Food review - Riverford quick recipe box

PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 June 2015

Quick recipe box

Quick recipe box


Are recipe box schemes the way forward for time-poor cooks? Jo Haywood puts one to the test

Guy Watson Riverford founderGuy Watson Riverford founder

When someone presents you with a big box, you can’t help feeling it’s your birthday. Fill it full of quality organic grub and, if you’re a greedy foodie like myself, it’s your birthday and Christmas all rolled into one.

So you can imagine how giddy I was when the editor gave me the onerous task of testing a recipe box from Riverford, which started with one man and a wheelbarrow and now delivers around 47,000 boxes of organic produce a week to homes around the UK. Let’s just say there was a certain amount of skipping and excited hand-clapping involved and leave it at that.

On opening, the box turned out to be a freakishly neat collection of ingredients sectioned off into five distinct areas, including a carefully-wrapped cool bag of meat.

The ‘quick recipe box’, usually £39.95, contained everything I needed to make spinach soufflé with watercress salad; turkey escalope and mushrooms in mustard sauce with rice and broccoli; and beef and asparagus stir-fry in a sesame and hoisin sauce.

After checking everything was present and correct (it was), I took a vote among the congregating diners and plunged straight in to preparing the beef dish. I have to admit at this point that none of us is particularly enamoured with anything too eggy, so the soufflé didn’t stand a chance in our not-so-secret ballot.

Riverford includes a very informative recipe card for each batch of ingredients which, on balance, I think could have been a little less wordy. The tone is friendly and full of snippets of advice, but if you’re time-pressed, you don’t want someone chattering away, you want them to get to the point pronto.

And while I’m quibbling, I have to say I found the teeny-tiny pots and bottles, containing minute quantities of sesame oil, soy sauce and sesame seeds, a little troubling. The knit-your-own-yogurt side of my personality couldn’t help wondering about the packaging waste and the food miles involved in transporting them to my door. But they were preposterously cute – and yes, I did march round the kitchen waving a miniature bottle and pretending to be a giant.

The stir-fry turned out to be extremely easy to make – although I think the 20-minute guide is a tad tight – and completely delicious. The recipe is for two, but an extra handful of noodles meant there was plenty for three, and all three diners gave the dish a most enthusiastic thumbs-up.

Next on the menu was the turkey escalope – supposedly for two people but, again, offering ample sustenance for three (with no additions this time).

This recipe was even easier than the first and, according to my eager testers, even more delicious. This was, I believe, down to the exceptional high quality of the ingredients rather than my cooking skills. The turkey was absolutely top notch and the veggies as fresh as if they’d been pulled from the field five minutes ago.

There was a slight hitch halfway through cooking when step eight of the recipe advised me to: ‘Carefully add the wine, then let it bubble to reduce by about half’. This came as a bit of a surprise as there had been no mention of wine up to this point (not in the ingredients or cook’s notes) and no indication of how much to use. But in the end, I improvised and chucked in a small amount of chicken stock that I happened to have in the fridge.

The end result was, according to my testers, ‘completely delish’ and ‘really, really yum’ (perhaps surprisingly, my fellow reviewers were not Jay Rayner and Zoe Williams, but a hungry 12-year-old and her constantly ravenous 16-year-old brother).

Overall, I was very impressed with the quality of the produce and the unquestionable deliciousness of the final dishes. I’m not entirely convinced that recipe boxes are a viable financial option for families, but if you’re a time-pressed couple looking for quick, hassle-free, mid-week meals, I can see that they could be a real boon. w

Riverford offers three types of recipe box: vegetarian, £33, quick and original, both £39.95. For more details, visit

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