You know, it’s 2017. Why isn’t it possible to pay somebody to send you a shopping list, once a week, to correspond with easy-to-make, healthy recipes where there’s no waste and where you actually like all the ingredients?
Like, I dunno, some kind of Whole 30 plan but with no spinach, or asparagus, or eggs, or … meal prep.
Oh, and this whole thing should only cost you a tiny premium on what you’d be spending on your shopping anyway.
So here’s the thing: I’d love to cook a better variety of fresh, wholesome food, but frankly I’m just not that willing to put the work in. Or rather, I would, but I barely have enough time as it is without searching for weird and wonderful recipes that would use up those leftover vegetables at the bottom of the fridge and whatever yellow-stickered meat my dad has picked up for me in the reduced to clear bin at the supermarket this week. Those meal delivery kits are great, but if I’m spending that much money on dinner then I’d rather go to a restaurant and have somebody else do the dishes afterwards.
Well, there is another way, and that way is called The Spice Sultan.
David Jessop of The Spice Sultan grew up watching his mother cook, working on her farmer’s market stall and helping her to sell her home made curry sauces and onion bhajis. Later, after years working in restaurants and realising the difference that using freshly-ground spices over those from jars made to the flavour of food, he came up with the idea of producing spice recipe kits.
The Spice Sultan sells a range of one-off kits which you can use to easily recreate a range of recipes (Thai, Malaysian, Moroccan) as well as a monthly Thali-style subscription box. You can choose to receive your first box with a set of four of the compartmentalised Thali plates, making it even easier to cook up an Indian feast that looks as good as it tastes.
Thali dishes usually include a main dish, a vegetable side dish, dahl, rice, salad and a chutney or pickle. I was sent the Goan sweet potato vindaloo veggie box* for review, which also included the spices needed to make a butternut squash and tamarind side, coconut dahl, coconut rice, spiced red onion salad and coconut yoghurt and ginger chutney. The box also contained some sugar-coated, aniseed-y fennel seeds as an after-dinner freshener which I’m kinda addicted to.
The kit arrived neatly boxed, with the spices for each component of the Thali packaged separately for ease of use. The enclosed recipe card broke down all the steps required in a logical way, with additional ingredients split into a “shopping list” component and a “store cupboard check list” section for the oils, salt and vinegar you’re more likely to already have at home. This part of the list did, however, feature raisins and dates, neither of which I’m in the habit of keeping around, so do check it carefully.
This format gives you the flexibility to deviate from the stated method slightly – so, for example, as I had some diced chicken in the fridge to be used up I decided to use that as the base of my curry rather than purchase the sweet potato called for in the recipe. I also decided to do without dates, as the quantity Tesco sells them in would leave me with loads going to waste – I have no idea what else one does with dates. Those meal delivery kits that package up all the ingredients you need clearly have an advantage over something like a spice subscription when it comes to more unusual ingredients, but obviously that comes at a price premium.
I’m usually a bit of a “pantser” (as in fly-by-the-seat-of-my) when it comes to cooking, but the recipe card strongly suggested that I began by prepping my ingredients – and I’m so glad I did. The closest comparison I can think of for preparing a Thali feast is Christmas dinner: with so many separate components to cook and assemble, forward planning, discipline and clearing surfaces as you go along are all essential skills.
But, as with Christmas dinner, the results are well worth it. The whole thing must have taken me about two and a half hours to make, and I’m yet to manage a coconut rice dish where all the liquid is properly absorbed, but everything was really tasty despite my substitutions (not that I can vouch for the yoghurty centrepiece, to the surprise of nobody). The Thali recipes are designed to serve four people, meaning they’re great for a healthier alternative to a takeaway if you’re having friends round – or just do what we did, and freeze your non-perishable leftovers for a quick and easy curry dinner at a later date.
As much as I love the idea of a spice subscription box, I’m not sure I’d have the patience to cook a full Thali again – I think I’m more of a standalone spice recipe kit kinda gal, and I’m looking forward to giving David’s Sri Lankan coconut and lime curry recipe a try at a later date! I can’t help but be impressed by my culinary exploits in this post though – just look how incredible the whole thing looks above.
Would you try this kind of recipe kit?
This post contains PR samples, but all views are my own and unbiased.