Love cooking but stuck in a rut of using the same old recipes? Recipe kits will get you cooking delectable new dishes in no time. What’s more, they cut out the boring parts – the shopping, finding the recipes and even measuring out and weighing ingredients. Indeed, each box, which is delivered to your door, contains a recipe card with enough pre-measured ingredients (and a list of extra ones you need in some cases). There’s no food waste and you can keep your favourite recipes to cook again in the future.
While some recipe kits can be bought as a one-off box, others exist as part of a weekly subscription –but most can be paused or stopped anytime and you get to choose how many meals you want each week and for how many people.
1. Gousto: from £27.49 (two meals for two people), Gousto
Everything about the two family boxes we tried was faultless (except a pack of mouldy feta, which we were assured was a one-off). Recipes are easy to follow, taking no longer than 30 minutes, and they are particularly imaginative and tasty, with the Sri Lankan crab curry and Tuscan fish and olive risotto among those that we’re hanging onto for future use. The meat is all British and you won’t be short of options, with 22 recipes to choose from each week including low-cal, vegetarian, quick and easy or family-friendly (from which you can mix and match).
2. Abel & Cole: from £36 (two meals for two people), Abel & Cole
Most recipe box companies brag about their dishes being quick and easy to cook. But Abel & Cole stands out for remembering that some folk like taking their time with more complex culinary creations. Indeed, its foodie box includes recipes such as pheasant and sage kievs with clapshot, and beef cobbler with cheddar and mustard scones. Other options include the veggie box, simple box and light box and, having tested recipes from across all four, we can vouch for the fact that they are all top-notch and easy-to-follow.
3. Riverford: from £24.95 (two meals for two people), Riverford
These 100 per cent organic boxes are well-organised into handy sections, with delicious recipes such as Thai green curry and parsnip, or leek barley risotto. If you want your meal on the table within half-an-hour, choose the quick box, and if you’ve got more time on your hands, go for the original. Both boxes are available as vegetarian options and the non-vegetarian option now includes fish dishes. As there’s no subscription, you can buy them as a one-off treat. Our only criticism is that the recipes can be a bit wordy.
4. Simply Cook: from £8.99 per box, Simply Cook
If you want an affordable recipe kit option and you’re happy to buy all the fresh ingredients yourself, then this start-up company is a real find. In each kit (there are over 60 to pick from including light and gluten-free options), you get four meals’ worth of specially-blended ingredients, from infused oils to rubs and pastes, for two to four people so that you can get cooking dishes such as Mexican pulled chicken and Goan fish curry. The box (the first of which is a trial one) fits through the letterbox and can be delivered every week, fortnight or month and the ingredients last over six months. No wonder Simply Cook’s customer base quadrupled last year.
5. The Spicery: from £2.95 each, The Spicery
If you’re partial to some heat (of the spicy kind) in your food, then you’ll love these exotic spice packs with accompanying recipes. Think prawn pathia with cucumber salad, Persian khoresht with sabzi polow , and piri piri chicken with coleslaw and wedges – all of which benefit from the fact that the spices are ground, mixed and packed literally just before they’re sent out. You’ll need to buy in the rest of the ingredients listed on the recipe cards, though.
6. Hello Fresh: from £36 (three meals for two people), Hello Fresh
These guys aren’t into fancy cooking. Instead, they’re all about great home cooking. That’s not to say the recipes are dull, with our favourites including chicken fried rice with mushrooms, chilli, peanuts and soy, or prawn and serrano linguini. None of them take longer than half-an-hour and you get a recipe folder for the ones you think you’ll cook again. Choose between classic, veggie and family-friendly varieties for up to five meals a week. The packaging helps make life easy, with fresh food in an iced-bag and a paper bag full of ingredients per recipe.
7. Mindful Chef: from £28 (two meals for two people), Mindful Chef
If you’re watching your waistline, this is the recipe box for you. All the recipes (eight to choose from each week) are lean, healthy, gluten-free and organic, as well as having been meticulously checked by a nutritional coach and personal trainer, co-founder Myles Hopper. Not that you really notice you’re on a health kick – and that’s the whole point. We particularly enjoyed Vietnamese crispy pork and carrot noodles, and coconut fish pie with sweet potato mash, as well as enjoying some of the best vegan meals we’ve ever had, including a splendid roasted cauliflower and chickpea masala. You get a picture-based “coming up next week” card included too.
8. Farmison: from £24.95, Farmison
Farmison’s boxes are one-off purchases that stay the same all year, save for seasonal alterations, and they are an astute way for this online butcher to show off some of the ways you can make the most of its moist, tender and tasty meats. Our favourites include Beef Weekend Feast (roast beef with all the trimmings – but not just any old beef as this native breed is seriously flavoursome) and prime centre cut fillet steak and chips (as good as you’ll get in any restaurant, with steak that melts in your mouth and easy-to-make homemade chips).
9. Snap! Recipe Box : from £39 (three meals for two people), Snap! Recipe Box
This is a relatively new kid in the block, launched by Yorkshire born-and-bred brothers Charles and Geoff Allen last year. Impressed with the concept of recipe boxes, but less enthusiastic about the quality of ingredients “which we found to be bog-standard supermarket quality”, they set up their own, using only local and seasonal ingredients and produce, working with over 50 Yorkshire suppliers (and chefs). Recipes include the likes of crusted cod and Sticky bacon chop with a mustard, thyme and mushroom sauce. There are plans to add starters and puddings soon, too.
10. BakedIn Baking Club: from £23.99 for three months, BakedIn
Let them eat cake, with this subscription-based monthly baking club. Each monthly box – which fits nicely through the letterbox – has a recipe approved by TV favourite Michel Roux, plus all the pre-measured dry ingredients you need to recreate anything from delicious muffins to a stand-out chocolate cake. There are no artificial nasties and the ingredients are top drawer, including local flour, Belgian chocolate and Madagascan vanilla. Our favourites from the last few months have included almond and apricot biscotti, the gingerbread house, banoffee cookies and spiced blackberry muffins.
The Verdict: Recipe boxes
Gousto was our favourite, based on the fact that recipes are innovative, drawing on cuisine from around the world, and look impressive on the plate, yet don’t take long to cook. There are more recipe options than most, too. In second place for us is Riverford, whose recipes are hearty and delicious and while Snap! is much smaller than its rivals, we think it has great potential for carving out a niche for locally sourced Yorkshire food with well-thought out recipes that taste great.
This article was originally published in July 2015, and has since been updated to reflect the current market
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