Recently, I’ve been so busy with work, social commitments and life in general, that cooking dinner from scratch every night – which is how I usually roll – has fallen quite a long way down my list of priorities. Usually at such times, Juan and I order a takeaway – either a lamb shish from our beloved FM Mangal or a sourdough pizza from Franco Manca. However, ordering more than one takeaway a week leaves me feeling pretty disgusted with myself – plus, although our favourites offer good value, they’re still a stealth drain on our bank account. So when Simply Cook asked me to road-test their products, it was great timing on their part.
Simply Cook is a monthly recipe kit delivery service: each pack contains four kits (one per week), and these include an easy-to-follow recipe card (with a handy shopping list that you can tear off) and a box of spices and pastes that you add to the ingredients you buy. The recipes are updated each season, so there’s a lot of scope to try new dishes, but you can request four of the same dish if you prefer.
If I’m being honest, I was a little worried that I would hate this product because I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to taking short-cuts in home cooking, and I’m not one for picking up recipe cards during my weekly shop. However, the Simply Cook model won me over for three reasons.
Firstly, the recipe cards and their accompanying sachets of spice pastes and stocks are fantastic as storecupboard saviours – often I would consult the recipe cards for dishes that I could make using the contents of my fridge and cupboards, like this beautifully spiced Goan prawn curry that I whipped up when I forgot to defrost anything for dinner (the picture, by the way, is from Simply Cook, as mine did not look this photogenic).
Secondly, the little boxes of spice pastes, rich stocks and fragrant garnishes that accompany each recipe card combat my ultimate cooking bugbear: when one of the ingredients listed in the recipe you’ve just started cooking is followed by those chilling words ‘(see page XX)’ and you realise that the recipe you chose for its simplicity actually needs a homemade spice paste that involves a pestle and mortar and about 10 ingredients that Tesco Express doesn’t stock.
Last but not least, those little boxes really do bring a satisfying depth of flavour to every meal – Juan and I were always pleasantly surprised by how tasty the dishes were for such little effort. Our favourites were the soothing and super-tasty Malay laksa (pictured, top), the spicy, punchy jambalaya and an easy-peasy bokkeumbap with proper kick (pictured below), but there wasn’t any dish in the packs that we didn’t enjoy.
One caveat: if you’re not into spicy food, Simply Cook probably isn’t for you, as a lot of the flavour they pack into the dishes comes from heady eastern spices. However, if you’re stuck in a culinary rut, or like to have a weekly fallback if you come home and find you can’t be bothered to slave at the stove, then give them a try. The kits would also make a fantastic present for new parents.
Would you like to try a Simply Cook kit? We’ve teamed up with Simply Cook to give away two free packs of recipe kits on our Facebook page – and even if you don’t win one, you can buy a pack of four kits for just £1 (reduced from the usual £8.99) by entering the discount code EVERYDAY30 on this page.