HOLYFOOD - The Tasting

I left Amrik armed with seven pots of produce; unable to taste them all in one setting without inducing excess intake related nausea I called upon a willing helper.

We had in front of us:

  • Gosht ke Kofte (lamb meatballs)
  • Jinga Masala (prawn masala)
  • Masoor Dal (red lentil dal)
  • Bibi ka Saag (greens)
  • Kadi chawal (a yogurt and potato preparation)
  • Gajjar Salad (carrot salad)
  • Mattar Pilau (pilau rice with peas)
  • Cucumber raita

First up were the meatballs, we didn't get the overwhelming smack of intensity that we expected, the balls were almost confusingly light in flavor and texture, almost airy, whereas the sauce was slick and velvety with out all the oil.

The Prawn Masala that I had stuck a spoon into and sampled the day before was a revolutionary balance of bitter tang and creaminess. The tails on the prawns, large shards of cinnamon bark, cardamoms and cloves were flavorsome hurdles stopping us fork huge steaming mouthfulls in. The coconut undertones gave the masala a buttery feel without the richness of a dairy alternative.

The Red Lentil Dal was completely overshadowd by the first two dishes. We thought that it was underseasoned and a bit bland. In its defense though, dal is meant as an everyday healthy dish meant to be simple and light.

The Saag or Mother's Greens as Holyfood have dubbed it was a triumph. As I mentioned in the first Holyfood post Saag is not purely a spinach based dish and here we see savoy cabbage, Brussel sprouts, kale, spinach all being used. This is heady mix with the strength of the sprouts shining though and the first dish that had a really distinctive warmth of spice that builds.

Holyfood's carrot salad is like nothing else i have ever tried. Without reading the ingredient list i thought that it was perhaps some sort of ground cashew mix. The finely grated carrot, lemon juice and spices blend into a sweet and savory accompaniment that is tangy fresh and unmistakably pure.

We thought the Kadi chawal was one of the best dishes. An unfamiliar mixture of yogurt thickened with flour and added spices presented a light, sour lemony sauce with perfectly textured potatoes. Despite being an initial shock to the palate kadi was a real hit and along with the greens a dish that I will definitely investigate further.

The rice was as tasty as can have been expected, the addition of peas, caramalised onions and cumin seeds was an added bonus but with the advent of inexpensive domestic rice cookers I would never buy pre-prepared rice and neither should you.

Overall we agreed that Holyfood had achieved their aim of producing clean, healthy and everyday Indian convenience food. We put away more food than is advisable and certainly more that is possible in a ghee heavy, cream ridden curry house. This is certainly testimony to Holyfood's healthfulness and with no over-spicing it is the type of food that I could eat day in day out if it were not for the cost issue.

I know full well the cost of good food and Holyfood is undeniably expensive, while the large price tags should instill in the (affluent) customer a huge sense of quality lets just hope that demand continues and we see Holyfood on shelves well into the future. After all it is worth saving for.

Expect to find HOLYFOOD in your local premium food store soon!!

The Company Shed

Mersea Island is a wind swept marshy lump sticking out into the Blackwater estuary an half hour drive off the A12, the spine of East Anglia. Save for the waterside pubs serving frothy pints IPA and the sailing clubs dotted along the water front West Mersea doesn't offer the casual explorer much. This however is only true if you don't know about the Company Shed.

The unassuming shed has about seven long tables, a chiller counter and a rudimentary kitchen. Seafood platters are the main focus at £9.50 per person with ancillary items on the short menu. Oysters are a main sideline, where gigas or Natives can be bought for about £1 and £1.50 respectively. Whole dressed crabs, fished out from tanks stacked at the rear of the shed, smoked cods roe, mussels, and a few other warm shell fish dishes can be bought inexpensively.

Recently the Shed have started selling a few bottles of wine but customers are entitled and encouraged to bring their own bread and preferred tipple. We made some aioli, shallots in sherry vinegar and an extra oily gremolata to go with our late lunch.

Make sure you get there early especially in summer, we arrived at one thirty and got on the waiting list by the skin our teeth, the one hour wait was well worth it.

The Platter

Scallops with bacon and token leaves

Steamed mussels

Smoked cod's roe smacked a real umami hit

Half a dozen gigas

nearly finished

'If you love fish, this is paradise'

129 Coast Road, West Mersea, Essex. Tel 01206 382700


Amrik and Ron met in a Notting Hill cafe. Amrik had the clear vision that he wanted to create a modern brand producing clean healthy Indian food, they put their heads together and Holyfood was born.

Amrik was concerned that pukka indian food was in regression and was afraid that by the time his children were grown up its roots would be gone. Using saag as an example I understood what he meant by this meant; saag in northern India is a dish using mustard leaf, spinach and other greens cooked slowly along with spices, now what we take to be saag is purely spinach based. Generic norms become widely accepted and the origins disappear.

Sauce based curries that we are overly familiar with is one such example of this normalisation. Your run-of-the-mill curry house serves boiled meat in generic sauces pepped up with various other elements & spice combos. Kris Dhillon wrote a fascinating book 'The Curry Secret: Indian Restaurant Cooking at Home' (Elliot Right Way Books, April 2002) it unveils the secrets of the basic curry sauce. While most of us, myself included, find this approach to Indian cooking delicious it is not what Holyfood are about. They aim to revert this practise and look back to a slower more home-grown way of doing things.

Amrik and Ron do not come from a food background and to them this is a godsend, instead of bounding about the kitchen in a cheffy manner they enlist the help of seasoned professionals to come in with the ultimate recipies, this is then tried, tested and tested again until it hits the spot. The team of six (soon to be nine) cooks then learn the dishes from scratch; while this may not be a standard approach the aim of it is to turn out food that sticks closely to the brand without external dilution.

I adore this apparently honest approach and admire their enthusiasm but how does it stand up to the taste test? Find out in the next post…

Une Oeuf Is Never En Oeuf (food debate script)

By definition an Egg is a roughly spheroid object produced by the female of the species that contains the germ of a new individual.

Eggs are a pretty massive subject, clearly the supreme contender of foodstuffs. So great that for hundreds if not thousands of animals it is the first life giving food.

Given the culinary classification of Eggs, those of Hens only, I will only concentrate on one type of egg. To call upon all eggs would just be plain unfair on everyone else who has turned up for the debate. 

Historically eggs have been an incredibly important source of energy for human beings and have been eaten worldwide for ever.

Eggs come wonderfully pre-packaged; the membrane beneath the shell is an awesomely effective barrier against bacteria. They can keep for up a month having been laid. The shell is a wonder of nature, push at either end of a healthy egg and it is nigh on uncrackable. 

In terms of harvesting & yield nothing comes close to the egg. Hens are among many birds that lay cumulatively until they have enough eggs in their nest, remove the eggs and clucky will keep on pushing them out.

I haven’t even started on how essential they are to our culinary culture. They are the most versatile ingredients we have. A prime ingredient in pasta, custards, emulsions, batters, doughs, cake mixes…. I won’t bore you with going on and on.

They have the strength of character to stand alone in utterly delicious dishes yet are noble enough to sit in the background as building blocks for mighty recipes.

Without them we most certainly wouldn’t be the people we are today, nations are built on eggs. The Italians with their pasta, the French croissant the full in English, the Spanish tortilla, the oh so on trend Scotch egg, Ben and Jerry would be screwed with out eggs. I certainly would be able to tell you who Anna Pavlova was if it wasn’t for the egg and I haven’t even look to the Far East yet.

Harold McGee’s book ‘On Food and Cooking’, the bible of the science in the kitchen gives a full 27 pages to eggs alone. This is more than double given to any other ingredient being fought for. If that isn’t testimony enough to the supremacy of the egg an ingredient.

Let’s just look at the stunts it can do in the kitchen. We can all agree that the egg on its own is a tremendous thing to eat, boiled, fried, scrambled or baked. But what qualities lay beyond this? 

Eggs are the bed rocks for much of kitchen chemistry. Mayonnaise should never be bought, in three minutes and emulsified yolk with one or two supporting acts can be turned the world’s best condiment. It goes even deeper then this, mayonnaise can then be used as an ingredient in its own right; we are talking about the pure foundations.

Another example of this is their ability to clarify. Stocks and wine are both clarified by egg, the impurities get bound up with the whites’ protein. Eggs are am important in wine production! That’s pretty massive! So flexible is the egg that there use goes beyond detection as a central ingredient.

Eggs have the uncanny ability to thicken liquids in to solids, make light and foamy textures, they can stabilize mixtures…This is alchemy people!

Light delicate meringues and souffl├ęs work because the proteins stands unfurl when beaten and can support air bubbles. And the heating up of this foam sets it into a solid. 

We need to respect the egg above all other ingredients as it can always be your friend, but is can also be a tricky bugger, one wrong move and its all over.

I've split sauces, curdled custards, broken yolks, over cooked them….. so respect eggs above all else that they will be good to you!

Eggs is Eggs...