Great time savers or expensive luxury? Elaine Lemm give her opinion of a Riverford recipe box

As a serious cook and someone who loves creating a menu, shopping, preparing my ingredients et al., having a recipe box delivered to my door holds little appeal.  I get why it would be useful for those with less enthusiasm for the process of getting food on the table. Still, I was willing to give it a try when offered one of the new recipe boxes from Riverford Organics

Riverford has been supplying UK homes with organic veg boxes since 1993; they were ahead of the seasonal-local-food mile frenzy we are so familiar with today. Now they are bucking another trend with their recipe boxes. If we are to get the nation cooking – and what that brings with it in terms of health – then any route to making it easier is welcome.  So having all the ingredients assembled and delivered to your doorstep sounds a little of a no-brainer. Or is it?

An impressive box arrived on my doorstep boasting three meals packed within. All that was demanded of me was to unpack it, store the perishables and head to the kitchen.  There was a surprisingly weighty amount of literature to read through, though I’m suspecting mostly because this was my first box.

The organisation of the box is remarkable. There are packages of sparklingly fresh herbs, brown paper bags with earthy vegetables and diary and meat carefully wrapped with icepacks. Even with a store cupboard already stacked with most of the staple stuff, I l still loved the dolls house sized bottles filled with measured amounts of oils, vinegar and spices to complement the recipes.

The recipe cards were precise, easy to follow and all three meals I cooked worked, making me think they are well tested. A Beef and Potato Massaman Curry would normally be incredibly fiddly to deal with if each of the 24 ingredients needs shopping for, measured and prepared. Coming straight from the box simplified the whole process. The result on the plate taste-wise was a success despite its unbeguiling brown, sludgy appearance.

The next day, a Chorizo and Roasted vegetable salad with feta and olives was supremely quick to prepare and looked prettier than the curry on the plate. However, the day after was when I started to feel the pressure of having to cook the next recipe. To not do so would compromise the freshness of the vegetables  which is, of course, a common dilemma when buying fresh food in advance.  I did make the Tomato Mozzarella and Basil Tart but just in the nick of time; it was lovely as the herbs were still passable and voted the best of the three meals.

I will probably not be ordering the recipe box for this house though I can see the intrinsic value to those who do not cook as I do. I would however consider buying it for a holiday or as a treat for my hardworking young stepdaughters though, they will love it.

Recipe boxes are priced around the £40 mark for three meal box for two making them cheaper than most takeaway menus. Choose from vegetarian, quick meals or original, there is also a two meal box at £29.95.

Tomato-and-basil-tartTomato, mozzarella & basil tart
prep & cook 45 mins, serves 2
Tomato, mozzarella and basil are a classic flavour
combination. This tart makes the most of
our juicy tomatoes at the peak of their UK season.
Save any leftover basil to make a pesto; it will ke
ep in the fridge or freeze for later use; see
our website for a recipe if you need it.
1 sheet ready-made puff pastry
4 tsp pesto verde
480g tomatoes
1 pack of mozzarella
1 egg
salt & pepper
50g salad leaves
1 mini cucumber
1 pack of alfalfa sprouts – use a handful
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
good olive oil
1 bag of basil – use a small handful of leaves
Heat the oven to 200 ̊C/180 ̊C fan/gas mark 6. Lightly oil a baking tray. Lay out the pastry sheet. Cut into 4 rectangles, saving the other two for another meal. Lay 2 of the pastry pieces on the baking tray. With a sharp knife, mark a 2cm border around the 2 pieces of pastry. Lightly prick the centre of the rectangles several times with a fork
(this will stop the middle puffing up too much during cooking).
Spread the pesto over the middle of each piece of pastry. Chill for 10 mins. Meanwhile, wash and slice the tomatoes.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and arrange the tomatoes overlapping each other
slightly. Tear up the cheese and dot it over the top.
Crack the egg and use a fork to whisk the yolk and white together. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg. Season with salt and pepper.
Drizzle a little bit of oil over each one and bake in the oven for approx. 20 mins, or until the
pastry is cooked through, puffed up and golden brown.

About The Author

Following a successful career as a chef and restaurateur, Yorkshire's Elaine Lemm is a highly respected food and drink writer and recently voted one of the top 50 in the UK. Elaine is a member of the Guild of Food Writers and author of three books,The Great Book of Yorkshire Pudding, The Great Book of Rhubarb and The Great Book of Tea.

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