If we were told this time last year that restaurants would still be closed a year on, no one would have believed it. We all miss being able to go out to eat, but lockdown after lockdown has been particularly difficult for restaurant owners. Having spent most of the last year closed with little respite, many are fighting for survival. Restaurant owners are having to diversify to keep afloat and many are putting together ingredient kits to recreate the restaurant experience at home.
The premise is simple: packaged up pre-prepared ingredients with instructions on how to complete the meal. Some simply require you to warm the ingredients, others require more cooking and preparation. There are some obvious advantages to these compared to a take-away. The food is fresher and hotter and can be less expensive. The range of restaurants selling these packages is huge, going from high-end restaurants to more casual, less expensive options. I decided to test out a kit from the popular Mexican chain Boojum and compare it to a similar meal made with supermarket ingredients.
“Unless you live relatively close to the restaurant, the meal usually doesn’t compare to what you would eat in the restaurant. The DIY kits circumnavigate this.”
I am obsessed with Boojum. Before lockdown, I used to eat it far too often. I even have one of the t-shirts you get when you fill up a loyalty card. It made complete sense to try out one of their kits because, while I’m lucky enough to be able to get it delivered to my house, the food often has a long way to travel. I can’t think of anything more disappointing than waiting an hour for a cold, stodgy burrito. Unfortunately, that is the case with many restaurants offering take-away at the moment. Unless you live relatively close to the restaurant, the meal usually doesn’t compare to what you would eat in the restaurant. The DIY kits circumnavigate this.
You can pick them up from one of the locations or you can elect a day that suits you for courier delivery for €4.50. The box arrives with fresh, whole vegetables and vacuum-packed, pre-prepared ingredients. All temperature sensitive ingredients are packed in an insulated pack with ice. All of the packets were well sealed except for one in my case. The sour cream must have burst in transit, spilling over the other packets in the cold pack and threatening my boojum dreams. These things happen though, and because of the well-sealed packaging, the spill didn’t contaminate any of the other ingredients or leak in the box. Luckily, I had sour cream at home and all I had to do was wipe down the other packets – meltdown avoided.
Having applied for several jobs in Boojum in the past and never getting past the interview, I felt like I finally got to try my hand at being a cook at Boojum. With that said, most of the work was already done for me. All I had to do was cook the chicken and the vegetable mix as well as warm the rice. A detailed instruction manual came in the box which made it very easy. All that was left was to get the toppings ready for serving. It only took about 20 mins in total from prep to plate. It was seriously delicious. It had the same authentic Boojum flavour and there was enough food to feed four greedy people with leftovers.
I tried to recreate a similar fajita meal with supermarket ingredients with hopes to have the same enjoyment for less. Needless to say it did not compare to the at home kit from Boojum. Not only do you end up spending the same amount of money, if not more, on ingredients from the supermarket, but it is also difficult to find some of the ingredients that you need for decent Mexican food and they can often be quite expensive. You could certainly opt for those lacklustre fajita kits you find in the supermarkets to save yourself a few euro. Beware that you will be sorely disappointed if you expect a restaurant style meal from a mass produced kit that relies on lifeless spice mixes. If you want the whole shebang, you should definitely go for the Boojum kit. It is certainly preferable to working yourself into a frenzy of chopping for fifteen straight minutes and wasting time googling recipes only to be let down by a meal that doesn’t compare to what you get from the kit. What’s more, even if I could perfectly replicate the meal, why would I want to? The whole point of paying for the kit is to enjoy not having to cook something completely from scratch for once.
“All the single use plastic is bound to spark at least a little eco-guilt.”
The only draw-back would be the lingering feeling that ingredient kits aren’t the best for the environment. All the single use plastic is bound to spark at least a little eco-guilt. To be fair to Boojum, they do their best to ensure the recyclability of their packaging, especially with the insulating packaging, made of wool and completely biodegradable, compared to the environmentally atrocious heavy duty plastic usually used for this type of packaging.
The kits are also a nice way to bring something new into the monotonous, novelty-starved existence we are all experiencing at the moment. In addition to Boojum, there are plenty of restaurants offering reasonably priced kits. The well-known Italian restaurant Dunne & Crescenzi have their Bella Ciao meal, which is ideal for a date night and BuJo Burgers offer many different burger kits including vegetarian and vegan options, to name a few. We will be able to dine out once again but until then, why not dive into one of these kits to spice up your lockdown life?