Hello Fresh: Veggie Tostadas

The latest (last?) experiment from Hello Fresh’s meal delivery was another Mexican dish. I am always amazed at how many times you can put a flour wrap together with quite similar ingredients and come up with a different dish!

Tostadas, as the name might suggest, involve toasting – or at least, oven baking – the tortilla. On top of that is added a veg, bean, and tomato mix, plus roasted peppers and sour cream.

Hello Fresh veggie tostatos

I really liked this, and was slightly amazed that it did manage to taste different from other, very similar things I’ve cooked before. I’d never thought to put carrot into mexican cooking, either, but it worked well.

If I was doing it again, I probably wouldn’t bother roasting the peppers – they can go into the saucepan just as well, I reckon.Β 

Simple, but tasty. Overall rating: 8/10.

Hello Fresh: One Pot Mexican Style Beef and Rice

Following my trial box, I’ve had another couple of recipes. Alas, this first one was quite the disappointment.

I forgot to take a photo of the ingredients for consistency, but they messed up, anyway: both meals required kidney beans, both came with… chickpeas! Sigh. I’ve yet to hear of anyone’s delivery not having something missing or wrong. Luckily I *do* cook anyway, as there was a tin of kidney beans to hand (and the chickpeas will get used easily enough).

Having felt I’d not been as brave as I could with the trial box – the purpose of all this really being getting me out of a cooking rut, after all – this was my most ‘adventurous’ yet: mince. I do not cook with mince. I am the least Scottish Scot, no ‘mince’n’tatties’ for me!! I suspect it’s to do with memories of rubbery mince as a kid – bleh!

HF mex beef rice recipe card

Glad to say that following the instructions here ended up really well – no rubberyness! But I really really wasn’t keen on the… greasy feel? Something. And where are the vegetables? Not a one in the dishΒ at all? Oh, no – no, not having that! So in went some peppers and sweetcorn, and they made a ‘bleh’ dish at least vaguely edible, imo!

Hello Fresh mex beef rice

It doesn’t look so bad, and in fairness I did manage to eat ‘enough’ – was such a huge portion, though, I wasn’t too sad to dump maybe a quarter in the bin, sigh. I’ll grant that a lot of it might be down to my tastes rather than the meal itself.

Any positives? Well, I’ve been half-avoiding fresh coriander for years not on purpose so much as knowing how much it disagrees with my best mate – so I learned to swerve it. And it’s rather nice, hah!

I do think I would actually give this one another go… as a vegetarian dish. Mexican rice and beans, just leave out the beef!

Overall rating: 4/10 – wasn’t for me! Still, worst of the seven attempted, and I still managed to eat it, I suppose o.O

Hello Fresh: Halloumi Tacos

Looking at the recipes, my heart sank a little with this last experiment from my first box. I strongly suspected I’d topped and tailed the ‘week’ with the most disappointing ones.Β 

Hello Fresh halloumi taco ingredients

Following the recipe really didn’t improve my expectations. Fry peppers and sweetcorn? Dump in a wrap with fried halloumi? Urm… sorry, but sort of smacks of the worst kind of “we didn’t know what to do for a vegetarian” cooking. Oh dear!

I was pleasantly surprised, then, that they tasted nice enough!

Halloumi tacos

Of course, I think by the time you’ve put mayo and chipotle paste on a wrap, you’re guaranteed flavour. The rest was pleasant enough – although the pics show that I decided not to go with the green pepper provided (that went in the curry) and used a mix of yellow and red instead. Less obviously I also didn’t use the tin of sweetcorn provided – it was huge! I might have mixed it up with the one intended for the Mexican stew? Seemed easier to just use a handful from the bag of frozen sweetcorn, so I did!

Still, borderline on what I’d call ‘a recipe’, although it wasn’t actually disappointing to eat. So overall rating: 7/10

And thus ends my first Hello Fresh box experiment! I’ll be back with a roundup post, and then… well, yeah, I might try a few more of the recipes, one way or another πŸ˜‰

Hello Fresh: Fajita Chicken

Penultimate recipe from my first Hello Fresh box was Fajita chicken. Not chicken fajitas – chicken, with fajita spices. And refried beans πŸ™‚

hello fresh ingredients

I make fajitas a lot, so didn’t quite know what I’d ‘learn’ from this recipe, but actually it had enough little differences to have felt very worthwhile. Oh yeah – and it was bloomin’ tasty!

First off, butterflying a chicken breast. I knew how, I just don’t. I would suggest that you might want to use a pair of scissors – and definitely recommend owning kitchen scissors, period! – if you’re not feeling too confident with a knife. Benefit of butterflying? Well, it cooks quicker! I still wasn’t going to take the recommended 8-10 mins in pan, 10 mins in oven, though, and it got more like 6 and 20+ – I need to make sure my chicken isΒ cooked!!

So for me it was wedges in the oven, then after 10 minutes added the chicken and sliced peppers. I wasn’t going to have the wedges – three nights in a row for those! – but since the oven was on anyway…

The refried beans weren’t something I’d tried to make before, at all, and was very pleased. My one thing on the recipe, though, would be this ‘half a sachet’ nonsense. Very, very hard to judge – I think I should have had more on the chicken and less in the very spicy beans. All good, but just a bit of awkwardness on what’s supposed to be an easy method.

Hello Fresh fajita chicken

I cooked both portions – the pack of chicken surprised me by having two, smallish but decent sized chicken breasts in it, and again I was pleased with the quality (esp. compared to the thigh). One butterflied bit of chicken plus half the peppers and half the bean mix went into the fridge, and the following day I shredded the chicken, made some ‘mexican-y’ rice, and reheated the beans for a second attempt at it all. Was still rather lovely πŸ™‚

Enjoyed this immensely. Three very nice, more impressive meals than expected in a row!

Overall rating: 8/10 – very good, again, felt the need to not follow the recipe to the letter (cooking timings) and not sure someone without much experience would feel confident doing that. A few more helpful hints, maybe on the website, would make this a better service, methinks. But a lovely plate(s) of food, and a few different techniques make this one feel very worth it πŸ™‚

Hello Fresh: Korma Bean Burgers

Okay, one ‘meh’, one success – this could go either way, right? Experiment the third: korma bean burgers.

hello fresh ingredients

I didn’t get ’round to blogging about it, but I actually made bean burgers a month or two ago. They were nice enough. These, however… new favourite! πŸ™‚ And simpler than the ingredients might make it look: the potato, lettuce, carrot, mayo and cider are all for side dishes. Not pictured: egg(s).

Making them was a little more convoluted than the previous recipes, and it was marked ‘medium’ (I think). To be honest, this is the point where I think the instructions were a bit less than ideal. We get a whole step on how to make a salad (strips of carrot, really?), whereas there’s one line on ‘cut the potatoes into wedges’ – that’s not actually as obvious for some as you might think, if you’ve never done it before. Also, in my experience, they take a lot longer to cook than the recipe says, but it’s so very very dependent on how thick you’ve made them. Not even mentioned, argh!

The burgers themselves are a mix of whole and mashed beans, breadcrumbs, curry paste, and egg to bind. I am sooo customising this going forward. Add finely chopped onion, peppers, any veg! Swap curry for… I dunno, tomato? Harissa? Options!!

I did stick to the recipe this time, though – well, apart from frying an egg to top the burger. I ate it later instead πŸ˜‰ And I upped the salad game a bit, too. You can’t see the curry mayo in the pic below, but it was surprisingly good – I did wonder about more curry and how strong it would be, but the korma paste provided was very mild. The burger buns were really nice, too.

korma bean burger on plate

As the minimum portion is for 2 people and I’m cooking for one, what to do with the ‘spare’ burger (or 2, you could easily have split the patty into 3)? Well, I cooked both more or less as per instructions (they held together really really well, I was very chuffed!) – 5-10 minutes in the pan and more like 20 in the oven – and I think you could have frozen the burger after either stage. I went with refrigeration overnight, and reheated it the following day for 10 minutes in the oven. Was still delicious!

Overall, then: 8.5/10. Higher for taste and joy of finding a recipe I will customise over and over, but the recipe card was a bit on the poor side. Well, I say that – you’ll see there’s no comparison shot in the photo, and that’d be down to the card not being included in my box. Thankfully they are online, but it was a little more awkward.

Hello Fresh: Fragrant Chicken Curry

Following a slight disappointment on my first attempt, I was really in need of a win to not lose heart totally in this Hello Fresh experiment. And I mean, how far wrong can you go with a curry?Hello Fresh recipe ingredientsWell, you can suggest that you put courgette in it. Bleh! Ah, that’s not fair – I do like courgette in the right place, but a curry doesn’t feel like that. So… day 2, and I’m already going off piste.

Another of my choices was halloumi tacos which included a green pepper – weird choice, surely any colour would be better? But green is great in chilli (would have really perked up that Mexican stew) and… curry!

So out with the courgette (I’ll do something else with it, honest!) and in with a chopped green pepper. Oh, and I might have kept back about a quarter of the bag of spinach from the Mexican stew…

Yeah, okay, I am not the target audience for this kind of scheme πŸ˜‰

Making the curry was lovely and easy. Chicken – and yup, the breast, even diced, suited me much much better than the thigh and needed minimal ‘trimming’ – spices, veg and coconut milk. I completely ignored the rice instructions and just, y’know, made rice o.O I did add the lime zest as suggested, but not sure a curry with lime juice through it needs more lime in the side.

To top it off, I added a handful of cashew nuts. It was *very* tasty! Creamy, mild and delicious. As I say, how far wrong can you go with a curry?!

Hello Fresh curry compared with recipe card

I’m pretty sure it would have frozen okay, but I didn’t try – instead I kept half (yup, two nice big portions!) in the fridge and reheated it the following day, when it was equally delicious!

Overall rating: my version probably a 9, but I’ll knock a mark off given I changed things up a bit, so 8/10.

HelloFresh: Mexican chicken stew

My first experiment with Hello Fresh! From my choices, I decide to go with the Mexican chicken stew for the kick off.

ingredients from Hello Fresh

As I said in the last (intro) post, I’d hoped with the whole scheme I could try some new things, get a bit experimental. Turned out that I wasn’t feeling that brave when I made my selection, so not really anything so different to stuff I might make anyway.

The main ‘novelty’ for me here is the chicken thigh. I’m very, very weird and picky when it comes to meat, and despite hearing good things about chicken thigh, I’ve never used it before. And I think I see why: I loathe the texture of fat on meat, and when I opened the packet I could see a lot of fat and ‘ick’. So, first meh – all on me, not the company – was picking through these bits of diced chicken trying to rescue the bits that looked okay for me to want to eat. It was a bit of a massacre, tbh o.O

With that out of the way, however, the cooking was straightforward. The recipe cards really are written well for people who aren’t confident with cooking, walking you through the process. My only comment on that would be that the prep instructions don’t include ‘wash the spinach’, when – right at the end of cooking – getting the bag of spinach and finding it says “wash well before use”. Hmm.

Otherwise, it was mainly a case of dumping in the ingredients as provided. Simples!

Mexican chicken stew against recipe card picture

I think it’s fair to suggest mine looks pretty close, no? I did find mine was more liquidy than the picture, so maybe the 200ml of water in the recipe was a bit much. I got three portions out of my 2-portion recipe, so two are in the freezer now, and I’d probably serve with rice in the future.

Important questions, of course: how did it taste? It was… okay. I think the issue is that boxes like this aren’t really intended for people who already cook a lot – my overarching feel was “I’ve made better”. It tasted absolutely fine, don’t get me wrong, and I did appreciate the simplicity of the process.

Would I order it again? Probably not, not least ‘cos the chicken thigh wasn’t to my liking (tasted nice enough!). Will I make it again? Hmm, probably a variation on it, sure. The only ‘difficult’ bit to replicate is the mexican spice, but I do make my own fajita seasoning and reckon it’s not dissimilar. I’d probably use extra veg – sweet potato, or peppers – and which point it’s kind of my chilli with added chicken, isn’t it?!

Overall rating: 6/10. Nice enough but didn’t go out of its way to impress me.

Hello Fresh – the experiment!

I love cooking – if the blog didn’t give that away! – but of late I’ve been in a bit of a rut, making the same meals on rotation. Hence the lack of actually blogging, as I can’t remember the last time I did something new!

So when I was offered a free trial of the meal/recipe delivery system from Hello Fresh I decided it’d be perfect to inject a bit of novelty into things.Β 

The system is simple enough: decide how many meals you want (3-5), for how many people. Minimum is two servings, so this was going to be a lot of food for me! Shame πŸ˜‰

The biggest excitement for me was probably choosing the recipes! My intention had been to really experiment, use this as an excuse to try some different things, especially an ingredient that maybe I wouldn’t want to buy a big pack of. That’s not quite how it worked out… by the time I’d ruled out things I just don’t eat, there wasn’t a great deal that was so different from something I’ve cooked before. Hey, maybe I just cook too much! πŸ˜‰

As a plus, once you have an account you can access the full recipe database, so I’ve copied a couple of extras that I can try at some point, even if I have to buy my own ingredients.

My choices this time were:

Everything turned up today – and there is something kinda cute about all these not-so-little brown paper bags with a complete recipe (more or less) in each. Little individual sachets of spice, mini tins of coconut milk – aww!

Hello Fresh delivery contents

I’d heard a few tales, so everything was taken out and checked with the recipe cards to make sure everything had turned up. Well, one of the cards was absent for a start! Lucky the recipes are online. My other issue was the box of eggs – almost impressed that they sent a box of 6 when I needed 2 but they were sadly smashed and rather oozy in the box. Bleh. I did contact the company, and was offered a Β£6 credit on my next order… of course, jury’s still out on whether I will have a next order!

So… not a bad way to get me back blogging: a mini-series on my Hello Fresh experiments! Oh yeah, and back trying some new recipes πŸ˜‰ First up… Mexican chicken stew… stay tuned!

Caponata

caponata photo

I really should be blogging more about cooking in lockdown, I guess. It’s changed everything, including eating habits – and not necessarily for the best. I’m now at the point of trying to go for some healthier choices to combat several weeks of stress-relieving grazing, indulgences of cake cake cake, and just the weirdness of sourcing supplies.

First up then, has been a pot of caponata. I was lucky enough to be fed some of Kellie Anderson’s wonderful, healthy but oh so full of flavour cooking, and her websiteΒ Kellie’s Food to Glow is an absolute go-to when you want to up your healthfulness game. This sweet and sour tomato stew was one of those things I was slightly reluctant to try, given I’m not a fan of olives. And then – ooh, I like this! Kellie really widened my palate on several occasions.

The recipe on her site is more classic, I believe, using aubergine. I’ve made that version and it was good, but wanted to make something now, not in a week when I next manage to get groceries delivered (grr). So, my version uses peppers instead, and I think it’s a great substitute.

As for the olives, I discovered I like black olives more than green, so I use those – just the jarred kind from the supermarket, and suits me fine in this recipe.

The recommendation is to leave this chilling for at least three hours to let the flavours develop, so I make it the day before and leave it in the fridge overnight. I’m not wholly convinced on the ‘room temperature’ serving, so mine goes in the microwave til it’s warm but not hot, and again that suits me well.

I serve this with some fresh bread, for lunch or a very light dinner.

Sausage, sweet potato, brussel sprout bake

Ah, Christmas. Or rather, the days after Christmas where diet becomes 90% leftovers and struggling to think of new ways to use things up! I’ve already done the traditional leftover sarnie (turkey, stuffing, pigs’n’blankets, cranberry), and obligatory turkey curry. One year I mixed that up and did a turkey and ham pie.

My fridge is still full. Cheese will end up in the freezer if/when needs be, and I want to make brie and cranberry cups with the soft cheese that won’t, but that still leaves sausage rolls, cocktail sausages, bacon, eggs, celery, hummus, and most of a pack of brussel sprouts… o.O

So, today’s dinner was a bit of a mismash, so ‘chuck stuff in’ that I didn’t bother taking pictures. And then it was niiiice!!

First I parboiled some sprouts and thick slices of sweet potato (the remaining sprouts got blanched and are in the freezer). These went into an oven dish along with some red onion, a drizzle of olive oil, and some splodges of pesto. I also splashed in a little red wine, just cos.

After 15 minutes in the oven, in went the cocktail sausages, plus some chopped bacon, and in it all went for another 25 mins.

I’m amazed it worked, but it did. Nom!

What are *you* doing to use up leftovers?