Image above: Harriet Benton and Alan Weavis; Photograph by Anna Kunst
We are delighted to introduce not only a new Club Card member, but a new home-grown top-quality, great value, home-delivery cooked food business in Chiswick.
Harriet and Alan invited me to lunch, so I can vouch for the experience and expertise which goes into producing the most delicious meals, now available to be delivered to your door. We had a light asparagus flan with an interestingly different salad of watermelon, olives and feta cheese. I’m not bothered about watermelon usually, finding it watery and pretty tasteless, but this was sweet, steeped in the juices of the olives and herbs, crushed garlic and lemon, a perfect counterpoint to the crumbly feta, which can be overpoweringly acrid and goaty, but this one wasn’t.
It was followed by a deliciously tender, subtly spicy chicken dish, fresh French bread and a selection of unusual cheeses and coffee. Harriet and Alan get all their fresh produce locally – meat from Macken Brothers, fish from Covent Garden Fishmongers and fruit and veg from Lemon & Limes on Turnham Green Terrace; bread from Gail’s Bakery.
Harriet Benton has been a caterer for more than 40 years. With her partner Alan Weavis, she built up a very successful business as HarrietBenton.com providing events for an eclectic mix of clients, who think nothing of hosting a five course sit down meal for 50 or 150 guests. Harriet and Alan did everything, looking after every detail from the marquee, food & drink to the presentation, and as a result have built up a loyal repeat clientele.
An accidental business, born out of helping people during lockdown
As 2020 has not seen much call for that sort of thing, all through lockdown they have been delivering the same quality fare to those lucky enough to hear about it on the grapevine, who have treated their weekly delivery of Tupperware boxes as treats for birthdays and special occasions, or just a substitute for the one night in the week when they might before have gone out to a restaurant.
Their volunteer delivery crew have included some of Bedford Park’s finest – Tom, a lawyer who delivers food in his Porsche, Eleri, an opera singer, Mishal, on furlough from a job in the theatre, Sam, a nutritionist and Imelda, a teacher with daughter Ellie – all mates who have pitched in to help for the price of a meal at the end of their round.
At the beginning they tried to interest schools and charities in providing food for free, but found they didn’t want cooked food. They either had established caterers or their model was to provide food for people to cook themselves.
Almost accidentally, they have hit upon a business model for the next iteration of their catering business, newly reborn as Harriet’s Kitchen.
Delivered every Thursday
They offer a menu of seven or eight options, which you order on a Monday for them to prepare and deliver on a Thursday, ready for the weekend.
Typically on offer there will be a curry – Sri Lankan one week, Keralan the next; a Moroccan tagine – Lamb, Prawn or Vegetarian perhaps, and a classic French or European dish, such as Coq au Vin or Provencal chicken with artichokes as a main course, with a starter – maybe Vichysoisse or Chicken liver parfait, and pudding – Eton Mess, Bakewell tart with raspberries or a pistachio and lemon cake for example.
You can order as many dishes or as few as you like. They range between £5 and £14 typically, so for £14 you might have a portion of Ottoman Lamb with Baba Ganoush, flat bread and salad.
Club Card offer
I am delighted to tell you that Harriet and Alan are offering the holders of a Chiswick Calendar Club Card 10% off everything on the menu.
Contact Harriet’s Kitchen on
Tel: 07973 858 642
Follow them on Instagram: @harriet.kitchen
Menu for week beginning Monday 20 July
Three salmon pate with sour dough bagel
Poached & hot smoked salmon with London cure smoked salmon
Mushroom faux gras, shallot pickle & crusty bread or crackers
Cremini mushrooms, shallots, madeira & herbs with pecans
Chicken Marbella with orzo & green bean pasta
Roast corn-fed whole leg of chicken with olives capers & a hint of dates. We marinate the chicken for 36 hours & then gently roast it in oils & wine served with orzo, a small rice shaped pasta with green beans (GF pasta available)
Slow cooked beef with mushrooms & crushed potatoes
Shin of beef cooked so slowly over 4 hours in wine & freshly made stock, porcini, portabella & button mushrooms. An all-time favourite!
Grand Lancashire Hot Pot
This dish is made with four cuts of lamb: shoulder, shank, neck & topped off with a cutlet, slow cooked in lamb broth & topped off with crispy & soft sliced potatoes.
Mexican beef chili with green rice
Ancho chillies, spices & long slow cooking make this dish special, we serve it with green Mexican rice, baked potato skin, sour cream & avocado sauce.
Kerala curries with rice, raita & naan (GF)
Known as the land of spices, in Southern India the food is zestful & flavoursome. We make all our own spice mixes. Fish or Chicken or Vegetarian.
Spinach & Ricotta cannelloni & a long slice of garlic bread
Fresh spinach & ricotta stuffed cannelloni, a thin layer of mozzarella & mascarpone, tomato sauce made from fresh tomatoes & topped off with Parmesan.
Meringues & fresh berries with cream in any form (Pavlova, Eton mess)
French lemon tart with crème fraiche
Apricot & Frangipane tart with cream
And for the following week…
I personally am looking forward to the next time they have Ottoman Lamb on the menu (week beginning Monday 27 July).
‘According to legend, this lamb dish was rustled up by a resourceful cook to feed a sultan who had become lost in the forest. The sultan liked it. Shoulder of lamb marinated in yoghurt and tomato served with pan juices, baba ganoush, pita breads and tomato, cucumber and feta salad’.
One of Harriet’s customers asked her how it was made. Her answer gives you some idea of the effort which goes into preparing this food and why it tastes so good.
Take three Welsh mountain sheep.
Bone out six shoulders.
Chop the bones and roast for one hour.
In an enormous cauldron with a dash of oil, cook three heads of garlic sliced in half, cut side down, two fennel, carrots, onion, celery and bouquet garni from the garden, until they’re all just turning brown at the edges.
Add the bones, some wine and vegetable stock and simmer for two days. I usually add a kilo of fresh tomatoes half-way through the cooking time.
Strain the stock and refrigerate to let the fat come to the top. Discard fat. Now boil this down with a bottle or two of red wine.
Remove as much fat from the shoulders as possible and make small slashes all over. Mix two to three kilos of best thick Turkish yoghurt with an inordinate amount of garlic that has been scraped to a pulp with salt. Tomato paste is added to this, Cornish seaweed umami, black pepper, a lot of olive oil and red wine, bay leaves, cayenne and sugar.
Marinate for 24 hours.
Cook for a couple of hours and then place directly on the over shelf and cook for another 45 minutes over a baking tray to catch all the precious juices.
Call the cleaner to come and clean the oven.
Mix the remains of the marinade with all the juices from the roasted meat, boil up, cool down and place in the fridge overnight to let the fat rise.
Remove the fat.
This is where the alchemy starts – mixing all the juices and stocks to achieve the sauce and then reducing again.
This is not so much a recipe as a love letter, but at least I understand now why you need to order on Monday to have your food delivered on Thursday!
Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar
See also: Fortitude Bakehouse opens in Chiswick
See also: Bears ice cream is expanding