Just shy of their first birthday, the crew at Pepper Leaf sent me one of their weekly meal kits to play around with. Just like other meal kit delivery services - Hello Fresh, My Food Bag, and Marley Spoon - Pepper Leaf aims to “help people to add variety to their repertoire and solve the daily ‘what's for dinner?’ dilemma,” explained Chief Executive Officer Simon Kahil. “Where we're different is dealing direct with farmers and growers, and supporting local producers,” he finished. This is the bit that made Pepper Leaf interesting to me. My household is made up of two experienced cooks, who like cooking from scratch. We enjoy the challenge of sourcing our produce from as close to the primary producers as we can get. Admittedly though, both these things take time, so Pepper Leaf is a way someone who is time-poor can approximate the same thing.
My box arrived without a hitch, neatly within the small window of time I have before I leave for work in the morning. Unpacking it was exciting – it’s full of individually packaged ingredients including little sachets of paprika and lemon pepper, bigger sachets of risoni, breadcrumbs and couscous, and tiny pots of sriracha, harissa and soy sauce.
Fresh vegetables are also included, in precisely the right amounts for the enclosed recipes. This makes these kits super convenient for those cooking for just one or two people, as it’s hard to buy half a sweet potato, or 16 grams of fresh mint. I like that it avoids food waste.
In the 5 Day Meal Kit for Two People ($99) you’ll get the fixings for five different meals, minus a few staples that you're likely to have at home, and all of the recipes contained within a neat binder. For me this meant a fish, chicken, pork, lamb and a vegetarian meal. You are able to nominate one type of meal that you’d like excluded from your box, but at the moment that doesn’t include the option to select having vegetarian (or pescatarian) meals only. “We're busy planning the vegetarian option and a few other exciting things that none of our competition offer. The veggie option is a few weeks away, the others a few months. Stay tuned,” explained Simon.
Everything looked top notch, though I worried about the amount of packaging. My guilt was assuaged by much of it feeling biodegradable, and I noted that it did help keep the fresh produce well enough to cope if you decide to eat out one evening instead. The recipes – like Lemon Pepper Baked Fish with Herbed Couscous – were easy to follow, and would be ideal for a beginner cook. “Our menus are developed in the test kitchens of two of Australia's most trusted food brands - New Idea and Better Homes & Gardens. They are all triple tested, so they always work, and should come in under 30 minutes,” explained Simon. From our experimentation, he’s right on the money.
We particularly enjoyed cooking flathead – something we generally would not buy to cook at home. Using the liquid the fish was baked in to pour over the whole meal gave the dish nice integration.
Each meal we cooked felt well balanced and correctly proportioned, and it was pretty easy to come up with something that approximated the photo on the recipe card.
While we don’t have any problems coming up with ideas for dishes for dinner, what surprised us was how much we enjoyed trying things we wouldn’t have made ourselves. From Pepper Leaf’s Crispy Chicken With Ranch Mash meal, we’ll be remaking the tangy ranch mash, created by switching out butter and milk for light sour cream and green spring onions.
While from Pork with Pesto Risoni Greens our takeaway was a simple time saver - flinging the broccolini and beans in with the boiling pasta, and only having to wash up one pot.
Pepper Leaf meal kits would be an ideal gift for young adults who have newly left home; for anyone lacking inspiration in the kitchen; and for those who bemoan throwing out ingredients that spoil faster than they can use them. The added bonus is with this particular meal kit, you can care about provenance too.
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