Recipes, Reviews

Cirkle recipe kit review

Last month Cirkle kindly sent me a 3 recipe kits to try. If you haven’t heard of this company, they are a grocery home delivery service providing organic and artisan products. As well as that, they offer a free recycling service, aiming to ‘make it easy to eat well and do good’, a philosophy I can wholeheartedly agree with.

They have a wide range of products available; from fruit and vegetables to meat and dairy, lentils and pasta to baby food! Plus, they have a flexible, well-organised delivery service that enables you to find a day and time that will suit you.

With the recipe kits, you can choose to purchase each individually, or opt for a set of 3 predetermined recipes in their recipe package. Each recipe comes for either 2, 4 or 6 people and the prices (for 2 people) range from €6.24 to €20.07 per recipe. The package, to include 3 recipe kits, are priced as follows: €39.99 (2 people), €69.99 (4 people) or €99.98 (6 people).

I was very excited to get stuck in…

Warm mackerel and beetroot salad. (€15.73 for 2 people)

FullSizeRender2Firstly, the picture doesn’t do this food justice, the colour on this fruit and veg is simply amazing. But, I must admit, at first I wasn’t sure about this recipe. I’ve actually not cooked fresh beetroot before (I was put off from my mum always trying to get me to try the pickled stuff) and…warm lettuce?! But actually, this ended up being my favourite recipe of the lot. The smell as it was cooking was terrific, so mouthwatering, and the combination of colours looked appealing. FullSizeRender1
On tasting, the different textures from the raw onion, soft potato and crunchy lettuce was fantastic (you let the warm stuff cool slightly so the lettuce doesn’t wilt). The comfort of the warm beetroot was complimented by the subtle flavour of the celery and the stronger smoked mackerel. It was, quite simply, yum. And I will definitely be cooking this again.
FullSizeRenderIn terms of balance, there was plenty of veg *thumbs up*, and the meal contained a protein and potatoes as a starchy carb source – great! Also, mackerel is an oily fish, so good for poly-unsaturated fats and omega-3.
My only consideration was that I personally didn’t feel that the bread was necessary, I felt that the potato was sufficient. Especially given that this actually did us 4 meals – we both had it for lunch the following day – bargain!

Roast pork with pears and parsnips. (€20.07 for 2 people)

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This is a dish that sounded right up my street. Cooked using minimal equipment, and it contains some of my favourite vegetables and flavours. This recipe was very easy to put together, and the quality of the meat (sourced from Jack O’Shea) was obvious even before cooking.
Again, the combination of flavours worked really well. I love pear and parsnip and it was perfect with the pork, making a change from the usual apple. 20150925_222143We used all of the ingredients except half the cabbage, and there was still veg left in our pot for an extra 2 meals….I could get used to this!
I found this meal really satisfying, however, although you would be getting some carbohydrates from the vegetables, it does lack a source of starchy carbohydrate. It might also be worth tweaking the recipe slightly if you’re watching the amount of saturated fat in your diet, as cooking it all together means that the veg soaks up a lot of fat from the pork. All in all though? Another tasty recipe and I was loving all these leftovers!

Quick fresh tomato ragù with thyme. (€11.24 for 2 people)

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This dish is one of our favourites at home, and I usually don’t follow a particular recipe, so I was intrigued to try this one.
Call me lazy, but I tend to use tinned tomatoes with a handful of fresh in my ragù, so it made a nice change, and I did notice the taste difference. As with the pork, the meat was of excellent quality and really added to the dish. This is also the best wholegrain pasta 20150928_202954I have ever tasted!
With this recipe, the portion sizes were just right for 2 people (although we did have some Parmesan leftover!) Wholegrain pasta is great for slow release energy and fills you up, and the minced beef is a good source of iron. I personally would add a bit more veg in there; to include some mushrooms, courgette, aubergine or bell pepper would boost the vitamin and fibre content.
This recipe is definitely a good one for after a busy day, as it’s quick to prepare, filling and a true home comfort.

Overall, I was really impressed with the quality of the ingredients, and the recipes all tasted really good. Cirkle offer loose products as well, and you can purchase fruit or vegetable boxes, but I think that the recipe kits are definitely worth a go if you find yourself lacking inspiration in the kitchen. Given the quality and quantity you get, I think that they work out really good value too! I will definitely be using them again in the future, and look forward to trying some more of their recipe kits.

If you are one of my clients and want to give Cirkle a try…ask me about how you can get a free small fruit box in your order!

(Please note: I received this recipe kit for free, but all my opinions are 100% honest and I was not reimbursed for this review. Please see my disclaimer for more information.)

Healthy Living

Healthy Eating – on a budget

Yes…fresh fruit and vegetables can be expensive, especially if you’re worried that half of it will go to waste. BUT there’s so many ways you can use up fruit and vegetables, team that with a few tricks when shopping and I promise you, you can serve up a lovely nutritious meal!

It takes a little bit of thought and planning so I’ve put together my top 12 tips to help you save money.

1. Use frozen or tinned fruit and vegetables.

Both tend to be cheaper than buying fresh, and they keep much longer. They’re still just as good for you nutritionally, just opt for fruit in natural juice as opposed to syrup and select tinned vegetables in water without too much added salt.

2. Buy in bulk.

Dried goods like pasta, rice and noodles keep for ages and the large packs are often significantly cheaper than the smaller ones. For example, I did a quick price comparison…for a 500g bag of pasta you pay £1.90 (2.40€) per kilo, for a 3kg bag it works out at £1 (1.26€) per kilo. That’s almost half price!

…that leads nicely onto my next tip

3. Check the price per kilo.

Most shop item labels now will state the price per kilo in addition to the item price. This is a handy, easy way to check if you’re getting best value for money. Once you become used to checking this, it becomes second nature and addictive. You’ll be in store for some surprises!

4. Go for store brands.

When you buy branded goods, you’re paying a premium for the brand and fancy packaging. There are lots of foods that taste very similar whether it’s branded or stores own. Having said that, there are a couple of foods where I’ll always buy the branded version as the store versions just aren’t as good. However, that’s personal preference and it’s something you can trial with your everyday items! You could end up saving yourself a small fortune!

5. Make use of offers.

Whether it’s buy one get one free, 20% extra free, or reduced because it’s going out of date, take advantage! Most stores will reduce items in the evenings, so time it well to get the best deals. Things like fish, meat and even fruits and veggies freeze well, split them into portions though, otherwise they may be stuck in a clump when you come to use them. Chopping up the vegetables will also save you time later on, plus frozen fruit tastes great in smoothies. Just make sure you have plenty of room in the freezer!

6. Bulk out with pulses.

If you don’t often cook with lentils and other pulses, I strongly recommend that you try them. The term ‘pulse’, used interchangeably with ‘legume’, encompasses all types of beans, peas and lentils.  They’re a great source of protein, fibre, iron and other vitamins and minerals. You can buy them canned or dried and they make a great addition to soups, curries or casseroles. Just ensure you cook them as per the instructions.

7. Use up fruit and veg that’s passed its best.

I HATE throwing out food, so we don’t, hardly anything goes to waste here…Over-ripe bananas? Healthy banana bread. Bruised and browning apples? Stew them. Veg on its way out? Chuck it in a soup. If you’ve bought excess fruit and veg, freeze it (see point 5). Honestly, almost anything goes! Don’t just watch your fresh stuff go mouldy…use it! (I’m a big fan of soups, so watch out for my recipes as the autumnal weather strikes!)

8. Get a loyalty card.

Yes, I know this sounds obvious and one would think that most people do this now, but it’s so simple yet easily forgotten. Most stores offer vouchers linked with the amount you spend and send a monthly magazine containing details of offers.

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9. Eat in-season.

It’s cheaper to buy fruit and veg that is in season so store promotions will often reflect this. You’ll also notice that if Spain has a great summer for tomato production, the price of tomatoes comes down. It’s just something to watch out for. If you’re not sure what’s in season when, check out this great chart by eatseasonably.

10. Support local farmers.

I’m spoiled for choice here in Brussels with food markets on pretty much every corner. I don’t just love them because of the bargains though, it’s the whole atmosphere. Prices are often set per kg and generally are cheaper than supermarkets, plus, if you’re buying lots and visit them regularly, they’ll often throw in a free broccoli or squash – you’d never get that in a supermarket!

11. Grow your own!

If you have a garden and the space, one step up from going to the markets would be to invest in your own little veg patch. Not only can it save you money but it’s also a lovely way to spend time with your children and reap the rewards of your hard work.

12. Planning.

I said at the start of this list that it can take a little bit of planning, so if you really want to make every penny (or cent) go as far as it can, then you’re going to need to have a meal plan. It’s a good idea to think about recipes that use similar ingredients or how leftovers from one meal can be used in the next. For example, the fresh ingredients for a spaghetti bolognaise aren’t all that different from a chilli, and that left over curry would taste great on a jacket potato.
It’s also worth thinking about how you can get the most of out the meat you buy. When we buy a whole chicken we cut off the breasts and legs, freeze them and then use the carcass for a tasty soup. That’s at least 3 meals from one bird (usually more as I bulk out with pulses and veggies!)

So there’s my top tips, let me know if you put them into action next time you’re shopping! Are there any more you use?