The takeaway habit has embedded itself firmly among those of us who share a love for restaurants and are now nostalgic about them. Takeaways may not match the quality of the actual restaurant experience due to the transit times and the fact that you're, er, eating at home, but at least they give us a flavour of what we once had, a little echo of the good times.
hey also provide increasing numbers of diners a chance to enjoy virtual themed dinner parties. Imagine a party of three or four households all enjoying the same dinner simultaneously in front of the laptop. For some this may be hell, of course, but for others, it's another variant of socialising.
Our kitchen is being used more than it ever was, but, paradoxically, we are also ordering more takeaways. If our experience is a common one then everyone should be a winner of sorts.
That includes restaurants, the agri food sector and delivery drivers. Last week we had Burger King Whoppers, McDonald's Big Macs, Turkey Street Food mezes and kebabs and a very glam breakfast and show-bizzy TV supper from OX.
In the midst of all this was a three-course dinner from south Belfast stalwart SHU. This high quality neighbourhood restaurant has been shining brightly for many years on the Lisburn Road, turning out fabulous dishes created by chef Brian McCann. His veal tongue still stands out in memory.
SHU has now geared itself up for takeaway food kits and the choice of menu is particularly well-considered with just the right balance of interaction required to complete the three courses easily.
Last week's menu featured quiche of smoked haddock with English asparagus and parmesan with added rocket leaves and lemon dressing to add as a meaningful garnish, local baked hake, wild rice with fennel, piquillo peppers and sauce vierge and a sticky toffee pudding with salted banana caramel and Devon clotted cream. A bottle of very decent New Zealand sauvignon blanc rounded off the set in a well-judged pairing.
Everything about this combination was faultless including the timing instructions of each course.
A little bit of care in spooning the correct amount of quiche filling into the tart cases was all that was required to get the starters right.
The instructions were also foolproof for the hard part, the hake.
Chefs love hake not just because of its flavour and texture but for its photogenic quality. Time the hake bake right and you have an Instagrammable shot of pearly white flakes sliding off each other in the perfect fish dish.
Chef McCann instructs us to season the generous filet, add 50ml of water to the aluminium tray and bake at 180 for seven to nine minutes.
He adds a little wooden skewer so you can test the thickest part of the fish for resistance (there should be the slightest amount, he advises).
Meanwhile the wild rice, sauce and peppers are all mixed together and microwaved for a couple of minutes, the hake poised artistically on top and, hey presto, it's as if Brian's been in the house.
Sticky toffee puddings and caramel just require a couple of minutes supervision in the microwave to turn out perfectly.
I could not fault this and all four of us remained very silent throughout the dinner, largely due to the fact that stunned silence is the only way my family reacts when I do the "cooking" and it works out successfully.
The price is remarkable at £85 for four people. If you need to reclaim your reputation as a boss in the kitchen, you would do well to have a chef like Brian McCann by your side.
It's the key success feature of these restaurant takeaways: the likes of Danny Millar in Stock, Niall McKenna in Hadskis and all the other chef-created kits are effectively the sorcerers to your apprentice.
Make the most of it while these kits last!
PS: they are good to keep in the fridge for two days.
SHU dinner for two £40
SHU dinner for four £85