Riverford and Irish chef duo, David and Stephen Flynn – The Happy Pear – have put together a limited edition vegetarian recipe box available until 19 February 2015. The box contains all the ingredients needed to make three meals for two, all you need is a bottle of olive oil, salt and pepper.
Recipe boxes have two great things to offer. One, ultimate convenience with no food decision making, recipe hunts, meal plans or food shopping. Two, very little chance of getting it wrong for even a novice cook as all ingredients are measured, spices are pre-mixed to perfection in little jars and Riverford’s quality ingredients are hard to beat. All that is left is to follow the step-by-step instructions step by step.
Included in the box: Three meals for 2 (easily bulked up to four from your own store cupboard with rice, couscous, quinoa, pasta, a jacket potato or grains of your choice). Ingredients will be good for up to 5 days – we cooked the third meal on the last day and the ingredients were still fresh and tasty.
Paid Extras: Free delivery is included. Olive oil, salt and pepper is not supplied, but most households have these items, no need to rush out and buy. If you don’t have a bottle of good quality olive oil in the cupboard, pick one up, for the salad dressing in particular.
“From one man and a wheelbarrow to an award-winning organic delivery company”.
Riverford’s slogan on their About page says captures the heart of the company. “The Riverford box scheme began when Guy Watson started delivering vegetables locally to 30 friends in Devon. We now deliver around 47,000 boxes a week to homes around the UK from our regional farms.”
Riverford has won many ethical business awards and is a company that values the environment, animal welfare and does what it can to help make fresh organic produce an affordable and sustainable choice. Read more about Riverford on their official site.
The Ergohacks Evaluation
The Happy Pear recipe box contains three recipes with cooking times of 25 minutes, 50 minutes and 70 minutes. For slow vegetable choppers and dicers, add 10-15 minutes. The recipes were a little similar with overlapping ingredients, all three called for tomato and leeks and with potato and peppers (green and red) in two recipes. Tinned beans, lentils and chickpeas were the distinguishing extra ingredients.
Vegetables are highly underrated in every day cooking and there are two common assumptions I often argue against (i) vegetarian meals are boring and similar and (ii) less familiar vegetables are difficult to turn into a good meal. The Happy Pear box falls into the trap of working only with familiar vegetables to produce noticeable similar meals.
There is an advantage – if you love one of the recipes, you will love them all. I don’t buy or enjoyed tinned tomatoes and for me, the lack of variety was a significant downside, leaving me stuck with three tomato-based dishes – also a migraine trigger – for three meals cooked in closed proximity. For those who keep their food cupboard stocked with tinned tomatoes, the box has the advantage of using popular vegetables most people are familiar with has adds convenience and confidence.
All three meals were top-quality and portions generous, something I would easily have paid for in a restaurant. I would be proud to serve all three dishes at a dinner party. The beetroot salad, only a side-dish in the box, was magnificent and I would have been satisfied to just serve a large salad as meal without the potato chickpea bake.
The Happy Pear recipe box requires some basic skill and dexterity to prepare. The 70-minute recipe in particular doesn’t allow for much down-time and with some slow chopping and help from a 5-year old, it took us 90 minutes from start to finish which is more of a special occasion time scale than quick evening meal after work affair.
The 25-minute recipe was quick and easy to prepare and versatile. It could be enjoyed as is or combined with just about anything to create variation – some spaghetti for a vegetarian Bolognese, rice for a chilli con carne with a twist or quinoa, which was our choice or a jacket potato.
The Happy Pear recipe box has an ergonomic design – the box is easy to lift, easy to open and unpack and the small containers are relatively easy to open. How ergonomic cooking is would depend on your kitchen and level of access to ergonomic equipment.
The recipe layout does not contain any images of either the ingredients or step-by-step instructions, it is completely text based. The step-by-step instructions were clearly written and although there were some timed elements, it was limited to one or two per recipe and they could be prepared early on.
For example – whilst the potato bake was in the oven, it was time to prepare the salad. We pre-prepared the salad and dressing separately at the start, both perfectly fine to be served an hour later.
Environment & People
Riverford has an excellent reputation as an ethical and responsible business that values the environment, looks after their animals and is doing their best to provide people with high quality, healthy ingredients often at a lower cost than many supermarket chains. They even have regional farms across the UK to cut down on food miles. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Their packaging is minimal and well research to provide the lowest environmental footprint without compromising the quality or safety of their food. Packaging can be reused or returned to Riverford for reuse and recycling.
There is a more packaging involved for a recipe box than a standard fruit and vegetable box because individual ingredients are measured and then packaged up. Riverford does take packaging seriously and even with the increased packaging, it is still much less than a standard supermarket would use.
There is extensive information about their environmental practices and decisions, have a look here.
Riverford is known for offering high value ingredients at a cost-effective price and this box is a great deal. It is reasonably priced and at the market price for a 3-meal 2-person vegetarian box. The ingredients are fresh, organic and of a high quality. It saves time and energy by doing meal planning, recipe selection and the shopping, but it does not save time or energy in the kitchen.
For those who regularly cook vegetarian meals from scratch, it will probably match the effort usually put in, but for anyone like me who doesn’t mind the planning or shopping (I do both at the comfort of my desk) as much as I do the chopping, frying and making, it is quite a bit more physical work than what I am used to and comes at a higher price tag than a non-recipe, plain, seasonal vegetable box with added grains.
Box type: Limited edition “The Happy Pear” vegetarian box
Size: 3 meals for 2 people
The recipes list common allergens used as ingredients, making it possible to choose a selection that is most suitable. There is no guarantee that ingredients will be cross-contamination free, so those who can tolerate small amounts should be okay, but not recommended for anyone with special dietary needs.
Access to a standard kitchen for storing and cooking ingredients. Basic cooking skills and ability to cook meals from scratch.
We should all eat more vegetables and a vegetarian recipe box is an excellent way to help vegetables show off their true potential. Riverford’s organic “The Happy Pear” box is a window into a veggie world built on fresh vegetables we all know and many love – tomatoes, fresh greens, potatoes, celery, leeks, onions, garlic, peppers.
I hope Riverford continues to partner with guest chefs to offer different tastes, explore different ways of cooking veg and expand the repertoire of vegetables used. As a stand-alone product for this particular box, get it if you enjoy the cooking process and love warm, wintry tomato-and-leek based meals.
The review is based on The Happy Pear Box kindly provided by Riverford. This article was first published on 4 February 2016.