After a week solid of trying to push through the flu (I rarely get sick, so it is big for me when I do) through meetings in London, restaurant reviews and work, I finally crashed out and had to head home from work on Friday lunchtime to spend the rest of my weekend on the sofa with a hot mug of tea trying to recuperate. Thankfully, that afternoon probably the most welcome thing imaginable arrived: Riverford's collaboration meal box with delicious. Magazine, which meant I did not have to think or worry about the bright, comforting, veg heavy meals we all needed to be eating over the weekend to try and throw off our sore heads.
Believe it or not, while I've tried a seasonal veggie box before, I've never tried a meal box, though I've read a lot about them. The concept is simple: the box arrives on your given delivery day (in my area it is a Friday, but it depends on your postcode) with all of the measured out ingredients (eliminating waste, as well as making life a bit easier) for three different meals. Each meal comes with a clear recipe with marker preparation and cooking times, how many people the dish will serve, and how many days you need to make the dish within for the ingredients to still be fresh. Literally everything you need comes in the box (except for cooking equipment, obviously, though the equipment you need for each recipe is listed on the card), except for one or two store cupboard items. On the part of Riverford, though I think it was a safe assumption that I've already have salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil at home! The only annoying thing, is if you grow some of your own veggies and herbs at home, you may get ingredients you really don't need any more of - I need more sage or butternut squash right now like I need a hole in the head!
Riverford do a couple of different box options (which you can find here) that you can either order regularly or as one offs. Personally, I think the boxes of 2-3 quick meals (there are versions for meat eaters and veggies) would be great to order if you know you've got a really busy few days coming up. This box suited me well for a weekend (a quick Friday night dish, a slow Saturday night number and a Sunday lunch bowl), but obviously it will depend on your delivery day. Riverford were kind enough to send me this box to highlight their guest chef boxes - they've had everyone from Anna Jones to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and I think it is a great way to try something new and different, and to discover new chefs and tastemakers. You can still order a .delicious Magazine box (the next one contains a mushroom, potato and egg roast, butternut with butter bean mash, and a fennel, tomato and cheese bake, and they're creating recipes for the rest of this month), with the added bonus of a copy of .delicious in your order.
We both utterly loved the Gnocchi with Spinach Pesto and Caramalised leeks on the first night; I want to play around a bit more with gnocchi, as it is something I don't really make much of at home. And the whole dish only took half an hour, start to finish. It was also the perfect portion for both of us. We also loved the Baked Butternut Squash, Ricotta and Spinach, though it was a big portion for the both of us (though we did have it with a side salad with homemade truffle vinaigrette). Literally the only issue I had with the box (people usually go on about the waste of packaging, but here it was kept to the minimum, and you can return your main box and fridge insulation bag back to Riverford for re-use if you order another box) was I had a few leftovers. There is some spinach left I'm going to have to make sure I use up, about half a lemon (though, these are always welcome in a gin and tonic while you're cooking) and there were some extra herbs. Herbs I've purchased are always an issue for me - there are always too many sprigs in a packet!
The utter stand out dish for us both was the Roasted Tomato Salad with Feta, Pearl Barley & Herbs we made for Sunday lunch. Seriously, with the nutty barley, toasted almonds, slow cooked tomatoes and utterly delicious feta (all three cheeses that came with the box, as well as being made with sheep milk/ being light enough for me to manage, were from small farms, were of the highest quality, and were utterly addictive), this was one of the best warm salads I've ever made. So much so, that keep an eye out for it as I'm going to give it its own blog post.
I was honestly unsure what I was going to think about this box, but I really loved it and would recommend it to try some new seasonal ingredients (I'd never used chervil before last weekend, for example), add a few new dishes to your repertoire, and to make things a little easier for you over a busy period. The .delicious box costs £33.95 to make 3 veggie meals for 2 people (though there are some cheaper options), which is not bad at £5.65 a portion as an occasional treat. I'd love to hear your thoughts if any of you have tried any meal/ recipe boxes before. Which ones are your favourites, and how often have you ordered them?