Friday, 15 June 2012

Make Weekly Meal Planning a Doddle

As regular readers will know, I work in the wonderful world of food PR and in over two years of writing this blog I’ve never once included any of the clients I’ve represented. However, I’ve just started working with a brand new food delivery and recipe service that has launched into the UK and I’m keen to share my review with readers.

Hello Fresh is an online service that creates weekly recipes and delivers the recipe cards along with the ingredients needed to create the meals, measured out exactly, depending on whether you’ve selected a two, four or six person meal plan.

One of the great things about Hello Fresh is the precision with which ingredients are delivered, aside from the fact that this avoids buying obscure and often expensive ingredients that might only ever be used once in a blue moon, what I think is truly fantastic is this accuracy completely eliminates waste.

When my box arrived, all of the ingredients for which only a pinch was required, came in tiny pots, all popped together in a brown paper bag entitled ‘The Little Bits. I have to say it was very exciting receiving this box of goodies, and opening it up like a gift to find out which meals I’d be preparing that week.

I trialled the 3-meal plan for two people, which I thought was a good way of testing how well the recipes worked against three different people following the instructions so I roped in my boyfriend, who is very much a can’t cook, won’t cook type and my brother who is comfortable in the kitchen but very much a novice.

Glen, the kitchen-phobic, took the first baton and prepared Stir Fried Pork & Prawn Noodles with Shitake Mushrooms. Frankly I was gobsmacked and impressed to see my boyfriend comfortably chopping, slicing and stirring, and even more so when he dished up a meal in less than twenty minutes that looked appealing and tasted great.Hello Fresh supply the customer with smart recipe cards, which on one side display an image of the finished dish, with the ingredients listed out below with an image of each, and on the other side is the recipe method, which is broken down into step-by-step stages which are illustrated clearly with a photograph. The very fact that Glen was able to follow these instructions clearly and produce not just an edible, but frankly a delicious meal is testament to the fact that these really are a simple format easy enough for anyone to follow, regardless of their competence in the kitchen.

When we received the recipe cards, this was the one I was least excited about it but it was actually my favourite one, with a very fresh chilli and coriander flavour it was thoroughly enjoyable and I’ve retained the recipe card to re-produce at a later date.

On enjoying this meal and the two that followed in the next couple of days, the first point that simply must be made is the very high standard of the produce used. The meat in particular was incredible, and in this first dish, the fresh, large and succulent prawns were what elevated a week-day meal into something spectacular.

My brother Daniel prepared Chorizo and Toasted Pine Nut Burgers with Red Onion Marmalade and Corn on the Cob. Once again instructions proved to be clear and the final result was great – so much so that a photocopy of this recipe was made so both of us could enjoy this dish again at a later date.

The final dish, which I cooked, was Chicken Skewers with Ginger Rice and again I couldn’t fault it on either flavour, ease of preparation or originality – a triumph for the third time.

I have already recommended Hello Fresh to friends and family as I think it is a truly convenient way to enjoy fresh, home-cooked meals from scratch, that are of a very high standard without the stress of visiting a supermarket or even planning meals for a week. In the fast-paced culture we live in, it’s not unusual to ‘pop’ to a supermarket after work during the week to pick up your evening’s dinner, and in my experience I usually spend £20 or more doing this, buying unnecessary extras and over-priced convenience purchases – not to mention the fact that if you go there not knowing what you’re planning on cooking (which is often half the problem) then traipsing around the aisles can be an uninspiring and definitely not an enjoyable way to spend precious hours outside of the working day.

Hello Fresh is priced from £39 per week for a 3-meal plan for two, which is what I trialled, and which works out at £6.50 per person, per meal and for the high quality of the dishes prepared and the ingredients included I think this is simply marvellous.

As readers will be aware, I’m very passionate about food and particularly about home-cookery and I think Hello Fresh is an affordable way of equipping people who might lead a hectic lifestyle to enjoy all of the benefits of cooking at home for family or friends.

I will definitely be using this service and I urge readers to try too.

For more information about Hello Fresh check out their website

Friday, 8 June 2012



It seems ‘Ceviche’ has been the buzz word on food-lovers lips for the past couple of years. I remember first reading the term on Eat Like a Girls’ blog a good year and a half ago, I’d heard the term but wasn’t quite sure what it entailed. As usual, the description on this blog was executed so beautifully, as to make one hungry whilst reading, of course I looked up ‘ceviche’ and made it my mission to try it. Each time I’ve tried ceviche I’ve liked it more than the last time and my most recent trip has been notably better than all others.

Ceviche is the technique of marinating raw fish in citrus juices and a combination of spices - so it’s pretty much a trio of my favourite foods fish, heat and citrus flavours, so it’s little wonder how quickly I was won over.

When Peruvian Ceviche opened its doors recently in Soho, I was literally chomping at the bit to get a seat at looks set to be one of the hottest tickets in town.

Finally my brother Dan and I were permitted a table on a recent Saturday afternoon approximately 4:30pm, before the early evening rush - we were told we only had an hour and twenty minutes till we’d need to vacate our table mind.

It was atmospheric on arrival, but not overly busy, and so we were slightly disappointed that once seated it took almost 10 minutes for a waitress to approach us and request our drinks order. This sobered out excitement a bit, especially as there were a good number of waiting staff. However, not to be put off I ordered a Pasion de Ceviche cocktail, liking the sound of the passion fruit and prickly pear liquer and not taking too much notice of the drinks basis. Dan ordered a Peruvian beer to get us in the mood to mull over the menu. Both were good but we soon realised we’d made a mistake.

Observing the room, almost everyone else in the place had a small glass of what looked to me like bitter lemon with foam on top. On delicately requesting what these mystery beverages were we quickly ordered one each, and so our love affair with the Pisco begins. A type of grape brandy mixed up with the favourite flavours of Peru apparently - sugar and lime, bitters and the foam element - an egg white. These were really good and went down very easily, to the point that after leaving the restaurant, we had to venture into a coffee house to sober up for a while.

We ordered, with some helpful advice from our waiting team of two, the salmon ceviche (Sakuru Maru) which we were told follows a more Japanese style, being very thinly sliced, so is good for the novice ceviche-ite, this suited Dan as it was his first time. We also ordered the sea bass in this same style. Both were flawlessly, melt-in-the-mouth perfect. I couldn’t have asked for better, in fact we were sold on the place immediately after one mouthful each of these. The sea bass was my preference, as the flavours were more to my palate, hot chilli for heat, coriander livening it up and salty nutty crunch to add texture to a fab dish.

We had some cheese tequenos - a deep fried mild cheese with a crispy, slightly crunchy pastry coat. Hot fried cheese is frankly one of those food items I think it must be impossible not to like, so clearly we were thrilled with this dish - not least because it came with a spicy mayonnaise style sauce which had a fiery chilli kick, one of my favourite dishes.

Our one dud dish was the ‘Causa Mur’ and this was probably down to our own initial excitement, and not reading the menu properly. Basically this dish was a potato base, topped with squid, prawns and avocado. Let me start by saying the topping was divine, a really refreshing mix of seafood with a slightly creamy, but light sauce with the tiniest amount of bite to it. What it was sitting on however left a lot to be desired. Dubbed on the menu as ‘a cool potato cake’, it was in fact what I can only describe as a dollop of cold mashed potato. I understand from speaking to one of the waiters that this is exactly as it should be served, but unfortunately my thought is that there is never a time to serve cold mashed potato and however on-trend that might ever become it’ll never be in favour for my palate, or Dan’s for that matter. We were not amused.

Back to the good stuff though - our chosen ‘anticuchos’ or skewer dish was the chicken which was marinated in a really flavoursome sauce and left the meat incredibly juicy, and we could have actually eaten more of this, given the choice.

We ordered one other dish which was exceptional - the ’Arroz con Pato’ or confit of duck. When it arrived, this looked exactly as confit should, it had a crispy brown skin, but as soon as you dug beyond the surface the meat was succulent, moist and tender and falling off of the bone. The flavour was really up there with delicate spicing bringing the meat to life and what really elevated this dish was the bed of rice and beans it was sitting upon, a combination of herby, coriander flavoured rice and green beans. The dish looked fantastic, colourful and vibrant, and the taste matched up to the appearance. The crispy skin was so good that we actually argued over the last bit, but this is what happens when you eat out with your sibling I guess.

We had a truly great meal in Ceviche and I wouldn’t hesitate to return, though we had a slow start with the staff once they’d first spoken to us and we’d asked for their advice they showed nothing but enthusiasm and a good deal of knowledge about the menu too.

We paid just under £70 including service for all of the above which isn’t extortionate but wouldn’t constitute being detailed as cheap either - middle of the range.

I’m going to now ask those that accompany me on meals which I’m to review to also review in marks out of five for food, service and overall experience and Dan’s marks are detailed below.

Food: 4/5

Service: 3/5

Overall Experience 4/5

Score out of 15: 11/15

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Square Meal