Out Of The Box aims to offer Mumbaikars a culinary experience of cooking wholesome gourmet meals at home by delivering pre-measured ingredients and easy-to-follow recipes. Do they really end up saving our time and effort?
We've spent many afternoons over chatter and Hot Apple Tea at the Food For Thought cafe, inside Fort's Kitab Khana. So, when we heard that the brains behind this cafe — Kapil and Reshma Sanghi — had started a new food portal, Out Of The Box, we were piqued. To save time and effort, the boxes contain pre-measured ingredients and easy-to-follow recipes of gourmet meals that you can cook in your home kitchen.
The menu grabbed our attention, with their pure vegetarian spread that ranged from Malaysian Rendang Curry to Parsi-style Dhansak. We liked that the ingredients would come chopped, and all one had to do was cook it. Excited, we ordered five dishes — Malaysian Rendang Curry (each box costs Rs 300/ serves two), Spanish Paella, Soba Noodle Bowl, Parsi Dhansak and Mocha-Butterscotch Silk Pudding.
Placing an order was hassle free, and the boxes arrived the next day; some were marked with a 'please refrigerate' tag. However, when we opened the first box, Parsi Dhansak, we found whole veggies — an onion, half a pumpkin, a potato, a portion of carrot, etc.
These didn't appear washed, and were not chopped. When we cross-checked with the portal about the lack of chopped veggies, they explained that this was because it would lose nutrients if cut; besides, it would also give the option to cook these dishes a day later (if refrigerated well). We agreed with the rationale, but the portal should have mentioned this on its website instead of showing misleading chopped images on each box.
The ingredients and recipe sheet for Mocha-Butterscotch Silk Pudding. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
The pudding was rich in taste
Mocha-Butterscotch Silk Pudding
Ingredients: With only six pre-measured ingredients in this box, we thought we could finally conquer our dessert-making phobia with this pudding.
Cooking time: Unlike many complicated pudding recipes available online, this was interesting (chocolate is boiled through the 'double boiling' technique) and easy to follow. While the prep time of 15-20 minutes matched, the gooey pudding needed at least an hour in the refrigerator to settle and that tested our patience.
Result: Silky smooth in texture and not overtly sweet, the pudding was appetising. The rich, dark chocolate blended well with coffee, and butterscotch provided a nice crunch. Plus, we were overjoyed that it filled a large bowl sufficient for a family of four. Value-for-money, we say!
Preparing Spanish Paella went beyond its measured cooking time
Ingredients: Unlike its exotic name, the ingredients for this recipe looked simple (bell peppers, onion, peas, garlic, parsley, olive, bay leaf and a spice mix) and images on the recipe sheet gave us an idea of the way in which the veggies needed to
Cooking time: The eight-step process looked easy but we were lost at the first step itself. While the onion and garlic needed to be sautéed, the medium (oil, butter or ghee) wasn't mentioned and as someone unfamiliar with cooking, we had to ask for some in-house guidance on this. Thumbs down. Though the recipe mentioned 30-35 minutes as the cooking time, preparing this dish took an hour; the rice taking a little longer to cook.
Result: The more-than-prescribed time taken to cook seemed worth it when Spanish Paella turned out to be a delectable fare, with strong hints of smoked paprika and a pinch of saffron adding to the flavour. However, we'd suggest you fix a dip or a vegetable as a side dish to make for a hearty meal.
Malaysian Rendang Curry had a restaurant-style flavour
Malaysian Rendang Curry
Ingredients: We were a tad overwhelmed by the number of ingredients in the box — four to five veggies, a curry paste, a spice mix, sweet soya, coconut powder as well as rice that needed to be cooked too.
Cooking time: The recipe required 30-35 minutes cooking time and much to our relief, we clocked in the same amount including the prep that required some more work — squeezing soaked tamarind into pulp, mixing coconut powder in water as well as soaking the rice.
Result: The strong aroma of tangy kaffir leaves wafting from the gravy added a kick to our cooking spree. The crunchy veggies, the curry paste and the spice mix added bagfuls of flavour to the thick coconut gravy, giving it a restaurant-style flavour.
Soba Noodle Bowl had a nice, smoky flavour
Soba Noodle Bowl
Ingredients: All ingredients including the leafy pokchoy looked fresh when the box arrived. By the time it travelled home, the sauce mix had leaked a bit. The box also contained a chunk of carrot that was not a part of the recipe. However, we thinly sliced it along with other veggies and it added to the dish.
Cooking time: The steps were easy. We followed the instructions step-by-step and found that the timings for each process, including simmering for the gravy to thicken were inaccurate. We took about 10 minutes more than the prescribed limit.
Result: The noodle bowl resembled its representative version on the box. We managed to plate it similarly too. We liked the smoky flavour that the sesame sauce added to the Soba noodles. The gravy was flavourful. The quantity was good for three people with an average appetite. However, we weren't sure if the meal qualifies as healthy, and at `300, this bowl felt a tad overpriced.
Ingredients of the Parsi Dhansak delivered by Out Of The Box. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
The Dhansak was accompanied by brown rice and kachumbar
Ingredients: The box had everything that a (vegetarian) Parsi Dhansak dish requires including a peeled pumpkin, an eggplant and even peeled garlic and ginger. Everything came in neatly labeled, so identifying spices like fenugreek was not a problem and saved time. The vegetables looked fresh, the lentils and brown rice packed were also of a superior quality.
Cooking time: The step-by-step recipe sheet made the whole process of cooking Dhansak a better deal especially for someone who has never made it earlier and had eaten it only once before. Though cooking time mentioned was 45 minutes, we took around 30-35 minutes to prepare the dish (including the prep).
Result: The Dhansak, brown rice, and kachumbar looked close to the image on the box. While Rs 300 for this dish that serves two would make it overpriced, the quantity was sufficient to feed four people and as a result, it turned out to be value-for-money and tasty, too.
Out Of The Box scores due to its selection of interesting and exotic recipes that are simplified for home cooks as well as novices. Without any added preservatives and high on veggies, the meals are wholesome and tasty too. While some of the recipes are a tad overpriced, the pre-measured ingredients do save you from grocery shopping and make for a good lunch option on your day off. But a go-to option when you're hungry and want to whip up something quickly? We're not so sure.
Log on to: www.ootbox.in
Delivery Areas: Colaba to Bandra (delivery on the next day)
Cost: Rs 300 per box (serves 2)
Out Of The Box didn't know we had ordered. the guide reviews anonymously and pays for its meals.