Do you remember that show, ‘Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook?’ I was an avid watcher growing up, however never did I envisage that one day I would be a member of both cooking camps. My skills are on the up, but I’m in need of a much-needed helping hand to dig myself out of my culinary comfort zone and see vegetables in a whole new light - an excuse to venture beyond the basics and create warming yet nutritious dinners that make cooking more of a joy than a chore.
What I’m ideally looking for is a service that could take the guesswork out of healthy meals for me - and that’s where Abel & Cole comes in. Organic farm-to-front-door organic home delivery pioneers, their new line of weekly Nourishing Meal Boxes was recommended as the solution to my particular dining dilemma. Looking at its range of recipes, I couldn’t wait to get into the kitchen for the first time in a long time...did they deliver? I gave one of the boxes a go to find out.
Priced at £11, I was pretty impressed by its very good value for money - surprisingly cheaper than what I was expecting. Containing a recipe for two people, each of the four Nourishing Meal Boxes has been created by Abel & Cole to ensure they’re brimming with both flavour and immune-boosting goodness. My box of choice? The Comfort & Spice Daal Bowl made with ‘super spice’ turmeric, vegetables, hot chilli, ginger, garlic, fresh herbs and a spicy twist on Italian pesto, served with brown basmati rice.
All the ingredients arrived weighed out, with only teaspoons and tablespoons needing my rather minimalistic set of skills. This was particularly useful as the prep work usually involved in at-home cuisine is the aspect that normally puts me off being more hands-on the kitchen, (how I wish it could be like an episode of Saturday Kitchen where everything is already pre-measured and pre-bowled for the taking!), however with this stage cut out, the first hurdle to my cooking conundrum had been eliminated. Things looked promising…
Was the meal easy to make?
Set out in eight steps, the recipe was made up of three main parts - the pesto, the daal and the rice. First up? The pesto, a spicier take on the traditional Italian kind using turmeric, garlic, ginger, chilli and coriander cut up finely or blitzed together in a food processor or blender. I opted for the latter, only because I prefer a less chunky finish.
Next, the rice, ready to be washed, drained and the water boiled and brought to a simmer. Finally, the daal - the aspect I was particularly nervous about. Daal has been a staple in my family for generations, and while cooking it, I couldn’t help but think whether my mum or my grandmum would approve of the finished product! If my housemate’s comments on how incredible the house smelled was anything to go by though, surely their approval would follow suit. Involving cooking the onion, carrot and celery with the stock cube included, daal spices, lentils, cavolo nero and already prepared pesto in water, it was looking creamy, deliciously rich and ready in 25 minutes.
The well planned layout of the instructions made for a particularly welcomed element, with the preparation of each part smoothly interwoven into the other. For example, while the rice was cooking, just enough time was allocated for the daal to be cooked and, with the pesto already made, it could be added into the lentil mix easily too, ensuring nothing was cold at the end.
Timings were accurate in terms of how long it took to cook the rice and daal. It did take me a little longer as a novice to meet the 45 minute estimation indicated on the recipe card, but to tell you the truth, it was probably because I ended up taking my time because I was enjoying the process. There could be hope for me yet...
Was it tasty?
Most definitely. I’m not very good with handling particularly spicy food from a heat perspective (I’m a rubbish Sri Lankan, I know!), but it had just the right amount of kick to give the whole meal an extra dimension. Filling and warming, it provided both fuel and flavour in equal measure, as well as making the prospect of upping my daily quota of vegetables all the more appetising!
Would I try it again?
Yes - this box alone has already increased my recipe repertoire by two (the pesto and the daal) and it was easier and more affordable to do than I thought. With each box created with a particular health-boosting food focus in mind, reading the contents of the others has already set my creative juices flowing. With the option to order as a one-off or to have a recipe and its ingredients delivered every week, every other week or every three, four or eight weeks, it can be easily adapted to suit both lifestyle and working demands.
The choice? Whether enjoying the probiotic prowess of the Krautchi Noodle Bowl (containing fermented red cabbage to aid digestion) or the soothing yet spicy Golden Chai Quinoa Porridge Bowl or giving pickling veg in miso a go courtesy of the Misozuke Fried Rice Bowl, there’s an option for every preference, to make vegetables all the more enticing to prepare, make and most importantly, eat.
Whether beginner or advanced, the benefit of convenience that these nourishing boxes provides is certain to appeal to any level. Delivered straight to your door, the weighing done and the instructions easy-to-follow, unnecessary time and money spent in the supermarket and kitchen is avoided - a definite plus for when all you want is a hot and healthy meal at the end of a long day.
Plus, waste is kept to a minimum and the various vegetables keep well past the day they arrive (I actually cooked mine 3 days after they arrived). The pesto keeps for a further 3-4 days too, with useful tips included for how best to incorporate it in other meals also. There is also the option to buy the pesto on its own , courtesy of the new Nourishing Kits too. Small but mighty add-ons, they range from £4 to £7 and provide a more bite-sized alternatives to the Meal Boxes. Other choices include the gut-helping Krautchi Kit (allowing you to ferment red cabbage yourself) and a Golden Chai Kit for creating your own turmeric tea from almond milk at home. Each kit contains a recipe and ingredients to serve 4.
Warming up my New Year and also spicing up my cooking skills in the process, I certainly feel a lot more confident building my personal recipe for culinary success in due course. Not only did the box give me further tangible evidence that I can cook, but also an added incentive to want to cook too.
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This feature was written in partnership with Abel & Cole .