Inside the box: The Best Recipe Boxes
Delivered-to-your-door recipe box kits allow you to cook like a pro at home without any of the hassle of thinking up menus, scouring the supermarket shelves and measuring out ingredients. Usually, you sign up for a weekly subscription and can choose what recipes you'd like in your box, which comes with a handy recipe card and pre-portioned ingredients.
Here we check out four recipe box companies offering nationwide delivery in the UK.
Best for: healthy eating
Mindful Chef, from £27
www.mindfulchef.com; tel: 020 8875 1790
The Mindful Chef team creates eight imaginative recipes for you to choose from each week, all completely free of gluten and refined carbs. Simply pick up to five that take your fancy, select how many portions (one, two or four) you require of each, and the ingredients—locally sourced and organic whenever possible—will be delivered to your door every Sunday (in London) or Monday (nationwide) with an easy-to-follow recipe card. There are vegan and veggie options available and, although it's a subscription-only service, you can cancel or skip deliveries at any time.
Sample meals: Butternut squash, kale and chicken quinoa risotto; Veggie lasagne with aubergine, cannellini bean ragu and pesto; Pork chilli with paprika sweet potato wedges and avocado
WDDTY verdict: We loved the healthy, Paleo-friendly recipes and not having to worry about added sugar or refined carbs. Despite pasta, bread and white rice being off the menu, the meals were filling and full of flavour. We're also impressed by the fact that Mindful Chef is the only company to offer a one-person box and a vegan-only box too.
Best for: no ties
Riverford Organic Farmers, from £24.95
www.riverford.co.uk; tel: 01803 227 227
No subscription is needed to enjoy Riverford's recipe boxes (purchases are a one-off), which are filled with fresh, seasonal ingredients from small-scale organic farms and producers. Recipes change weekly and come in 'original', 'vegetarian' (Vegetarian Society-approved) and 'quick' (ready in around 30 minutes) versions, plus you can choose if you want two or three meals—each suitable for two people—per box.
Sample meals: Pollock with crispy capers; Roast cauliflower gnocchi; Thai green chicken curry
WDDTY verdict: Full marks for presentation: the ingredients were organized by recipe, so no time was wasted working out what goes with what, and the box (which is collected by Riverford for recycling) comes labelled with handy storage and preparation tips. The meals were imaginative, delicious and satisfying; our only gripe was the added sugar in some of the pre-made stocks and pastes, although it was usually brown or raw cane sugar.
Best for: flexibility
Abel & Cole, from £36
www.abelandcole.co.uk; tel: 03452 62 62 62
Abel & Cole's recipe boxes come in four box 'themes'—'Simple' for classic cuisine, 'Foodie' for more creative dishes, 'Veggie' for vegetarian-only meals and 'Light' for recipes under 500 calories. They're subscription-only, but you can choose to have your boxes delivered every week, every other week or every three, four or eight weeks, plus you can cancel or pause boxes up to two days before delivery. A big bonus is that you can swap meals if you spot anything you don't like before ordering, and all ingredients, which come in a returnable box, are ethically sourced and organic whenever possible.
Sample meals: Saffron poached cod with carrot and clementine herb salad; Honey roast parsnips with lentils and kale pesto; Turkish chicken and date casserole
WDDTY verdict: We liked the flexibility of being able to pick and choose the recipes you want, and the focus on fresh, seasonal organic produce. Recipes were tasty, easy to follow, reasonably quick to make and provided generous portions. But as with Riverford, watch out for the sugar in the pre-made stocks if it's something you'd rather avoid.
Best for: choice
Gousto, from £27.49
www.gousto.co.uk; tel: 020 3011 1002
You're spoilt for choice if you go with Gousto; there are 12 nutritionally balanced recipes to choose from each week—from meaty feasts to veggie delights—and you can select up to four recipes for two or four people each week. You can even order four different boxes a week if you have a lot of mouths to feed. Most of the ingredients come from local farms, and the meat is always 100 per cent British. A subscription is required, but it's easy to cancel or pause if you want to.
Sample meals: Quick Persian lamb couscous; Lemon-crusted basa (catfish) with brown butter; Chicken and hummus bowl
WDDTY verdict: We loved the variety of dishes on offer and the inclusion of exotic ingredients like Ras el hanout, a North African spice mix containing rose petals. Meals are quick to make, most taking less than 30 minutes, and are flavourful and satisfying. The only downside is that some of the pre-made products, like the mayonnaise, stock and tortilla wraps, contain added ingredients like sugar, stabilizers and acidity regulators that some people may wish to avoid. Still, it's easy to view all the ingredients in the recipes before ordering, and you can simply give any you don't want a miss.