Next in my series of recipe box reviews, we have HelloFresh, one of 'big hitters'. They were kind enough to send me their two person, three meal box for me to test drive, and I've got to be honest that I did not enjoy the experience as much as some of the others I've tried so far (though it does have it's selling points) This is exactly why I decided I'd try to review as many recipe boxes as possible, because so far my suspicions have been proven right that there is no one size fits all, 'best' box for everyone. You need to find the one that will work for you, if the whole recipe box thing is something that will suit you and your family in the first place.
Two big loves for me is how everything was packaged up, and the quality of the ingredients. The box was attractive, and it was really easy how the ingredients for each dish are in different brown paper bags, with a separate cool bag for chilled items. The veggies were good, fresh and crisp, and the chicken, duck and mozzarella were of excellent quality and lasted at least the amount of days they said they would on the pack in the fridge. There were some respected brands in there, and the amount of packaging that needs throwing away at the end has been kept to the absolute minimum; something that has bothered me in the past with other boxes. As it was my first box, a recipe binder was also included for my recipe cards, which was a lovely touch.
However, here comes my first problem with the box: missing ingredients. At first, I thought it was just an honest human mistake rather than carelessness when the serrano ham that was supposed to go on top of my pizza was missing from the cool bag (something pretty integral, if you have serious meat eaters sitting down to eat), but then I was less impressed when the cinnamon stick (for infusing the rice, I ended up leaving it out) was missing from the brown paper bag for my Chicken Fried Rice with Mushrooms, Chilli, Peanuts and Soy.
So, the fried rice. If you already know how to cook to the point where you can be instinctive with a recipe, this is a really great one with good Asian flavours, packed full of protein - just what you want for a comforting, filling evening meal. However, the cooking times were a bit off (meaning it took longer than it said it would to pull together, not that the chicken was undercooked in the time allotted, for example) and some things about how the recipe was written bothered me. For example, it tells you to prepare the chicken, wash the knife and the board, and then chop the veggies. But you don't need to start the chicken until after the veggies are prepared. So, would it not make more sense to do the veggies first and set them aside, then the chicken, so you don't have to stop in the middle of food prep in case you only own one suitable sharp knife/ chopping board?
All that being said, I did like this recipe. Another thing to note is that dishes with chilli in from HelloFresh are very spicy, even once you've halved the amount of chilli! One for the more experienced cooks who on a weeknight don't want to be bothered by the whole measuring and meal planning thing.
Our favourite dish was the pizza, in spite of the missing ham. It was as quick and easy as you want from a recipe box, and the flavours were fantastic. I've been curious about The Northern Dough Company's ready made doughs when I've seen them in Waitrose, so I was also excited to try them. I put chorizo on my Dad's as we had some leftover in the fridge and I had a veggie version, and literally the only problem we had was that it was not as nice as a restaurant or homemade pizza base, but it was much better than a supermarket pizza, so just the type of pay off you don't mind after work, in the comfort of your own home with unlimited cold beer from the fridge.
The dish I was most dissapointed with was the Surprisingly Simple Roasted Duck with Spiced Lentils and Caramelised Apples, designed to take the fear out of cooking duck at home (on that note, we cook duck all the time here, would any of you be interested in some simple duck recipes?) While the idea was good and we were given great ingredients, the cooking times were majorly off, meaning I had to steam the greens in the lentils in the end to get the meal on the table in time, instead of doing them separately. It was also very involved using loads of different pans and utensils for a weeknight dish. I've survived the madness of writing and shooting a cookbook, and I found it a lot to keep up with.
All in all, I'd say that HelloFresh has some good ideas to make life a little easier for the more experienced cook. So, how does it stack up compared to the other recipe boxes I've tried? Well, I think it is most comparable to the Gousto box I tried. While there are different value boxes if you get more food for more people, my two person, three meal box costs £39, working out at £6.50 a head. The same box from Gousto is cheaper at £34.99, working out at £5.83 per serving. I think both boxes have good quality ingredients (perhaps the ones in the HelloFresh box, like the duck and the ham if it had arrived are worth more, making up for the £4.50 difference in box price perhaps), and equally as imaginative recipes. Also, while I did enjoy my Gousto experience more, HelloFresh did not provide me with way too much excess packaging, and I know this is a big reason for why some people order recipe boxes in the first place.