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Wednesday 10 June 2015

Experiments with HelloFresh #2: Double Peanut Satay Stir Fry with Thai Holy Basil & Bok Choy

Wow. Honestly, I though it would only be a couple of weeks - at most - before I got round to this, but it's actually been two months.

Go, me!

While the original plan was to write up these three recipes on or near the day I tried them out, this one left me so frustrated and angry that I barely spoke to my girlfriend all evening. At the time, it felt like an unmitigated disaster (unmitigated, that is, except inasmuch as it was actually edible, and not unpleasant) because so many things went wrong during the process, and I felt the instructions weren't as clear as they could be. This was my first serious run-in with the... creative... measurement system employed by HelloFresh, where they use non-standard 'cup' sizes and, I suspect, non-standard tablespoon sizes (or, at least, they consider one tablespoon to be one 'man-sized', heaped tablespoon. This led to a situation where I discovered all too late in the process that I hadn't prepared enough sauce, so I had to hastily throw together another batch, which I could no longer easily do because some things were no longer available to me.

Step by step, it seemed to go remarkably well. In fact, the very first step was a complete eye-opener for me for the simple reason that it recommended keeping the cooked noodles in cold water to prevent them cooking further and - though it doesn't actually state this - also from sticking together in a terrible, gelatinous, noodley lump.

The second step - the preparation of the sauce - is where it started to go wrong, because it asks for two tablespoons of peanut butter. Now, I took one look at the two enormous sachets of peanut butter provided and thought "well, I'm only going to need one of these", and I was very, very wrong.

It also said to add a tablespoon or two of the boiling water cooking the noodles to bring the sauce to "the consistency of runny honey". I don't know what kind of runny honey they were thinking of, because my mixture achieved what I would have considered to be the 'correct' consistency without any added water. My mistake, again. It wasn't so much about the consistency as the volume of sauce though, I concede, had I used both sachets of peanut butter, I may well have needed the water.

As with some of the other recipes, I'd been clever and pre-chopped all the veg and the ginger, neatly slicing the bok choy with our mandolin, so the actual stir-fry steps should have proceeded smoothly, and I guess I have only my own clumsiness to blame for the amount of veg that ended up flying all over the kitchen.

But when it came time to add in the satay sauce, it became quickly apparent that there just wasn't enough. Within moments of adding it and starting to stir it in, it seemed to vanish. My attempt at mixing up a new batch was doomed to fail because (a) the only ingredients I had left over were the second sachet of peanut butter and some soy sauce from my own cupboards, (b) I had to do it incredibly quickly because (c) the stir fry was in the process of frying. Already somewhat flustered, I didn't immediately think to turn the heat down (or, y'know, off) while I mixed up more 'sauce', and the realisation slowly dawned that I should have increased the volume of sauce by adding boiling water as the recipe had suggested.

Nevertheless, the second batch of peanut-soy-sauce got dumped in and stirred about for a few minutes before I decided to stop for fear of utterly ruining the meal by burning it. I served it up and slammed a bowl down in front of my girlfriend before curling up into a semi-defensive posture around my own bowl, seething over every mouthful. Far from being a 'Double Peanut Satay Stir Fry', it was basically 'Peanut Butter Veg with Noodles'. Because of all this, I didn't take any photos... Just trust me when I say it looked nothing like the photo on the recipe card.

Of course, time being the great healer - not to mention the third and final recipe actually going quite well - I look back on this experience with a much better humour, and rather want to try it again. None of the ingredients are exactly hard to come by, even if I were to shop locally rather than at a supermarket (in fact, given the abundance of greengrocers near me, shopping locally might be the better option), so it'd just be a matter of assembling the ingredients and cracking on.

I'm still rather put out by the - frankly, arrogant - redefining of standard measures that HelloFresh have undertaken, especially considering how casual they've been about it. That said, given a bit more time and more experience of their quirks, I could certainly do a better job of it than I did this first time. I'm not sure I'll be whispering any little prayers to the gods of Thai cooking, but I may well be muttering oaths under my breath.

So, overall, I'd have to consider this a kind of success, because it was edible, actually tasted quite good even if it didn't taste 'right', and it didn't put me off cooking entirely. Significant caveats there may be, but the recipe itself is pretty good, and one terrible experience out of three doesn't change the fact that, as a service, HelloFresh has lots of potential.

If you think you might fancy giving HelloFresh a try (and are within the UK mainland), please feel free to use my referral code MPMDQT for an introductory discount. Yes, that also gets me a discount on my next order, but further deliveries are currently on hold while I complete this first set of recipes and consider how this system fits in with my current... erm... 'lifestyle'.