The last year has certainly shaken us all out of our comfort zone. Small businesses have struggled, many almost to a point of ruin, forced quarantine has put family dynamics under scrutiny, and the constant tier changes and uncertainty of when this will all end definitely tested our sanity. At the risk of tempting fate, it looks like quarantine is coming to an end, and the one thing I can commend of our people is that we have proved we are survivors. 

    With such a strain on the economy, a lot of us really had to dig deep to make ends meet and keep our finances stable. Weeks into this pandemic, and I was getting word that people had taken to prepping meals at home to sell for a stream of income. Makes sense. Everyone noticed the only companies really thriving during the first lockdown were takeaway services and restaurants (as long as they were linked in with Uber Eats, Just Eat, or their own private courier connection.

    If you knew how to cook, why not profit off of your talents? With everybody on social media, it’s free to promote yourself and easy to reach thousands. I must admit, that just in order to have a valid reason to get out of the house, I found myself trying out the food of a few of these emerging entrepreneurs. In general I was pleasantly surprised and impressed. I would carefully study their pictures and videos to filter out those I felt weren’t up to standard and therefore could end up in disappointment.

    The Lobster
    and Tiger Prawn
    fritters were wolfed down
    in a question
    of minutes…

    One particular lady’s efforts caught my attention, so despite her being based quite far away from me in East London, the more I watched her videos, the more keen I was to taste her work. Masefan Agera runs Hxmemade Health, a micro-company specialising in healthier dishes with a twist. Her selection ranges from vegan options like vegetable soups and chickpea burgers to a variety of fish and fritters, not to forget sweet desserts to finish off your meal.

    What attracted me to her was how different her approach was to Caribbean food, whose usual takeaway menu doesn’t move far from rice and peas, jerk or fried chicken, oxtail tail, curry goat, and maybe a side of Mac’n cheese or plantain if you’re lucky. In my older age, I’m trying to switch to a healthier diet so the offer by Hxmemade Health was very tempting, not less because presentation of her dishes in the pictures and videos looked like something out of a Michelin starred restaurant in Mayfair. You can tell that she’s put much thought and love into her brand.

    Sweet Chilli Chicken Skewers, one of the star dishes in young Masefan Agera’s menu of modern Caribbean food…

    I opted for Lobster and Tiger Prawn fritters, with a side of sweet potato fries. On collection, the meal came tidily packaged in boxes, neatly sat in a paper bag. All pieces were professionally stamped with the Homemade Health logo. Masefan was very polite as we briefly exchanged words and smiles (I guess) from behind our masks. I went back home as fast as I could and dug into my bag, after slightly reheating its contents (remember the distance).

    I was delighted with the flavours and the crispiness of the fritters in contrast with the soft consistency of the sweet fries. A tub of sweet and sour chilli also came in the bag to dip the fritters. I demolished the whole combo in about 4 minutes, well worth the wait. This may sound frivolous, but even the spelling of the name, replacing the “o” in homemade with an “x” was a nice touch in my eyes.

    It makes the name just pop out at you and again, feel a bit different. In conclusion, in the hopes that we eventually return to normality, I’m hoping that these emerging chefs can keep up their craft and continue to share their dishes with the public, and gain market share from the hordes of unhealthy fast food chains whose revenues have soared over lockdown. The food of chefs like Masefan not only offers better quality and flavour, but is also much better for your health.

    Opening picture: Steamed Edamame and Mung Bean Fettuccine. All pictures courtesy of Hxmemade Health.
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