difficult. To manage it without being flustered? Impossible, in our house at least. To enjoy such a good meal without leaving the house was a real treat, and gave us time to tick some of the endless weekend jobs off the list and play with the kids (another round of Uno, anyone?).
Speaking of the kids, you might be wondering what we did about their meal. Rather than forking out for three dinners that might – going on past experience – be rejected on the grounds of being ‘too spicy’, I knocked together a quick veggie toad-in-the-hole which they tucked into quite happily. For pudding, I made a simple sticky toffee pudding (find that and the toad-in-the-hole recipe on our website) that we could all enjoy together. Everyone was happy, nobody was stressed and we were all well fed. Even with our harshest Craig Revel-Horwood heads on, The Hog and Apple At Home experience passed the audition with flying festive colours. Christmas dinner, here we come.