Bags of options

by Lauraine Jacobs / 04 June, 2015
With inspiration and assistance so readily available, excuses for not dishing up good food are getting harder to come by.
Creamy chicken, rice and vege soup. Photo/Tamara West.

Who has time to dream up meal ideas and cook from scratch every night? Plenty of people, of course, but increasingly, busy households are handing over much of this process to others so they can enjoy delicious, nutritious food at home with greater ease.

The biggest company providing this service is My Food Bag, with more than 17,000 customers in the three main centres, Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Palmerston North. Each week a gourmet bag to feed two people, or the classic bag to feed four or five, complete with recipes and all ingredients, is delivered to order at a pre-arranged time. Meals are healthy as part owner Nadia-Lim, a dietitian, ensures all ingredients are fresh and sourced from farmers and growers who take pride in providing high-quality produce.

Also operating along these lines are Auckland food store Farro Fresh and Jane’s Dinner Bag in Wanaka. Customers report that using these services not only saves time and energy, but also introduces them to ideas and ingredients that extend their usual repertoire.

This week’s soup recipe makes a satisfying wintry dinner. It’s from Easy Week Night Meals by My Food Bag and Nadia Lim.


1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

1 cup peeled and grated butternut or

other pumpkin

2 stalks celery, finely diced

¼ leek, thinly sliced

450g boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp finely chopped thyme leaves

½ cup long-grain rice

2 cups chicken stock

2 cups water

¼ cup sour cream and extra to serve

2-3 tbsp finely chopped parsley

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over a medium heat, then add the onion, pumpkin, celery and leek. Cover and fry gently for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables start to become tender.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, season with salt and add to the pot with the thyme, rice, stock and water. Bring to the boil while stirring, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is just cooked and the rice is soft. Reduce the heat to low. Remove the chicken and finely dice or shred the meat before returning it to the pot. Stir in the sour cream and season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls, add an extra dollop of sour cream to each and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with bread rolls.

Serves 4
Wine match: chardonnay

This favourite winter pudding made with tamarillos is from My Underground Kitchen by Jess Daniell.

Tamarillo recipe. Photo/Lottie Hedley


4-6 tamarillos, flesh scooped out and roughly chopped

6 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced

½ cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup water

150g butter, cubed

1 cup plain flour

½ cup rolled oats

½ cup jumbo rolled oats

1 cup brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground nutmeg

½ cup desiccated coconut

½ cup slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the tamarillos, apples, sugar, vanilla and water in a large saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 7-8 minutes until the apples are par-cooked but haven’t lost their shape.

Place the butter and flour in a bowl and rub it between your fingertips until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mix in the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, coconut and almonds.

Spoon the poached fruit into a baking dish and sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly on top. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and crunchy. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6
Wine match: late-harvest riesling

Look, books

NadiaCookBookEasy Week Night Meals: Simple, Healthy, Delicious Recipes by My Food Bag and Nadia Lim (Allen & Unwin, $39.99) showcases some of the most popular My Food Bag recipes. All main-course meals, the dishes are presented according to the seasons and champion food that’s fresh and local, sourced from the ground, sea and sky – not from factories.

Nutritional information is included for each recipe and there are helpful suggestions on how to make some of the dishes dairy- or gluten-free. The rustic fare for autumn includes intriguing recipes such as harissa chicken with fennel, orange, baby beet and feta tabbouleh and hummus; spaghetti with bacon, mushrooms and broccoli; and Indian lamb and eggplant burgers with kasundi, raita and courgette ribbon salad.

UndergroundKitchenMy Underground Kitchen: More than 80 Mouthwatering Recipes for Home Cooks by Jess Daniell (Random House, $49.99) is filled with instructions for the dishes this talented young cook produces in her Ponsonby, Auckland kitchen for customers who arrive daily to pick up a home-cooked meal. Daniell’s healthy homestyle meals are inspired by her travels around the world.

Alongside great-tasting meals such as a chicken fajita bowl, Cajun meatballs with cannellini bean stew and lamb shanks with winter ratatouille, this lively, modern book has plenty of lovely recipes for cakes and puddings, such as a black rice pudding with salted coconut cream. Many of the recipes adhere to the guidelines of the popular paleo diet, which, as the author says, appeared to be a fad that might last one summer but has stuck around with serious intent.

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