|A Working Mother's Dream Come True|
Anne Flaherty tries out a new food delivery service
I own dozens of cookery books, and yet I cook the same half-dozen recipes every week. Those forty-seven books (yes, you read that correctly) glare accusingly at me from the shelf gathering dust while I serve up spag bol, shepherd’s pie, stir-fries and roast chicken with boring regularity . And research shows that this is the case for 98% of families in the UK. The idea of serving quinoa, cous cous or paella at dinner-time is an immediate No-No for most families, mine included.
However, when I declared that we were going to try something new, where somebody else would decide what we were having for dinner, the whole family was delighted. They threw themselves into the adventure as if they were appearing on ‘Come Dine With Me’, demanding to be allowed to judge the dishes and give them marks out of ten. And so thanks to Jessica’s Recipe Bag, I got my family to eat quinoa, pesto,mixed grains, and spicy bean wraps all in one week. And what’s more they really enjoyed it!
Jessica’s Recipe Bag is a new venture set up by Jessica Andersson, in partnership with Swedish company Linas Matkasse. The idea is that Jessica chooses your menu for four nights, buys and weighs all the ingredients for the main course for a family of four and then sends the bag and recipe book in a distinctive white bag delivered to your door by courier.It costs £74 which works out at an average of £4.65 per person, and you are given a list of household staples which you’re expected to use, such as seasonings or basic condiments.
My first Recipe Bag arrived on a Monday evening and there was great excitement as everyone tried to guess what we would be having to eat. Here is my first tip. It might be an idea when you’re new to this, to have your first delivery on a night when you’re not planning to cook. The deliveries are in the evening, and as you’re presented with heaps of fresh meat, fish, and vegetables, at a time when the family are baying for food, there is potential for confusion- a bit like trying to cook dinner in someone else’s kitchen.
My delivery bag was a little late, arriving at 7.10 p.m. and I was under pressure to get food on the table fairly quickly- the recipes in my booklet were estimated to take ten minutes preparation and about 25 minutes cooking time, and this was about right.
I decided that first evening to try Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and tomato sauce because it seemed the quickest thing to get my head around in a hurry. And so I swiftly combined the meat and seasonings, the breadcrumbs, olives, egg and herbs and crème fraiche and bunged it into the oven along with the tomato sauce. Having had to wash the muddy potatoes I was too tired to peel and mash them, so I steamed them while the meatloaf was baking and that was just as good. The vegetables chosen for the dish were peas and carrots, which was relatively simple.
The result- one delighted family – and a score of 8/10 for Jessica’s recipe. They felt including green olives in the meatloaf made it more interesting.
The following night it was Baked Haddock with Stuffed Peppers and green beans. Once again all ingredients had come provided in the Jessica Recipe Bag. The fish (from Simsons fishmongers) was fresh, and I followed the instructions to pre-bake the halved red peppers for five minutes then stuff them with the supplied sachets of Merchant Gourmet’s mixed grains or Quinoa. Then the fresh pesto was stirred in and the peppers were topped with the ready-grated parmesan which was supplied. Popped into the oven, it was baked in about fifteen minutes and the green beans were quickly steamed.
The verdict: “ Very nice but we needed some bread to fill us up”. However they gave it a score of 7/10 .
As the week went on I felt a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders in the evening, knowing that everything I needed for the night’s dinner was in the fridge.
Next on the menu was Chicken cooked in Yoghurt and Spices. In this case I needed to use my own spices ( chilli, coriander and cumin) to fry up with the chopped onion, then in went the chicken thighs and some honey and chopped almonds to be gently simmered with the addition of the natural yoghurt.
This was the most popular dish of the week - the sauce was very gently spiced, and it got a resounding 9/10 from everyone. If I had been able to add some naan bread or poppadums it might have added to the experience but it was fine without them. The basmati rice was also supplied and cooked separately while the chicken was simmering.
The final recipe was for Tortilla Wraps with Black Bean Sauce, a spicy bean mixture. Mexican food is always popular in my house but I usually use a recipe which includes beef or chicken. However, in keeping with the spirit of the week’s adventure, the recipe was followed to the letter and the vegetarian wraps were quickly demolished. One quibble – I think a fresh salsa would have been nicer than the one that came in the jar. Verdict 8/10 and a request for some chicken next time as an extra wrap option.
There are plenty of prepared meals available in upmarket supermarkets ( with bottles of wine!) and even though this new service is a great help to working parents, there is still the fact that you have to cook and clean up afterwards. But Jessica Andersson hopes it will follow on the success of the Swedish model ( 2.5 m bags delivered in its four years) because of its emphasis on fresh ingredients and the nutritional benefits of cooking from scratch. A mother-of -three, she says her mission is to highlight the importance of family meals, as well as to help parents under financial and time pressure.
“The ‘ surprise’ element is working really well, and parents have told me that children have tried foods they would normally reject”, she added.
One of her priorities is to choose ingredients carefully so that there is not much waste, and at the same time provide enough food for hearty appetites .Smaller recipe bags will soon be introduced for couples (three meals for two) and Jessica says that with the business still evolving, she is considering other options from breakfast deliveries to weekend meals.
One thing lacking from the Jessica’s Recipe Bag was a selection of desserts. It was certainly on the family’s wish-list and I feel it might be a good idea to include something like a punnet of berries, or some brownies or even yoghurt. This could put up the price of the delivery but it might be considered as an extra option.
Would I order a Jessica Recipe Bag again? Well, the family were very enthusiastic. It definitely feels like a healthy alternative to pre-cooked supermarket meals. I would be happy to try it again, particularly if there was a busy week ahead of me, but maybe not every week. After all, we might begin to miss our weekly spag bol !
October 5, 2012