I’d like to think that I’m relatively immune to hype. That when I see a group of people all raving about a particular thing, I know better than to follow the crowd. Of course, in reality, this is bollocks. If I truly wanted to assert my individualism, I wouldn’t have read the entire Twilight quartet (a fact I’m still slightly embarrassed about). However, much as my aversion to popular culture prevents me from rushing out to buy 50 Shades of Grey, it doesn’t extend to free food. So, when blogger favourite Hello Fresh emailed me to ask if I’d be interested in trying out one of their gourmet grocery boxes, it took me all of 30 seconds to respond with “Oh, go on then”.
Why do I say that Hello Fresh are a bloggers favourite? Just google their name. In lieu of more traditional advertising, they appear to have instigated a clever campaign of getting the food blogger community to review their goods. It’s a pretty savvy tactic – after all, everyone loves a freebie. So, in the interests of adding to a company’s SEO linkbait, allow me to throw my opinions into the ring.
The premise for Hello Fresh is that they deliver recipes to your door. Each week, you receive a box full of all the ingredients you need to make three different meals. Everything has been weighed out for you, so there’s need to measure, and minimal preparation is required. Plus, every meal can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. Relatively little mess, relatively little fuss. I’ll admit that I really liked this idea. Far too much of my life at the moment appears to revolve around wondering what I’m going to have for dinner, and when I’m going to find the time to make it. The thought of someone doing 85% of the hard work for me allows me to bask in the warm glow that one feels in making a good dinner from scratch, without the sweat that one gets from slaving over a hot stove for an hour.
You certainly get a lot of bang for your buck with Hello Fresh. The box they supplied me with was overflowing with (almost) everything I needed to make three large meals for two people. (On the day it arrived, I’d totally forgotten about it, and returned home to have Mr. Cay tell me that “some people came while you were at work, and they’ve brought ALL THE FOOD”). They even threw a bar of dark chocolate with raspberries in there too, which was a nice touch. But plying with me with nice chocolate isn’t enough to make me feel positively about your organisation (although it does help). It was time to put these recipes to the test.
The first meal I made was the Smoked Mackerel Summer Salad with Green Beans and New Potatoes. Because I am a woman who loves a challenge, I decided to make this in the half hour I had prior to leaving the house for work. This wasn’t the easiest task in the world, especially seeing as I’m not at my best first thing in the morning, and also because Hello Fresh had failed to include the sachet of red wine vinegar which formed an integral part of the dressing. Thankfully, I subbed it for some rice vinegar and barely noticed the difference. Indeed, out of all the recipes I tried, this was my favourite. The recipe was easy to follow (and, quite frankly, if I can make it at 8.00am while half asleep, anyone can). The mackerel was of excellent quality, and I loved how its understated smokiness perfectly accompanied the peppery hits of the radishes and sharp tang of the dressing. Plus, it made absolutely shitloads – more than enough for a hearty breakfast and two decent sized packed lunches.
Buoyed by my success, the next day I decided to make the Ozone Prawn and Prosciutto Linguine, a pasta dish which comprised of linguine cooked in vegetable stock combined with creme fraiche, king prawns, chives, lemon and prosciutto. Again, a few components of the recipe were missing – there were no garlic cloves or stock cube. Despite this, this produced another two very enjoyable meals, with enough bits and pieces to surreptitiously snack on while my pasta was boiling. If I had one quibble about this dish, it would be that the flavour of the prawns was overwhelmed by the prosciutto, chives and lemon. However, this was a satisfying bowl of comfort food – a perfect balm to ease the pain of the soggy Summer we’re currently experiencing.
And then, there was the Roasted Chicken with Chorizo, Pearl Barley and Couscous salad. I wanted to like this dish, I really did. But this was just a mishmash of too many flavours – chicken, chorizo, feta cheese, courgettes, green beans as well as a vinegar-based dressing. Frankly, it was difficult to taste anything through the chorizo and feta, and that poor chicken breast I’d put so much effort into roasting ended up being lost in a sea of salt. I also found the recipe instructions for this dish a little confusing, leading me to totally screwing up my timings and attempting to feast upon a pot of mushy overcooked couscous studded with pieces of undercooked pearl barley. Sadly, after a few bites of this, I was forced to pick out the best bits, shovel the rest into my bin and wash my mouth out with gin.
At £4.94 per meal, per person for three meals per week, Hello Fresh isn’t really an option for those of you who may be watching your pennies – it’s certainly not as cheap as popping to the supermarket and buying the ingredients yourself. But you’re paying more for the convenience and novelty of the concept, and it’s arguably just as much as you’d spend on a takeaway (also, if your local takeaways are anything like those in Bootle, the food is definitely going to be of a much higher quality too). I imagine that these may make good gifts for friends who may have recently had children and so have bigger things on their mind than what they’re going to make for dinner.
While I liked Hello Fresh, I still feel it’s got a bit of work to do before I’d order one of their boxes for myself. Some of their recipes need a bit more refining, and I was disappointed that little things, such as vinegar and stock cubes, were missing from my box. While I could easily replace these from my own supplies, I’d have been disappointed to have spent all that money on a meal to find that some ingredients were missing. It’s a nice idea, but it’s very much one for people who are cash rich and time poor.