Despite our nation’s love of food, recipe programmes and celebrity chefs, the majority of us only have six meals or less in our repertoire. SimplyCook aims to change that. Their mission: to get Britain cooking. How? By making cooking a simple and hassle free process, so customers can expand their weekly cooking repertoire with ease.
It’s all very admirable, but how easy actually is it? And what exactly is ‘it’?
Let’s start with the basics. SimplyCook is a recipe subscription service which delivers DIY recipe kits, each containing three bespoke flavour blends (some of which contain up to 20 different ingredients) along with easy-to-follow recipe cards to help prepare the meal. The best bit? Out of over 50 recipe kits available, 42 are gluten-free, with 33 suitable for vegetarians and all made entirely from 100% natural ingredients.
Time-wise, there’s no hanging around. The boxes are made to fit through a letterbox (i.e. no waiting on a delivery), with each recipe taking around 20-40 minutes to cook and prepare.
We kicked off our taste-test with the Chicken Tagine. The recipe box came with garlic paste, tagine paste and tagine garnish, leaving a shopping list of chicken thighs, chopped tomatoes, dried apricots, couscous or quinoa, chickpeas, plus optional extras of fresh coriander and a lemon. Following the four-step recipe was simple, with the surprisingly short cooking time (just 11 minutes in total) all it needed to thicken up into a rich, perfectly seasoned sauce, bursting with plump, juicy apricots, nutty chickpeas and the full-bodied flavour and fragrance of a more traditional slow-cooked tagine.
The second recipe on our gluten-free menu plan was Iranian Vegetable Stew. In this box we received Ras el Hanout, tomato paste and mushroom stock, leaving us to source 1 onion, 150g potatoes, 1 butternut squash, 3 tomatoes and spinach. Optional extras: dried cranberries and Greek yoghurt, to serve.
Despite the lack of fish or meat, this one-pot recipe took considerably longer to both cook and prepare, well exceeding the thirty-minute suggested total cooking time – and even then we felt it could have done with longer to properly thicken up the stock and maximise the sweet warming spices of the Ras el Hanout. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. The soup-like sauce is so good it could probably be a soup in its own right, and really just calls for some rice, crusty bread or more traditional flatbread to mop it all up with. Perhaps the real reason for our slight disappointment was the absence of meat. Mouthwatering chunks of potato and butternut squash add texture and substance, but as incurable carnivores it’s hard not to think how much better it would have been with the addition of beef or lamb. However, portion-wise there’s certainly plenty, and next time – because it’s definitely worth a next time – we’ll just add some meat to the mixture too.
Third up: Jerk Chicken. And who doesn’t like jerk chicken. This recipe calls for the traditional accompaniment of rice and peas, made using basmati rice, black-eyed beans, 1 tin of coconut milk and chicken stock which comes in the recipe box along with jerk seasoning and jerk paste.
Normally made with scotch bonnet chillies, SimplyCook might have toned down the heat in their own version of this Jamaican favourite, but there’s no denying they’ve kept the flavour big, with over 21 ingredients including allspice, thyme, ginger nutmeg and cinnamon. We found the twenty-minute cooking time just short of what was needed to properly cook through and crisp up the chicken, but found the finished dish juicy, tender and packed full of feel-good flavour.
Last but by no means least, Thai Red Prawn Curry. It’s hard not to be skeptical about such a simple stir-in sauce, but the authentic Thai flavours of galangal, shallots and dried red chilli combine with the sweetness of coconut milk, juicy plump prawns, stir fried red peppers and cherry tomatoes, delivering the freshness and complexity of a restaurant-quality curry in just over 20 minutes. It really is a crowdpleaser; the thin, silky sauce is mild in heat (add chopped fresh chillies for extra oopmh), with flavours big and portions even bigger.
So far, so good. But how much does it cost? Each SimplyCook box contains four recipe kits and costs £8.99 in total. Combined with the cost of the fresh ingredients, this works out at around £3-6 per person per meal. Considering the size of the portions, quality of the ingredients and the convenience of cooking them, this not only seems entirely reasonable but surprisingly cost-effective. The only real question, then, is how do we sign up?
*SPECIAL READER OFFER*
SimplyCook are offering readers of Frankly Gluten-Free a special discount code (frankly1), which means you can order your first introductory box for just £1, rather than the usual price of £8.99. This discount code can be used on both gluten-free and non-gluten-free recipes. Enjoy!