I admire people who can meal plan, or can turn to the freezer on any given day and know that they won’t be serving up what I call freezer tapas.
Despite my best intentions, trendy chalkboard and endless reusable containers, I am yet to be that person who can smoothly plan what’s for tea throughout the week.
This has inevitably led to an unfortunate eye twitch, caused by my partner arriving home from work and uttering the same question, night after night.
“What do you fancy doing for dinner?”
Oh reader, if you ever wonder why a woman can be seen driving away into the sunset in a fit of rage, it is yours truly.
On a rainy Monday night, I simply have no idea what I “fancy” doing, I simply want someone else to sort it out for me.
Step forward Bare, a sustainable living shop based in Ellon.
Having moved to the area last Summer, I’ve loved many a visit to Bare where you can refill your own container with peanut butter, and pick up tasty treats from the likes of Breer Pie Company, Fat Batch and Bandit Bakery to name but a few.
I recently spied on their social media that they do meal kits, and I think I may have found my saviour after all.
Meal kits have become a big thing in recent years, and we previously tried kits from two big names when I returned to work from maternity leave four years ago.
I still have traumatic memories of complicated recipes which made no sense, an overflow of plastic waste and ingredients which had been bashed about in transit.
It just wasn’t for us, but I promise you that Bare is on the next level.
All their meal kits are advertised on social media each week, and it’s best to keep an eye as some kits are quick to sell out.
After putting two options to the test, I know why.
Having seen a post on Bare’s Instagram, I quickly commented below as instructed in order to secure one pot fajita pasta and sticky toffee pudding.
The pasta was described as quick, simple and delicious, served with garlic tear and share from Vegan Bay Baker.
As for sticky toffee, well is any explanation really needed?
I then popped along mid afternoon, and sure enough the meal kits were waiting for me in a brown paper bag.
I have no shame in admitting that I felt rather smug, knowing tea was all taken care of and there was no need to go the shops.
The recipes were stapled to the bag, very handy for people prone to losing things.
Included in the pasta kit was white penne, onion, red pepper, garlic, spice mix, vegetable bouillon and of course the garlic tear and share which was wrapped in paper.
The spice mix and bouillon were both labelled and had been decanted in little paper bags.
Not a single shred of plastic waste in sight, and there was something wonderfully nostalgic about the packaging.
A reminder perhaps, of my granny’s generation, where your messages would be wrapped in paper and popped in a string shopping bag or trolley.
We needed to provide olive oil, milk and cheese ourselves, ingredients which even I had kicking about.
The recipe was straightforward, with a brief saute of the veg, making up of the bouillon, then everything into the pan to simmer.
Even I managed to stir the mixture often, to prevent curdling as instructed.
Having stirred through the cheese and got the garlic tear and share out the oven, dinner was served.
It was everything a pasta dish should be. Comforting, simple and with the added kick of the spice mix.
It wasn’t too bland or too heavy, and there was plenty left over. I can confirm that even re-heated, it made for the most delicious lunch the next day.
If you want to add meat, it would be easy enough to stir through sliced chicken for example, but we found the dish very satisfying without the need to add anything else.
Prior to cooking, and the garlic share and tear smelt and looked amazing.
I must confess that after focusing a little too much on preventing the aforementioned sauce curdling, I left the bread in the oven for a little too long.
The buttery glaze hardened on top, and any garlic flavour was sadly lost.
In this incidence, it is a case of blame the chef, aka, me.
The bread was still delicious and perfect for soaking into the sauce. It had more texture in comparison to shop brought garlic bread, with a lovely doughy freshness.
The dish was extremely filling, and we would have been satisfied to stop there.
But my other half adores sticky toffee, so I returned to the kitchen feeling rather cocky at my pasta success.
It is at this point that things went slightly downhill.
Again, the ingredients was beautifully packaged, from pitted figs to just the right amount of sugar. Two eggs were provided in a repurposed supermarket egg box, which had been cleverly cut in half so as to be made as economical as possible.
Having left the dates to soak, I whisked margarine and caster sugar together, added the remaining ingredients, and then poured everything into a cake tin and baked for 50 minutes.
All was going well, before it was time to make the sauce.
A series of unfortunate events, mainly my three year old waking up to demand a drink, the toilet, and another rendition of ‘Twinkle Twinkle’, followed by my partner getting called out to work, resulted in my kitchen smelling like burnt sugar for several weeks after.
The less said about sticky toffee trauma the better, but we did try again and yes, it was worth it.
You get an absolute beast of a portion, and we opted to freeze some of the sponge as suggested on the recipe.
I found the sauce a little tricky to make, purely because my culinarily masterpieces consist of spag bol or pizza.
It is a running joke with my mother in law that I cannot cook, but on the whole I found the meal kits relatively easy to navigate.
Whilst I don’t recommend burning your kitchen down in the name of sticky toffee sauce, Bare has done an absolute champion job.
The whole meal kit operation is incredibly organised and well thought out, and we’ve since enjoyed several more dishes as a result.
And for the cost of £14.50, you really can’t go wrong.
So if my other half can ‘bare’ with my cooking skills, or better yet, get an apron on himself, I think we’re on to a winner.