UCook is a dinner kit delivery service operating in Joburg, Pretoria, PE and Cape Town that promises you ‘cooking made easy’. We got Caxton’s senior online editor, Claire, to try the service out for 2 weeks to find out what it’s really like, if it’s worth it and if kids are likely to enjoy the meals.
When I first heard about UCook — a company that will decide what you should make for dinner AND send you everything you need to make it — I thought, that sounds amazing… and expensive. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the service is quite reasonable, and immediately arranged to test it for 2 weeks. This is what I found out.
How UCook works: The basics
- Signing up for 3 UCook meals that will feed 4 people each will cost you between R612 (for vegetarian meals) and R708 (for low-carb or rustic meals).
- To sign up, visit ucook.co.za and choose the meals you would like to receive for the next week. Orders close on a Wednesday at 12pm, so your order for the next week must be in by then.
- All the ingredients for the week, plus the recipes you need to cook them, get delivered on a Monday in a box that’s designed to keep everything cool.
- UCook is a subscription service, so when you sign up you are effectively signing up for 3 meals to be delivered every week. But don’t panic, pausing your subscription is really easy. Just remember to pause your subscription before 12pm on a Wednesday.
What I loved most about UCook
- Even though I really enjoy cooking (and eating) delicious food, I hate, hate, hate deciding what to cook every week. It’s exhausting trying to come up with meals to get excited about 7 days a week. I took a snap poll of the Essentials office and everyone agreed with me: the worst part about cooking dinner is deciding what to cook. Signing up for UCook meant that burden was lifted for at least 3 days.
- The recipes were AMAZING. I will definitely be keeping the recipe cards that came with my meals and referring to them for inspiration. They were all dinner-party worthy, restaurant-quality meals, but ready in under 45 minutes — which is a real win.
- Because you get exact portions of everything you need, it really cuts down on food waste in your kitchen. It also means you don’t have to think up a hundred creative ways to use up that bunch of spinach that’s about to turn.
- I really felt like the recipes were well thought out, with instructions like ‘use the same bowl’ designed to minimise washing up. The recipes were also quite detailed — making them perfect for beginner cooks.
- I got to try a whole lot of delicious food and techniques that I never, ever would have if it wasn’t for UCook.
- All of the meals came with a decent amount of vegetables — which is important to me.
What my 2 weeks of UCook meals were like
I asked to be sent a selection of the meals available, so I could get an idea of what the low-carb, rustic and vegetarian meals are like. Here’s what I was sent — and what my family thought of the meals.
Day 1 – Low-carb option
My first UCook box arrived at work on Monday, as expected. When I got home, unboxing the ingredients may have been the highlight of my month. (Yes, I live a relatively unexciting life.) And my three-year-old, Lily, was just as excited as I was at having a box to play with (she has plenty of toys, no need to feel sorry for her).
I decided to make the ‘Dukkah crusted chicken with roast butternut, minty beans & a lime & ginger cream’. Let me tell you, there has never been such a fancy mid-week meal in our house, ever. I vowed to stick to the recipe NO MATTER WHAT. It was difficult, especially when it told me not to peel my butternut, which Lily also objected strongly to (there may or may not have been tears), but I managed and it was amazing. Special mention goes to the lime and ginger cream, which I will now be smothering everything in. Both adults and toddler finished and enjoyed their food.
The recipe said it would take 40 minutes to cook, and it took 40 minutes to cook — even though Lily got involved with preparing some of the ingredients.
Day 2 – Rustic option
Although you can swap out ingredients for a small surcharge, I told the helpful people at UCook that they should send me the meals unchanged — our family’s not that fussy (or so I thought). The second meal on the menu was a lamb burger with brie, served with potato wedges and kale chips. Two things I don’t eat — lamb and brie (yes, yes, I’m a Philistine, I know). It wasn’t a problem though because we had people coming over for dinner, so I made lamb burgers for the lamb eaters and bought beef mince to make beef burgers.
The stress of having 8 people for dinner on a Tuesday night meant I didn’t take any photos, but trust me, all reports were that the lamb burgers were delicious. Lily devoured her portion, despite the lamb and the brie, so clearly she remains unaffected by my preferences.
Day 3 – Vegetarian option
The vegetarian option I was sent was something called ‘Naughty aubergine with red pepper, cauliflower, coconut & ricotta’. I’m still not sure what the aubergine did to deserve being called naughty, but it was tasty, and a really interesting vegetarian meal. My husband disapproved of the coconut, which just proves that you can’t please everyone.
Although this recipe said it would take 45 minutes to cook, it took me about 20 minutes longer because every single slice of aubergine had to be cooked in a pan before being layered in the dish.
Day 4 – Low-carb option
I’m happy to report that receiving my new UCook box was just as exciting as it was the first time around. The ‘Sage butter chicken with a butternut, crispy bacon & feta salad’ sounded amazing, so I started with that. What a meal! I would never, ever do anything as ridiculous as making crispy sage leaves to accompany a mid-week meal, but it probably added a minute on to the cooking time and those bursts of crispy, savoury sage were incredible. The salad was so moreish that I used the recipe to make it again a few days later when I had to bring a salad to a friend’s house. The honey mustard dressing will definitely be going into regular rotation.
The recipe said it would be cooked in 45 minutes and it was. It was so delicious that I couldn’t wait to take a photo before tucking in (sorry!).
Day 5 – Vegetarian option
Next up was ‘Cauliflower & chickpea curry with potato, fluffy rice & coriander’. I have a soft spot for potatoes in a curry and I love chickpeas, so this meal was right up my alley. This super easy curry was packed with flavour and the cottage cheese was a great topping.
The recipe said it would be done in 35 minutes, and it was.
Day 6 – Rustic option
My last UCook meal was ‘Red wine rump steak & rustic mash with grilled mushrooms & green beans’. Because I think UCook is a great way for people who are beginner cooks, or aren’t that confident in the kitchen, to learn how to cook, I thought I’d make my husband, Nic, cook. He managed to cook everything with very little swearing coming from the kitchen, so I’d say it was a success. Although it did take him an hour to make a meal that said it should be done in 40 minutes. But I would put that down to inability to multitask (don’t tell him!).
You can’t go wrong with steak and potatoes (I promise, there’s a sizable piece of steak under those mushrooms), but the sauce that accompanied the meat and veg was such a treat. A savoury, garlicky, herby combination of all the most delicious things — I’m drooling just thinking about it.