Delicious chef-inspired meals a lot of fun in a box
Fresh and fragrant was my first thought when I opened up my Cook IN — Instant Home Chef kit.
It was a little bit like Christmas in the kitchen late last week when I delved into my beautifully packaged ingredient box and set out to become a chef in my own right.
The Cook IN concept — where you receive recipes with the complete ingredients all ready, weighed and packaged — has been designed by owner and patron chef of award-winning Port Elizabeth restaurant Muse, Allan Bezuidenhout, his wife Simone and Annelie Oosthuizen, a qualified executive chef and owner of Petronella Craft Food and Catering.
Joining them is wine expert Olga Hafner of Meridian Wines who uses her extensive knowledge to pair wines with the dishes.
Now, on Thursday when I received my box there was sadly no option on the wine pairing front as the prez had not yet spoken and lifted the much-maligned ban on alcohol sales.
Never fear, I had a little whisky stashed in the back of my liquor cabinet and though I am sure Olga’s choice would have worked much better, the whisky wasn’t a bad pick with the main meal — five-spice chicken meatballs served with rice noodles, baby marrow and fresh green beans in a green curry sauce infused with lemon grass and garlic.
There are a number of things I loved about this concept.
First, just opening the box is a treat as you root around looking at the ingredients, figuring out which ones go with which dish (I had three lots of ingredients in the box, the main as well as a roasted vegetable pesto risotto and a dark chocolate mousse) and discovering what is in each neatly packaged parcel.
Then there is the fact that all the ingredients are sourced locally.
Annelie said the group had linked up with a number of local suppliers because they wanted to support small businesses in the Bay.
"[Everything] from our meat, vegetables and even our delivery service are local.
"All our ingredients are sourced locally and our aim is to support as many quality suppliers in Port Elizabeth as we possibly can.
"We hope to make a difference and create awareness that supporting local small businesses is the socially responsible thing to do to keep job opportunities in Port Elizabeth and play it forward to a much broader community," she said.
She added that the lockdown had created some excellent opportunities for entrepreneurs.
"The lockdown created an opportunity for us.
"The public demand for deliveries of ingredients increased dramatically and people used the time at home to cook more.
"The Cook IN concept evolved as people requested recipes that save time, create less wastage, that save money and [for] safe home deliveries," she said adding that the concept should not be seen as competition to restaurants but an alternative.
"We stand with our local restaurants and wine farms in these trying times," she said.
Back to the food, or the fun in the box, as I have started to think about it.
It is clear as soon as you start cooking that the ingredients are top-notch and the recipes are simple.
What is also great is that health, taste and simplicity have all been considered so that once you have cooked you not only get a delicious chef-inspired meal but one that is not going to add too much more of that lockdown padding so many of us are picking up as we get out less and eat more.
The chocolate mousse desert was a definite winner. Rich and creamy it was surprisingly easy to make and was melt-in-the-mouth delicious.
And the smells that came from my kitchen as I cooked up the Thai curry dish left me feeling a little like I was on holiday. The dish itself was fantastic.
Not too overpowering and so fragrant (I loved infusing the dish with the lemon and garlic) it was also a generous helping.
Though I hadn’t expected to be cooking up a storm from ingredients packed up in a box it is something I'll definitely try again — especially now that wine is back in the mix!
To see what the fab four of food are cooking up next, visit their Facebook page Cook IN.
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