I've been hearing a lot about these recipe boxes lately, such as Hello Fresh and Gousto. The idea is that they send you the exact ingredients for a recipe (or more) - so not just meat and vegetables, but if the recipe calls for a teaspoon of curry powder, you will get literally a teaspoon. They're designed for busy people who don't have time to cook from scratch all the time, or who resist buying fresh ingredients because they know they can't possibly use them up.
I got a voucher through the door for Gousto Box that offered me £25 off my first box, and figured it was worth a punt. It made a three meal, two portion box about £10 which seems pretty good value, so I scheduled my delivery for the first day back at work after Christmas. I figured I'd need all the help I could get to eat healthily that week!
The menu changes weekly, but there are plenty of meat, fish and veggie options (no vegan, though). I chose Grilled Yogurt Chicken, Persian Halloumi and Pork, Sage and Hazelnuts, which I thought was a good combo of unusual flavours I wouldn't usually use.
Everything is packaged really well in a super insulated box so it was perfectly safe left in my 'safe place' until I got home from work (even if Yodel completely ignored my instructions and left it with a neighbour). I loved unpacking all the goodies - from the expected pack of chicken breasts and lump of halloumi to a teeny pot of honey and individually packaged herbs and spices. There was even a solitary bay leaf!
So what did I think? Well, everything was very simple and the instructions were very easy to follow, and nicely organised so you use your time efficiently (chopping the vegetables while the rice cooks, for instance). The individual portions didn't really save any time in preparation though - there's still vegetables to be chopped and peeled, meat to marinade and sauces to stir. It's not about shortcuts though - that's kind of the point, to cook from scratch when you don't usually - so it means a lot of washing up is created. This was a bit of a negative for me - sure, I use every pan when I cook, but I cook like that maybe once or twice a week as it's more efficient. Prep/cooking time is around 30-45 minutes, which is reasonable, but again - three nights in a row? I love to cook, but more often than not I want to grab a (homecooked) freezer meal and chuck it in the microwave.
The food was excellent though! Here's my rundown...
Pork, Sage & Hazelnuts
This pork and potato combo was rather like a posh bubble'n'squeak - but hey, I love bubble'n'squeak! I never cook with fresh sage, and definitely will now (yummmm) and the pork was really tasty. Their instructions meant the pork wasn't quite done in the middle, but I just popped it back in the pan after slicing it and it was fine - although I've been told slightly rare pork is ok, I didn't want to risk it!.
I cook halloumi a lot, so I wasn't expecting miracles from this dish, but I'd actually say it was my favourite of the three. Easiest to prepare and the flavours were so unusual - I've never really had Persian food. The halloumi was coated in spices before frying, and served with bulgar wheat tossed with lemon, mint and yet more spices. Neither the halloumi or the bulgar tasted amazing solo - the flavours were too strong - but together the flavours went beautifully. I'll definitely be investing in some Ras el Hanout (a popular Persian spice) for future cooking experiments!
One of the reasons I wanted to try a recipe box was to see if I could get any inspiration for future cooking experiments, and this recipe did just that. I loved the lentils, they were a gorgeous texture and taste, and I loved the method of serving them with honey, lemon and coriander stirred through. Although, tsk, Gousto - you sent me parsley instead of coriander. Luckily I always have some to hand!
So would I use Gousto - or any of its similar competitors - again? I'm not sure. Not for full price - the way I cook, £35 for 6 portions isn't great value. But if you live on ready meals and takeaways, or eat out a lot, it absolutely is.
I'm not 100% sold on the convenience aspect, either. While it makes shopping easier and reduces waste, cooking a different recipe every night takes a pretty long time - not to mention the clean up. And like I said, the individual portions don't really save much time.
Also, although it's fresh food, many of the recipes aren't THAT healthy. Quite high in calories, often encouraged to add oil and butter, and the portions were larger than I'd usually serve myself.
Buuuut... these boxes aren't designed for someone like me who makes time to cook, plans my meals to minimise waste and generally makes 6 portions out of 1 meal unless it's a special occasion. So while I enjoyed the experiment, it's not how I'd choose to cook as a rule. But I know lots of people who love these recipe boxes, and the intro prices are often so good - so if you're curious, give them a go!
Here's a code for £25 off your first box: SARAH100093
Visit http://www.gousto.co.uk to redeem (and I'll earn some credit for referring you).
I paid for my box out of my own pocket and with a discount voucher I received through the door. This review was not sponsored by Gousto.