THROUGHOUT the first national lockdown I resisted the lure of home menu kits from top restaurants. I was too happy in my own kitchen exploring how to enhance (the jury’s out on the sous vide machine but not the home smoker) the best raw ingredients from local suppliers, who needed to be supported.
Still when the dining out scene reopened I sought reassurance that there were chefs out there with whom I could compete only in my wildest dreams. Hence a swift splash-out on Mark Birchall’s tasting menu at Michelin two star Moor Hall. Special occasion… a very special occasion. Which brings us to Lockdown 2 engulfing us. My thrifty stockpiles of choice are now of root veg. All a bit Baldrick. Cunning plans for turnips and kohlrabi. So when a morale-boosting Michelin menu delivered to my home hove into view I snapped Northcote’s oven glove off.
I’d recommend you do the same and book chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen’s Autumn Gourmet Box (£85 for four courses to feed two amply, delivery and preparation instructions included). Thanks to the government’s latest pandemic U-turn you won’t be able to dine at the one-Michelin star restaurant near Whalley in the Ribble Valley.
Of course, you sacrifice the cosseting surroundings and service. We compensated by dressing up for the occasion. For prepping I even dug out a Northcote apron, souvenir of a jolly cookery school session in more normal times.
Here I am with two special bottles of wines that felt a good fit – to handle the cod and consomme courses a Lapola, Dominio do Bibei white from Spain’s groundbreaking Ribeira Sacra region and for the roast chicken main a more traditional Rioja red from the same country, a CUNE Imperial Reserva, which also fitted like a velvet glove with a trio of Martin Gott Cumbrian cheeses sourced separately from Calder Cheesehouse.
They went well with Northcote’s own Lancashire Cheese bread, included as an extra along with half a dozen fab petit fours. You can alternatively order matched wine selections for each course from The Wright Wine Co via the Northcote website.
The four courses of the Autumn Gourmet Box are excellent value for money and the instructions are far simpler than an IKEA flat-pack. Result of minimal effort – an exceptional dinner, benefiting from Northcote’s immaculate sourcing and quality herbs and sauces.
First up are two appetisers: a disc of almost translucent North Sea cod with curry, pomegranate and almond and coriander sauce you assembly from various packs.
Then a glorious caramelised celeriac consommé, tiny raviolis with celeriac pearls – all you have to add is fresh tarragon.
Centrepiece of the main is a bruiser of a roast chicken crown that could almost feed four. It heightens the luxury feel level, being stuffed with truffle and brioche. Our Aga is not the most adjustable of ovens, so there was a small fear factor we’d scorch it. It turned out moistly perfect.
The richness is piled on with an accompanying ‘bolognese’ of chicken leg meat, which you heat up with tiny mushrooms. Lyonnaise potatoes complete the ensemble. Excuse my presentation.
For the dessert, all you have to do is warm up a sachet of salted caramel sauce to host a cheesecake moulded inside a green and red-tinged ‘orchard apple’. No idea how they craft this glorious conceit. There was no waiter to ask!
Northcote, Northcote Road, Langho, Blackburn BB6 8BE. 01254 240555. The Autumn Gourmet Box costs £85. It can be booked here. Collection/delivery slots are available on Fridays, booking from noon Tuesday the previous week. Originally a limited number available but this may well increase with the restaurant proper locked down.