When I was invited to trial Gousto, I was reassured by the fact that their recipes are divided by difficulty rating - and a number of them looked so simple that not even I could mess them up. I'm definitely not a whiz in the kitchen, but I'm not an awful cook either: I just find I don't have time to prepare elaborate meals during the week. I selected two recipes from Gousto's website, a smoked trout summer salad and spicy tofu with coconut rice and waited for my delivery. Gousto is a subscription service: users choose to receive between 2 and 4 recipes per week, available for 2, 4 or 6 people (you better hope your household has an even number). Each week, you log on and select from a regularly updated collection of recipes, and ingredients are delivered to you on Thursday in a cool bag. Although I was concerned about the waste that would come with so many packaged ingredients, Gousto package items together where possible, and is as environmentally friendly where possible (for example, they use Wool Cool to keep produce fresh). In order to keep things as fuss-free and simple as possible, they provide every ingredient you need apart from salt and olive oil. That way, you'll never again have to come face to face with that mouldering half packet of mint you bought two weeks ago for that tabbouleh recipe.
Recipe 1: Glazed trout fillet with summer salad
Not something I would ever have thought to make, this seasonal recipe lured me in with it's one-star difficulty rating and 30 minute preparation time. The double-sided recipe card is photographic, guiding you through the ingredients you need and giving an overview of the dish, plus information on equipment needed and portion size before moving on to a step-by-step breakdown of how to make the recipe.
|Eight steps to dinner|
Instruction number one was certainly pitched at my level: 'Fill a medium sized pot with water and bring to boil, ideally using a lid'. Confidence boosted by managing to boil water, I worked my way through the 8 steps, chopping, marinating and mixing my way to an evening meal.
The steps were well broken-down and easy to follow: boiling the potatoes, making the dill, honey and mustard glaze for the trout, marinating the fish and making the rest of the salad (apple, beetroot, radish and cucumber). As a clumsy individual, I'm not much of a precision chopper, and managed to make a bit of a lash-up of the apple, but that aside, I managed pretty well. Apart from cooking the potatoes, no timings were given, but due to the simplicity of the recipe and the step-by-step approach, it didn't seem necessary. Instructions were succinct but thorough without being patronising, which I liked.
|So this goes in here, yeah?|
|I totally know what I'm doing.|
A couple of the ingredients were unlabelled, which almost proved disastrous when I reached for the coconut milk for recipe 2 instead of the sour cream, but the photographic depiction and a good old sense of smell sorted that issue out. And as for the end result? Impressive. The salad looked great but tasted even better, with a fresh combination of flavours. The glaze was delicious, and the contrast between the apple and beetroot was just right. Good work, Gousto.
|The finished product! We'll make a chef of me yet...|
Recipe 2: Black pepper spicy tofu on coconut rice
Spurred on by my success with the salad, I moved up to difficulty rating 2 (of a possible 3). Spicy tofu on coconut rice didn't sound too challenging, but there were more ingredients to deal with: onion, chilli, mange tout, ginger, garlic, rice vinegar and soy sauce.
|Look, I can chop an onion, OK?|
|I just can't chop mange tout length-wise|
I began by chopping the onion, but 'cutting the mange tout in half length-wise' defeated me. Too fiddly by half: I chucked them in whole. I tried to stay on brief for the rest of the recipe, although I admit I had assistance with the rice (but only because my attention was focused on the vegetables, you understand). I found the lack of timings more of an issue with this recipe: some stages had timings, but the cooking of the rice didn't ('turn down the heat to let it simmer and stir regularly').
Frying the vegetables appeared to be timed to perfection, but unfortunately the 2 minutes allowed for 150ml of water to reduce just wasn't enough, and we ended up with rather a lot of excess liquid. The recipe was easy enough to follow and tasted good, but it wasn't as memorable as the trout salad. As for the slight sogginess, I'm not sure whether the quantity of water added needed to be reduced or the time allowed increased, but the recipe seemed to need a little tweaking. I admit I added extra black pepper to the end result, as it wasn't as flavoursome as the previous day's dish.
Overall, I think Gousto offer a great service. If you don't have time to plan your meals and shop accordingly, Gousto takes the stress out of dining at home, and is an easy way to ensure a varied and healthy diet. Recipes are developed by a team of chefs and updated each week, so you shouldn't get bored. Although it's clearly aimed at couples, families and house-shares, if you're cooking for one, you could easily take the second portion to work the next day for lunch. With prices starting from £4 per meal, the price is impressively reasonable given the quality of the ingredients (which is sourced from organic farms in the UK wherever possible). Despite their commitment to the environment, I do think that providing a new cool bag each week seems a little wasteful, as it seems like something that would be easy to reuse. I'm also a bit unsure about Thursday as a delivery day: although the ingredients for most dishes keep a minimum of 4 days, it seems to me that Monday would be a much more convenient day for most subscribers. Also, a maximum of 4 meals a week can be ordered currently: 5 seems to make more sense to me in order to cover the working week, but apparently the service will increase if the demand is there.
If you're looking to shake up your culinary repertoire and make your life a bit easier, give Gousto a try. There's no minimum commitment and you can place your order on hold at any time. For more information, check out their website.