Wednesday, December 08, 2021

The final experimental meal

Sunday night, as planned, I made the fourth and final meal from the meal kit I received last Monday. It was fine—nothing wrong with it—but it was quite ordinary. And a bit fiddly, of course.

The meal was called “Very Very Peri Peri Beef Burger” (my result in the photo), however, what made it “peri peri” was only that I was supposed to use the supplied Heinz® Seriously Good™ Peri Peri Mayonnaise on the bun, which I skipped because I don’t like peri peri—I find it to be all heat and no flavour. Even so, I tasted it before starting the prep work and decided I was right: All heat and no added flavour (although the heat faded pretty quickly)

Peri Peri is a capsicum (pepper) cultivar that the Portuguese grew in their African possessions, especially in what is now Mozambique and South Africa. The Portuguese were eventually forced out, but the use of the pepper in food continues to this day.

The first bit of prep was to take one of the very large onions and finely shop it (side note: I find it much easier to finely chop smaller onions, something I now know because of this meal kit experiment), but I used half an onion. I was supposed to soften that in a fry pan, along with some finely chopped garlic, let it cool, then mix it with the beef mince (“ground beef” in Americanese). At the time, I thought the beef was fairly lean and dense, which I thought would be a good thing. After it was mixed, I formed them into four patties and then, as instructed, put them in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Next, I “cut the kūmara into chips”, though I learned from having made too much in earlier meals and used only one of the two supplied large kūmara (which is a sweet potato grown in New Zealand). As with the potatoes in Meal Three, I tossed the sliced kūmara in a bowl with some oil, salt and pepper to coat them evenly before spreading them on a baking sheet lined with foil.

Finally, I cut the other half of the large onion into rings, and also a small onion I had on hand (the recipe called for using two large onions for this!). I was to caramelise them with balsamic vinegar and some brown sugar, so I put them into the same fry pan I’d used for the onions for the burger patties, and put them aside (not on the heat).

I put the kūmara chips in the preheated oven and took the patties out of the fridge. I turned on the element under the onions and heated up my grill pan. I put two patties in the grill pan and noticed that they were shrinking quite a bit. They didn’t produce a lot of fat (or water, for that matter). The centre, though, stayed about as thick as I’d formed them—it was mostly shrinking at the edges.

I took the two patties out of the pan and put them on a plate to rest (with another plate inverted over them). and put the other two patties in the pan. Meanwhile, I added the vinegar and sugar to the onion rings.

When the meal kit arrived, I noticed that the instruction card for this meal said “please but buns in the freezer on arrival”. I assumed they mean “put”, and I did so. However, the buns weren’t pre-split, and I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to slice them while they were still frozen, so I worked very slowly and succeeded. I decided to toast them in the toaster, rather than under the grill in the oven, because the chips were in there and I didn’t want to mess that up. It worked okay, but I had the temperature set a little too high (it’s been quite awhile since I’ve done them that way—I’m out of practice).

The kūmara chips looked slightly burned, probably more from the sugar in them than anything else, because they didn’t taste burned. Instead of spreading the peri peri mayonnaise on the buns, I used ordinary mayo. I used a leaf of the supplied “Cos romaine lettuce” (nice way of covering both names…), and my own sliced tomato because the one supplied had been slightly crushed and had not lasted well in the fridge. A spritz of ordinary tomato sauce (ketchup) and some of the caramelised onion on top, and it was ready.

For my taste, the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar didn’t really add anything to the onions, apart from making them sweet with a balsamic tang. I think ordinary caramelised onions would have been at least as good, but, for my taste, better.

Overall, the meal was nice enough, but not so nice that it was worth all the effort: I give it 2.5 out of 5 because of all that prep work. That prep work, and the fact I cooked the burgers in two goes, meant that the whole thing took me around two hours to prepare and cook. I can make homemade burgers that I enjoy just as much in less than a quarter the time it took me Sunday night—I’ll be extra-extra generous and say half the time if I cooked four burgers instead of two, or if I made them fancier than usual.

Add to that the two fry pans, baking sheet, mixing bowl, and extra plates I needed in prep, all of which had to be washed (I ran the dishwasher yet again…), and the total time was far, far longer than I’d normally spend on making burgers for dinner.

I had leftovers for lunch on Monday, and decided I would try the peri peri mayonnaise on the bun: It added absolutely nothing, in my opinion. The heat wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be, possibly because of all the other, non-spicy stuff, but I could feel the heat even after I’d finished the burger, and for no benefit—it didn’t give any good, unique, or extra flavour that I could taste. Personally, I think the ordinary mayo was at least as good, probably better.

Monday night, I took a pizza out of the freezer and, as part of doctoring it, as I always do, I sliced up the good part of the tomato they supplied and sprinkled the leftover supplied mozzarella and parmesan cheeses over the top. That means I used up nearly everything supplied—except for one large kūmara, two large onions, some panko breadcrumbs, and some fresh basil, all of which I’ll still use. I may not get through all the cos lettuce before it goes off, and then there’s the unused mesclun, too. Still, not much waste (apart from the mesclun, which went slimy and horrible in the bag, and so will go into my compost bin).

Later this week, I’ll sum up the experience, and what I think of the whole idea of meal kits (I’m still mulling that over a bit), but, for now, I can at least say that I didn’t hate any of the meals, I really liked one, and another one just needed some modifications, and one was okay, the fourth less so. That’s not too bad.

Now it’s back to my regularly schedules programming—but it’s not the end of my experiments.

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