Jo Lamiri recently tested the delivery service from Gousto, comparing it with the new offering from Waitrose, Cook Well.
Delivery food services have been springing up all over the place of late. The idea is that you pay by the week and order your meals in advance from a selection of online menus, saving time on food shopping, prepping and that’what on earth shall I eat tonight?’ dilemma.
It’s ideal for busy people and you can choose to have 2 or 4 servings brought to your door once a week.
Gousto certainly delivered on all fronts. My only quibble was that, unlike other similar services, the ingredients arrived en masse.
It’s much easier if each meal is packaged separately into paper bags, otherwise it’s like some culinary parlour game of matching as you pair ingredients with what’s on the recipe card.
But tut, tut for packaging. One issue with all these companies is the sheer amount of packaging: cardboard box, brown paper bags, vegetables wrapped in plastic, tiny plastic pots of spices, vinegar, pastes etc.
But, given the nature of what they do, I’m not sure it’s easy to reduce. They do provide everything, even the basics, although you do have to have oil, salt and pepper etc.
Ingredients were generally of good quality, but sometimes let down by their lack of freshness: some cherry tomatoes were a bit squished and the carrots for the beef keema were flabby and well past their use-by desirability.
Some of the herbs were also on the turn, which is a shame, as this was the only thing to let Gousto down.
The recipes were excellent. Again, unlike some other box deliveries, they tended not to create much washing up.
It’s a particular bone of contention with me that if a meal is supposed to be easy and quick to prepare, the last thing I then want is mountains of pans and bowls to wash!
Beef keema, for example, was a quick and easy one-pot supper Ã¢â‚¬â€ the level of spicing was perfect and it was a warming and satisfying dish that I’ll definitely make again from the very well-written recipe cards.
Another triumph was the 10-minute Thai basil pork with green beans, an excellent, one-pot dish. Spiciness was authentic and it was easy to prepare Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a great choice for a midweek supper. Chicken, date and tamarind curry was unusual and tasty.
Gousto also features a’Dine In’ range. This takes longer to prepare and cook and is more of a special-occasion offering.
The chilli king prawns served with potato cakes and red pepper coulis recipe was superb: roast red peppers then whiz them into a coulis with soft cheese, served with baked parsley and potato cakes and stir-fried prawns with cherry tomatoes and garlic.
Quite a lot of work, with plenty of washing up but worth it when you have a bit more time, although the cooking time given for the potato cakes was a little optimistic and the amount of chilli flakes may need adjusting if you’re averse to too much spice.
Again, the rocket and parsley were past their best but the finished dish had a great balance of flavours and is another one I’ll be making again and again.
The box price is £34.99 for four recipes, each serving two; visit gousto.co.uk
On to Waitrose Cook Well. It felt as though the recipes had been adapted from the magazine Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the obvious aim of which is to encourage readers to buy as many Waitrose ingredients as possible.
So the recipes featured such elements as an onion relish in the halloumi saganaki recipe that added little beyond more prepping and washing up to do.
Generally the recipes are good, although compared with Gousto I did find they were often under-seasoned and a little bland.
One mystifying recipe was the Korean king prawn dish which wasn’t spicy enough but also had gremolata: since when has this Italian addition been part of Korean cooking?
The one-pot chicken and pepper traybake was fabulous though: it generated little washing up and was quite delicious. Definitely one to make again.
Coming from the Waitrose stable, the recipe cards were very well written and easy to follow and I preferred their packaging: brown paper bag for each dish, with very good-quality, very fresh ingredients.
It would be good to see a greater choice of recipes on the site: at the moment you only have 12 to choose from, compared with 30 from Gousto.
A three-meal Cook Well box for two is £39. Visit cookwell.waitrose.com