Recipe boxes like HelloFresh are a genius idea.
Subscribe to a recipe box, and someone sends you the ingredients to make gorgeous meals, with everything measured and packaged, and an idiot-proof recipe to follow.
Sure, you pay a little extra for the convenience, but for busy households where you’re short on time and inspiration, what’s not to love?
Having tried a couple of recipe boxes this year, I’ve a fair idea of what I’m looking for. I want fresh ingredients, well packaged, delivered at a convenient time. I want interesting recipes that don’t involve too much work, and don’t require extra ingredients or equipment.
What did we get?
HelloFresh sent us a two week trial of their Family Box. This is a weekly delivery of two or four meals for four people. The cost is £64 a week for four meals, or £39.95 for two meals.
The deliveries were great, since the driver leaves the box in the garden if I’m not home. You can choose which day you’d like the box to arrive.
Everything seems to be well packed, and the quality of the meat in particular is very impressive. Some of the other products were a bit more patchy – frozen pizza dough arrived defrosted and had to be thrown away, while the onions and ginger were both mouldy in one delivery.
Recipe 1: Beef Ragout with Rigatone and Black Olive Salsa
The first recipe we tried was a beef ragout. I cook bolognese a few times a month, using the same recipe I’ve used for years.
This was a fresh recipe on me, adding yellow peppers and beef stock to a traditional mixture of beef mince, tomato puree, passata, onion and garlic. Everything was cooked in one pot, and ready in around 30 minutes.
Genuinely, it was idiot proof and the beef stock added a really different taste, which we enjoyed. But when it came to the black olive salsa, we wimped out. Flea doesn’t eat tomatoes or olives, so we went traditional with parmesan, and some garlic bread. We’re just basic.
Spicy Sausage Hot Pot with Bulgar Wheat
This warming winter stew involves browning sausages in a pan, then slowly cooking them in a sauce of tomatoes, paprika, red onion. Shortly before it’s cooked, stir in a handful of spinach and a tin of kidney beans.
I confess, we cheated again, skipping the kidney beans and spinach. We also skipped the bulgar wheat. I’m sorry HelloFresh, I led my 11-year-old to the wheat, dressed with spring onion and lemon juice, but I couldn’t make her eat, so I boiled some rice instead. Like I said, basic.
This was a really simple recipe, and tasty. The sausages were described as spiced, but I couldn’t detect any spice – if you did want a spicy hot pot, I’d suggest adding in a couple of finely chopped chilies to give more flavour.
Cheesy Chicken Taquitos
Of the three recipes we managed to cook, this was probably the one with the highest “faff factor”.
Taquitos are a Mexican street food, as we completely knew and didn’t have to Google. Obvs.
Anyway, this recipe is tortilla wraps filled with chicken, onion and spinach along with sour cream and grated cheese. Baked in the oven for 15 minutes, the cheese goes all goeey and delicious, while the tortilla crisps up. They’re delicious.
We cheated obviously by using ready-grated gruyere cheese we already had in the fridge, and I’m not sure our taquitos went all lovely and golden like the ones in the picture, but I’m still calling this one a win. Because Flea ate all of it (once she’d painstakingly picked out every micro-fibre of spinach, obviously).
Much as my inner lazy cook loves recipe boxes, I can’t see myself subscribing to HelloFresh. But I might use it for a week or two if I knew I had a lot of time off, or if I was expecting guests and needed to impress. Like at Christmas.
Here’s the thing: I love nice food and and I love that HelloFresh supplies me with nice food. I love that you get just the right amount of stuff, so you don’t get the waste of buying an entire jar of paprika when you only need a teaspoon worth. I love that the meals are all reasonably healthy, with no weird chemicals or preservatives. But the recipes are probably just a bit too fancy for weeknights in our house.
By the time I’ve got home from work, done the school run, rushed out to walk the dog and checked on homework, there’s something very appealing about sticking some chopped veggies and a chicken breast in the oven and coming back 20 minutes later to a cooked meal.
I know. I have HelloFresh shame. That nice smiley man from the adverts is probably frowning as he reads this. Sorry Patrick, I truly am.