Hello Fresh: recipe-ready groceries delivered to your doorstep!

Hello Fresh is a relatively new company which has come up with a brilliant concept: they provide you with recipe-ready groceries… and deliver it right to your doorstep. You might be thinking “online groceries? Old news.” – but hold that thought, because Hello Fresh is so much more than that.

You’ll notice that I used the term “recipe-ready” groceries – this is because all the ingredients supplied come with accompanying recipes, and all ingredients are portioned accordingly. Basically, if you are planning to cook spaghetti bolognese – you get the exact amounts of ingredients for this (based on the accompanying recipes). I think this is quite a brilliant idea, as it definitely helps minimise waste (and let’s admit it, we have all thrown something out before).

All the supplied recipes are created by chefs who ensure that the meals are delicious and balanced. More importantly, they are all easy to prepare, and can be completed in 30 minutes.

So, that all sounds great – but how much does it cost? A bag of ‘3 meals’ costs £39 for 2 people, and £59 for 4 people. (Delivery costs are included.) I know some people might think that this is a little expensive, but I think it’s a fair price as Hello Fresh provide a good range of meals, and they source good quality products. For example, my chicken/sausages were from a butcher, and not bought from a high street grocery store (because really, I could just buy those myself). There were still items that were from stores like Sainsburys though.

Oh, and Hello Fresh is subscription based and has no minimum term, with a 6 day notice period. Which means you can opt out at any time, should you wish to do so.

But enough about all that, because the most important thing is what the service/meals are actually like. I tried out the 5-meal plan. However, I only took photos of 4 of the 5 dishes though, as I forgot to take photos of the last one. I know – forgot? Totally unacceptable in food blogger world, but oh well. I’m not going to elaborate much on each recipe as I’m never very good with words, so hopefully the photos will do the elaborating.

The meals I had were:

1) Tuscan meatballs with spaghetti, fresh basil and tomato sauce

Meatballs – who doesn’t love them? This was a perfect meal to have in my bag, and my love for meatballs meant I cooked this first. I actually learnt a few new things from the recipe.. like how adding grated Pecorino & chopped Porcini mushrooms helps to enhance the flavour of the meatballs. And how rolling the meatballs in cous cous before pan frying them gives a great, crunchy finish! Never too late to learn. 😉

This was my favourite meal of the lot, and the people at Hello Fresh have kindly agreed to let me reproduce the recipe here. I have rewritten the methods of the recipe though (I never feel comfortable just copy-pasting someone else’s recipe!), as I tend to have a preferred way of writing. [Recipe at the end of the post.]

2) Sesame crusted salmon, with cous cous & cherry tomato salsa

It was great to see that Hello Fresh gives a good balance of meals in the bag – as a medic, I’m highly paranoid about eating a balanced diet (we try to eat fish twice a week, with one vegetarian meal thrown in somewhere)… so I was glad to see salmon in one of the recipes!

I often eat cous cous, but I’ve never added fried onions for flavour/texture (those are the flecks you see in the cous cous). Another trick learnt!

3) Artisan sausages with roasted garlic mash & red onion gravy

Bangers and mash. British comfort food at its best, wouldn’t you say? What I loved most about this was how the sausages were sourced from a specialist butcher, which probably explains why they are one of the best sausages I’ve tasted in a long time.

4) Thai red curry with chicken & toasted cashews

So this was the fourth day, and I totally blanked and forgot to take a photo of the ingredients as I was in a rush to cook (read: I was too hungry/greedy/insert appropriate adjective here).

This came with a pack of pre-made red curry paste (a Thai brand which I remember buying when I was in Bangkok some years ago). I hope that you all don’t scorn pre-made curry paste, because truth be told, sometimes they taste MUCH better than homemade curry pastes.

The rice that I served on the side was supplied in the pack.

5) Pea, mint & goats cheese risotto
Err yes. So this is the dish I have absolutely no photos of whatsoever. Apologies!

So… what did I think of Hello Fresh and the service they’re providing?
What I liked:
– Portioned ingredients, which helps minimise waste.
– Not having to think of what to cook for dinner (I’m very fickle and have too many ideas, so this is a good thing for me).
– Good balance of meals: I had fish, chicken, beef, vegetarian & pork.
– Good variety of cusines: I had Italian, Thai, British, (and I’m not sure what category the salmon/cous cous & risotto dishes fall under).
– Excellent, friendly customer service.

What I thought could be improved:
– Giving customers the opportunity to choose the recipes/meals that come in the pack. Or at least, the chance to state particular ‘main’ ingredients that you dislike e.g. aubergines (which could potentially be the main ingredient of a vegetable curry). It would be a shame if someone got a pack with something they didn’t like, which would mean a high chance of throwing it out = wastage.
– The green on black text on the recipe cards weren’t great contrast wise, I can imagine it would be a little hard to read in poor lighting etc. White text on black might work better? I also thought the recipes were a little wordy, but I suspect this is a personal preference.
– Expanding the service outside of London (they currently only deliver to London addresses).

Basically, Hello Fresh is a service that aims to give you a convenient way of eating home cooked dinners. It’s great if you can’t be bothered to figure out what to cook, and don’t have the time to hit the shops in time to get groceries for dinner.

Would I pay for this service? Yes. But only once every so often (because I do enjoy experimenting and not sticking to recipes – ha!), and I’d go for the 3 meal plan vs the 5 meal plan.

* I received a bag of 5 meals courtesy of Hello Fresh, but all the opinions expressed above are my own. 

Tuscan meatballs with spaghetti, fresh basil & tomato sauce
Recipe courtesy of the Hello Fresh chefs (with some modifications)
Serves 4

  • 500g beef mince
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 3 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 tsp porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes, then finely diced
  • 40g pecorino cheese (or Parmesan)
  • 4 Jacobs crackers, crushed to resemble breadcrumbs
  • 6 tbsp couscous
  • 2 Eschalion shallots
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • bunch basil leaves (approx 30g), roughly chopped
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 500g spaghetti, cooked according to package instructions until al dente (you can do this in a pot whilst you’re making the meatballs)

1. In a large bowl, mix the beef mince, garlic, porcini mushrooms, crushed Jacob crackers, grated Pecorino, and salt/pepper to taste. (I used 1/2 tsp of salt, and 1 tsp pepper). Using your hands, mix the ingredients together until they are well incorporated.
2. Form the meatball mixture into 2-3cm balls. Roll each individual meatball in cous cous. Set the meatballs aside.
3. Place a non-stick pan on medium heat, and gently fry the diced shallots in olive oil until they turn fragrant.
4. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan, and simmer on medium heat. If the sauce starts becoming too dry, you can add some water to the pan to thin it down.
5. Whilst the tomato sauce is simmering, heat a non-stick pan over high heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides until they are cooked through (this should take around 6 minutes). If you’re unsure if they are cooked through, cut one open – this is the best way to tell!*
6. Add the meatballs to the tomato sauce (which should have reduced down nicely by now). Add the chopped basil leaves to the sauce, and season with salt and pepper (to taste).
7. Serve the meatballs/tomato sauce mixture over spaghetti. Top with grated Parmesan, and eat!

* To cut down on washing up/having too many pans on the go at one time: cook your meatballs in the oven. If you choose to do this, I’d advise not rolling the uncooked meatballs in cous cous (as you won’t get the same ‘crisp’ from the couscous without pan frying – i.e. there’s not much point). Bake the meatballs in a 180’C oven for 15-20 minutes, until cooked through. You can then add the meatballs to the tomato sauce, as in step 6.

The Modern, New York

One of R’s friends went to New York last week, and we gave her a list of restaurant recommendations… which included The Modern, the restaurant at MoMa (The Museum of Modern Art). This helpfully reminded me that I had yet to blog about our meal there (that took place almost 7 months ago!), so here goes:

NB: We ate in the bar area, as the restaurant (which I believe holds a Michelin star – but I might be mistaken) was unfortunately closed for lunch!

Bread rolls – I enjoyed the mini baguette rolls more than the sourdough, I think it was the novelty of miniature rolls!

Quail terrine, with a fennel and grapefruit salad. A delicious start to the meal. Loved the inclusion of pistachio bits in the terrine.

Artichoke soup, with pearl barley, almonds and ricotta salata. I always order artichoke dishes whenever they are on a menu, and this soup didn’t dissapoint. The accompanying biscuits were buttery and crumbly, just how they should be.

Crispy Atlantic cod, celeriac Granny Smith apple salad, and sauce gribiche. A slightly “healthier” take on fish and chips, where light celeriac/apple cubes replaced the chips. (Secretly I think I’d prefer some fat-laden chips though.) The cod batter was deliciously crispy, and the cod itself perfectly cooked.



Long Island duck breast, with peppercorn crusted apples and pistachio truffle dipping sauce. This was SO DELICIOUS I could have eaten another plate. By far the best pan fried duck I’ve ever eaten, hands down. I also loved the peppercorn crusted apples – they were so good that I would choose this over potato wedges/fries (believe me, that rarely happens).

Pan-Seared Skate with crispy rock shrimp, creamy grits and brown butter vinaigrette. All I can say is: YUM. The brown butter vinaigrette was an inspired sauce for the dish.

Citrus Carpaccio with lemongrass gelée and green apple basil sorbet. I never would have thought that a few simple segments of grapefruits and oranges could make for such an elegant dessert. I liked the crispy ‘sugar’ halve that came with the dish, as it added extra texture to the dish.

The Modern: bar area. It had emptied significantly when I took this photo, it was extremely busy around lunchtime, and were were lucky to get a table within 20 minutes. I highly recommend planning ahead, and booking a table! You can always wander back to the museum after you finish your meal.

The Modern Bar Room in a nutshell:
– Simple yet delicious food, I enjoyed every single dish!
– Has the bonus of having MoMA next door, and believe me when I say MoMA is a MUST visit.
– Gets very busy: reservations are definitely recommended
– Service was lacking at times, I suspect they reserve their A-list team for the restaurant perhaps?
– If I get a chance, I’d go back – but I want to try the restaurant next time around!

The Modern
9, West 53rd Street
New York 10019
themodernnyc.com

Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social

In my last post, I mentioned that I would be making a few changes to the way I blogged to ensure I’d be able to blog more often. One of these changes will be to do more ‘photo’ orientated posts, where I won’t write much – I’ll let the photos do the talking instead. I will primarily do this for restaurant and travel posts, as I was never all that good at describing dishes anyway! This will hopefully allow me to blog more regularly whilst I’m on my ‘student’ year.

I visited the very talked about Pollen Street Social recently, and this was what I ate:

Dining area

I adore the little ridged platter that the butter was served on – I would LOVE to have one of these. Ah, the joys of prop hoarding. 😉

Warm bread rolls – I enjoyed the french loaf (pictured above), and the mixed seed roll.

Full English breakfast – tomato puree, slow poached egg, crispy bacon pieces, crispy croutons and morels. The tomato puree was an intensely tomato-ey, and absolutely delicious.

Escabeche of quail, chicken liver cream, nuts and seeds. Perfectly cooked quail – need I say more?

Roasted halibut, Catalan paella, sprouting broccoli and pork-ham fat. The paella.. oh, my. Absolutely delicious. Better than any paella than I have eaten in Spain, thus far anyway!

Braised oxtail with carrots and mash. Don’t let the simple description of the dish fool you, for this packed a whole lot of flavour, and was a total ‘comfort food’ type dish.

The much talked about Dessert Bar

Pastry Chef Emily hard at work

(Complimentary) ice cream – passionfruit ice cream and lime sorbet. The passionfruit ice cream stood out for me, as it had a perfect balance of tartness and sweetness.

PBJ – a playful twist on the traditional peanut butter & jam sandwich. Peanut parfait (which tasted like frozen peanut butter!), cherry sorbet, cheery tagiatelle, cherry halves, cherry jellies, and toasted rice puffs. One of my favourite restaurant desserts, ever. I would happily eat this over and over and over again.

Tiramisu. This is one for any chocolate lover: dark chocolate mousse, chocolate shards, chocolate ‘fronds’, chocolate sand, mascarpone mousse, and kirsch jelly cubes. Served with chocolate coffee on the side (which can be drunk separately, or poured on top of the tiramisu).

The ‘chocolate’ coffee. Luxurious, thick and creamy. I couldn’t actually finish this as I hit my level of chocolate overload (which is very hard to do, believe me!).

View of the kitchen, from the dessert bar

Pollen Street Social in a nutshell:
– Lovely food, and brilliant desserts
– Dessert Bar – an inspired idea!
– Service was good, but not fantastic
– The set lunch menu is excellent value for money – but skip the desserts on the set menu, and choose something from the full dessert menu
I’m definitely going back! 🙂

EDIT: Pollen Street Social has been awarded one Michelin star, which is very well deserved! Extremely pleased for Jason Atherton and his team (and my tummy).

Pollen Street Social
8-10 Pollen Street
London W1S 1NQ
+44 (0)20 7290 7600
www.pollenstreetsocial.com

New York: Lobster rolls, Korean fried chicken, Burgers, and Arepas!

I ate a lot (and I do mean a LOT) when I was in New York, but one of the most memorable foods I tried was the lobster roll at Luke’s Lobster.

I mean, just look at that baby. Chunks of perfectly cooked lobster, sandwiched between the lightest bread roll imaginable – and they even fry the roll in butter so it’s perfectly crisp. They keep it simple at Luke’s, and the roll is simply seasoned with a dash of pepper and some mayo – but my goodness it’s good. It was utter perfection. I’d heard a lot about lobster rolls (mostly from Catty), and now I know exactly why she was raving about them.

The only bad thing about those lobster rolls are the fact that I can’t get them here. Hawksmoor Seven Dials do have lobster rolls on their menu, but I honestly cannot stomach paying £25 for a lobster roll, especially not when it only costs $15 in New York. Sigh. Luke’s Lobster has absolutely spoilt me, for life.

There are several branches of Luke’s Lobster around New York – I went to the one in the Upper East Side, as well as the one in East Village. Whilst the Upper East Side store has more seats and had a better atmosphere, I preferred the East Village one. This is primarily because there was an excellent arepa bar right next to Luke’s Lobster East Village…

Luke’s Upper East Side
242 East 81st Street (southwest corner of 81st St and 2nd Ave)
212.249.4241

Luke’s East Village
93 East 7th Street (northeast corner of 7th St and 1st Ave)
212.387.8487
www.lukeslobster.com/

So Luke’s is next to an arepa bar. But what are arepas? I won’t lie, I had no idea either. Stephane mentioned Caracas Arepa Bar to me, and I was intrigued by it as its definitely not something I’ve seen in London. They are very popular in Venezuela and throughout Latin America. The best description of arepas are probably found on Caracas’ website:

Pale gold arepas, made from scratch daily, they have been described as “dense yet spongy corn-flour rounds, pitalike pockets, corn muffins, cake-swaddled mélange, white corn cakes, Latin sloppy Joe, sandwiches of a flat cornmeal patty, soft and smooth within, golden crispiness, tasty treats, burrito-killer, panini-killer, wheat-free, gluten-free crisp on the outside, steamy-soft in the middle…”

Their menu is divided into several sections: Arepas, Empanadas, Salads, Plates, Sidekicks, Beverages and Desserts. The arepa section of the menu is designed for quick ordering and serving, and are coded A1-A20.

Papelón con limón ($3.50) This was a refreshing blend of dehydrated sugar cane and limes – this was very good, and brought me back to my younger years *cough* where I used to drink it (I fondly remember it as “air tebu”).

We also tried Yoyos ($5.50), which were described as fried sweet plantain balls stuffed with white cheese on the menu. It sounded so strange that I simply had to try it. I mean, plantains and cheese? Really?? But you know what, it wasn’t bad at all! Taste wise, it reminded me of kuih kodok, a Malaysian kuih made from bananas and flour.

But of course, I was here for the arepas – which were delicious. We tried a a few different flavour combinations, but my favourite was the A20 – La Sureña ($ 7.50). This arepa was filled with grilled chicken and chorizo, paired with avocado slices, and topped with enigmatic spicy chimi-churri sauce. Caracas also has a special sauce which can be used with pretty much everything you order – and you know what, it was seriously addictive. I have no idea what was in it, but I suspect it was a mixture of herbs and possibly mango/papaya. R loved the sauce, and liberally doused his arepa in it.

A15 Los Muchachos ($7): grilled chorizo, spicy white cheese with jalapeños and sauteed peppers

A18 La de Pernil ($7): roasted pork shoulder with tomato slices and a spicy mango sauce

A word of warning though – arepas are NOT date food. It gets messy, especially if you order an arepa with a stew based filling. So yes, not a good place for first dates. Otherwise its a total win.

We also tried an empanada, just because. The De Carne Mechada ($5.75) was filled with shredded beef, and was pretty good. I have to admit that my favourite bit of the the whole thing was the crispyness of the perfectly deep-fried pastry. So calorific, but oh-soooo-good.

Caracas Arepa Bar (Manhattan)
93 1/2 E 7th Street (corner of 1st Ave)
212.529.2314
http://www.caracasarepabar.com/

One of the other things I was really looking forward to trying was Korean fried chicken. I’d been told to try Kyochon, and so I did. And I almost cried with joy (and heat) when I took my first bite of their delicious DOUBLE fried chicken wings. That right people, double fried. These were by far, the best fried chicken wings I have had. Ever. The double frying process makes for a very crispy chicken wing, and I wolfed everything down, skin and all. I usually try to not eat too much chicken skin, but Kyochon chicken skins were too good to not eat. After all I couldn’t let R have all the fun now could I?

The chicken wings come in two flavours, Soy & Garlic and Hot & Sweet. You can either get them in Regular ($17.99) or Large ($25.99). I honestly cannot remember how many wings were in the Large box, if anyone knows please let me know. There were at least 20, I think. But yes, the flavours. I am forever grateful to the lady at the counter who suggested we order half and half (we were going to get an entire box of spicy wings), because the hot wings were very, very spicy. I was tearing up, my nose was running, and my mouth was on fire. So if you’re not someone who can tolerate ultra spicy things (I love chilli, but this was honestly too much for me!), I would highly recommend going for the Soy & Garlic version. Much more enjoyable when you’re not feeling like you might just burst into flames at any moment.

I believe Kyochon also sell some other food items, but I have no idea what they are. All I wanted (and tried) was the chicken wings. There is also Bonchon (just a few steps away) that serve Korean fried chicken, but I didn’t get a chance to try their version. They *so* need to bring Korean fried chicken to London….

Kyochon
319 5th Ave (corner of 32nd Street)
http://www.kyochon.us/

And of course, I could not have gone to New York and not tried the burgers at Shake Shack. I’d checked out their menu beforehand (because that’s exactly what food obsessed people do) and was particularly intrigued by the Shake Stack.

I’m not surprised I was intrigued by the sound of it. The Shake Stack ($8.50) is one of the BEST burgers I have ever sunk my teeth into. It was essentially a cheeseburger served with a crisp fried portebello mushroom, topped with melted muenster and cheddar cheese. There was also the usual burger toppings – lettuce, tomato and their very own ShakeSauce. I always choose to add a portebello mushroom to my burger when I’m at Byron (I like the extra meatiness it brings to the burger), and having it deep fried with a crisp crust was simply a-ma-zing. I thought the beef was good, but not as good as the beef at Byron – but when it comes to the topping/crispy portebello mushroom/cheese stakes…. Shake Shack wins. Hands down.

We also tried the Cheeseburger (Single $4.00, Double $6.50). One thing I noticed about the burgers in New York was how good the cheese was. I’m not sure what cheese they used, but there just seemed to be more of it, and it seemed a lot more flavoursome than the cheese we get in burgers back in London. This cheeseburger was no exception. Whilst it was good, it just didn’t have a crispy portebello mushroom…

Shake Shack also do Frozen Custards, which is a mix of soft serve and ice cream. They cycle the flavours, and there is a daily special – which means you could go there every single day of the week and get a different flavour each day. I must admit that I didn’t get a chance to try this, but I will definitely aim to try it the next time I find myself in a Shake Shack. That is the down side of constant snacking… there’s less space for heavy duty things like shakes.

Shake Shack (Theater District)
691 8th Avenue (southwest corner of 8th Ave and 44th St)
646.435.0135
http://www.shakeshack.com/

I also have to mention Five Guys Burger, which was only a few blocks away from our hotel. Whilst I didn’t think they were as delicious as the Shake Shack burgers, what I liked was how you could personalize your burger. When ordering, you get a whole list of toppings to choose from, and you can pick as many/as little as you like. So beware if you order a cheeseburger, and say “no” to toppings – that will mean you don’t even get lettuce with your burger!

The best thing about Five Guys Burger was their Cajun Chips. Perfectly fried chips, with a delicious spiced powder blend doused liberally over them. There were hints of paprika, cumin, and probably at least 5 other spices. We got a regular serving of fries (which was HUGE), became full halfway through, but still continued eating them because they were too good. And then proceeded to feel absolutely stuffed for the next 2 hours, but it was worth it. Also, I don’t think there was a time when I wasn’t feeling stuffed in New York anyhow.

Five Guys Burger
36 W 48th Street (between 5th and 6th Ave)
212-997-1271
http://www.fiveguys.com/

I think I need to start planning my next trip to New York… soon.

Persian chicken with walnut and pomegranate sauce

I never really knew of the existence of pomegranates till about 2 years ago. Ignorance? Quite possibly. In fact, I never realised that it was a fruit that was sold in Malaysia. I highly suspect its because I spent most of my time stuffing myself with  durians, rambutans, mangosteens and mangoes.

Now that I’ve discovered the pomegranate, I can’t seem to stop myself from using it. From drinking it as a juice, to utilising it as a cooking ingredient – I do it all. There’s just something about the crunch of pomegranate seeds (especially the pleasurable burst of juice that greets you each time you bite into a seed) that appeals to me.

I’ve recently come to learn of the usage of pomegranate molasses in cooking. Primarily used in Middle Eastern/Mediterranean dishes, it is essentially a thick reduction of pomegranate juice made by boiling the juice down until it achieves a sticky and syrupy consistency. It keeps extremely well, and as such is a handy thing to have in your pantry.

So when I saw this recipe for Persian pomegranate and walnut chicken, I knew I had to make it. I order something similar when we eat at Persian restaurants, except that the restaurant uses duck in place of the chicken. I’d always thought it’d be a bit of a fiddle to cook, but it was surprisingly easy.

I used a recipe I found in Meals in Heels, by the lovely Jennifer Joyce. For those of you that don’t know her, she’s a food stylist by profession, but is also a fantastic cook. I am forever grateful to her for sharing her cucumber pickle recipe with me! But as I was saying, her cookbook is aimed at those who want to entertain with style and ease. There aren’t any photos of the food, but there are wonderfully drawn graphics to make up for it. Jennifer also has a blog where she features recipes from the book, and posts a photograph or two to illustrate the dish.

This dish was delicious (I had it with some wholegrain couscous), and had a real heartiness to it that I enjoyed – the walnuts thickened up the sauce very nicely, and gave it a nice richness to the whole stew. I sprinkled some pomegranate seeds over the top, simply because I cannot resist their delightful “crunch”.

Persian chicken with walnut and pomegranate sauce
Inspired by a recipe in Meals in Heels

  • 1kg chicken thighs and drumsticks, skin on (Jen uses chicken thigh pieces)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • olive oil, for browning chicken

For the sauce:

  • 200g walnuts
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 150ml pomegranate molasses
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar

For garnishing:

  • seeds from 1 pomegranate*
  • parsley leaves

1. Place walnuts in a mini (or full-sized) food processor, and process until the walnuts form a fine powder. Set aside.

2. Season the chicken drumsticks and thighs with salt and pepper. Heat some olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat, and brown the chicken, in batches, until they turn golden brown. Set aside.

3. Using the same pan, fry the onion over low heat for 15 minutes, or until soft and golden.

4. Add the cinnamon powder to the onions, and cook for a further 2 minutes.

5. Add the pomegranate molasses, stock sugar, chicken and ground walnuts to the pan, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

6. Transfer to a serving bowl, scatter over the pomegranate seeds and parsley, and serve!

* A tip (courtesy of Nigella Lawson) for removing pomegranate seeds: Cut pomegranates in half, hold a half over a large bowl and beat the back of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon. All the seeds will come tumbling (or flying) into the bowl – much easier than picking at each seed individually.