Just occasionally Matt and Cat cook for themselves. Cat has two signature dishes: baked potatoes and salad; and tuna and goats cheese carbonara. Matt’s repertoire is at least double this (as is his girth) and so, being the more diverse chef, it was his job to cook the Christmas lunch. With uncharacteristic foresight, Matt ordered all of the ingredients for the annual roast-in from the Real Island Food Company.
Started by Jackie Phillips and Rachel Foy in 2007, the Real Island Food Company is a local firm which, as the name makes commendably clear, sells local food from Isle of Wight suppliers. A laudable aim and one that Matt and Cat were keen to buy into or, in this instance, from. The company has no shop or warehouse but sells online – another sign of sustainability. The award-winning website was easy to use and soon Matthew had filled up his virtual Christmas hamper with meat, vegetables and even a home-made pudding. Of course the RIFC could only provide the ingredients; it was up to your reviewers to make the best of them. Could Matt, his cooking skills atrophied by excessive dining-out, mess up a meal as simple as a roast? Read on to see.
Because it was so near Christmas, the delivery slots were a bit limited but that didn’t matter as The Real Island Food Company was able to make a Saturday drop-off. A pleasant lady knocked confidently on Matt’s door and entered his Victorian flat with a cool-bag full of goodies. It was probably thus when the big house was new; butchers and bakers making doorstep deliveries. Housemaid Cat received the consignment and began to unpack. The bag was soon emptied, the fridge was subsequently full and the lady with the RIFC pinny left to continue her deliveries.
Decanting the food for its photo shoot, Matt and Cat found a hunk of topside of beef from Newbarn Farm, gammon and bacon from Hamiltons, vegetables for two, golden ginger pudding from Island Kitchen and double cream from Coppid Hall Farm. All items were specifically provenanced apart from the vegetables, but at least they were seasonal. After being posed for the camera, the food was returned to storage until the big day.
After dusting off his Parkinson Cowan with its retro eye-level grill, Matt prepared the beef for its encounter with the roasting tray. The meat was ready to go, and very well-prepared with no adjustment to the strings needed. So unlike all those ponces on TV, Matt’s preparation involved little more than patting the joint down with seasoned flour before shoving it in a preheated oven. Playing Johnny to Matthew’s Fanny, Cat helped prepare the vegetables, taking delight in removing the outer leaves from the sprouts and jabbing little crosses in their bottoms. Matt had less luck with the onions; there had been two in the seasonal vegetable selection, of which one was beyond the point of edibility. Still there were spuds, cabbage, plenty of carrots and some slightly bendy parsnips to eat. Perhaps the ‘snips and onion were channelling the mood of the world’s children on Christmas afternoon and were a bit over-tired?
1.4kg topside of beef from Newbarn Farm £14.12
Seasonal veg for two £8.50
Golden ginger pud £4.15
150ml Coppid Hall double cream 90p
Service and delivery £3.94
Christmas dinner cost: £31.61
6 x Brownrigg eggs £1.20
Hamilton’s smoked gammon £5.20
Hamilton’s smoked bacon £2.69
Other items cost: £9.09
Having used his trusty meat-chart to work out the topside’s cooking time, Matt removed it from the oven after an hour and a half. Leaving it and to rest (and here’s why you always should), he blasted its previously-encircling roasties with gas mark 9 as he prepared the gravy. Cat laid the table and uncorked a bottle of something red that she found in the wine cellar, aka Matt’s kitchen cupboard. Dinner was served.
With their cracker hats perched atop their bonces, Matt and Cat tucked in to their roast. The meat was lovely; perfectly cooked and lean. They used steak knives to cut it as it was still rare enough to present some resistance. Cat will sometimes turn her nose up at any meat that isn’t very well-cooked but even she couldn’t resist the lure of the rare beef. Cat bigged up the carrots; unlike the offerings at the William Coppin, they were sweet and tasty. The parsnips likewise – they may have been bendy but once cooked they were perfect. Cat gamely ate her annual sprout but Matt enjoyed his and finished them off. Before long, their plates were pushed to one side and the last mouthfuls of lunch were washed down with the vin d’flat.
After years of trying to persuade himself otherwise, Matt had finally conceded that neither he or Cat liked Christmas pudding with brandy butter. So he had bought golden ginger pud for afters. As instructed on the packaging a few moments in the microwave warmed up this spicy dessert which was to be eaten with the double cream. Alas, despite its claim to be edible on 25 December, the cream had gone off and had to be discarded. Still, the pudding was pretty good without; a sort of chewy sponge with a generous soaking of golden syrup and chunks of ginger throughout.
This is a unique review for Matt and Cat, as it’s actually a review of a meal that Matt cooked himself. So obviously the Real Island Food Company cannot be held responsible for the cooking – perhaps the ginger sponge was in the pinger for a bit too long – but how did the hamper fare? It certainly lived up to its billing and provided very well-documented local food, and was super-easy to order. Delivery worked without a hitch. The food, whilst mostly higher-end stuff that you’d pay a premium for in a farm shop anyway, seemed pretty good value, apart from the vegetables which at £8.50 were not cheap and also not all in the best of condition. The meat however was excellent and a good deal. The gammon was eaten later as an ingredient in one of Cat’s ubiquitous salads and the bacon was a perfect substitute for tuna in Cat’s New Year’s Eve’s carbonara. Considering that on Christmas Day you could easily spend in excess of £25 per head on lunch, it all worked out pretty well. If only the Real Island Food Company would provide a washing up service too!
Real Island Food Company