My sister bought her boyfriend a curry subscription from The Spicery. This meant that every month they’d get the spices and instructions for a full Indian meal. And they have been enjoying it greatly. Curry did not appeal to me but I was talking to my sister about it and it came up that The Spicery did a world foods subscription. This perked my interest. It is a current goal of mine to try as many world foods as possible, however I am hindered by my location, money and from simple shyness.
So, world foods. I liked the sound of being able to try different cuisines in the comfort of my own home, and the meals are all set so there would be no confusion over how you’re supposed to eat it, and the spices being given means no scrounging around trying to find some unusual spice, and then having the rest of the bottle sit in your cupboard until it expires. Basically: a great idea. The spicery offers three different boxes- an explorer, a family friendly, and a vegetarian. It quickly became apparent through looking at their past/current boxes that boxes are fixed and not customisable based on a customers preference. Less fussily, it also became apparent that dairy ingredients were prominent in the recipes. I do not eat dairy.
I still wanted to give it a go so I headed for their sales page and picked up a few boxes for cheap to try. I wanted to see a) if ingredients for the recipes could be bought locally i.e. from a small, local supermarket versus a large superstore b) how the boxes faired with customisation i.e. by substituting dairy ingredients for non and c) just how it worked in general- would the food be nice? Would it be easy to make/follow the instructions? Would it take a long time to make and require a lot of cleanup?
My box arrived today. I was pleased to see they’ve done it so it fits through the letterbox- good to know that I wouldn’t miss a box whilst at work. Inside I have my two meals and a dessert- chilli hot dogs, Mexican fajitas and halva cake. Each packet contains spices for the meal. The packet then gives information about the meal, an ingredients list, spice details and the recipe itself.
Tonight I made the chilli dogs and its accompanying dessert for a family friendly American themed meal.
Main meal: Chilli Dogs with American Mustard, Sweetcorn relish & Potato Salad
Ingredients required (versus actually used): frankfurters, minced beef (quorn mince), new potatoes (ordinary white potatoes), garlic, onion, spring onions, kidney beans (color not given so I used red), passata, white wine vinegar, sugar, cornflour, mayonnaise, sweetcorn, hot dog buns
Most ingredients were found at local store. Hot dogs were bought at larger supermarket, as local ones were significantly poorer quality.
Dessert: Peach and Blueberry Cobbler
Ingredients required (actually used): peaches (tinned peaches), blueberries, sugar, lime, self raising flour (all purpose flour modified to make), unsalted butter (dairy free spread), natural yogurt (soya yogurt)
All ingredients found at local store.
Total spent on ingredients for this meal: £13.70 (I had some bits lying about but not many. A better stocked store cupboard would admittedly lower this.)
I needed supper to be ready by 6pm, so surveying the instructions I decided to start at 4pm. I started with the Chilli, as this needed an hour to cook. This was simple and quick to make and I left it to simmer and thicken as I turned my attention to the Cobbler.
This started out easily enough- mixing fruit and spices in a baking dish, then setting it aside to make the topping. The topping made me miss my food processor, as I had to rub dairy free spread into flour with my hands. I added the yogurt to this and all was going well until I was told to add 30 grates of nutmeg to the mix. They had given me a packet of three whole spices to play with- ginger, nutmeg and cassia. However, I have never handled whole spices so I was just guessing as to what the nutmeg was, based on an idea I had that it was a nut, and by smell. As I grated it I began to doubt myself. It did not smell as I expected. Also, 30 grates was not giving a lot of nutmeg. In fact it was barely giving any at all. Was I doing it wrong or was this not nutmeg? I kept my pithy 30 grates of maybe-nutmeg anyway and mixed it up before spooning the topping in big clumps on top of the fruit base, not nearly as evenly as the picture suggested I should. Then, a little impulsively, I shoved the third whole spice into the fruit mix, grabbed the grated nutmeg out the cupboard and sprinkled it generously on top. I put in the oven and then paused to tidy, before I began work on the relishes. The first step was to boil the potatoes. So once they had been cut up and dumped in the pan I gave the kitchen a proper clean. Easy enough with a dishwasher, but the thought of doing it all by hand was not welcome. By this point the Chilli was done, the Cobbler was cooking and the relishes were started and it was 5pm. One hour until supper time.
I was beginning to feel fairly stressed. There was a lot to do, and a lot of different dishes to make and to keep track of.
I continued to cook, making up the mustard, the sweet corn relish and frying the hot dogs up. I finished in time for 6pm, but only just. I admit I stopped caring at around 5:45 and made the sweetcorn relish up lazily and only barely following instructions. There was too much to do and I had been in the kitchen for two hours, and I was done. I think it is quite obvious that a decent amount of cooking skill is needed for this and the fact I am better at baking showed through – I knew what to do once my dessert went a bit wrong, but I struggled with some of the relishes as the instructions were very simple, and what was happening did not always match what the instructions told me should be happening, and then I got lost.
Equipment used: 1 frying pan, two pots and more bowls, forks and spoons than I could keep count of.
Time taken: 2 hours and 5 minutes (roughly, and with a 15 minute break included)
The Mustard did not turn out well. It was gloopy and bland. This may have been a fault on my part, I’m not sure. The rest of the meal was great though. It was fun assembling the hot dogs, and nothing was too spicy. My father vastly enjoyed the combination of the Chilli, sweet corn relish and hot dog, although he found the Potato Salad bland. My mother had just a hot dog with Chilli and relish and liked it, but loved the Potato Salad. I liked the hot dogs but also found the Potato Salad bland. There was food for Africa, and it was a little overwhelming. My father was a little surprised when I told him to leave room for dessert. “Dessert as well?!” was his general reaction.
His tune changed once I revealed the Cobbler. The dough had gone golden brown and the blueberries had turned the fruit layer a rich purple. My father remarked that it smelt like spiced wine. We dug in and it was really good. My mix up with the spices hadn’t affected it, neither had the substitutions I made. It was delicious.
It was a lot of food though. Even with a huge amount leftover in the fridge, I feel a little overstuffed. The food was fairly heavy and rich and there was a lot of it, all at once, which was perhaps just too much. I imagine that if I were to do this when I was living alone I’d have enough food to last the week. The food seems suitable for keeping though. Also I’d like to make the cobbler again sometime
, but they keep their spice mixes a secret. Which makes having the recipe for future use a bit silly (although I think you can buy the spices from them again, but that in itself is pretty cheeky) My father pointed out that such a popular recipe would probably be available online, which is true.  And I can! I was looking over the packet they gave me again and noticed they do actually list the spices and their quantities for each spice mix, making this statement redundant. Sorry. I’m now quite impressed with their transparency, and looking forward to making this cobbler again. (And I’ll probably be sticking the nicely laminated recipe card in my recipe book for keeps!)[/edit]
Lots of cleaning. Lots and lots of cleaning. Doing such a mound of dishes by hand would not be fun.