Thursday, 13 November 2014

Our evening meals


This is a slight detour from sewing, but as all sewists have to eat, I thought you might be interested in hearing about something we've been enjoying for much of this year. Up until April, we were in one of those slumps where I found myself cooking a rotation of the same meals every evening, either because I hadn't had the time to go out and buy any interesting ingredients or because I didn't have the time to research recipes in advance of actually cooking the meal. It went something like: pasta with tomato sauce with vegetables; gnocchi with a blue cheese sauce and asparagus; pasta with pesto and vegetables; jacket potatoes with grated cheese and vegetables…and over…and over. Everyone in our house quite likes these things, but it wasn't particularly exciting to be eating them in rotation every week. I actually really love cooking things from scratch…there's just a slight planning issue sometimes. Anyway, eight months ago, that changed when we discovered Hello Fresh. Each week they deliver all the ingredients I'll need to make three meals with full colour recipe cards for each. The quality of the ingredients is fantastic and the recipes are wholesome, hearty, unpretentious, but really, really good. 


The recipes are often quite involved, but it's this that means that somehow on a Wednesday evening when I've worked all day, got soaked on the school run, helped with homework and am trying to work my way through a washing mountain and would normally decide that some pasta, a jar of sauce and vegetables would suffice, instead I find myself whipping up something like a huge cauliflower and lentil dahl or Lebanese sweet potato wraps, without all the stress of planning or shopping for it. 


The recipes usually take between 35 to 50 minutes to make and I tend to put on a podcast while I'm cooking - it's a really lovely way to relax at the end of the day. It's completely transformed our week and I no longer have the guilt that I was beginning to suffer in feeling that my children would grow up not remembering me cooking particularly varied or interesting things for them (because a few years ago I did used to seem to have time and inclination to cook a lot more) or ceasing to being willing to try new things because they'd got out of the habit of it - I really minded about that idea. 


I have to confess that I don't actually eat many of the Hello Fresh meals myself as I have so many allergies and food intolerances - everything from gluten, to onions and garlic and a myriad of other common ingredients - that it's really rare that a recipe excludes all the things that I can't eat, but it's reignited my joy in cooking for others and the other three members of the family are really enjoying sampling all these new dishes each week. 

Hello Fresh don't really give you a huge amount of autonomy over what you cook each week. We order the vegetarian box for four people, but other than that, we don't get a say in what arrives. I quite like the surprise factor of this, although it does mean that I occasionally have to substitute something - for example, my daughter feels smoked paprika gives things a meaty flavour so I'll switch it for regular paprika from my own spice drawer and we always substitute any rare tofu appearances with some halloumi from our own fridge. 

I'd initially thought I'd want more than three meals a week, but actually it's perfect. We have one night a week where too many people are out to justify using one of the recipes and we also have an amazing local pizza restaurant that we tend to collect pizzas from on Friday nights and then the weekends tend to offer more time for planning out my own recipes anyway. I'd also thought it would be too expensive, but actually, what used to happen was that we'd dash out to the shops constantly to buy a few random bits and pieces and come back with far more than we'd intended to buy (often disparate items, that didn't really make a meal). I think our overall food bill is actually far lower now than it used to be. 


I really love how excited everyone is when the week's recipe cards are unpacked. At the sight of an enormous salad there are often sighs of disappointment, but it's been these dishes where everyone has usually said: I really wasn't looking forward to this one, but it's amazing! 


The fact that we've been getting Hello Fresh boxes each week for eight months now should be a good indication that I think it's a brilliant service, however, just to maintain balance, I thought I should also share the things I'm less keen on: very occasionally, an ingredient has been missing from our box - it's never caused a big problem as I've normally found something in the cupboard that I can substitute it for; you need absolutely massive pans and serving dishes to carry off Hello Fresh recipes with ease - the portions are invariably huge and often provide leftovers for the next day, which is brilliant, but you will need big pans; over the summer they changed over to new eco-insulation bags for the cold items (if you're out, the delivery company will leave the box somewhere safe for you, so the food really needs to stay cold all day in the summer). The eco bags drive me slightly loopy as they're huge and sometimes it feels as though they've wrapped one block of cheese up in the wool of an entire sheep to protect it properly, which even though it's an eco bag, feels slightly wasteful - I'm hoping this is a seasonal thing and that they'll go back to standard insulation now the weather has cooled. 

Anyway, if you'd like to try your own Hello Fresh box, you can get £20 off your first order by quoting my referral code GALEFS. When you get £20 off your order, Hello Fresh give me £12 off my next box as a thank you for referring someone (this is standard for all their customers - this isn't anything related to my blog and this isn't a sponsored post - I'm writing it because I love their service and after eight months of using it every week I feel really happy to recommend them here), so if you'd rather this didn't happen, but still want to try a box, just omit the code. 
    Florence x

    Ps. And if you do use the code: Cheers! We might end up cooking the very same thing one night next week. Freaky. 

    4 comments:

    1. That's sounds like a brilliant service! I love to cook, but I'm not always great at planning. I will have to check if we've got a similar service here!

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    2. Hmmm, I may have to give this a try! I am really feeling burned out on cooking right now, and it's made complicated by the fact that I prefer to eat vegetarian and my husband doesn't like vegetables!

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    3. My first thought was that the portions would err on the small side - I like to eat a lot at my evening meal. However that apparently isn't the case. However, I don't eat cheese or dairy 98% of the time and just like everywhere, I'm sure that the vegetarian options will contain loads of cheese (being vegan is unheard of in the UK apparently, as try buying a sandwich without mayonnaise or cheese in it, nevermind an actual meal. Very hard to do.) Plus I cook two different meals for 2 people with different tastes so overall not going to work for me. I know what you mean about planning and shopping for food though.

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    4. I feel your pain on cooking for a family and trying to incorporate your food intolerance. My husband has a lot of foods he can't eat - like you gluten, dairy, eggs, onion family , yeast etc. This sounds like a great way to feed the family. Pity you can't indulge though..

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    Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

    I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

    Florence x

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