Way back last December, I sat down at work and wrote a list, month by month, of all the tasks I needed to complete at work between January and May. And then I went home and told Andrew that the first five months of this year were going to be hell and I had no idea how I was going to survive them.
Oh, and that was before every church I’ve ever sung with decided to hire me to sing on various Sundays, before I was asked to be part of a (paid) concert of opera classics in May, before I discovered a very old friend would be visiting Brisbane in March and so I needed to squeeze in an interstate trip somehow, and before I decided that I really wanted to perform all the alto solos from the Mattäus-Passion during Lent. I don’t regret that last one, incidentally, so I’m willing to take the fall for it.
Well, I did survive, and astonishingly, I’m also the only person I know who didn’t get the laryngitis-death-plague sometime between March and May. I also managed to cook reasonably well most of the time, though there were a couple of weeks where takeaway ended up on the menu two or even three times.
Of course, there was a cost to all of this, and part of that cost was that I completely let go of my blogging for several months. I even missed my blog birthday on May 11th – I believe that was the day we finally got the Program Grant into the Grants Office, which was certainly a moment of celebration, but not of the bloggable variety. I haven’t been to a farmers’ market on a weekend since about February. And, while I did manage to have my usual Eurovision festivities – with a bonus 5am Sunday morning Eurovision party, full of overnight cooked breakfast items – Cross Dressing Ken was unable to attend because I just didn’t have the time or energy to make him a new dress. Fortunately, Conchita was so fabulous that Ken’s presence was not truly necessary. Oh, and I also managed to get sick every single Saturday for the last month or so, before recovering miraculously just in time to sing every Sunday morning.
So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m hoping to get back to blogging some proper recipes soon – I have a great chocolate carrot cake, and crackling chocolate crackles that I want to write about, along with one of my overnight breakfast recipes – but at the moment I’m really catching up on sleep more than anything else.
But just to get this blog back to something food related, three brief reviews of ways I’ve avoided living on takeaway food recently…
Hello Fresh is an company that delivers to your door a box containing all the ingredients and the recipes you will need for either 3 or 5 days of meals. Delivery is on a Monday between 2 and 9pm, and items are left on your doorstep in an insulated icebox. While Hello Fresh claims to have a flexible subscription, it really, really wants you to subscribe as an ongoing thing, which is a pest if, like me, you want to get your boxes just in busy weeks, and not forever. One has to keep subscribing and unsubscribing, which is a nuisance. And, of course, not every week is perfect.
Having said that, it’s very convenient. You really do get all the ingredients, barring one or two pantry staples (olive oil, salt, pepper, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar), and the recipes are all quick to make. We mostly got the vegetarian box, which was straightforward, fairly tasty, vegetarian food. Not too imaginative – I get the impression they are still building their repertoire, and one week the protein was haloumi or feta every single day, which was a bit much for my taste – but good and tasty and excellent for a novice cook. We got the meat box once, and that was less good – I actively disliked two of the meals (even though they looked good on the menu), and the third was ordinary.
We’ve ordered from them about six times, and we got dodgy ricotta once, and an excessively hard avocado once. Other than that, the produce was good quality and the recipe sizes well-judged and fast to make. I’d definitely recommend their vegetarian box for busy weeks, but if you are actually vegetarian, be a bit careful, because some of their pastes and sauces are not entirely vegetarian! Fine if you are a part-timer like me, but less good if you are committed. And they do rely fairly heavily on cheese and on gluten-based products, so be aware of this.
Palate produces ‘restaurant-style’ meals, which it delivers to your door in vacuum-sealed pouches ready to be gently reheated in 85°C water and then eaten. This turns out to be harder than it sounds, at least on a gas stove!
They have some beautiful-looking things on the menu (which changes seasonally and has certainly changed since we ordered from them), but I think we were the wrong audience. We tried a wild rice salad, a stuffed zucchini flower dish, and several vegetable sides. They were all OK, but a little on the bland size, and we found the portions small. I suspect their meat dishes would be better, but none of these are things that Andrew would eat. They are all organic and seasonal and look well-set to cater for the gluten- or dairy-free. I want to love them, but they just didn’t work for me.
I reviewed Curry Delights with their very first kickstarter pack, and they are now open for business! In fact, I’m expecting my May box any day now. Curry Delights have actually improved since my first post – they clearly got a fair bit of feedback about people wanting to do a little more cooking from scratch, and subsequent boxes reflected this. The boxes now have an extra half hour of prep time added in, but the result is much lighter, healthier meals, which are also much easier to replicate later, because one is not reliant on hard-to-find spice pastes and such.
The March meal was a hilariously fiery Southern Indian feast – I misread the amount of the spice mix, and because it smelled lovely and looked like paprika, I then added more in, and the results were positively volcanic – we were all giggling as we ate, because it was so spicy! The spicy fish was served with lentil flour pancakes and sambal, which was fantastic. April’s meal was a beautiful vegetable biryani with green kebabs made from chickpeas, peas, spinach and spices. It was absolutely marvellous – even Andrew, who hates peas, liked the green kebabs.
Virkam and Ambika have really done a stunning job collating these menus, and coming up with really interesting food that is a pleasure to eat and share. These aren’t really quick weeknight meals, though in fact, we’ve done all of them on weeknights, but they are delicious and exciting and I’m so very happy to have found them! The vegetarian options are always as delicious as the meaty ones – in fact, I’ve taken to expanding my meal for four into a meal for six by making both variants – and they tend to be egg-free and gluten-free. Highly recommended!