My kitchen suddenly smells as if I am making chicken stock, slow-roasting lamb and baking chocolate brownies all at once. This must be the best-smelling take-home food in Sydney.
I've dug deep into the pleasures of ordering takeaway food from the city's top restaurants over the past few weeks. They are working it hard, mobilising their troops, keeping their producers busy, engineering the food so that it isn't compromised by the commute, and genuinely trying to give a taste of the restaurant experience, minus the hospitality. But nothing has smelt this good.
This isn't restaurant food at home, it's home-cooked food at home.
It's not what I was expecting, although I should perhaps have known. Jane Strode quietly joined Two Good in January 2020, after years of hard yards at Rockpool, MG Garage, and at Bistrode in Surry Hills, where she and her late husband Jeremy Strode earnt themselves a chef's hat.
She's a great fit for Two Good, which started life as a King's Cross soup kitchen in 2010, and now provides nourishing meals to women in domestic violence refuges, as well as training those very women to cook.
It takes a special person to deliver home-cooking at this scale, someone with a special combination of technical skills, logistics and a strong sense of family – and who can achieve it with a kitchen crew that has never worked in a professional kitchen before.
Strode's takeaway menu is short and simple, with a focus on immunity-boosting ingredients such as turmeric, ginger and garlic. There are vegies in everything – it's going to make you feel like your mum is sneaking them into your diet without telling you.
In fact, the kids' bolognese sauce is stuffed with tomatoes, carrots, celery, zucchini, onion, garlic, thyme, oregano, basil and parsley – and mince, of course.
I order way too much, thinking of it as a donation to a worthy cause as much as one to myself, and end up with enough for a couple of days. Slow-braised lamb shoulder ($18) is chunky with meat, glossy with eggplant and rich with herbs, resting on an airy bed of potato skordalia studded with chickpeas. So, so good.
I team it with a salad of caramelised carrots (so orange they look fake-tanned), strewn through big-pearl couscous ($15), with the crunch of smoked almonds and fruitiness of tea-soaked currants. It would make a great meal in itself, at room temperature or gently warmed.
Chicken soup ($15) becomes lunch the next day, with the ciabatta-style roll split and toasted to freshen it up. Richly green with cavolo nero, leek, celery and parsley, sweet with parsnip and onion, chockers with shredded chicken and squirming with quinoa, it has a healthy golden turmeric glow and a hint of apple cider vinegar. You can feel it doing you good.
With a fridge already filled with teetering stacks of tiny containers of garnishes, sauces and dressings from previous, cheffier, takeaways, it's a relief to discover this food comes with no crumbles to scatter on top, no cryovac bags to snip and pipe. It is what it is, completely self-sufficient.
There's no dessert as such, but I urge you instead, to order Strode's gluten-free chocolate brownies (4 for $12). They're crusty/soft, beautifully rich, and will happily freeze.
In spite of enjoying my takeaway adventures from the top restaurants in town, I've always yearned to get back to my own home-cooking after them – just as I used to do when dining out for a living.
But this is different. This is the sort of food I would have cooked for myself anyway, made with some of the best produce in town, with no shortcuts or compromises. It's exceptional value, and helps support a community in distress at the same time. At this rate, I'll never cook again.
Two Good Two Go
Social enterprise Two Good offers simple, nourishing food to go, with the aim of raising funds to supply meals and provide work for vulnerable women.
How to order: Order online at twogood.com.au for pick up Tuesdays or Thursdays between 2 and 4pm at 255 Wilson Street, Eveleigh.
Delivery: Limited delivery is available to immediate area. Inquiries 0407 771 724.
Go-to dish: Slow-braised lamb shoulder, chickpea skordalia and gremolata, $18
Other ways to help feed people in need
Enmore's newest Sri Lankan restaurant has pivoted to feeding the vulnerable by partnering with charities such as Mission Australia. So far, more than 4400 meals have been delivered. Every $2 donation buys food for a meal for one person. colombosocial.com.au
Hearth & Soul
Rachel Jelley of Newtown restaurant Hearth and Soul now offers Free Food Fridays. Those in need of a feed can register online and pick up a nourishing, organic meal on Fridays between noon and 2pm. If you want to help, donations can be made online. hearthandsoul.com.au